Evolution of an advocate

I once felt pride and optimism during the time preceding the International Day of the Midwife (May 5th). I would actively seek ways to promote the midwifery model of care, midwives and the steps taken in our province for what I felt would be better care for mamas and babies.

As a result of all the shenanigans Saskatchewan is experiencing, what I feel today is more akin to sadness over the International Day of the Midwife (IDM). And it’s not because I don’t love midwifery. It’s precisely because I do care deeply about mamas and babies and their right to choose midwifery as an option that I have feelings of sadness as IDM approaches.

Let me explain. The end result of Midwifery implementation in Saskatchewan (2008) was that the only viable access to midwifery left available to women was the registered midwife (RM) hired and employed by individual Health Regions. Consequently, what women have access to is a small parcel of what it can and should be. In fact, I believe our rights as birthing women are compromised when all we have access to are RMs provided by the Health Regions.

There has been a call to action by student midwives and mothers asking for more access to RMs. I believe access to RMs a valid option and I support that changes are needed to keep student midwives in our province.  But I think some questions need to be asked, not the least of which is how does this help women who don’t live in a health region that offers midwifery? Or those who live too far away from the urban centres where RMs operate? Or those who are not accepted for whatever reason (ei: women who are “risked out”) and turned away?

Again, RMs are only a small part of what women need access to. As examples, Saskatchewan women currently do not have the freedom to choose independent midwifery, lay midwifery or traditional birth attendants (or any out-of-hospital birth unless that birth is unassisted or with a RM). Where is the “diversity” in that? We must protect our rights and the first step is for all of us to realize that our birthing rights have been eroded by what is offered in our government’s brand of midwifery. 

We must stop asking for crumbs. What would happen if we all stood together behind a movement that shifted focus from midwives to the rights of birthing women? Preserve birthing rights and access to all options will follow. This way autonomy for all women (not just some) will be ensured regardless of the choices being made. Only in this way will we spare the next generation from having to continue the fight for birth freedoms.

I think we should be careful to put our energy into movements that make a long and lasting difference to mothers, their babies and their families regardless of where or how they birth. So, until women have access to all kinds of midwifery care in this province, this is one mother and advocate who will continue to feel conflicted whenever May 5th rolls around.

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