Skip to main content

MANA14

The Face of Birth

Posted by Midwives Alliance on October 19th, 2014

MANA Vice President Sarita Bennett, DO, CPM, recently talked with Gavin Banks, one of the two filmmakers responsible for creating and producing The Face of Birth. MANA is excited to be able to offer the first American screening (of the 54min version) of the film at the annual MANA Convention, "The Spirit of Midwifery", in St. Louis, Missouri, this week. Their conversation, like the film, spanned topics that included the personal and the political.

Sarita: What brought you to your interest in the topics of homebirth and midwifery?

Gavin: Years after experiencing the births of my own two children, I met a midwife who had developed a birth stool to facilitate upright birth. She wanted to produce a film about how to use her stool, but also, more importantly, wanted to impart her philosophy of one-to-one care. While making the film I was staggered to learn the divide between evidence-based practice and what was actually happening (culturally-based practice) in our hospitals. I started looking into how to expose the wrongdoings that result from prioritizing the system's needs above the woman's. Then, in 2008, I met Kate Gorman, another filmmaker, who had returned to Australia from the UK after the home birth of her second baby. She was expecting to find the same availability of birth options in Australia. Because of proposed legislative changes, which would regulate childbirth providers and included a requirement for indemnity – malpractice – insurance, home birth was about to become illegal! What was being made illegal in Australia was being endorsed in the UK. We saw the opportunity for this film and a coming together of our visions.

Sarita: What statements were you hoping to make with the film?

Gavin: We wanted to address the main issues of misinformation around homebirth – and physiologic birth - in general. We wanted to show how wonderful birth could be, without being prescriptive about how women should do it. We were interested in dispelling myths about home birth and talking about what "safety" really means. That a mother intact emotionally, and in a good mental place, is an element of that definition of safety - and not just a live mother and baby, which is, of course, should be a given. In our experience of making and marketing the film, we have seen a stark contrast between women who were well-supported in their births, regardless of how it went, and women who didn't receive that kind of care.

We wanted to stress the importance of informed choice and not just informed consent. The film is deliberate in its construction to reflect different ages and groups and to address major stumbling blocks. The Face of Birth is gentle enough to even be appreciated by women who have had multiple elective c-sections.

We knew these issues were international, so we wanted to make a film that could travel. Until women are put in the center of the discussion, globally, nothing will really change. Everywhere it is a fight to define birth as a normal physiologic event instead of a medical emergency – shouldn't it be the other way around?

Sarita: You have included some eloquent global experts and there are so many words of wisdom woven into the film. How did you choose who to include?

Gavin: We wanted the film to affect people emotionally but with the backing of full scientific fact. Our experts were chosen to address the main issues we had identified as stumbling blocks. Sheila Kitzinger brings an understanding of the psychological impact and potential trauma of failing to respect women's rights or needs in birth. Michael Odent cautions us against unnecessary intervention and encourages us to look to scientific research to understand the implications of current (non evidence-based) medical practice. We interviewed Ina May Gaskin and Robbie Davis Floyd, to understand the impact of US birthing culture on global trends and the implications. And, we included published, Australian experts, aware of the situation in Australia, who were doing research that had global significance. We wanted to emphasize that all around the world we don't really follow evidence-based practice, because if we did, birth would be the same everywhere. What we have, globally, are systems based on professional (culturally-based) preferences.

Sarita: Tell me about the aboriginal midwives that were included in the film.

Gavin: Our trip to the Northern Territory in 2010 was funded by one of the researchers in the film. Because of the relationships formed by some remarkable midwives we were introduced to a number of indigenous elders as well as midwives/educators who worked with indigenous women. While in East Arnhemland, I was privileged to witness (and film) a sacred women's ceremony – something that other men never get to see (but you can now in the movie, with the elders' blessing!) The elder's interviews were just as inspiring.

We then travelled to Utopia in the Red Centre. Communication there is very difficult because it is so remote. We arrived unexpected - the local private health service had gotten the dates of our visit wrong, so nothing was organized! They quickly rallied to our side and introduced us to a local midwife with some connection with the community. We drove to an indigenous women's camp where the midwife introduced us to the traditional midwives and the interview began. The interview was over when the women said "That's enough – you can go now". Life out there is so different; the people's generosity is astounding - the poverty unbearable.

