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Saying “No” for Midwifery

It's Okay To Say No

I’m busy organizing the Birth Herstory 2014 Online Conference and I have been connecting with so many wise women from our birth community. I will be announcing the amazing line up of speakers later this month.  Organizing an event of this magnitude can be overwhelming at times. My self care and spiritual practice has to be on point to keep it all together. Sometimes, even with strong protection of my health and wellness I can easily take on too much and everything I’m holding together comes crashing down. I learned a very important lesson in a recent discussion I had with one of my most favourite midwives Jennie Joseph.  Jennie said no.  Now don’t get me wrong, it was a “I highly respect what you’re creating, and I wish I could be a part of it, but my current focus and energy is not right for your conference” kind of a no. You may be thinking the same thing I thought, how can a prominent black midwife with nearly 40 years of midwifery experience not be right for a birth conference in celebration of black history month? Don’t worry I’m gonna write about that too, but let’s get back to the respectful “no.”

The lesson I learned from Jennie is that not every opportunity presented to me is the right opportunity for my mission. I learned that to be successful in realizing my goals I have to be confident enough to let opportunities, that I may be passionate about but don’t further my aim, go.

In fact thanks to Jennie, I realize I too need a little “no” in my life. Well, I mean…”no thank you.”

Jennie Joseph has deep rooted love for midwifery care. She says “ I am a midwife!  I’ve been a midwife since I was 19 years old, but midwifery care doesn’t guarantee healthy outcomes.  I want to see chubby, healthy full term babies who are breastfed and I don’t mind if we need an epidural to get that.” To be honest I had a hard time hearing that. It made me cry. There is a history there that supports her work within, for lack of a better description, public health.

The communities with the “poorest birth outcomes” are the “poorest communities” I have to ask myself, is Birth Herstory reaching those mothers? Many of these mothers don’t have a computer, not to mention the luxury of having the time to listen to an 8 hour conference on the importance of prenatal nutrition, how a doula or midwife can support them to achieve natural birth, or why she has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than Mrs. Middle Class. These mothers need easy access to prenatal support. Natural birth is not a priority for many of these mothers.

As birth professionals we tend to focus on the birth. The result is that many women, who could benefit from the prenatal education that comes with doula support and midwifery care, won’t choose us as their care providers because they aren’t interested in a drug free birth. A lot of the time the outcome of the birth has more to do with prenatal support than continuity of care, comfort measures and breathing techniques. Jennie Joseph is making this known. She says “I’m tired of mother’s babies falling out their butts at 28 weeks because of poor nutrition and no prenatal support!”

The conversation left me exhausted. Exhausted to think about Jennie’s long journey to where she is now. A journey that started with the beauty of midwifery care and brought her to the reality that is public health and policy. I admire her strength. The strength to be able to recognize that her calling is bigger than each woman and child she touches as a midwife. The strength to balance a midwifery practice and a mission to bring the prenatal philosophies of midwifery to public health without being attached to drug free birth experiences. This isn’t another care provider saying “at least you have a healthy baby.” This is a revolution in midwifery care. This is Midwifery for the Masses.  When you’re ready to share this work with us we’ll be here for you. Until that day thank you Jennie…for saying “no.”