January 29, 2014
Volume 16, Issue 3
Midwifery Today E-News
“Celebrating Midwives”
Print Page

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Margaret Charles Smith caught her first baby when she was five years old, then went on to become one of the last great “Granny” midwives in the United States. Watch this DVD to learn about the woman Ina May Gaskin called a “national treasure.” You’ll be inspired by her courage, perseverance and motherwit. To order

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In This Week’s Issue

Harrisburg conferenceEnhance your midwifery skills and knowledge

Attend the full-day Midwifery Issues and Skills class with Mary Cooper (pictured), Diane Goslin and Carol Gautschi. Suitable for both beginning and advanced midwives, sessions include VBAC, Prenatal Care for Well-being, Care for Mothers with Miscarriage, and Twin Birth. Part of our conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, April 2014.

Learn more about the Harrisburg conference.

UK conference  Midwifery Today is coming to the UK

“Midwives Hold the Future” is the theme of the conference which will be held at Bury St. Edmunds, UK, 26–30 May 2014. Planned teachers include Beverley Lawrence Beech, Robbie Davis-Floyd, Betty-Anne Daviss, Gail Hart, Sally Kelly, Michel Odent and Sara Wickham. Plan now to attend.

Learn more about the Bury St. Edmunds, UK, conference.

Quote of the Week

You’re braver than you believe and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.

Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

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The Art of Midwifery

The road to wisdom means you will suffer much and surrender more, but you will witness many miracles. Trusting in birth is the best shelter to offer your pregnant and birthing women and the best tool you can pull out of your birth kit.

Jan Tritten, excerpted from “Trust Builds a Shelter,” Birth Wisdom, Tricks of the Trade, Vol. III, a Midwifery Today book
View table of contents / Order the book

ALL BIRTH PRACTITIONERS: The techniques you’ve perfected over months and years of practice are valuable lessons for others to learn. Share them with E-News readers by sending them to mtensubmit@midwiferytoday.com.

Send submissions, inquiries, and responses to newsletter items to: mtensubmit@midwiferytoday.com.

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Editor’s Corner

HART78 (2K)Gail Hart is such a brilliant thinker and writer on midwifery issues that we have decided that she and I will share the writing of this E-News editorial as well as Conference Chatter in 2014. Here is a wonderful piece Gail wrote on my Facebook page and I wanted to share it with a bigger audience. I believe this new change will bless you all.

From Co-editor Gail Hart on Engagement:

Engagement can be detected either by internal or external measurement, but feeling through the abdomen is a more accurate way if the person knows how to do it correctly.

Engagement means the widest part of the baby’s head (this is the biparietal diameter in a cephalic presentation) has passed through the brim of the mother’s pelvis.

If this has occurred in a cephalic presentation, the occiput of the baby’s head should be at the level of the ischial spines. An imaginary line is called zero station and measurements are made in centimeters above and below this point (minus for above, plus for below).

Station can be glitchy and baby’s position can throw it off, so can flexion or rotation or the way mother is lying down. And molding is notorious for making it seem baby is engaged or at plus station even though the biparietals have not yet entered the brim.

A more accurate gauge is the external measurement where the head’s direction can be felt in comparison to the brim. Being fixed or ballotable is not really relevant. The best way to measure this is by fifths. And it’s a good skill to have.

— Gail Hart, midwife

Gail Hart graduated from a midwifery training program as a Certified Practical Midwife in 1977. She has held a variety of certifications over the years; she was a Certified Midwife through the Oregon Midwifery Council, and an LDEM in the state of Oregon. She is now semi-retired, and no longer maintains her license, but still keeps active with a small community practice. Gail is strongly interested in ways to holistically incorporate evidence-based medical knowledge with traditional midwifery understanding.

Jan on Facebook
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Conference Chatter

Our next big conference project is planning the Australia program. Our theme is “Promoting Midwifery: Skills from Around the World.” The conference is being held 4–9 November 2014. My conference co-planner, Eneyda Spradlin-Ramos, and I have been working on a great line-up of teachers and classes. The program is nearly finished, but it still needs a lot of fine tuning. The location is absolutely beautiful and only a couple of blocks from a gorgeous beach (a dream location!). We planned the dates so we have a full moon on the Saturday of the conference. This is a very romantic location for the things we love…midwifery and birth!