Sarita: What drew you to work with MANA?

Gavin: We are trying to get the film out to as many people as possible and appreciate MANA's mission and vision. Our focus is affecting change and we love midwives and doulas. The childbirth culture won't change until women (and those who care for them) stand up and make noise together. When a finding against natural birth comes out, it is immediately taken as gospel by the media. But when something positive comes out, it's justified away: "that applies to a different people than us, and is not relevant in our case". As a man, I understand that men have had so much negative influence on birth; I want to stand up for change –not to be telling women what they should do – instead, to be highlighting the need to support and respect a woman's right to choose how, where and with whom she gives birth.

Sarita: Tell us about the two videos that are accompaniments to The Face of Birth and about any plans for sequels or future work.

Gavin: In making The Face of Birth, we accumulated many hours of interviews, with both our global experts and the women we filmed. Much amazing content couldn't be used in the film (or it would run too long!). We cut these extra, in-depth interviews into two DVDs/ downloads. One features 3.5 hours of expert interviews, which can be selected by topic, and is called "Meet the Experts". We also made another DVD called "Birth Stories" which is made up of nine short films focusing on the extended stories of nine women, including the women seen in The Face of Birth. The trilogy of the three films has significant educational and emotional value, and allows you to explore the issues more fully.

If there is a sequel, I'd like to go into traditional cultures and talk to indigenous midwives from around the world about the how / what / why of what they do. I'd then find scientists who can explain the physiology of why it works. There is an example of this in The Face of Birth (that is more fully explained in the Birth Stories DVD) - the reeds used in the indigenous 'baby smoking ceremony' actually have an antiseptic property, so the ceremony provides a cleansing for the baby and mom and heals infection.

I'm also interested in episodic TV. Once you have an audience, you can continue to build it. One idea would be to base a series around a modern-day midwifery clinic.

Sarita: Is there anything you want to tell women?

Gavin: Some people think only strong women give birth at home. I believe, as Noni Hazlehurst from the movie states, "All women are strong".

All my life I have been surrounded by strong women - whom I love and respect. Supported well in birth, these women have empowering births. Poorly supported, they, their babies and families suffer unnecessary pain.

Childbirth reform isn't a women's issue, it's a human rights issue. Childbirth culture can change but it will take women (and men) around the world to stand up and demand it together. Please use The Face of Birth to spread the word - to get people excited about what birth can be if (and hopefully when) we support women to birth how, where and with whom they choose.

Learn more about the author, Sarita Bennett, here.

Learn more about the Face of Birth here.

Q & A With Sherry Payne, MSN, RN, CNE, IBCLC

Posted by Midwives Alliance on September 3rd, 2014

Are you following Sherry Payne's Walk for Black Infant Mortality Awareness? She's walking across the state of Missouri to "bring attention to the invisible epidemic of African-American infant mortality - babies dying prior to their first birthday." We connected with Sherry before the walk began to learn more about her path to midwifery, her projects at Uzazi Village, and how we can all support the walk. You can also hear her speak at the upcoming MANA convention.

Q: You have had a complex journey on your path towards midwifery. Can you tell us about it? 

I spent many years trying to decide which pathway would be appropriate for me.  I hope to eventually have both a CNM and a CPM credential. I have started working with my CPM preceptor and have applied to CNM schools and am waiting to hear back. My path has been like many others. I started 20 years ago as a homebirth mother, then became a doula, then went to nursing school. I had a career as a labor and delivery nurse, then returned to school to get a masters in nursing education. I taught for a few years and then decided the time was right to pursue my midwifery education now that my youngest is now seven years old.

Q: This has not been a simple path for you. Why is becoming a midwife so important to you?

My passion is perinatal health, and my mission is decreasing perinatal health inequities, so midwifery care is an important component of that. I believe the midwifery model of care is appropriate for my community, even though the women of my community are the least likely to have access to a midwife. Becoming a midwife is important to me and my community to demonstrate what is possible when midwifery care is applied in a culturally congruent manner.

Q: Do you think there are challenges common to women of color who are working towards being a midwife?  

