My Letter to The Farm Midwives
When I was preparing my talk for the MANA conference in 2016, I was so inspired by the story of the development of midwifery at The Farm in Tennessee. I thought it would be so beneficial to me and my talk to get the perspective of these Godmothers of midwifery. So I wrote them an email to see if they’d be willing to give me an audience. Much to my surprise and delight, they responded Yes! So I drove up there one day with my mom and a home-made gluten free asian chopped chicken salad and got to have lunch with Pamela, Deborah and Sharon, 3 of the original Farm midwives. We talked for almost three hours and it was for sure one of the best days of my life. Some major parts of our conversation ended up making it into the conclusion of my talk and I think really helped me have the “boom!” moment I was hoping for.
Anyway, this is the email I sent to them:
To the Original Farm Midwives (and the next generation too):
Hello, my name is Madeline Lutz and I am a newly Certified Professional Midwife in Atlanta, Georgia. I am preparing a talk to be given at the MANA Conference in Atlanta this fall and my title was inspired by you all. The title of my talk is, “A Return to Women Helping Women: Advancing Midwifery Care for the Next Generation.”
I am writing to you because I would love to get a chance to sit down and speak with all or some of you over coffee or lunch and discuss these ideas: how you all started and what your visions for the future of midwifery were at that time, how you think we got to where we are in midwifery culture today, and what your visions are for the future of midwifery. I would of course come to you and can make my schedule work to fit yours if this sounds like something any or all of you would consider doing for me.
My understanding is that when you all were driving across the country, you were a group of women who decided to help the rest of the women in your group to labor and birth their babies. You were trailblazers, and it was a beautiful thing, but somehow in the past 40 years, the idea of midwifery care went from what you all were, “women helping women,” to the midwifery model of “woman helping woman” and the one on one relationship between midwife and client became the most important part of it all somehow, and i’m afraid that may have been to our detriment.
I think the lack of community among women in general as well as the worsening care women receive from doctors and in hospitals surrounding pregnancy and birth have contributed to the development of this one one one model of care. But my hypothesis is that this focus on the one on one relationship (woman helping woman) that has developed and is generally expected between a midwife and client and the 24/7 on call lifestyle that results from it has been a major hindrance in the creation of midwives and is one of the biggest things holding us steady at attending less than 2% of births nationwide.
It is no secret that midwives are overworked and overstressed. It’s often even something of a “joke” in the midwifery community. It’s considered a badge of honor in some midwifery circles to have missed the most important life event for a birth. I don’t think this is funny, I don’t think this is healthy, and I surely don’t think that it is going to make more midwives - something that we all know we desperately need in this country right now.
I believe there is a huge middle ground that we need to tap into and that midwives beginning to work together in partnership or in groups to guarantee them some regularly scheduled time off call could be the difference in making midwifery a more attainable, sustainable and realistic career goal for women.
With great admiration and respect,