For the One, For the Many

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 131, Autumn 2019.
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The one act by hospital personnel of taking a baby away from its mother is, to me, criminal. The baby misses the foundation of her health by not getting seeded with essential first microbes from her mother. That one act not only steals her foundational health, it also robs both of them of that beautiful first hour of skin-to-skin contact and bonding—and so many other subtle but important health benefits. Sometimes I get so frustrated with what is going on in childbirth today.

The medical community keeps coming up with more outrageous excuses for stealing health and the experience of birth from women and babies. Yesterday I heard about a doctor who told a woman her baby was “too low,” so they needed to induce her! What does that even mean? I naïvely thought that when the practitioners understood the importance of the microbiome they would agree to practices that had the best interests of the mother and baby in mind. I should have known. When they learned that synthetic oxytocin is not the same as the “mothering” hormone produced by a mother’s body, but a poor substitute, I thought change would come. It didn’t.

What are we doing to society’s physical, mental, and spiritual health? Do the increases in autism, obesity, and opioid addiction start with birth? A strong case can be made for that. Despite the fact that ultrasound has not been proven safe, why do we persist in using it on everyone instead of only the few whose clinical condition warrants it? Might it cause increased rates of autism while creating other issues? What happened to the precautionary principle?

I have recently learned that some midwives, including CPMs and traditional midwives, have adopted medical, non-evidence-based practices, as well, such as inducing with Cytotec or Pitocin, stripping membranes, or not waiting for the next contraction after the head is born. And on and on. I have always been an advocate for all midwives with Midwifery Today. That has been her stance; we are all needed. But it is time to redefine midwifery. We must stop being the frog in cold water with the heat turned up slowly to a boil. It will kill us. Soon we will not be recognizable as midwives. Our practices will be no different than those of the medical establishment (which I acknowledge can be a life-saver when needed, for the few).

When all of this makes me want to give up, Eneyda Spradlin-Ramos, my partner in conference planning and Midwifery Today helper, reminds me that we do it for the one. We do it for the one woman who, despite the fear-based, interventionist culture, has a fabulous, mother-centered, positive birth. We do it for the one who becomes a midwife or doula and works to change birth practices throughout the world. And we do it for the one baby who will have a better life because of a good start. This has always been Midwifery Today’s role. We have been doing it since 1986.

Another thing that keeps me going is you: our subscribers and conference-goers and people who are reading this on our website. Midwifery Today has been a big influence in changing birth both for the one and for the world. Every so often when I am at my lowest, someone will tell me what a big influence Midwifery Today has made in her life. Sometimes it is that she had a great birth because we are here; sometimes it is that she became a midwife or doula because of us. These things keep me going for another stretch of time.

It is uplifting to know there are moms out there who have had great births. It gives me joy to know another midwife or doula is on her path because we are here. My hopes are raised when I learn that a hospital is trying to change their policy. We are here for the one while working for the many.

The other reason I continue is that I love the work. I enjoy coming to work and planning issues with Cheryl, our super managing editor. We pore over articles and plan themes to make sure that we present you with information you can use or that uplifts you. I get immense joy from creating conference programs and then seeing them through and letting our great speakers teach and share with you. I am thrilled by our super, small staff, who work hard to make all of our projects come together.

We do it all for the one midwife, the one doula, nurse, or other practitioner, who then can carry the work out to pregnant and birthing moms around the world. We do it to change birth globally. Please join us by doing what you can in your sphere of influence.

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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