We call on Artemis to return strength and power to the midwives of the world so that they may serve women and their families in the way they know best.
“I have always chosen to have midwifery care as they are the ones who have allowed me to discover what it is I need to bring to the birth – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
They understand that I need the time and space to birth my baby my way but at the same time I need support, and encouragement along the way. I have had three perfect births all of them under the care of a midwife.” Pip
“Having twins in a hospital setting, I was acutely aware of the need for me to maintain focus. My midwife knew me well, she gave me clues to look within, and she was my sub-conscious. She held the space around me, protected me and enabled me to look within, not to be distracted by superfluous ‘stuff’ happening in the room. She also enabled me to release my worry about my partner not coping. She played a valuable role and it was an amazing birth.” Kylie
Women and their families need midwives. Midwives are the professionals trained in normal birth and they help keep it normal. The crisis we see the world over in the ‘birth industry’ is directly related to the denigration, subjugation and replacement of the midwife by the medical profession.
Midwifery is the oldest profession. Midwife means ‘with woman’. Women have always helped each other with their births. Often a mother and grandmother would help their daughter and the one who had the most experience would be called to other births. As communities grew, people specialised with their skills, and midwifery as a specific role grew. Midwives were the wise women. They were the primary healers in their communities, the medicine women; they assisted families and women throughout their lives. Midwives were the nutritionists, herbalists, doctors, and ministers, counselors all rolled into one ‘profession’. Many feel they were the first holistic practitioners. Midwives were always available to help all women.i
From 12th until the 17th century across Europe, the time of the Inquisition, the Roman Catholic Church burnt midwives at the stake as witches. Medieval Christianity detested midwives for their roots and connection with the pagan matriarchal cultures and Goddess worship and for the knowledge that they passed onto women about their fertility. Midwives helped women control their fertility, they taught birth control and procured abortions and the Church was against this. Midwives and women believed that knowledge of such matters was women’s own business and not subject to male authority. The Churchmen viewed midwives as enemies of the Catholic faith. They said that Midwives offered the babies to the service of the devil. The church forbade midwives to assist women in preventing conception, relieving them of unwanted pregnancies or easing their birth pains.
In 1591, Eufame Macalyne, a Scottish Noblewoman, was burned alive for asking a midwife for herbs to ease her labour pains. ii
The disappearance of the Midwives, created an in road for the non- professional, non-medical male practitioners called the “Barber Surgeons”. They lead the way in England, to the new technically superior surgical birth with their innovative obstetric forceps. This changed the neighbourly midwifery service into a lucrative business and was taken over by the physicians in the 18th century.
Midwives re-emerged by necessity in poor communities however the educated, the wealthy and the noble preferred the care of male doctors whose care was thought to be superior.
“At the end of the 18th century, most people assumed that midwives had no formal training, even though some did, and common existing beliefs held that women were emotionally and intellectually incapable of learning and applying the new obstetric methods. Well-to-do families soon came to believe that physicians could provide better care than female midwives could and thus offered the best hope for a successful birth.”iii
Midwifery schools reappeared in the 19th century, it was difficult for women to attend these schools, although some did and the training was designed and overseen by doctors.
Birth practices in the 19th and 20th centuries became more and more medically managed and surgical.
“Prejudice against the intelligence and capability of women was used to defame midwifery.” iv
In undeveloped countries midwives remained the primary carers for women and their families, and they still are.
The history of midwifery in the 19th and 20th centuries reflects the history of the Women’s Movement. As the attitudes in the culture shifted to recognize women as equal to men, so did all the services that cared for women shift. Women were once again able to have a voice and make choices about the things that affected them and their families. However, long-standing beliefs are the hardest to change and many people still today believe that doctors, actually specialist obstetricians are the best people to care for pregnancy and birth. Specialist Obstetricians are trained in abnormal pregnancy and birth and serve perfectly in that role, helping the women who do not fit into the 85% who are capable of having a normal birth.
Midwives are trained in normal pregnancy and birth and their care is associated with higher rates of normal birth, less drug use in labour, less intervention and higher levels of maternal satisfaction.
