Birth Communities

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 56, Winter 2000.
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Community changed radically during the century of the car and the airplane. Whereas we once lived in tribes, then in small villages where we knew everyone, we now are called together in community formed from mutual interests, work and experiences. Each one of us belongs to many communities, including many separate birth communities. You might, for example, have a separate sense of community with your clients than you do with your colleagues.

In the past nine years, I have put together 30 Midwifery Today conferences. The people involved at different levels of conference participation have become an important community for me. Indeed, by attending our conferences, as well as many other conferences all around the world, I have become a member of a rich global community of wonderful birth practitioners.

Midwifery is one of God’s most important callings. The strength and depth of the bonds we form with one another are testimony to the miracle work we get to do. When we are together all day and late into the night singing, dancing or sharing birth stories, tricks, classes and insight, we revitalize and fill our birth souls with love and understanding of one another. We are knit together as mothers are knit with their children, or as sisters and brothers one to another. In the Bible, the apostle Paul says of the body, or community of believers, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

This binding together was brought home deeply to me through the grievous personal tragedy of my conference sister and dear friend Robbie Davis-Floyd. Robbie lost her beautiful 21-year-old daughter, Peyton, in a car accident shortly after the Midwifery Today New York conference in September. I couldn’t stop hurting. Every birth sister I spoke to was feeling the same pain. Although we couldn’t truly know the deep suffering of our sweet sister, our own pain was still very real, and our prayers were prayers of deep mourning and moaning. In suffering and in rejoicing, we are one “body” in our birth souls, a level of community at its deepest. Community bonds become so strong they begin to resemble family bonds.

In celebration of the life of Peyton Floyd, we dedicate this issue of Midwifery Today. See page 2 (of issue 56) for our tribute.

We are knit into many birth communities, and often their strength depends on our time and commitment. We share community with the families we serve. At some birth homes in Japan, weekly potlucks are held for all pregnant and birthed mothers. About 98 percent of the mothers in Japanese birth homes have natural births, outcomes are excellent and just about every mother chooses to breastfeed, so these gatherings are a great opportunity not only for building community, but also for setting a good example for the pregnant mothers who attend. They learn that they too can have natural births and breastfeed their babies.

Community is where culture is taught. In Western society, members typically are socialized in a cradle-to-grave medical culture, and our high epidural, induction and cesarean rates demonstrate clearly that birth practices have changed for the worse. At childbirth reunions where most of the women have been induced or otherwise experienced medicalized births, the medical model of birth is passed on.

Midwifery Today is creating an online birth community to help counter this negative birth culture and keep practitioners meeting, learning and sharing. The Web site we’ve developed is bursting with information and depth. With more than 2,000 visitors a day coming to our site, we expect it to help change birth. We hope that will be a place where you, the practitioner, are able to find all the information you need surrounding birth and midwifery, as well as a place where you can meet each other in the forums, on chats and through our newsletter. Our Birth Market and Find-a-Midwife, Find-a-Doula sections let you put your practice and products into a directory, which enables us to market for you by bringing Web traffic to your business. You can find contacts there as well as be a contact. By subscribing to the Midwifery Today E-News, our free, weekly e-mail newsletter, you will receive a wonderful publication that is packed with information, as well as with questions and answers that come from the community of more than 5,600 subscribers. We use a hotlink to announce which articles we’ve put on the Web. Our new HTML version is beautiful and features art and photographs as well as text. Please visit and let us know if you have ideas on how we can better serve you in your community needs.

My heart is also intensely committed to the global community of midwives and birth practitioners. I hope you will join us at one of our yearly international conferences. I have looked for ways to knit the world’s birth practitioners together, thereby allowing us to keep the kind of energy going that is built when we are physically together at these conferences. Transformational energy needs a container. So in addition to meeting one another at conferences, the container we’ve come up with is an online birth community called the International Alliance of Midwives (IAM), which we hope you will join.

Even though we don’t live in the connected little villages we used to live in, we have all found ways to build and join wonderful communities. I love our birth communities and all of you who share them with me and with each other. Keep up the great work you do. We will change the world one birth at a time and one community at a time.

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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