Thursday, September 30, 2010

Are scholarships for non-white midwifery students anti-white racism?

Posted by Tatiana

I can't for the life of me figure out where to start, or where to stop. So much seems obvious to me, and I assumed it was obvious to other people. But that assumption crumbled when that discussion exploded on the MANA discussion group a few weeks ago.  It seemed a minor item, I didn't blink when I glanced through the email when it came through the first time. Scholarships for women of color to attend midwifery school. Uh huh, sure, woulda thought that was already happening. Next..

Then the torrent of response. You guessed it. "This is divisive, this is perpetuating racism, why shouldn't I have access to those scholarships, I don't see what I'm getting that women of color aren't getting..."

So here's the deal, we're talking about scholarships for midwifery students. We all have it tough, right? Midwifery is never going to pay well, the education is long and often unfunded by grants or scholarships, depending the route you go. You have to work for free for years to gain the experience you need. It sucks. And then, when you finally call yourself a midwife, you're treated like scum in the medical field and people are constantly lobbying to eliminate the profession. It's not a comfy road for any of us, so why should these "women of color" receive this freebie money when all of us are struggling? And isn't it racist to suggest that they need this special help?

I say yes, it is absolutely a difficult path for anyone who embarks on it. I don't suggest that we should, say, remove a limb from all white aspiring midwives to make it more difficult, or deny them enrollment in schools, or steal their books in the night. There's no threat to white folks here. (Why is that the way it is received?)

What I say is that white people have already been given scholarships the whole way through in the form of privilege.  Maybe the word privilege throws people off.  Maybe it sounds like affluence or power. I can imagine reading that, looking at my myriad of struggles and saying, "Ain't feeling the privilege here, folks!" I can see how that would be misleading, but it's worth taking a closer look.  Scrap the word privilege for a moment, and take a fairly neutral example from another setting:

"In one community, for example, there has been an effort to get jobs in school districts for more people of color. Superintendents were encouraged to assure equal access to employment by distributing job postings more widely in the community of color. In the past, jobs that became available were quickly known to the people working within the system, who were predominately white and tended to mostly socialize with other white people. Therefore, the job openings inadvertently were known about faster and easier in the white community. There was no intended racism, but this example shows that a form of historic racism in modem institutions continues to exist. To change these systemic and institutional forms of racism, temporary public policies to bring these subtleties to light are needed, as well as an approach to help individuals become aware of the daily harmful effects of their unconscious attitudes and actions." 
(From Diversity & Equity by Kathy Castania)

And now let's bring the word back with a less neutral example:

"White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re 'untested.'" 
(From This is Your Nation on White Privilege by Tim Wise)

We may not feel it, but us white folks have gotten that extra bonus all our lives. The "scholarship" that just says, "No matter what, you're the color of smart people who make important contributions, are trustworthy, fill history books and political offices and white coats, are virtuous, are beautiful, are capable.  I mean, you're basically the color of people." That kind of scholarship may not look like an installment for tuition from MANA, but it sure has made everything a hell of a lot easier for me. It doesn't mean I have a secret well of money under my house to fund my education, hire a nanny, and pay for expensive internships in faraway places.  It just means that I don't have to work against a societal structure that assumes I'm not quite human, or am up to no good, or am just a little less smart or reliable.

What's useful to me about thinking of white privilege as a scholarship is that it calls up some of the responses one has to a monetary scholarship. (Because the point isn't to recognize privilege and then cower in shame.) So as I might with a scholarship, I can ask myself: Am I using it well?  Am I leveraging this advantage in a way that will benefit people without this privilege? Am I idealistic now about serving marginalized people in my area, but when I actually get around to being a midwife am I just going to do what's comfortable?

The worst part about this is that it isn't like a scholarship "buys away" racism.  It goes a very small distance towards alleviating a tremendous body of counter forces that I've not done much justice to describe. A small, pitiful distance. I suspect that a small, pitiful distance is as far as we'll ever get.

For more about why we need more midwives of color in this country in the first place:

Very Low Birthweight in African American Infants: The Role of Maternal Exposure to Interpersonal Racial Discrimination

Crisis in the Crib – Black Infant Mortality in the US

The Cost of Being Born at Home

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Inspiration, too

Posted by Tatiana

I didn't realize I was short in inspiration until I got a little extra and found it to be like a quenching of a thirst I didn't even realize I've had.

I've been talking with naturopathic midwives this week, interviewing to follow up on the promised "next part" of my original post about that subset of midwifery.  They've been beautiful to talk with, and I have another interview scheduled so the follow up piece (or pieces) will still be forthcoming. Those I've spoken with have been thought provoking and moving.  Especially the woman in New Zealand who sat in the morning light, spilling forth sweet stories of home and hospital births. It was night for me, and I took her stories to bed and dreamed about that spirit of midwifery all night. It's rejuvenating sleep, that way.

