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Giving Birth to Midwives Newsletter                           October 2012


As summer turns to fall and our work as midwifery educators resumes or continues, we devote this edition of "Giving Birth to Midwives" to issues of equity and inclusivity in the midwifery profession. The Association of Midwifery Educators is taking a deep look at ways to address the needs of our sisters of color and the diverse communities we serve. We acknowledge that there is much work to be done on individual and organizational levels to dismantle the systems that have resulted in inequities, and we have committed ourselves and our organization to do this work.

In this issue you will find introspective reports from students, preceptors, educators and organizations, as looking within is where the work begins.  We've highlighted personal and organizational accounts of their steps forward, as well as resources for more information as kernels for starting or continuing the conversation for all of us.  We are inspired by the work that is already being done in our community in service to mothers and babies, and we are humbled by what has yet to be done so that ALL can have safe and healthy births.

-AME Board of Directors

How Did We Get Here?
by Wendy Gordon and Claudia Booker


There has been a lot of buzz lately in the midwifery profession around racism and privilege. Many are wondering, "What's going on?" and "Is this really an issue?" For many of us, it's hard to understand the issue when we can't see it and when we hold ideas of what it means to have racism at play in our profession. Here is a brief history of how this all came to a head in recent months.


In order to really situate ourselves in the issues of today, we have to look at the big picture. The history of midwifery in this country began with the Native American midwives, long before the Europeans arrived. Midwifery continued with the importation of Africans as slaves to America, particularly in the South, where African midwives provided excellent care to both enslaved women and to white women for decades, passing along their knowledge in doing so. Japanese midwives worked in the internment camps; Mexican midwives were there when land in the southwest was taken for the U.S.




Social Change Begins in the Classroom: Cultural Humility & Anti-Oppression Resources for Midwifery Educators
by Courtney Everson   


Cultural competency/humility, diversity, anti-racism, and anti-oppression are critical concepts increasingly discussed by clinicians, educators, and professionals involved in health care provision and educational practices. The importance of these issues cannot be understated, and yet too often we witness the "call" to do something, but without actual "action" that effects meaningful change. Action - in any form - begins with awareness raising and discussion. The purpose of this article is to provide (selected) foundational resources and "food for thought" commentary that may serve midwifery educators in their quest to create initiatives and enact plans that advance a social justice agenda.

A Preceptor's Perspective  
By Aly Folin

In March, I went to the CPM Symposium and had my mind blown. I went expecting to talk about how to move midwifery forward, what was next for midwifery, and how I could participate in those things at home in Minnesota and also on a national level. I got those things but not nearly in the way that I expected. What happened there was that Women of Color began to speak. They spoke of how the History of Midwifery wall was only the history of White neo-midwifery; they spoke about the near constant ignoring and dismissal of issues pertinent to them by midwifery organizations as a matter of course; they spoke about the horrendous disparities in outcomes that we are all aware of but few are doing something about.


I was a women's studies junkie in college and so I had some understanding under my belt about institutional racism and the intersections of race, class, gender, sexual orientation etc. I thought that I was an aware and conscientious person and it never once occurred to me that institutional racism would exist in midwifery. I thought I had done a thorough self-examination of my own upbringing in an essentially racist society. I thought I knew that I was not a racist. At least, until this moment, when my eyes were opened by these women, who experienced the dismissal, ignoring, and essentially erasing of their history and the contributions their ancestors made to midwifery. This weighed heavily on me. I began to realize that combating racism in oneself is an ongoing process. One that needs tending to frequently because it is so easy to slip back into your happy complacency of not acknowledging the privilege that you have as a white person to ignore the racism in yourself and all around you.




One School's Journey to Dismantle Racism in the Classroom   

by Mary Yglesia, Practicum Coordinator,
Bastyr University Department of Midwifery


Bastyr University has made a commitment to advancing the goals of providing a learning environment free from institutionalized racism, dedicated to social justice and a culturally versatile approach to maternal health care provision. Its Diversity Committee has been charged with the cultivation of this environment throughout the University system but midwifery and doula educators at Bastyr have a unique history in this work. Our history began at Seattle Midwifery School and has found a rich and nurturing environment in our new home at Bastyr.


Midwifery students are required to complete two courses-Undoing Racism and Cultural Competency for Midwives. Additionally, faculty in the Department of Midwifery are going to be completing their own required course on the fundamentals of undoing racism so that they can further support the educational process of our students toward creating an environment free from racism. Below is a report provided to the generous funder of our work at Seattle Midwifery School. It is the long and rich, painful and hopeful history that brought Seattle Midwifery School to where it is today. The work has only begun and the only thing we know for sure is that there is no end to this work-it is ever evolving and needs our consistent attention and commitment to change. It feels very vulnerable to share this information with the greater community, but we do so in the hopes of creating a more open dialog and maybe inspiring another school's work.


