About the Author - Sandra
I was born in
Manitoba, raised in Alberta and lived my adult life in Victoria, British
Columbia, Canada. I married, gave birth to four children and raised three
girls and suffered through the death of my first born, my son. I am now a proud
grandmother of four - 3 boys and 1 girl, and there is another one circling
around but she hasn't been called yet. Amazingly, and recently I have become
a Great Grandmother of a boy and girl!
I graduated from the School of Nursing at the Calgary General Hospital in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1969. I practiced nursing, specializing in obstetrics, for many years but found the field of midwifery much more satisfying. Over a period of thirty years I have assisted hundreds of women give birth at home and a multitude more in the hospital as an obstetrical nurse. I believe in the natural and spiritual aspects of birth and the importance of choice in this rite of passage. I emphasized this philosophy in my childbirth preparation classes -The Birth Group - that I held in Victoria every week for years to help my clients and anyone who wanted the information, attain as much knowledge and reawakening as they required and asked for.
I had collected a multitude of photographs, stories and experiences over the years, which I put together for my students and clients. As the years passed and the experiences grew, the collection evolved into a book - "The Childbirth Manual".
The creation of this book was a slow process growing to include donated pictures and stories for the sole purpose of educating future clients. Then came the idea of putting it together for anyone who might need the information to increase their knowledge and understanding of the childbirth experience. Thus the book was born.
Its creation has taken up much of my time and then the company was formed in 1998 - Life Passages Publishing to produce it and publish it.
But something was missing - relationships with pregnant women. Now, I feel I need to put out the energy once again to help where I am needed. I have too long been secluded into my own world, forgetting that I am here to make a difference and to help raise the awareness of the planet, specifically, by making the best possible entrance for new soul's arrival.
A word about midwifery:
In 1970 I actually had my first hands on experience in helping a woman give birth as a nurse at the Calgary General Hospital, guided by a local intern who himself had no idea what he was doing, we struggled through but amazingly nature was in control and everything went well. I think that women are guided into the service of other women, to aid them during the birthing time. I have always felt an affinity to and love for pregnancy and pregnant women, I felt and knew in my soul that I was a midwife all my life and from the past, for many lifetimes, it is just who I am.
In 1973 my sister asked me to help her give birth and with my limited knowledge and experience from my nursing education, I opened myself up to faith in the natural, normal functioning of a woman's body and trusted in her expression of the "don't worry, I know what I am doing, trust me". Since that baptismal experience - a midwife is what I am, and midwifing is what I have done, what has led to my self-discovery, my comfort, my evolution, and my church. I witnessed many miracles and was a channel to the divine knowledge. I learned to be humble, to have faith, to believe in the body, to listen to others, to have confidence, to explore, to not fear new experiences, to be compassionate, to be empathetic and to love myself and the people that I helped unconditionally.
When all my friends who were involved in midwifery became political because of the legalities of practicing, of fear of being followed and charged with practicing medicine without a license (crazy world!) and the need to validate the profession and ensure the safety of the childbearing community - I knew it would change everything. The heart would be separated from the hands and no long would the Mother Goddess flow through our spirit to our hands and head to guide us in the knowledge and wisdom that reside in all women.
I would not prostitute my beliefs
about this spiritual experienced to obtain a professional
certification; a piece of paper, a list of rules and regulations that governed
my every move, that required justification of every act - a midwife is so much more
than that. I have had the experience of being a Registered Nurse for almost
40 years and I know what it is like to always follow policies and procedures
laid down by the regulating board. I didn't want to contaminate my
experience as a midwife as well. Thus I have chosen not to become registered as
a midwife and, therefore, by the BC law "Midwives Regulation", I am no longer
allowed to call myself a midwife, as strange as that seems to me to be, because it is
not a job, nor a career - it is a part of me - abilities handed down to me from
thousands, hundreds of thousands of midwives. From the time we humans
first started to procreate, there have been other women around a woman in labour
- to hold, coach, bring water, take care of other children, to be her hands, to
help guide her to her inner place of knowledge about giving birth and support
her in her travail to produce a new life.