In medical speak, midwifery care results in lower maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality than obstetric care. v
There have been many studies assessing and comparing midwifery with obstetrics, and the results are well known.
Actually, midwives attend over 70% of births in the world. In the Netherlands, midwives deliver a majority of the babies. Other countries do not utilize midwives to their fullest potential. Each country worldwide has a slightly different view of midwifery, and of how midwives work within their communities. vi The developed countries, in which midwives do play a bigger role, have the lowest surgical birth rates and the lowest maternal and baby mortality rates.
Like so many things at this time in the modern world, midwifery has polarized. There are midwives the world over who practise independently, either registered by a governing body or not, attending women who choose to birth in their own homes, and there are midwives who work within institutions.
Those who work within a hospital must practise according to strict hospital policies and doctor’s orders and tend to specialise in a particular area. Those who choose to work independently usually practise holistically and according to the midwifery model.
The Midwifery Model is an attitude about women and how pregnancy and birth occur, that views pregnancy and birth as normal events in a woman’s life. It is an attitude of giving and sharing information, of empowerment, and of respecting the right of a woman and her family to determine their own care. vii
The medical model, which describes institutionalized maternity care, is an attitude that there is potential pathology in any given situation, and that medicine can assist to improve the situation. Medicine is also about teaching, informing, and prevention, but the power seems to be more with the provider rather than with the woman. viii
In order to keep her job the midwife who works in a hospital has become a ‘med-wife’ to use Jeannine Parvati Baker’s term. The sad thing is however that the hospital midwives so often end up believing and promoting the medical model. How this happens always confuses me. I can only understand it by seeing it as behaviour of the oppressed. Or that birth has become so institutionalised that now even the women believe the medical model. And because childbirth is a rite of passage whatever happens during the birth sets a pattern in place and the pattern continues. I have written a lot about childbirth as a rite of passage in my book “Ten Moons – The Spiritual Journey of Pregnancy, Preparation for Natural Birth” and will go into it further in the chapter about Changing Woman.
Artemis the Goddess of Midwifery reminds us of our Herstory and rekindles in us the knowing of the need for women and midwives to unite and support each other.
“Having an Independent Midwife was far beyond any expectation I ever had. With the guidance and support of my midwife I was able to trust my body and the birth process and go with the flow. Her very “hands off” approach, unless truly needed, enabled me to fully engage with myself and birth from within, without relying on any outside influence. Having a midwife come into your home each visit for a few hours was very nourishing, I felt heard and understood and was always excited when a visit was coming. Throughout my pregnancy I spoke of all the feelings that came up with my midwife. She always asked the right questions to help me work it out for myself, I would then go away and journal anything else that I needed an answer on.” Kath
Being a Midwife…
Being a midwife I see my role as a gatekeeper at the gateway of birth.
My role is to trust in the birth process, to trust that the woman’s body will work and the baby will ‘know’ how to be born. I am a women’s rights advocate, a protector of a woman’s private space and the sacredness of birth. I do everything I can to ensure that every baby has a gentle birth. As Jeannine says “Heal the Earth, one birth at a time”. Jane Hardwicke Collings, Midwife.
Being a midwife has taught me that women are strong, birth is very political.
The first year or two of a baby’s life depends on a healthy attachment to another person. I’ve learned that how a woman is treated throughout her journey through pregnancy, birth and beyond can and does impact on this vital attachment to her newborn. I know that what midwives do is valuable and important and that families need our love and respect, because western culture on the whole does not value the role of parents and their offspring. Sheryl Sidery, Midwife.
Being a midwife is a privilege, it is real, it is life, and sometimes it is death.
It is meaningful, beautiful work. Each person is different and each birth is different. There is a lot to be derived from birth, not by comparing it to an ideal but by women meeting the challenges of their own birth. No matter what way a baby comes out of a woman it is always amazing. The birth itself is significant but the most important aspect is that a new person is being born and that is the miracle. I still get teary eyed at the intensity and the magic of birth. The essence of midwifery is that sense of being connected to what the mother is feeling and responding to what she needs at the time. I have learned a lot about myself and about human nature and relationships, few have gained so much from their profession. I am blessed. Shea Caplice, Midwife.
“Every woman is her own midwife”
is another of Jeannine Parvati Baker’s wonderful quotes. When I contemplate this quote, my thoughts go like this: No one can really affect your birth. Your birth is the birth you will have. You will have arranged the players in your play and your birth will be all it will be. So you are your own midwife in that sense. Your own psychic midwife, standing there with yourself. Let us not for a moment think that we can only give birth if we have a ‘good’ midwife, for it is the midwife within that enables us, that gives us the tools. It is the midwife within that holds the keys of trust, it is she and only she who remembers that birth is safe and simple. Without her no one can really help us give birth. Someone outside our selves may help by cajoling us, or dragging us to the gateway where we scream ‘get it out’, but truly it is the midwife within that will guide us to recognise that what we feel as we labour to the gateway is what we can and what we must if we are to once again know the power of birth, and the power of the Goddess within.
I had the most awesome, magical, powerful midwife. Not because she “saved” me, but because she empowered me to find my own inner midwife. Every woman has one but she is hidden behind a veil of fear that is all too easy to surrender to in today’s society. The gifts I have received from stepping through that fear cleared the path back to my purist state of being and purpose and I now draw on that knowing for the strength and wisdom to live each day as my unique self. I now know that I have the power, trust and insight to mould my own experiences to lead an amazing life. The fear has been passed down but so has the wisdom. I give great thanks that I can now shine the light for all women to choose wisdom. Melissa
My midwife enabled me to re-member and re-connect with something I knew about myself but often questioned and often ignored or at least waited until I had my ‘inner knowing’ validated by an external source. This aspect of myself; my own inner being, my authentic self, my soul, that which I have come to recognise travels with me at all times, I know never abandons me and is always ready to share when I have questions. Through my experiences with my midwife, I came to trust that part of myself more and more and felt a connection to something large. I connected to that place ‘of oneness’ in my ecstatic birth with Noah, my second birth, and I know this was enabled by the preparation and the journey that I had in working with my midwife throughout my pregnancy. What she continues to remind me and what I now know for sure, is that life is a process of birth (and in that death) and that my job is to midwife myself through my destiny and in that teach my children that they too are the midwives of their own experience. We are all that we ever need. Kristan.
ii “Herstory” self published by Author
v Australian College of Midwives Philosophy Statement for Midwifery
Midwife means ‘with woman’. This meaning shapes midwifery’s philosophy, work and relationships.
Midwifery is founded on respect for women and on a strong belief in the value of women’s work of bearing and rearing each generation.
Midwifery considers women in pregnancy, during childbirth and early parenting to be undertaking healthy processes that are profound and precious events in each woman’s life. These events are also seen as inherently important to society as a whole.
Midwifery is emancipators because it protects and enhances the health and social status of women, which in turn protects and enhances the health and wellbeing of society.
Midwifery is a woman centered, political, primary health care discipline founded on the relationships between women and their midwives.
• Focuses on a woman’s health needs, her expectations and aspirations
• Encompasses the needs of the woman’s baby, and includes the woman’s family, her other important relationships and community, as identified and negotiated by the woman herself
• Is holistic in its approach and recognizes each woman’s social, emotional, physical, spiritual and cultural needs, expectations and context as defined by the woman herself
• Recognizes every woman’s right to self-determination in attaining choice, control and continuity of care from one or more known caregivers
• Recognizes every woman’s responsibility to make informed decisions for herself, her baby and her family with assistance, when requested, from health professionals
• Is informed by scientific evidence, by collective and individual experience and by intuition
• Aims to follow each woman across the interface between institutions and the community, through pregnancy, labour and birth and the postnatal period so all women remain connected to their social support systems; the focus is on the woman, not on the institutions or the professionals involved
• Includes collaboration and consultation between health professionals.