The other source of inspiration for me has been beginning Mamma Primitiva's Traditional Midwifery Education program online this week.  There are women from all over the world enrolled, literally - Haiti, Bulgaria, Greece, Argentina, Australia. It's easy to get sucked into the technocratic approach when we're getting our Western educations. Even though I've been in self study mode I've still been steeped in that modern thought train. I want to have the most up-to-date research and evidence based information... but even though I fancy myself connected with the heart of womanhood and the old wisdom, it gets hazy in the shuffle of all that... This program (and community, really) is really giving me a dose of that good old wisdom. It's a bummer for me that it's coming at a time when I'm in school full time, since I'm so limited already, but the small bit of extra stress is very much worth keeping the spirit of the old wisdoms at the forefront as I process the rest of the information.

It will be fun to share with you what I've learned from the NDs, they gave me some great advice I want to pass along as well as some really interesting information about the profession.

And if you want a little piece of that traditional wisdom, too, it's not too late to join Mamma Primitiva.

Also, don't forget about the Midwifery & Racism blog carnival, tomorrow.

Friday, September 24, 2010

When Inspiration is Lagging

posted by Katy
I've been slacking off on my blogging. I have frequently sat down to write, its been on my to-do list, I've thought through a few blogs, but somehow the inspiration is lacking; not just the inspiration to blog, but the midwifery inspiration in general. So I decided to just sit and write a rambling blog in which I will find some inspiration.

Among the things that awe me about midwifery is its ancient history. I turn to the biblical story of Shiphrah and Puah the Hebrew midwives that maintained their integrity, doing what was right, despite the Pharaoh's command to kill all of the male Hebrew babies. The midwives stayed true to those they served, the oppressed, the powerless, in the face of the great power of the Pharaoh. Even in the very early days, midwives were spiritual, connected to God. Here's a lovely image that I shamelessly borrowed from this website.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Free learning resource on the New Ballard Score

posted by Tatiana
Just made another addition to the Free Resources for Midwifery Study post. The Ballard Score was new to me!

The New Ballard Score - walks you through the Ballard Score method of determining gestational age.

It even has stick figure babies.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Helloooooo elephant!

posted by Tatiana

Yes! Just the excuse I've been needing. A few weeks ago we had a rather hairy and alarming discussion going on the MANA students and new midwives yahoo group about race. Our student representative made a post listing the many student issues she's be discussing and advocating for at the upcoming MANA conference, and on the list was the mention of midwifery education scholarships for women of color. This precipitated a roar of response, much of it in opposition to the notion of limiting scholarships to women of color. The usual arguments to the tune of "I'm white and it's hard for me too, why shouldn't I have access to those scholarships?" and "How will we ever move on from racism if we keep creating divisive things like these anti-white scholarships?" Okay, so I might be ungraciously paraphrasing, the original points might have been made more tactfully, but those are the messages I walked away hearing.

It's no secret where I stand on this issue, (absolutely disgusted at the above arguments and very aware of the GLARING under-representation of minority women in the ranks of midwives and midwifery students, just in case it is a secret,) so my responses to what I was reading from fellow students have been festering in me for weeks.  I've just not found the words yet. But now, I have incentive:

Join the Midwifery & Racism blog carnival on September 30th to talk about this too. Talking about race is really uncomfortable, but most things worthwhile are. I'll be making a post on that day.

While we're at it:

minority midwife recently uploaded all her old posts about her journey as a black midwifery student.

And, if you want an invigorating read addressing racism in a different context check this out, and follow the links.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Free learning resource on PPD

posted by Tatiana
Just added to the Free Resources for Midwifery Study post:

Postpartum Depression Learning Modules from MedEdPPD.  You can pick and choose whichever modules interest you, or do them all and become eligible to be listed in the provider network.

One could clobber together an excellent education with all the free resources out there, plus the stack of books recommended by NARM, plus a study group and a high quality local apprenticeship.  There are definite advantages to a formal program that I don't want to minimize, but clearly formal education is still inaccessible to many.  With internet access becoming possible and sometimes common even in remote and impoverished corners of the earth, that accessibility issue is changing.  You could give yourself a great education, but you still have to come up with the bucks if you want an education that the wider public will regard as legitimate.

Purely anecdotally, there doesn't always seem to be a direct relationship between the depth of knowledge and understanding that a midwife had and how she (or he, I suppose) obtained her (or his) education.  I've heard tell of very scary midwives that excelled in formal programs and went on to practice recklessly, and also know a number of midwives who have taken on the responsibility of educating themselves completely and have earned the esteem of local hospitals with the quality of their knowledge and practice.

Anyway, I'm excited to have found another up-to date and research based set of educational modules available to anyone with web access and time.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Erik Erikson’s Stages of Development and Dy’s Midwifery Stages of Development

Posted by DyAnna
So this wild road we call midwifery education has gotten me thinking a lot about my more traditional education. I studied psychology for my undergraduate degree and I must say that it transfers very nicely into midwifery. One memory that kept coming to mind was Erikson's Stages of Personal Development and I couldn't help but see how similar they were to my personal midwifery journey. For those who are not familiar with Erickson here is a quick run down thanks to and copy and paste so I don't have to write it all out in my own words.

