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Midwives at War

Feb 25th, 2011 Paths

I took advantage of a wonderful opportunity to dine with three midwifery leaders in my community. The conversation was to be about leadership, and was intended to inspire those of us earlier in the journey.

As a doula I was aware of the problems that occur throughout the birth world.  I did know about enmity between CPMs and CNMs.  I was aware of problems CNMs face as they negotiate a system that often does not want them. But as a doula, most of my time was spent with clients.  When I saw the midwives things were pretty good.  Any background undermining of the midwifery model of care was perfectly hidden.

Last night’s dinner was the most recent in a series of eye openers for me. Perhaps it is because I am training in Georgia, the last state to provide prescriptive privileges for advanced practice nurses. Perhaps it is because I have been hanging around midwives who have practiced for more than 20 years. Whatever the reason, I am learning just how damaging bad policy can be to the maternity care women receive.

The midwives describe working within an environment of constantly being watched. They describe long fought legal battles for the right to practice. They describe having to be satisfied with small gains in rights. They described the frustration of always losing the battles and the wars. Midwives leave the profession because they are burnt out.

This is a different side to midwifery. Yes, midwives get the warm and tender moments laboring with women.  Yes, midwives get to catch babies.  But midwives also get to be taken advantage of by doctors, have their practices limited and be forced into the medical model of care.  I have to ask myself, how much can I take?  As I pursue this path, how long can I work in this environment before my drive to fight for women is sucked out of me?

I’ll probably last longer than most, my goal is research rather than practice.

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