30 Years and Still Going Strong

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 117, Spring 2016.
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Midwifery Today Issue 117

Cover photo by Natasha Hance—birthunscripted.com

Happy 30 years to Midwifery Today! After being a homebirth midwife for well over a decade, I started Midwifery Today because there weren’t many magazines for midwives in the world at the time, even though dog groomers and kitty breeders had their own magazines! To me, midwifery is one of the most important professions in the world, if not the most important one. Lives are in the balance. With new knowledge of how the seeding of the microbiome affects the entire life of the baby, it is even more critical that we have good midwives, doulas, childbirth educators, doctors and nurses. We need practitioners who know how to stand back and encourage most of the time but also know when to act fast and skillfully in complications.

My desire with Midwifery Today was to fill the void of timely information but I wanted to do it in an artistic way, with photos, art, poetry and columns of information germane to our practices. The original goal was to midwife midwives and now it also includes encouraging and informing doulas, childbirth educators, moms and anyone else who is in involved with birth.

In this issue of “Celebrating Midwifery,” we bring you a baker’s dozen of our authors who have moved midwifery and gentle birth forward. We wish to honor those pioneers who have blazed the trail, making it easier for us to follow in their footsteps. When I first started practicing midwifery 39 years ago, people were still saying, “You are a mid-what? What’s that?” Midwifery Today has been amazingly blessed with great authors who have written in exchange for only a subscription to the magazine.

I want to give you a little background on the 13 authors we are highlighting in this issue. I begin by first thanking Marion Toepke McLean, who has written “Marion’s Message” for every one of our 117 issues of Midwifery Today. She is my mentor and the one who taught me midwifery. She actually went back to her alma mater, Frontier Nursing Service, which teaches nurse midwifery students, to learn how to teach midwifery skills and to pick up ideas for curricula to train a few of us in Eugene, Oregon. I am so blessed she took my hand and guided me along my way.

Marion admitted to me maybe a decade ago that she was just playing along with me at starting a magazine, because she didn’t think I would actually do it, and if I did, she figured it wouldn’t last long. Start-up magazines only lasted three years on average back then. I am happy she held that thought in confidence as she was the one who really helped get it off the ground with endless meetings and brainstorming, and she is the one who kept it going with advice and more brainstorming!

Ina May Gaskin needs no introduction. I think the whole world knows her! Her book Spiritual Midwifery put midwifery and midwives on the map. She has been gracious with her time and with her words, whether written or spoken. She has generously joined us at many Midwifery Today conferences. She has worked tirelessly to help midwives gain acceptance in the US and around the world, and she has spoken all over the world trying to improve birth practices. Ina May has worked to normalize twins, breeches and VBACs, and she has inspired a new generation of midwives.

The late Marsden Wagner was one of the fiercest fighters for midwives. He wrote often for Midwifery Today and he taught at our conferences. He went to bat for prosecuted midwives and fought against bad practice, like the use of Cytotec for induction of labor. He claimed to be a “lay” doctor because he learned by apprenticeship. He apologized for being a man when he spoke because he said, “As a man, I am an outsider.” Marsden played “Amazing Grace” so beautifully on the piano. I miss him so much!

Elizabeth Davis has been a strong supporter of Midwifery Today from the beginning. I am so honored that we were able to have her as a writer and a speaker at our conferences. Her classic book, Heart and Hands, was the book we used in our homebirth practice. My midwife partner and I got it for our lending library because we found we were saying everything she was saying! Elizabeth received the Midwifery Today award for excellence at the Bad Wildbad, Germany, conference in 2015. Elizabeth’s contribution to midwifery has been immeasurable.

Robbie Davis-Floyd is a prolific writer, speaker, anthropologist and “world shaker” for birth. She is thorough and tenaciously dedicated to midwives and midwifery. She has written and edited many books that explain birth and midwives—you can learn a lot about American midwifery by reading her book Mainstreaming Midwives. I had the privilege of working with her and others on a book titled Birth Models That Work. Our concept for that book was to demonstrate excellent birth models that can be replicated or adapted to work in other places. It is so nice to have an anthropologist involved in midwifery. It helps to move our profession forward. And did you know she has even spoken at aerospace engineering conferences?

Sister MorningStar is a prolific and gentle writer who has been contributing to Midwifery Today regularly for years. You can read her “word medicine” in almost every issue of Midwifery Today. Her Cherokee background informs all of her work, adding uniqueness to her thought process. She is incredibly creative and has come up with some impressive new ideas. One is EmerGently, a brochure on how to help a baby be born in nearly any situation. Find it here for free download: worldbirthhub.com. She has developed “Village Prenatals,” which is a marvelous way of connecting women with their midwife and with each other. Midwifery Today was blessed to get to publish her book, The Power of Women. Sister is an awe-inspiring teacher at our conferences.

Michel Odent is my colleague and go-to resource person. When I have a clinical question, I typically ask him first. Because he has a long view of things with over 60 years of practice, he knows the true physiology of birth. He has been so faithful in writing for us, agreeing every time I ask him to write (which is for almost every issue of MT). He is also a regular speaker at our conferences. He loves to write plays and has written many for the cabarets we hold at conferences. Come see one of his creations at a conference! He will be in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in April and Strasbourg, France, in October of 2016.

The late John Stevenson was the epitome of a person who truly trusted the birth process and he had the skills to intervene when necessary. I have never met a calmer, more assuring midwife-doctor. He was barred from practicing medicine as a doctor in Australia for supporting midwives and homebirth, so he worked as a midwife doing homebirths, and he did over 200 without a transport.

Robin Lim and her work have been honored with several awards, including CNN’s 2011 Hero of the Year. She does amazing midwifery work in Bali, where she lives, and she is one of the first midwives to respond in a disaster. Robin has always come through when I ask for an article and has been writing for Midwifery Today since nearly the beginning. Midwifery Today is blessed by its friendship with Robin.

Penny Simkin is a doula, doula trainer, childbirth educator, writer and speaker who possibly has done more than anyone to bring the idea and practice of doulas to the public. She is an eloquent writer and speaker about many different topics around childbirth. Her work with sexual abuse and the birthing woman is groundbreaking. I have had the privilege and joy of doing several conferences with Penny. When Midwifery Today held a conference in China, Penny and her husband as well as my husband traveled together and had an amazing time. I honor her as a real pathfinder in the birth field.

Gail Tully has been incredibly open and willing to share her knowledge, both in words in the magazine and at conferences. Her unique work in the area of fetal positioning and the physiology of birth gives the world of midwifery and birth lifesaving information. Gail’s dedication to make each thing she is involved with perfect pays off. Before a class, she can spend hours just getting the room ready. In her articles, she often illustrates with diagrams so readers can understand the concepts she is trying to teach. This past year brought triplet grandchildren into Gail’s life! What a special blessing to one who has given us so much.

Sarah J. Buckley, a physician, has given so much to all birth practitioners and parents as well. Her book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices is a classic. She has been a great resource for us at Midwifery Today. It is so helpful to have a few physicians to call on with technical questions. We were blessed to have her speak at the Byron Bay, Australia, conference. While hanging out with Sarah in her home country of Australia, we learned that in addition to her being such a welcomed asset to the whole midwifery movement, she is very fun to be with!

Barbara Harper has been working in the field of waterbirth and practicing waterbirths for over 30 years. She put on an amazing waterbirth conference some years ago in Portland, Oregon, and teaches waterbirth and gentle birth all over the world. She will be teaching with us in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, this April. Barbara is a beautiful spokeswoman for great birth all over our globe. She should be named Ambassador of Waterbirth and Gentle Birth for the USA!

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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