It was 1982. I was unexpectedly pregnant with my first child (why it was unexpected I don’t really know… the diaphragm was in the drawer instead of where it belonged). I came across Spiritual Midwifery and heard the word midwife for the first time in my life. A midwife cost $500 and a doctor $3,000. It wasn’t such a hard decision really for someone with very little money and no insurance. Paying off that midwife and birth center took two years, AND, I was privileged enough to be able to access this care when so many others couldn’t or didn’t even know it existed.
That was 35 years ago! It was the same year that the Midwives Alliance of North America was established. Grassroots organizers with telephone chains and meetings in hotel rooms where revolutions were started. Groups of people who believed (and still do) that serving women is a calling, that autonomous community birth is a right, and that birth is sacred. These midwives, some certified nurse midwives and some self and apprentice trained, some radical hippies and others as straight-laced as they come... This is just a taste of the birth story of MANA, memories held by MANA founding midwives.
The history of MANA, though, is certainly not the beginning of our story as midwives in the United States. The lens through which we view history is filtered in part by our own personal histories, our cultures and our communities. Some of those histories – mostly of white midwives – are celebrated in our community. Other midwives’ histories, equally important, are lost to racism and oppression. Our story in fact, relies deeply on the uncredited knowledge of the midwives of color that came before, those that were systematically eradicated over just a generation. We must always remember this and not erase that history.
Birth is an elemental force which does not change. This is the force around which we as midwives are gathered. It is the landscape in which birth takes place that is ever changing. Our conference was an illustration of the changing landscape. We are charged with the honor of accompanying people along their journey into and through that landscape, midwives as well as birthing people. MANA deeply values and honors those who have come before us on this path. Those who have taken birth into their own hands throughout history were and are critical to the foundations upon which our work is built.
I love MANA conferences! I love that we come together to meet with friends and colleagues, to fill our cups, to fuel our fire, to learn about midwifery, to stretch and grow, to lean into the uncomfortable, and to dance, A LOT! We come to conference as midwives with the ultimate goal of serving birthing women and people at the most tender and vulnerable time – pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
I love MANA conferences because I see that I am not alone in my passion for the work and that there are other people who actually get it. MANA conferences remind me that together we are a force to be reckoned with.
I am honored to be the president of MANA at this time of intense awakening. The systems we are a part of have failed women and all people in many ways, and have failed some more than others, in particular black and brown and indigenous women, 2SLGBTQIA people, and children too.
We are at an evolutionary point where we can no longer sit in our own silos, with our own trauma, defining ourselves and our profession through our own lens. We have been harmed by the patriarchal systems that oppress women and people and it is time to come out, to Collaborate, to take deep, deep breaths and pause long enough to remember who we are, groups of people who believe that serving women and birthing people is a calling, that autonomous community birth is a human right, and that birth is sacred. Indeed, together we are that force to be reckoned with.