So, now I am a nurse, a labour coach, a sage femme, a counselor, an author, a teacher, a mother, and a grandmother. If I was spiritually directed to be a middle/woman (midwife) then that would be up to the Mother Spirit, not the BC government! Who am I to deny that request. I am a midwife and I was chosen by pregnant women to be one. I will not be persecuted like the witches of old England to deny my calling and give up my beliefs. I chose not to practice at this time but if I was chosen and called again........
This is an old photo, 1977, taken during a labour, one that I had to take my daughter to because I didn't have anyone to watch her. I was also pregnant with my 4th baby. I was timing the contractions and waiting, watching and serving. This is not a job, this is a visit from a friend who helps, someone who has been through the process, who has come to know birth intimately - this is a midwife.
This is me today, working in my office, keeping this webpage functioning,
providing lists of midwives, doulas, childbirth educators, lactation
counsellors, and whomever else will help instruct, assist, and support the
birthin' community. All this for free, just so we have a good, responsible
source for information for the searchers of childbirth information and
Like my motto reads "Dedicated to Sharing Childbirth Knowledge".
Thank you for your interest
Thank you, Jan for this wonderful article. Maybe the College of Midwives in BC should read it.
I love midwives. I love all other
practitioners who help women experience the best birth possible. I love the
birth process and getting to know it better. I feel great joy when women have a
good pregnancy and birth as well as a good start with their new babies into
breastfeeding and mothering. Midwives are germane to this miracle. But what is a
midwife? Who can be a midwife and how do we define her? Do we have a right to
define her, she who has been caring for women in birth since the beginning of
creation - She who is called by God, not by us?
I look around the world and see that despite midwives, the medicalization of birth has taken over in all but a few places. One exception is the Netherlands, where they don't do triple testing and still have a predominance of homebirth. But in my country, the United States, despite all our hard work a dangerous medicalization of birth has almost completely taken over. CNMs are fighting against this over-medicalization in hospitals, as are those midwives who do homebirths. Although there are other very small movements in different parts of the world, many countries have no counteraction against this dangerous trend.
The empirical midwife movement in the United States is one of those few islands where technology, money and brainwashing haven't taken over common sense, evidence, and woman centeredness. The brainwashing process has never gained a foothold because the lay midwife's training is not within the medical model. This re-creation of "authentic midwifery," a term coined by Dr John Stevenson of Australia, is a unique contribution of these lay American midwives. Just as Microsoft mogul Bill Gates could not have done in Europe what he did in the United States, Ina May Gaskin could not have done what she did. Both needed to think way outside the box and then have the freedom to move their ideas forward. American freedom is a unique concept whose roots run very deep and straight back to the Constitution. Through the Bill of Rights, Americans were given freedom of religion (separation of church and state) and the right to the pursuit of happiness. Birth is connected to both in that we have the right to the spiritual leader or midwife of our choice. Ina May calls birth a sacrament, and many others call it a miracle. So, should midwives alone define who the midwives are, or should families have a part in choosing?
American freedom was also strengthened by the free speech movement of the 1960s. "Challenge the status quo" was a rally call that creatively moved birth forward. Becoming the status quo wasn't the desired goal, because those who represented the status quo were the ones who blocked us. We continue to need our great outside-the-box thinkers. They are the people who keep us honest and strong. They are the ones who point out that the emperor wears no clothes. They admonish us when we nonchalantly use Dopplers although ultrasound is not proven safe. They remind us to think through our birth routines. In many countries, no credibility is given to consumers of healthcare because they aren't professional health practitioners. Yet, consumers often know more than practitioners but are written off as knowing nothing. In France and other countries, such attitudes have made it difficult to get a birth movement going.