One of the main elements of Erikson's psychosocial stage theory is the development of ego identity. Ego identity is the conscious sense of self that we develop through social interaction. According to Erikson, our ego identity is constantly changing due to new experience and information we acquire in our daily interactions with others. In addition to ego identity, Erikson also believed that a sense of competence also motivates behaviors and actions. Each stage in Erikson's theory is concerned with becoming competent in an area of life. If the stage is handled well, the person will feel a sense of mastery, which he sometimes referred to as ego strength or ego quality. If the stage is managed poorly, the person will emerge with a sense of inadequacy.

Where I am, How I got Here, and Where I am Going

My name is Dy. I have been a practicing doula and childbirth educator since 2002. I was always drawn to the wonder of birth and was able to witness my first miracle at the age of 11. I am the mother of four children born at a hospital and at home. All four attended by midwives. Their births have helped me to realize the potential of what I am capable and focus the importance of everything I believe.
While getting my Bachelors degree in Psychology I once again found myself drawn to the miracle of pregnancy and birth. I focused my study on issues of pregnancy and human and child development. After the birth of my first child I trained and Certified with Doulas of North America (DONA) as a birth doula. I soon became a Childbirth and Post Partum Association (CAPPA) and Bradley Method (AAHCC) certified childbirth educator. I have been honored to attend over 50 births as a doula and have taught dozens of couples. My experience includes home, birth center and hospital births, women who chose medicated and unmedicated births, as well as births attended by doctors and midwives.
In 2008 I was given the privilege of coming to train under a wonderful preceptor. In that period of time I have learned so much about the physical and emotional care of the family in the prenatal, birth, and postpartum time period. In addition to the hands on experience I get by attending prenatals, births and postpartum appointments I am actively perusing my midwifery education in many different ways including: a distance midwifery education outline of study material and projects, active participation and establishment of a local study group for midwifery apprentices, as well as hundreds of hours of individual studying, reading and discussions with Laura and other birth professionals. I plan to end my apprenticeship with serving at a high volume birth center where I can get even more experience with higher risk pregnancies and issues that are rarely dealt with for those who birth at home in our community such as suturing and deep suctioning of the newborn etc. I plan to sit for the NARM exam (the national certifying exam for midwives in the United States) within the next two years giving me the use of the title Certified Professional Midwife. I am to the point in my training that I am taking clients as a primary midwife under supervision. Meaning I provide all aspects of care with my preceptor there in a supervisory role. I get the benefit of learning what it is to truly have the responsibility of being a midwife while the clients have the benefit of a highly motivated and attentive midwife. We are a great team and we love what we do and the women we serve.
I believe that a woman has an innate ability to birth her baby. It is a normal physiological process not a medical event. Women are often astounded by the options around them when they are nearing their time of birth. I believe that when women are given all their options, they will choose what is right for the health of their baby. I believe those present should trust the woman to know what is best for her and her baby. This leads to a sense of satisfaction and responsibility which follows them through the rest of their life. I believe in the value of women in service of other women.
There are many factors that play into a woman's choice for her birth. Her emotional, physical, and psychological well being should be taken into account and her wishes supported. Not fear, but understanding and intuition should be the motivating factors for her choices. I believe all women have the right of loving support from her partner and if she desires a doula. This is not a change she must undergo alone.
My goal as a doula or educator is to provide women the skills and knowledge they need to have the birth they desire. I believe birth is an amazing normal and natural experience and the birthing mother should be treated that way as well.
My goal as a midwife is to protect the sanctity of the birth and post partum experience. It is such a fragile time in life. It should be enjoyed and supported by those who are in attendance. The attending midwife should respect the natural birth process and provide her clients with the emotional, physical, and clinical support they need. My believe is that a midwife is a life guard for the birth process only there in case they are needed with an deep understanding that birth is a normal event.

homebirth and no home

posted by damidwif 
Many years ago, I never thought about homebirth even though I wanted to be a midwife. I, like many, or most, Americans, thought homebirthing was back in the day. My grandmother proudly told me that she birthed all of her kids at home, in her bed. I thought it was cool...for her. Several Black persons that I have talked to, both men and women, tell of their grandmothers, great-grands and even mothers birthing at home. But everyone speaks as if this time existed during the slave trade or something.

Flashback to Ms. Celie giving birth at home. The Color purple was set in the early 1900s, I think.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Posted by Katy 

The first day of the year, at orientation, we each shared our journey to the room that day. Even though I already knew everyone in the room, taking the time to listen to and tell our stories was quite powerful. There were a few common threads that are worth mentioning. Many of the students expressed the challenge of getting to midwifery school. Many students came to the profession of midwifery through academic and intellectual pursuits, a path that may be more common to university training programs.