Maturing Midwifery
by Jill Cohen, Associate Editor, The Birthkit Newsletter

[Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Birthkit Issue 39, Autumn 2003.]

Ever since I started living rurally I have been conversing with the midwifery community online and have made many connections. Some have been through requests to attend births while others are seeking information. Recently, a high school senior who was doing a final project on midwifery contacted me. She wanted to know what midwives provide in their service and, she sent me a list of questions to answer. I promptly replied, telling her of the one-on-one care we provide, the trust in birth we have and the positive results we achieve. I explained that I was trained hands-on, not through formal schooling. I offered her a full slide presentation to illustrate her findings. She consulted with her teacher as to the graphic nature of the slides and they both agreed that it would be good. After her presentation she wrote to tell me how well it went. I was so pleased. Midwifery is spreading! It is seeping into nooks and crannies that, while small, are effective. Young women are inquiring about birth care and they want to know!

Now that my son Arlo has turned one, it is essential for me to partner up when I do births. I have the good fortune to be attending births with younger midwives right now. I see the future of midwifery right before my eyes. These women are smart, alert and have the same vision of care that I do. This is so refreshing. At times, I have felt that midwifery as I know it will come to an end. I now see that the drive to continue the tradition of midwifery care is strong and passionate. Those of us who are moving on to other ventures can rest assured that midwifery care will continue to be sacred and natural and a viable option to families. I won't step aside but will work with this young energy. Together we will make birthing better than ever for those who choose us. Experience and passion walk hand in hand for these families. With so much positive energy, how can we go wrong?

Midwifery is still a calling. There may be more bureaucracy involved in terms of having to be registered or licensed. There may be more of a focus on making midwifery a lucrative profession. But, it is the heart, the love of giving care and serving women and family, that I see preserved so confidently in the women I am partnering with for these births. I thought that midwifery was changing. I challenge you to think of the change more as a maturing. I believe that when you maintain the noninterventive approach combined with good intuition and common sense, you are attending your families well. Trusting birth does not exclude midwives from practicing or learning in a more conventional way as long as the traditions of midwifery care are honored in the learning process.

As more women become interested in midwifery, they have the opportunity to search for schools that provide the knowledge they need. I hope that apprenticeship maintains its rightful place as a primary learning tool for these women. While classroom learning and book work will provide the basic concepts, it is not until you are on the front lines that you gain the wisdom and experience that each birth blesses us with. Midwifery not only holds the future, it is the future.

Jill Cohen has been a lay midwife for over 20 years. She is an associate editor at Midwifery Today. Click here for more biographical information.


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