Happy Birthday, Birth Change

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 73, Spring 2005.
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Midwifery Today turns 19 years old in February of 2005. For me, that is nearly 20 years of working to change birth with Midwifery Today, plus over 10 years of homebirth practice, changing birth one motherbaby at a time.

What has happened in all this time? Have we changed birth for the better for women and their babies, or have we lost this battle? Birth for the average woman going into the hospital has become a sea of destruction by medicalization—an even worse nightmare than it was 30 years ago. It makes being in this profession challenging. What keeps me going is you. You are the lighthouses in a dark sea. You are serving families under very trying social conditions, but on you go. I have met so many incredible people in my 28-year career as a midwife and homebirth mother, and I am awestruck at the gift that is all of you. The hope lies in each one of us.

The class I love to teach at conferences is birth change. I could get frustrated when I consider the limited extent of the change we have made. The Listening to Mothers survey conducted by the Maternity Center Association showed a 99% intervention rate in the US. Our goal is to have motherbaby birthed without harm and in joy. I know all of you reading this are working in your communities and the world to achieve this change. Multiply your numbers to include all of the midwives, doulas, educators and activists, and our numbers swell.

Midwifery Today has done amazing projects in her 19 years. We have published a magazine and newsletters covering the whole gamut of issues, offering inspiration from our motivated change-agent writers. We have organized more than 35 conferences all over the world to bring together change agents, and the synergy of the participants is remarkable. We have developed a vast educational Web site that spreads the word about powerful birth and midwives and their work. We have developed books and booklets. We are developing a system of international contacts for networking.… And much more.

And we are just one little star in a universe of birth-change agents. Each of you is working in your sphere of influence. You talk with people in the larger community, attend births, work on various birth-change projects. You are all over the United States and, indeed, the whole world. I encourage you to follow your dreams to make birth better. Whatever dream project you have in mind, begin today taking the necessary steps to manifest that dream. Don’t let obstacles get in your way. I always tell people when they are transforming dreams into goals and goals into action: “Do not listen to negative people. Talk only to those who are positive and encourage your dream.”

Barbara Harper is just one person, but she has developed the Global Maternal/Child Health Association and the Gentle Birth Choices book and video. She has reached thousands of people all over the world by teaching about gentle birth and waterbirth.

Some of you have had the dream of opening a birth center. Do it. My friend Anita just started a birth center in Eugene. It takes dreaming, drive and perseverance, but you can achieve your dream. You need to, for the mothers and babies.

You don’t have to start with a project as big as a birth center. Just talk to everyone you meet. Elizabeth Davis teaches that we are like ambassadors for birth and midwifery. Always state your profession and let people know what midwives and doulas can do for them and for the world.

I have said many times before that we who know about gentle birth are few—probably about 1% of the world’s population. If that is true, we each need to teach and convince 100 people that pregnancy and birth can be different from the mainstream destruction we are seeing now. Robbie Davis-Floyd says we will reach critical mass when we hit 20%. That means that if each of us can convince 20 people, we will have arrived, because we will ask each of those 20 people to reach more.

With a plan, I think we can do it. Our job is to figure out how we can best reach those people. OK, birth-change agents—how are we going to turn this tide? What are you doing? What more are you willing and able to do? How can we best work together on this plan? Please send in your ideas, and we will publish them to inspire others.

If we all get going this year on a plan to reach 20 other people, perhaps we will be on our way next year when Midwifery Today turns 20 years old. That is my dream for this year. When this happens, I can finally say, “My ship came in!”

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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