So please join Eneyda and me, along with Gail Tully, Gail Hart, Jenny Blyth, Fiona Hallinan, Alieta Belle, Sue Cookson, Lesley Barclay, Robbie Davis-Floyd, Tine Greve, Sister MorningStar, Angelina Martinez Miranda, Rachel Reed, Sarah Buckley and Jodi Selander. Each of these excellent speakers will be bringing you their best to help you change birth practices in Australia and around the world. There will be an emphasis on midwifery skills to protect us from losing our hands-on skills to the onslaught of technology.

Please “like” our new conference page on Facebook. It’s a general page where you can keep up-to-date on current and future conferences, share photos and experiences, find other registrants to share hotel rooms or rides, and so much more.

— Jan Tritten

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Featured Article

Elizabeth Gilmore Remembered: Through the Eyes of a Friend

I remember well the first time I was introduced to Elizabeth Gilmore. It was 1983, and I had just traveled 3800 miles for an apprenticeship that did not exist. My husband and I had sold much of what we owned and put the rest in storage in Alaska so that I could earn a midwifery license in New Mexico, one of the few states offering them 30 years ago, but there had been some mistake with the midwife in Las Cruces. So there I was, young, scared, and far away from home, wondering what to do next. New Mexico’s Maternal Director found out and took me to meet Elizabeth and her then-partner Tish Demmin. I had read a feature story about the Taos midwives in Mothering Magazine the winter before and was just a bit awestruck by their accomplishments and fame. When Elizabeth smiled at me encouragingly with her kind eyes that first day, I had the feeling my fate had just taken a right turn.

And that is how, 24 hours later, my husband, Scott, and I, along with our 3-year-old son, Zak, found ourselves pulling into the high desert mountain village of Taos, New Mexico, in a used Volkswagen bus, to begin a friendship that would last three decades, and greatly alter my own life in the process.

At the time I met her in January of 1983, Elizabeth had already co-founded the Northern New Mexico Midwifery Center, a birth center and homebirth practice that continues to this day serving the families of Taos County. She had recently married her second husband, Carl, and together they had a young boy about our son’s age named Jan, and two children from her first marriage, Anna and Ezra. The thing that surprised me was that she was still friends with her first husband, Daniel, and when he came to visit the kids, she was gracious and affectionate. This is what gave me my first hint at the depth of forgiveness and love Elizabeth walked in. She simply had room in her large heart for everyone, and rarely ever said anything unkind about anyone, no matter the provocation. It was not that people did not hurt her or make her mad at times; she just never lived too long in that hurt place. She was too busy loving people and thinking of ways to make the world a better place.

I spent four and a half months in Taos that year, soaking up the learning experiences. With the midwives, I attended births out in the rural countryside and in town at the birth center. Once, Elizabeth and I were called in the middle of the night to attend a delivery in a remote site miles off the road. I remember our miles-long trek up a mountain trail in the snow with my backpack full of birth supplies, her backpack carrying the oxygen tank. When we finally arrived, we found a fire blazing in the hearth of a quaint little adobe cabin, Navajo rugs on a packed dirt floor, and a woman laboring in a homemade willow bed. Taos people reminded me of Alaskans: independent, prone to build their own homes and live off the grid. Morning brought a nice little baby girl, and after a few hours, we trekked back down the mountain again, the sun making diamond sparkles on the fresh snow.

Another time Elizabeth and I attended a delivery at the birth center with the local obstetrician. Even though that could have been her chance to impress him and play the part of the big shot, Elizabeth insisted I conduct the delivery with Dr. Aiken instead, and she stood back. She was always like that, pushing others forward and never taking the spotlight for herself. As my teacher, Elizabeth was untiring in her tutelage and unfailing in her praise. From her I learned a philosophy as a midwifery educator that has never left me: to always encourage younger midwives and allow them the freedom to learn, while standing back and letting them feel like they are fully responsible. Whether it was a delivery, a prenatal exam or a newborn check-up, Elizabeth had that rare gift of making me feel smarter than I was, and making the parents feel like they were lucky to have me as their midwife, when in fact she was ready at any instant to jump in and help me should I need it.