Let me be more explicit about my love for midwives. I love all midwives. I love CNMs, CPMs, LMs, CMs, unlicensed midwives, self-proclaimed lay midwives, private birth attendants, traditional midwives, Amish midwives, aspiring midwives and student midwives. We need them all desperately. Each plays an important role in our eclectic culture. I have spent the last fourteen years with Midwifery Today to protect and promote all midwives. I truly believe diversity is our strength and should be protected with our lives. The decriminalization of midwifery is the responsibility of us all. The battle cry that rises against this diversity is "how can we protect the public without mandatory licensing or certification?", but considering what happens to 95 percent of birthing women and babies in this country, it's an absurd notion. Protect them - don't worry about the stamping and approving of midwives. Worry how we will lose midwifery to co-option. Strengthen the self-disclosure and informed choice (of midwife) process. Fight the situations in which women are being abused and babies are being damaged for their whole lives as a result of what happens in pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Please don't fight and undermine each other. Find strength in difference; we based a whole country on that concept.
This is America, land of the free, home of the brave (midwife). I can almost guarantee that if we make licensing-CPM, CNM or whatever - mandatory, another group or organization will rise up that will serve women better. Limiting midwifery through involuntary licensing will ultimately limit our freedom to serve families based on what we know is right. I much prefer we learn to protect women by protecting and standing up for each other. I love the fact that MANA includes and stands up for all midwives, and Midwifery Today will continue to do so as well. Valerie El Halta has said that some draw a circle and leave us out, but I'm going to draw a circle and include them in. We need to create that circle, a big circle that includes every kind of midwife, because we need every single midwife-hearted person to work in his or her sphere of influence to make needed changes in birth. If we can't have unity, let's go for harmony. Let's celebrate our diversity, stretch high the torch of liberty, and welcome all.
Visit the wonderful Midwifery Today web site and read sooo much more good stuff.!*** Midwifery Today***
Why I am a Midwife?
I have not written much about my beliefs in reincarnation, in fact I have many questions about it but there is a feeling from somewhere inside myself, a thought, and a memory that I have lived with since I was a young girl. I am not sure whether it is a memory or a dream, but I feel that it is a true memory. I bring this up because it has a great bearing on why I became a midwife, why I feel that I am a healer. Why now, the urge and desire to be a healer/midwife/wise woman has lessened, and why I feel that I have graduated from this lesson in life.
I sit under the glow of a full moon as a write this. It shines its light on me tonight, sitting here at my computer trying to express myself. For the past weeks I have had a “writer's block” but tonight there is creation, words, and spiritual thoughts to express. The moon is definitely influencing me. This memory that I have is a story about me. I know that it was me because I feel it in my body and my soul as a truth.
I am a young girl, quite young, and just entering puberty. I live with my grandmother, my mother is not there and I can't remember why. We live in the south of England, in the country just outside of a small town. The memory happens in the “dark ages”, old times of rural life in England. We are peasants and must live off the land. For some unclear reason I am unable to speak but I hear and see things more than most. I have the same gift that my mother and grandmother and great grandmother all had: they were healers for the community, wise women that the others in the country came to for help and healing. They all had knowledge of herbal remedies, how to grow medicinal herbs, when to pick them and how to use them. They all helped the other women in the community give birth and they were always the ones called for to attend births, accidents, illnesses and problems of life especially concerning women.
The memory is not very well defined; I can't really explain everything because it is mostly just feelings that I have without documentary. But I am trying to put it to words: I had to go to help a woman give birth. I had to go because my grandmother was getting too old to be able to help as much as she should or was expected, so the task came to me, there was no choice it was just something that I did, something that my family did.
I don't remember much about the labour or about the woman who I was helping (but I am sure that she exists now in this life in some relationship with me). I remember picking some herbs, some leaves off a raspberry bush, to take with me to the birth because I always used this particular plant to make the birth easier. I remember making tea for her when I arrived. The house was warm, dark, with simple furniture. There was a big white basin of fresh well water that I heated on the wood stove and I soaked cloths for warm packs on her tummy to ease her work.
I remember that there were other women in the birthing room, which was dark and cluttered with bedding and chairs.
I remember feeling annoyed that it wasn't very clean.
I remember the woman crying out at the end, she seemed to really be afraid and my touch didn't calm her. I remember the moisture; the smell, the warmth and the feel of the baby's head come into my hands and the body sliding quickly out of her.