I think there are tremendous challenges to becoming a midwife for women of color. Chief among them are the tensions associated with working with dominant culture preceptors and their dominant culture clients. Will your preceptor understand your cultural context? Will the clients accept you as a care provider? I once had a client barely speak to me or answer my questions. When the midwife later entered the room, the client had nonstop questions. Afterward the midwife asked me why I hadn’t answered the client’s questions. I told her the client barely spoke to me even when I asked repeatedly if she had questions. I was in an awkward position: either look incompetent to my preceptor or present her client as not wanting to work with me. It was a very uncomfortable situation. Taking on a woman of color as a student will be fraught with such landmines. A lot of preceptors even unconsciously decide they don’t want to take this on. It can pit them against their own clients if their client is uncomfortable having a woman of color touch them. Some midwives don’t want to discover this about their clients or maybe even about themselves. All across the country I hear midwife students of color say what a difficult time they have finding preceptors.

Q: Tell us about your work at Uzazi Village.

Uzazi Village is a community-based nonprofit devoted to improving perinatal health in the urban core. We provide culturally congruent education for childbearing families, doula and breastfeeding support services. We also work with providers, offering continuing education on culturally congruent care and other perinatal topics. Finally we offer training and support for candidates of color pursuing perinatal careers.

Q: Can this model be replicated in other communities?

We have several replicable programs intended to be duplicated in other communities of color. The Chocolate Milk Cafe is a mother-to-mother support group model specifically for African-American women to support them in their breastfeeding journeys. Our Sister Doula Program™ pairs specially trained doulas with pregnant women on Medicaid. Finally, our Lactation Consultant Mentorship Program places IBLCE candidates in our free walk-in clinic, paired with qualified mentors to achieve mentorship hours required toward the credential. This program is designed to increase the number of IBCLCs of color.

Q: Tell us what you are speaking about at the MANA conference this year.

My two breakout session topics in October will be: “Saving Ourselves - Black Midwives and Doulas Impacting Inequities” and “What You Don’t Know Hurts Us: Racism, White Privilege, and Perinatal Health Inequities”. These two sessions will showcase what doulas and midwives of color are doing around the country to positively impact their communities and show how allies can assist in these efforts. It is always difficult to hear the structural racism and white privilege talk. Midwives, especially those who work with women of color and in communities of color, want to believe that they are doing good works. Having to confront structural racism in organizations and institutions they love and are committed to can be very challenging. I hope in my presentations at MANA to challenge midwives to really look at their own privilege, whom they do and don’t serve, the structural cultures of their organizations, and what work they need to do to move into a more aware space that would make room for students, apprentices, and clients of color. Not just having them there, but making them feel welcome and wanted.

Q: Tell us about the Black Infant Mortality Awareness Walk.

I plan to walk across the state of Missouri from September 1-10, 2014.  My goal is to raise money for Uzazi Village Sister Doulas Program™, bring awareness to Black Infant Mortality, and engage my state in conversations about solutions to the problem of perinatal health inequities in my community. I have a support team that will accompany me. I plan to stop in towns and cities along the way and speak to churches, and universities, and hospitals. My first stop will be to legislators in the Missouri state capital to engage them on problems with Medicaid and to ask for Medicaid expansion. I have been planning this walk for months and training to get myself in condition. I’m hoping it will be a catalyst for others around the country to take on similar projects. Black infant mortality is a complex, multifaceted issue that needs to be addressed on many levels.  

Q: How can readers support your work?

  • Go to our fundraising website and make a donation.
  • Get pledges, track my walk, and collect donations based on the number of miles I walk
  • Go to our website and learn more about our organization and our programs www.uzazivillage.com
  • Make a donation to Uzazi Village on its donation page
  • If you are local to Kansas City, volunteer for one of our groundbreaking programs
  • Knit or crochet Boobie Hats for our mothers for gifts
  • Donate new and used babywearing gear for our Babywearing Fashion Shows
  • Schedule a talk or presentation with Sherry for your group or organization
  • Schedule a visit to Uzazi Village to learn more about what we do
  • Attend one or both of my sessions at MANA to learn more about health inequities
  • Track my daily progress on my walk
  • Join me on my walk for a day or two
  • Tell other’s about my work and mission
  • Tell me about others doing similar work
  • Friend me on Facebook, or like my Walk for Infant Mortality page or Uzazi Village page
  • Drop me a line, I can be reached at sherry@uzazivillage.com 913-638-0716

 

