Who are midwives?
There are so many articles one can read about midwives. Who are midwives? What do they do? This is an article from a midwife perspective. Many have read articles about midwives. One of the first definitions you see is the word midwife means “with woman”. I believe that to be a very oversimplified statement. As a midwife, even when I am not at the bedside of a laboring woman, or holding the hand of a woman who has suffered an early loss or any of the other circumstances in which I am by their side, I am always “with women”. Therefore, when I go home to prepare dinner with my family, I am still “with women”. As I speak to my husband about our life and future, I am still “with women”. My thoughts are often on the women and families I have the privilege to serve. In the back of my mind, I am prepared at any given moment to jump into my scrubs, get into my car and quickly be “with a woman” in labor, struggling with health issues, fertility, relationship, or whatever may be happening in her life or the life of her family. Midwifery is an ancient profession. There are generations of midwives that have gone before me, spending their entire lives in service to women in their community or on the mission field.
Where did midwifery begin in the US?
Midwifery is still actively practiced throughout the world. In the United States, we often discuss the plantation midwives of old with their many generations of knowledge. And then, there were the first “modern-day nurse-midwives”. They were British-educated women brought to this country by Mary Breckinridge in 1925. Their focus was to provide healthcare in the remote mountains of rural Kentucky for an organization that became known as the Frontier Nursing Service (FNS). I can imagine these seasoned, as well as young midwives coming to their “mission field”. These midwives with their ideas of helping women give birth, only to find out in many areas the women were in the great hands of the generational midwives. Incidentally, that same year the first school established to educate midwives was established in New York City. Now jump ahead nearly 100 years and here we are.
Where are midwives today?
The current maternal-infant healthcare field in the US is widely acknowledged to be in great need of modification. From these early beginnings, the profession now includes nearly 13,000 Certified Nurse-Midwives and Certified Professional Midwives, and about 100 midwifery education programs. It is important to realize, the modifications necessary in the US are on the horizon with midwives being seen as key in returning birth care to its normal, physiologic state that is woman-centered or family-centered. However, most importantly, more needs to be done to realize the goal of every woman and family having access to midwifery care. Yet legislation, business, and education challenges to midwifery practice remain. But, here I am, I am one woman dedicated to being “with woman” throughout my life. Dedicating my time, knowledge and expertise in serving my community and the mass mission fields that await me. There are many others. Take time, do your research and find the midwife for you and your family. You will be glad you did.