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Rally For Midwives in Halifax - Thursday, January 20th, 4pm!!!

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

Susie B. is my dear friend. I respect her, which is not a word I throw around much these days. We used to host a show on community radio in Nanaimo, BC, called ‘Running Wild’. Some of the more aurally sensitive citizens of Nanaimo informed me that they used to call the show “Running wild at the mouth.’

When I heard the great news that tomorrow, Thursday the 20thof January, at 4pm, outside of the Provincial Legislature, 1726 Hollis Street, there would be a rally in support of midwives in Nova Scotia, I immediately thought of Susie. Susie lay-trained to be a midwife, is a doula, and home-birthed her children. Even though Susie was on the other side of the country, I knew I had to give her another chance to “Run Wild” on a topic dear to her heart. Go Susie go!

“We are a technocratic culture.” says Susie B. “Our births are technocratic. The way that we birth our babies is very indicative of the type of culture that we live in. They would like us to get into rows, neatly line up, march to the hospital, behave ourselves, just let them deliver the babies for us...Have a 35% C-section rate, because at the end of the day they want to cover their asses and get those babies out of there. This is the legacy of the patriarchy and the hegemony of power that we live in.”

“As a consumer I feel like I have the right to chose how, and with whom, and where, I will birth my baby. And I do not need to be told that I do not have the power or the faculties to make that decision for myself, and that somebody else needs to make that decision for me. That’s bullshit. And that’s what our government tries to do.”

 In 1991, Susie opted to have her first homebirth. The climate surrounding midwives, and homebirth, was one of suspicion on the part of the medical community.

“You were considered just really irresponsible to make that choice or to have a homebirth...but I didn’t want to go to the hospital, get strapped down, shaved, get separated from my husband , be drugged, and have my baby taken away from me. I would rather take the chance and do what our ancestors did for millennia.”

 In Nova Scotia, as in the rest of Canada, midwifery has been legislated and institutionalized by “the patriarchy”. Midwifery is now an occupation one must train for, at a university or college. Midwifery is now something that can be practiced at certain sites, with certain regulations. While it is arguably a better situation than demonizing midwives in what Susie calls a ‘witch hunt’, she laments the restrictive controls, and the loss of knowledge.

 “Midwifery is such an art,” says Susie, “and we didn’t want to just see it turn into something where all you had to do is get good grades in math in grade 12, and all of a sudden you’re on your way to becoming a midwife after four years of university. Oh wow, if you go away and get trained and get a degree, you’re respected in the world, but if you spend twenty years at five hundred births, it doesn’t count for squat! You’ve got to institutionalize yourself to get any respect.”

With legislation and licensing came severe restrictions in the scope of the legal limits of midwifery.

“The problem now that it is legal,” says Susie, “is that if you are a midwife that has a license, and you’re registered, there are all of these conditions. Midwives now risk losing their license, and they have so much more to risk now than they ever did. And for rural women, you can’t be a registered midwife practising rurally. So what’s happened in all these rural communities is that the midwives that were once there, they can’t do it. Those communities lost their midwives.”

The recent legislation of midwifery in Nova Scotia has been something of a hit and miss affair. In Halifax, the midwifery program was, from its inception, administered by the IWK hospital. The program is now suspended, there are no midwives in Halifax, and Stephanie Kincade, co-organizer of tomorrow’s rally, is demanding that this be changed.

“There are Canada-wide regulations in place to make sure that there is a standard of care,” says Kincade,  “to make sure that ethics are followed, to make sure that things are safe and done with a client’s best interest in mind. In the case of home births (at the Halifax model site) the IWK said ‘We want our own policy in place.’ And this is despite the fact that there was a perfectly functional policy that the other model sites (in Nova Scotia) used. The IWK decided that they wanted to take the time to put the other policy in place, which in turn led to some policies that may be appropriate in a hospital setting but not appropriate in a birth setting that is outside of the hospital. So it’s difficult to say if you’re a person receiving care outside of a hospital, should you be using hospital protocol?”

Kincade has a list of demands, all of which will be addressed by keynote speakers at tomorrow’s rally.

“Since the IWK has failed to properly implement the program,” says Kincade, “one of the things we’re asking for is that the program be moved out of the IWK and into the North End Community Health Centre. The midwifery program is meant to be a community-based program so this makes sense. The North End Community Health Centre has expressed an interest in stepping forward as a location for this. So it’s not something we’re just pulling out of nowhere. ”

Kincade also wants a top-down review of the entire relationship between midwives and the public.

“We’d like the Department of Health to step forward and really evaluate what’s happened, and implement what they promised to implement in the first place, which has not happened.” says Kincade. “We would like them to also really give us a game plan for improving access. Even in the HRM, where we had limited access for a certain time, there were still many, many, many, families who were turned away, who wanted that midwifery care.”

“And province-wide, there were many families who had access to midwives before legislation who suddenly found themselves without access to midwives because of the legislation. There was no interim solutions to keep providing care in these locations that were not part of the model sites.”

Tomorrow, Thursday the 20thof January, at 4pm, in front of the Provincial Legislature, 1726 Hollis Street. The rally is family-friendly and children are urged to attend. Says Kincade;

“We’re not going to idly stand by and watch something that we fought long and hard for just taken away.” 

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