Sherry L. PayneSherry L. Payne has a bachelors of nursing and a masters in nursing education. She is pursing midwifery education and works part-time as a seminar presenter and nurse educator. She is a lactation consultant and a certified nurse educator. Upon completion of her midwifery studies, she plans to open an urban prenatal clinic and birth center. Ms. Payne founded Uzazi Village, a nonprofit dedicated to decreasing health disparites in the urban core. She owns Perinatal ReSource an education, training and consulting firm. She is an editor for Clinical Lactation Journal, and sits on the board of CIMS, Coalition to Improve Maternity Services. She also sits on her local FIMR Board (fetal infant mortality review). She presents nationally on perinatal and nursing education issues. Her career goals include increasing the number of midwives of color and improving lactation rates in the African American community through published investigative research and application of evidence based clinical practice and innovation in healthcare delivery models.

 

Jeanette McCulloch, IBCLCSherry was interviewed by Jeanette McCulloch, IBCLC, editor of the MANA blog and co-founder of BirthSwell. She has been using strategic communications and messaging to change policy, spread new ideas, and build thriving businesses for more than 20 years. Jeanette is honored to be working with local, national, and international birth and breastfeeding organizations and advocates ensuring that women have access to high-quality care and information.

Top Ten Reasons To Become A MANA Member

Posted by Midwives Alliance on August 26th, 2014

Topics  

1) Help families find you! All midwife members of MANA are eligible to be listed at Mothers Naturally "Find a Midwife."

2) Continuing education. Being a member also means discounted access to the MANA conference, which provides continuing education focused specifically on home birth and birth center practices.

3) Keep up-to-date on the latest research and practice guidelines. Our website, blog, and social media sites provide up-to-the-minute news and research.

4) Find your midwifery community. At the conference, on our social media sites, and our emails, MANA connects you to the midwives and birth professionals in your community.

5) Track your outcomes. Your MANA membership supports the MANAstats project. If you become a MANAstats contributor, you’ll get data you can use to track and compare your practice’s outcomes to nationwide benchmarks.

6) Support groundbreaking home birth research. MANAstats data is available to researchers worldwide, a critical tool in understanding what home birth practices lead to positive outcomes for families.

7) Get the tools you need to run your practice. At the MANA conference, in our email blasts, and on our blog and website, you’ll learn about the latest research, meet the people with groundbreaking models for care, and connect with others who are solving the same challenges you are.

8) Support your profession. MANA provides key education and advocacy for preserving the art and science of midwifery, advocating for maternity care policy reform, supporting and unifying midwives, endorsing a woman-centered maternity care model and preserving normal birth practices. Without your membership support, none of this work is possible.

9) Educate families about the value of midwifery. MANA creates tools you can use to educate families about midwifery care, including the I am a Midwife series, blog content tailored to educating families, and other visuals and content. We encourage all MANA members to use our content on your websites, Facebook pages, and other promotional materials.

10) Get your midwifery gear. The MANA marketplace offers books, t-shirts, and bumper stickers you can use to show your pride in midwifery.

But most importantly . . . because you care about your profession!

MANA is making it easy to take advantage of the many benefits of membership! Join now during the August membership special: $100 for one year.

Help us spread the word *and* win some MANA swag. Share this article *anywhere* where midwives are online. Leave a comment below with where you shared. We’ll pick one of you to win a MANA tshirt! Thank you!

Accepting Abstracts to Speak at MANA 2014!

Posted by Midwives Alliance on January 13th, 2014

Topics  

We are pleased to announce the theme for the MANA 2014 Conference October 23-26 in St Louis is:

"The Spirit of Midwifery."

This theme speaks to MANA Conferences as a place where midwives of all types and backgrounds can gather and be nourished and enriched. We hope it resonates for you too and that you will consider submitting a proposal to present a talk, workshop, or poster at MANA 2014. This is an excellent way to share your expertise and knowledge with the midwifery community.

The deadline for submission is February 10, 2014. We are seeking pre-conference workshops (full and half day), breakout sessions, plenary talks, and poster presentations. You may submit your presentation for consideration in more than one category.

The initial abstract form is streamlined and efficient. If your presentation has been selected, you will be notified by early March, and you will then have approximately 4 weeks to complete the more in-depth form necessary for MANA to apply for CEUs from MEAC and ACNM. For details and to submit your proposal, click here.

Thank you!

The MANA 2014 Programming Committee

Syndicate content