Some midwives have a need to be important and to keep both the mother and the student midwife in awe of them, but I learned a better way from Elizabeth; I learned the art of humility and selflessness. Instead of looking for praise herself, she always complimented me in front of the pregnant women we cared for. In that way, even though I had just arrived as a lowly midwife student and a stranger as well, not one mother ever refused to allow me to care for her and conduct her delivery on my own, with Elizabeth nearby but in the background.

Vicki Penwell
Excerpted from “Elizabeth Gilmore Remembered: Through the Eyes of a Friend,” Midwifery Today, Issue 100
View table of contents / Order the back issue

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What is Midwifery Today magazine?
A 72-page quarterly print publication filled with in-depth articles, birth stories from around the world, stunning birth photography, news, reviews and more. Subscribe. Midwifery Today Magazine

Website Update

Read this article recently posted to our website, from Midwifery Today magazine, Issue 83:

  • Midwives and Uterine Rupture: What We Have to Offer—by Kristin Eggleston

    Excerpt: True uterine rupture is a grave complication of pregnancy and childbirth, one that can lead to death of the baby and/or the mother. Fortunately, the causes of rupture and signs of impending rupture are often blatantly obvious, giving adequate time for treatment, and it has become quite rare

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Birth Q&A

Q: What do you love about the midwife who helped with the birth of your child/ren?

— Midwifery Today

A: Never doubting my ability to HBA2C, even when I did!

— Eirinn Ceit

A: My midwives were outstanding examples of what to do to protect birth and yet know when to transfer. After a waterbirth with two nuchal arms (very unusual presentation), my son had another surprise for us—an unexpected (and undetected by ultrasound) cleft lip and palate. We were stunned and very scared. My midwives packed us up, drove to hospital and stayed for several hours. My son stayed in my arms through all of the poking and prodding and we came home 24 hours later. My midwives handled the extreme shock with absolute professionalism. I think I had the best midwives in Portland and they are heroes in my book. My son knows their names and will forever be told the story of his birth with the greatest respect and admiration for the two women who helped bring him earthside.

— Jessica Smith

A: She knew just what to say when I needed encouragement. She was always so calm and relaxed.

— JoyAnna Smith

A: My midwives were amazing. I never felt more trusted in my whole life than when my midwife urged me to listen to my body. I will never lose the feeling of trusting myself and my body because of that. It’s an amazing gift to give to a human

— Kaitlyn Stigers

A: I loved the calm presence they brought to my births. Their confidence in the process and in my ability to birth left no room for fear. They taught me a lot about mothering with their strength and grace.

— Kathy L. McRae

A: My midwife attended my first two births, and she will be my hero forever. While I really do understand the legwork involved in facilitating a family birth, she made it seem as though she had done nothing at my births while giving me everything.

— Yolande Clark

A: The midwife that helped at the birth of my last two children helped heal me from the trauma of the births from my first two children. She taught me to trust my body, to listen to it and to relax. She inspired me to become a midwife like her—to have knowledge and love to support women in their births. Her compassion is beyond what I could ever have imagined from a caregiver.

— Michele Dangelo

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While the birth process of my first child had begun with the release of my waters, my waters remained intact during the relatively fast birth of my second baby until I began to push. In that state of high intoxication right before emergence, I was so emotional and alarmed when I felt the amniotic sac bulging out of my yoni like a balloon. It felt so strange and foreign and I felt so vulnerable and I looked up, and said to my midwife, “It’s coming out! It’s bulging out! Aren’t you going to pop it?!” And she just looked at me with love and said softly, “I’m not going to do anything. You’re going to push your baby out.” And with the next sensation, my waters released with a gorgeous, oceanic, orgasmic splash and my beautiful son swam out.

— Yolande Clark

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You want to be a midwife, but where do you start?

Are you an aspiring midwife who’s looking for the right school? Or maybe you’re trying to decide if midwifery is the path for you. Visit our Better Birth Education Opportunities page to discover ways to start or continue your education.

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