20 Years of Carrying Out a Calling

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 77, Spring 2006.
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Jan holding Issue 6

February 2006 marked 20 years since God planted the seed of Midwifery Today in my heart. I was in the midst of writing a book about my homebirth practice when God said to me, “No, do a magazine for midwives.” In 20 minutes He dictated to me the exact pattern and plan of Midwifery Today including columns, regular features, philosophy and mission—I just wrote it down. One year to the day we sent the first magazine to the printer.

My life has changed slowly; today Midwifery Today is very different, and we are still evolving. My practice became Midwifery Today instead of “New Life Care.” Since getting the first magazine out took a full year, we really only have 19 years of magazines. The first year was the hardest—our pregnant year—so I count it. We began by sending a subscription flyer out to several thousand midwives and they, maybe you, subscribed on faith, sight unseen, to the first year for a prepublication price of $12, regularly $20.

One of the first surprises was how many of you subscribed. The first two issues quickly sold out the 1000 copies we ordered so we increased the printing to keep and make available back issues. I had expected a rapid increase in subscriptions to around 5000. If this had happened, we would have been financially viable—a peaceful place we have never been. Subscriptions only went up to somewhat over 2500.

We spent our first ten years between bankrupt and high debt. This was a blessing in disguise because we had to plan another way to meet our mission of changing birth ways by educating and supporting midwives, educators and, soon, the new profession of doulas.

I received a strong message to get together the writers and readers; in other words, to have a conference each year. That would be not only our saving grace but truly an extended and important part of our mission. From domestic conferences we ventured into international conferences.

One of many contributions to Midwifery Today by artist/cartoonist Kiki Metzler

International midwifery was always a focus of Midwifery Today and her international contribution to birth change has continued relentlessly for nearly 20 years. First, we tried to include international information in each issue. We also had international issues as a theme several times in the past 20 years. Then we launched a separate magazine called the International Midwife. After about ten issues we combined it with Midwifery Today and increased from 54 pages to 72 pages, feeling that all midwives should learn about international issues.

To date we have organized about 40 conferences in over ten different countries and the US, with more planned. The purpose is sharing information, exchanging techniques, friendship and encouraging and helping each other with improving birth for motherbaby. The bottom line purpose is to change childbirth on the planet.

Typically when we do an international conference, midwives attending represent from 25 to 30 different countries. This has allowed us to make friends, plant seeds of birth change and learn what is going on in different parts of the world and what the overall problems are in the world of birth. We have found that medicalization of birth, midwives’ loss of autonomy and even the ability to practice are recurring problems around the world. The damage done to individual women and human society in the childbearing year is pandemic.

The huge job of taking birth back for the mental, physical, psychological and spiritual health of motherbaby needs to be the work of us all. Midwifery Today wants to help by maintaining educational material, holding conferences for exchange and sharing information and maintaining an extensive Web site with articles, two free online newsletters and international information. The international part of our Web site has a system of flags that let you link to many different countries for contacts and other midwifery-related Web sites. Our goal is to have a country contact for every country in the world. (We are always looking for more contacts, so if you know of an interested midwife in a country that is not yet represented, please let us know.)

The International Alliance of Midwives (IAM) has existed for about ten years, taking different forms at different times. Its current form is an online network that midwives can join at no cost (we encourage a donation). We also have meetings at conferences. The main purpose is networking and support of all midwives around the world. You can find information about joining as well as IAM goals on our Web site at midwiferytoday.com/international/.

Midwifery Today has been a gift from God in my life. First, I got to be a homebirth midwife carrying out His beautiful plan for childbirth. Next, I get to be the mother of Midwifery Today, carrying out her mission. I find great joy and contentment in the privilege of working with you in our hope and plan to change birth ways. My involvement with midwifery has been the very best life I could have. I feel I have been living on sacred ground for 30 years. I am overwhelmingly grateful for the life I have had in midwifery. I will dedicate the rest of my life to this calling.

The sad part and the surprise is in how horrible things have gotten all around the world in childbirth. Sometimes things have to get really bad before they improve. I realize how naïve but hopeful I was at the beginning of my voyage. I also realize this fact does not change the journey of our calling. We must carry out our calling with hope and with joy because if we don’t, who will?

Toward Better Birth,

About Author: Jan Tritten

Jan Tritten is the founder, editor, and mother of Midwifery Today magazine and conferences. Her love for and study of midwifery sprang from the beautiful homebirth of her second daughter—after a disappointing, medicalized first birth in the hospital. After giving birth at home, she kept studying birth books because, “she thought there was something more here.” She became a homebirth midwife in 1977 and continued helping moms who wanted a better birth experience. Jan started Midwifery Today in 1986 to spread the good word about midwifery care, using her experience to guide editorial and conferences. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies in the United States and around the world. Meet Jan at our conferences around the world!

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