I remember seeing the baby white/blue and limp. I remember massaging the baby, wiping the mucous off its face puffing into its mouth but nothing that I did would get the baby to breathe. I remember the other women in the room screaming and the husband running in, and I remember the confusion following when everyone realized that the baby was dead.
I remember the sorrow that I felt about the sweet tiny life that hadn't lived. No massage would awaken it, no calling would bring a whimper; I could not do anything to make the baby take its first breath. I felt that this little person had been dead for a while, dead inside its mother. I tried all that I had been taught and all that I had faith in but nothing would ever change this death.
My grandmother had not prepared me for the experience that came next. Three men came running into the room and grabbed me roughly pulling me out of the room. They were screaming that I had killed the baby. I couldn't explain myself or defend myself. In their ignorance they just blamed me. They threw me into a shed.
I remember being inside a dark small wooden hut and seeing the light from the sun shining through the cracks in the wooden walls. There was no furniture; nothing in the shed and it smelled like old rotting wood and hay. I could hear the men yelling outside accusing me, calling me a witch and murderer. I remember my fear.
I remember that they left me there all night in the cold dark hut and I was scared, so scared. I felt so guilty. Had I really caused the death of that poor baby? What had I done wrong? I deserved to be punished; it was my fault: I couldn't help the woman enough; I couldn't heal her baby.
In the early hours of the morning in the gray mist of an overcast day the men came back. They took me out of the shack and forced me to my knees in front of a wood chopping block. They tied my hands together and pulled them across the block and before I was even aware of what was happening an axe came down and cut off both my hands. I don’t remember much after that; I don’t remember the pain. The memory is confusing but soon after they pulled me to a rope hanging off a beam outside a barn, tied a noose around my neck and hung me. And that was that.
Each time that I try and remember the story my heart aches, my soul cries for who I was then, and the agony of the death that I experienced. That life reaches into this one and explains my desires and needs that I have experienced in this life that I live now. It explains the pain that I had in my wrists and hands for so many years, even though it was diagnosed as carpal tunnel disease. It explains the chronic pain in my right neck and a lump that has grown on my shoulder, the physical body remembers. This memory that I have is a true one, I know that I have experienced all this – reincarnation? I don’t know, but a memory none the less.
So, when my younger sister came to me twenty-five years ago and asked if I would help her deliver her baby the answer was obvious - yes. I was only educated to be a nurse and never had the necessary education to properly deliver a baby but from somewhere I knew what I had to do and there was guidance every step of the way; guidance from some inner knowledge that I had, and thankfully guidance from some unknown source has been with me at every birth that I have attended since then. My hands become someone else’s and operate almost independent from my intellect. The knowledge was always there when I needed it – what to do, what to say, how to touch, when to call for help, what to do in an emergency, when to sit back and let the natural process work.
I thank the girl that I was then. I thank all the generations of mothers that taught her and passed the healing ways to her, because my life as this naïve girl gave me the knowledge, experience and ability in my present life to help all the hundreds of women with whom I have shared my midwifery skills.
It has taken over twenty-five years to come to terms with why I had such a strong desire to be a midwife and help as many women as I could. To make their experience the best possible and take good care of them was a huge driving force for me. It became my religion, a journey of spiritual growth sometimes to the detriment of my personal life but it was necessary for me to fulfill the need, to cleanse my soul of the guilt that I carried from the previous lifetime. I needed to make up for my failure and make it right. I did that to the best of my ability. I never wanted to be “certified” or a licensed midwife following the rules of the professionals. I just wanted to help women during the most sacred time of their lives, to help them give birth naturally and in total consciousness of the miracle of birth. I wanted to honor their power and my own, during the birthing time and be the hands of the Sacred Mother.
Now, the urgency is gone. I have become the crone, the old wise-woman. The cycle is fulfilled and my spirit has graduated from this lesson. I am free to move on.
I would still help if or whenever I am needed. I still love pregnant women and I still love to catch a baby when it invites me but finally now I live in peace.
Gratefully submitted. Sandra Roberge