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2011: Year Of The Midwife!

An incredible moment for midwives everywhere.

My Facebook feed went ballistic last night with virtual shouts of joy from all my friends in the birth community.

The midwife Robin Lim had just won the CNN Heroes award and was accepting it live on Anderson Cooper’s star-studded Sunday night broadcast of the ceremony.

Only a few days prior Ina May Gaskin made a passionate speech in Stockholm where she was honored with The Right Livelihood Award, or what’s sometimes referred to as “the alternative Nobel Prize.”

2011 is shaping up to be an incredible year for midwifery. I hope all this noise and celebration indicates a larger shift in thinking about birth and maternity care. Birth is a feminist issue. As Lim says, “each baby, each adult deserves a clean healthy loving environment, those are human rights. “

Lim has delivered thousands of babies in rural and poverty-stricken parts of Indonesia; she’s also the founder and director of a birth center where she trains other midwives and birth assistants. Ina May Gaskin, whose midwifery-practice is based in rural Tennessee, has been been a hugely important advocate for midwifery and maternal health for decades.

Gaskin said in her speech, “Rates of cesarean section are rising rapidly, in most countries far beyond the upper limits recommended by the World Health Organization …. at the same time time-honored skills begin to banish… The elimination of the profession of midwifery in the US in the early 20th century paved the way for a factory model of hospital-based maternity care that, by the mid-century, had two-thirds of all babies pulled from their mother’s bodies with forceps. Such a radical overuse of forceps did not happen in countries in which the value of a strong midwifery profession was recognized. With no midwives present in hospitals…  men with the least understanding of the conditions necessary for women to give birth in a humane way, soon came to believe that birth was a brutal and bloody affair and that human females actually represented a serious failure on the part of nature.”

I highly recommend checking out what both of these midwives have to say:

Here’s Robin Lim:

Here’s Ina May Gaskin:

Lim and Gaskin are also authors of books I love and consistently recommend. Lim has a terrific book on postpartum health that I think every new mother can benefit from. Ina May Gaskin’s most recent book is Birth Matters, but she’s written several others including the famous Spiritual Midwifery, and my personal favorite for women preparing for birth, Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth.

Congratulations to two wonderful, important women and to all the midwives who share their vision!

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