 Read the full article here>

Increasing Cultural Diversity in Midwifery Education and Practice  
by Justine Clegg  

The US is becoming increasingly diverse. Although predominantly white middle-class women seek out-of-hospital birthing services, midwives provide care to increasingly diverse populations, on reservations, in rural, urban, suburban, inner city, and migrant camp settings, serving clients from other countries, undocumented immigrants, and alternative lifestyles. We are challenged to increase sensitivity and skills to serve many populations. As educators we are called upon to not only prepare our students to provide excellent care to a wide variety of families, but also to recruit a diverse student population and to implement support systems that increase retention and graduation rates. And, ultimately, to recruit midwives representing the diversity reflective of our populations to leadership positions within our national midwifery organizations.


A diverse student body enables student midwives to share their cultural backgrounds with classmates. Cultural differences may include ways of learning, body language, nutritional practices, the meaning of time, reliance on the spoken or written word, relationship to nature, valuing competition and independence vs. cooperation and team work, who is "family" and roles of family members, where to seek advice, beliefs about health, traditional healers and modalities. Creating an environment that welcomes all students and solicits input from various cultural perspectives helps students feel comfortable to share.


Read the full article here>

Student Perspective: Why the NARM Cultural Competancy Requirement is One of the Best Parts of My Midwifery Training So Far  
by Eve German 

The two hardest things for a white girl like me during my six-month, required cultural competency and anti-racism training were 1) grasping that racism was real and ever-present in my modern-day life and society, and 2) figuring out what I was supposed to do about it, especially in the midst of all the guilt and helplessness I felt.


The answers, in the end, were simple-as the seeds of most immensely powerful things are-but they took time, patience, and effort to reach. I know that I never would, or could, have reached the important and life-changing, work-enabling realizations that I did without the help of my anti-racism teacher, combined with the immersion in these issues that was provided by this training.


Read the full article here>

Graduation Speech from Birthwise Midwifery School: Maternal Health is a Human Right 
by Krystel Viehmann 

As we leave Birthwise today and head into the world as new midwives, we are tasked with the sweet privilege and honor of attending and facilitating the birth of families. We are also inheriting some incredible challenges and responsibilities. According to new data from the United Nations, women are more likely to die from pregnancy and birth-related complications in the US than in 50 other countries and its getting worse.


I have a hard time getting beyond those numbers. 50th place for maternal mortality. I cannot wrap my brain around the fact that we are in country where we spend more money (by a long shot) on medicine than any other country in the world and yet our maternal mortality numbers look like that. But then it just gets worse. In the US, black and Native American women and their babies die at rates disproportionate to their white counterparts. Black infants are 2.4 times more likely to die in the first year of life than white babies. Black women are 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. Frankly, these statistics are unconscionable. They are horrendous and abhorrent. And we HAVE to do something about it.

Read the full article here>


Now Available! The latest report from the CPM Symposium: Health Professionals for a New Century. Visit the CPM Symposium Website, www.cpmsymposium.org to view the report.  


Articles include:

  • Attracting, Training, and Retaining Women of Color in Midwifery
  • A Vision for Supporting Latina Women to Become Midwives
  • New Mexico: A Consumer Perspective for CPMs on Serving the Hispanic Community
  • Cultural Safety in Training First Nations/ American Indian/ Alaska Native Midwives
  • Midwives and Mothers in Action Campaign: Maternity Champion Awards
  • Anti Racism and Oppression Work in Midwifery (AROM)


Issue: 7  
Teaching doll
How Did We Get Here?
Social Change Begins in the Classroom
A Preceptor's Perspective
One School's Journey to Dismantle Racism in the Classroom
Increasing Cultural Diversity in Midwifery Education and Practice
Student Perspective
Maternal Health is a Human Right

We update our home page with new resources!  

AME is always looking for talented individuals to join us. If you are interested
in volunteering for a project or learning more about being on the Board of Directors, contact
Justine Clegg at  info@association

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8th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference: Returning Power to Birth- Reclaiming Our Culture


October 19-21, 2012, Miami Florida 

     To learn more about the conference please visit

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Among us there is a wealth of expertise; sharing is the best way for us to strengthen midwifery education and form strong bonds between educators.  Together we truly are greater than the sum of our parts. We would love your articles, resources or suggestions for themes or articles for the future.  Contact us here if you have ideas or information to share. 

Midwives College
of Utah Position Statement

Midwives College of Utah (MCU) is consciously working to increase access to student-midwives of color and to represent the history and experience of ALL women within our curriculum.

Our Position Statement on Increasing Diversity in Midwifery Care and Professional Training states our purposes and plans to achieve these goals. We acknowledge that cultural humility is a life-long pursuit, and that we must work in collaboration and allegiance with individuals in under-represented populations to best identify and address the specific disparities that women of color face in accessing both midwifery education and midwifery care. We acknowledge the work is great, but our commitment is strong and we thoughtfully move forward.

To request MCU's complete position paper, please e-mail Nicole Croft at academicdean@


Association of Midwifery Educators