What Will Happen To Michigan Midwives? YOU Decide!

Recently, Sen. Gretchen Whitmer stood by a couple who lost their son during a midwife assisted birth in April of 2011 as she introduced Senate Bill 1208 which would put many very skilled midwives out of a job and would rob women of their right to choose how and where they wish to give birth and who to give birth with. Sen. Gretchen, apparently unfamiliar with how many mothers and babies are injured or die in hospital assisted births, vowed to this couple that she would do everything she could to prevent this from happening to anyone else. However, this couples grief should not turn into a war setting unfair standards, all but completely eliminating the possibility of home birth and access to highly skilled midwives in the state of Michigan. It just isn't right. 

Now, I understand that this couple is hurting - and I AM sorry for their loss. I can imagine that after loosing a child it is natural to want to place blame somewhere. But, what if this same story had taken place in a hospital?!? Because, THAT is where this story does usually take place - and Michigan is one of the states with the highest percentages of Maternal and Infant Deaths. In 2010, 817 of the 114,717 babies that were born died. Most of these babies (almost ALL) died in the hospital - and likely more than a few were a  DIRECT RESULT of being at the hospital where women, especially first time mothers, are uninformed and unprepared for the battle that is normal birth in a hospital setting. And, unfortunately, sometimes babies and mamas just die. It's ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY. We are not exempt from nature - no matter how many laws we create trying to make it so.

 As a doula, I can tell you that a lot of the people who hire me are moms who have had a previous birth in a hospital setting. Even if they are planning another hospital birth many feel as though they need professional support because their last birth experience something happened that made them feel out of control, dis-empowered, or even totally disrespected - or - there were questionable interventions that took place resulting in an injury, cesarean or generally unpleasant experience. Most first time parents who chose to give birth in the hospital approach it with a sort of blind faith that the Doctors and Nurses "know what they are doing"....however, in my professional experience, that is just not the case. 

Often - and I mean OFTEN - after attending a truly natural birth in the hospital (well, as truly natural as it can get in a hospital setting) the mother's nurse or OB will make a comment about how beautiful that was and how she has never seen anyone give birth like that. Naturally, that is. In my mind I'm thinking "That's absolutely CRAZY!! You see birth every day and you're sitting here telling me you NEVER see women do it like this?!", but I try to focus on what they might have gotten out of that particular experience. Hopefully she has more faith in the woman's body and her ability to give birth without being connected to a bunch of machines and being restricted from movement and proper care and nourishment. Maybe if she sees me help a woman get into a certain position to move her baby down naturally, or sees me use acupressure or encourage nipple stimulation to encourage stronger contractions she might remember that technique and suggest it to other women. She'll at least know that you don't ALWAYS have to reach for the Pitocin or some other medical intervention to get the desired result. 

CNM's, OB's and Nurses don't SEE birth anymore - that's why they don't know how it works WITHOUT intervention. They just aren't exposed to it because it is SO grossly over-medicalized that they have lost sight of what a normal, natural physiological process it is. They resort to interventions because they don't have the skill to resort to anything else & they are quick to classify women as "high-risk" more because they are not knowledgeable enough to treat certain conditions naturally. Breech birth, for example, is treated as an automatic cesarean in many hospitals when women often can give birth just fine to their babies when given the opportunity. Obviously, there are going to be exceptions to the rule. I know there are some really great OB's, CNM's & Nurses out there - but not nearly enough in the sea of incompetent ones. The whole system could learn a LOT from the Midwifery Model of Care

So, my point in all of this is - until hospitals get their shit together, they don't DESERVE to be the only place that women can choose to have their babies. They don't deserve our business or our trust....that should be earned - not forced upon us. 

So, where do we go from here? I'm not going to take my time making a case for home birth. Anyone can do the research which clearly shows that home birth is a completely safe - if not safer - option than hospital birth. The biggest thing to focus on here is preserving our right to be treated like competent adults when making our own decisions - that's right - our RIGHT TO CHOOSE. No matter what decision I make I am still accountable for the outcome, that's why I make and encourage others to make fully informed decisions based on evidence-based information. If I want to have a home birth - with or without a midwife that shouldn't be ILLEGAL, it should be MY RIGHT. I don't want my government to tell me how and when to make babies just as much as I don't want them telling me how, when and where to have them. 

Friends of Michigan Midwives is an organization that I have known about for years. I never fully agreed with the bill (House Bill 5070) that they were trying to introduce as it would still require getting a license from the State of Michigan. Personally, I want all government out of everything (especially my uterus). I think all of government is a totally broken and corrupt system that must be completely dismantled in order for us to truly evolve and know real peace and freedom. That's my opinion, and I'm not here to debate that. Needless to say, I am not a huge fan of the bill that FoMM is proposing either, but, I was only aware of the bill that they had introduced when the SB 1208 was introduced by Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, so it seemed the only thing out there to endorse (a decent compromise) - and, when I wrote and called my Senator and Representative, I did. 

The next morning I did some more research on the topic and found a couple of other bills that are also out there which are far more up my alley. Not intending to step on any toes I left a link on the FoMM Facebook Group page that said "I'm definitely a friend of Michigan Midwives, but I think I may instead endorse this bill" and left a link to some info about it. I thought that, like me, others might not even know that there are more options out there to support. As a group of midwives, doulas and moms I felt that having a healthy discussion or even just acknowledging other options would be something that everyone would support because it is our job AS doulas and midwives to inform people of all their options so that they can make an informed decision. Apparently, this was not cool with the FoMM as my comment was deleted by admins and I was told that because FoMM does not endorse this bill that discussion of it on their page was prohibited. 

"Really?!" I thought. How is is not OK to mention other options? Isn't that sort of like the same exact thing we are trying to fight against AS midwives and doulas? I mean - how often do we bitch about the government or medical society giving people only the information that they want them to have to push their agenda as the only option? How is this not the same? To be completely honest, after reading the message I received about having my comment deleted, I felt like I had been corralled into endorsing their bill. It's not that I would expect them to talk about the other bills because I do understand that they have an agenda - however, why isn't it OK to talk about all of our options? By not even allowing mention of other bills people are being given the impression that the FoMM bill IS our only other option when that simply isn't the case.

I am thankful for that experience, however, as it inspired me to give birth to this article. I don't dislike FoMM, I still support and value what they are trying to do. Many of the people involved in their movement are friends and colleagues of mine who I have a great deal of respect for. This article was not written in an attempt to damage their agenda, it was written in an attempt to put all of the cards out on the table in hopes that it may help people - YOU -  make a fully informed decision and inspire action!

So, here are your options, folks. Make up your own mind -  

SB 1208 - Introduced by Sen. Gretchen Whitmer - This bill would restrict midwifery care to RN's exclusively, all but eliminating home birth in Michigan and criminalizing anyone who offers it (who is not a CNM - so basically, just about every Midwife in Michigan currently would be out of a job and women would be forced into hospital births). 

HB 5070 - Friends of Michigan Midwives - This bill focuses on State Licensing Midwives - allowing CPM (Certified Professional Midwives) to practice Midwifery out of the hospital with a license from the State of Michigan.

HB 4789 - Freedom of Natural Health Bill - Covering all aspect of natural health (not just midwives). This bill allows consumers the right to choose who they want to provide care from providers who give full disclosure of their certification, education and experience level (informed consent) 

Once you've decided, DO SOMETHING! Write letters, make phone calls, start petitions....do SOMETHING. Even if it's just sharing this article so people can know what is going on and be informed of ALL of their options. Together, we can make a difference. 

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has" 
- Margaret Mead

No comments: