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Posts from the ‘midwives’ Category

Not Done Yet: Midwifing a Return to Social Birth

By Jordan Taitel

As a doula, I have the privilege of attending other women's labors and deliveries. Recently I attended a delivery assisted by a midwife at a large-scale hospital. The midwife and the nursing staff supported the fearless mama as she labored away in a large room with a wall of windows looking out on a beautiful river. The room was decorated with pretty pictures of flowers and soothing paint tones. Most of the medical equipment remained hidden in easy-access drawers. Everything in this beautiful birthing suite was designed to make it feel more like home for the women who would deliver there. As a student of medical history, I felt thankful for the room's design because it was a far cry from the maternity wards of the 1950s and 1960s. This hospital did everything it could to create a comfortable, personalized, and supportive environment. Still, it was a hospital, and the presence of medical intervention was inescapable. From the constant rise and fall of the heart monitors to the list of restrictions so complex that I was required to call for a nurse every time the patient wanted food, this was an environment controlled by the medical field.

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The Boy Who Lived: Stillbirth and Life after Death

By Meggan Woodbury Bilotte

How do you grieve for a stillborn child? How do you ensure your child is remembered for having lived, not just for having died? These are the questions that Elizabeth Heineman explores in the unflinching, yet deeply intimate, Ghostbelly: A Memoir. Through Heineman's prose it becomes clear that there is no script for stillbirth, no one way to grieve, to remember, to heal.

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When I Remember Margaret Thatcher, I Remember…

By Sandra Trudgen Dawson
When Margaret Thatcher died on Monday, her policies, leadership, and legacy evoked strong reactions. Margaret Thatcher has been hailed Britain’s finest postwar leader; the person who single-mindedly transformed Britain’s society; the leader who “did the necessary” to remake Britain’s ailing economy. She fought an Imperialist war and she won. Thatcher was the first woman to become Prime Minister of Britain and, considering the current pool of candidates, she might continue to be the only woman to achieve that position for the next decade. Educated at the elite Somerville College, Oxford in the late 1940s, Thatcher believed she could reverse the postwar consensus that laid the foundation of the welfare state and the idea that all Britons should have the right to a certain standard of living. She was a committed capitalist and believed that Britain had strayed from capitalism--or at least her form of capitalism. Thatcher claimed only those who worked hard and pulled themselves up by the bootstraps should expect a good standard of living, that it was a reward, not an entitlement.

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Downton Abbey, Maternal Death and the Crisis of Childbirth in Britain

By Sandra Trudgen Dawson
Those of us who watch Downton Abbey regularly should not have been surprised that Sybil died. After all, series one began with the death of the Crawley heir on the Titanic as well as the untimely death of the Turkish gentleman during sex with Lady Mary; series two saw the death of the footman from war wounds and the sudden death of Lady Lavinia from the 1919 influenza epidemic as well as references to the deaths of thousands more during WWI.
So why was Sybil’s death so shocking? Was it because Sybil’s character was one of the most likeable in the series? Or was it that we don’t associate childbirth with maternal death anymore? Or was it the class-ridden patriarchal arguing amongst three men—middle-class Dr. Clarkson, knighted Sir Philip and hereditary Earl, Sir Robert—as Sybil exhibited what today are considered clear signs of pre-Eclampsia. The headache, swollen legs, proteinuria, epigastric pain and confusion were clinical signs that worried Dr. Clarkson and the other female members of the family, but not, apparently, Sir Philip. As the three men argued over whether or not the signs and symptoms were normal or pathological, the rest of the family, including Sybil’s mother and husband, stood helplessly by.

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Believe it or not there were and are Mormon feminists

By Heather Munro Prescott
During the presidential election there were a number of speculations about Republican candidate Mitt Romney's views on women, including horror stories circulated about his "shameful" behavior while serving as an elder in the LDS church. This led some to assume that the LDS church as a whole is poisonous for women.

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Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times Britain in the 1950s

By Sandra Trudgen Dawson
As I watched Call the Midwife, I recalled my own personal memories and relationship with the National Health System (NHS). I trained as a midwife in the late 1980s in one of the busiest (if not the busiest) inner city maternity hospitals in Britain. We delivered 8,000 babies a year. Midwifery training was highly competitive. The school admitted twelve students who had a minimum of one year experience as a registered nurse, three times a year. We trained in the school, the maternity hospital and the community. By the 1980s, all midwives in Britain went through similar eighteen month training and took national exams that included an oral examination in London in front of a Board of Examiners.

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Designing Women: Midwives, Class, and Choice

A couple of weeks ago The New York Times ran an article that asked its readers, “are midwives becoming trendy, like juice cleanses and Tom’s shoes?” Turns out, yes. At least for “the famous and the fashionable.”

Although the article highlights an increased social acceptance of midwifery, the idea of midwives as being the marker of social status seems to diminish its value somewhat. My midwife, I thought, was an advocate, not…a fashion accessory. Still, the Times piece got me thinking. What might it mean that midwives have become the newest trend for the trendy? Does mainstreaming midwifery ultimately lead to increased access to it, or serve to privilege it to an already privileged class of people? In a weird way, I think the Times article put a finger on something I have been wondering for some time now: Is American midwifery gaining legitimacy primarily through its association with affluent white women? And if so…does that matter?

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