Midwives Save Lives

May 22, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Midwives have been saving mothers and babies for thousands of years. Long before the words “hospital” and “obstetrician” even existed, midwives were passing down the skills and wisdom of their wise women, nurturing mothers and babies into life.

In one of humanity’s oldest and most well-read stories, midwives were saving lives. The first chapter of Exodus tells of two midwives (Puah and Shiphrah) who saved countless lives through their courage and compassion. When Pharaoh demanded that they kill all the male babies born to the Hebrew women in slavery, Puah and Shiphrah saved the boys instead. It is likely thanks to them that anyone knows and reveres the name of Moses. Midwives save lives.

My own faith’s history claims many brave midwives. In the late 1800’s, Emma Andersen Liljenquist attended a course in midwifery after Mormon church president Brigham Young had urged many women to receive medical training to meet the needs of the Utah’s growing families. (You can read more about Utah’s midwifery history here.) Emma recorded these experiences from her years as a midwife among Utah’s early settlers:

Many times when one of my patients was seriously ill, I have asked my Heavenly Father for assistance, and in every case it was given to me. One in particular was a lady who had just given birth to a baby and hemorrhage set in. The husband called the doctor, but he did not realize that it was so serious. I . . . asked the Lord to help us. The hemorrhage ceased and I did the necessary things for her. When the doctor arrived, he said he could hardly believe what had happened, but said I had done exactly what he would have done. . . . I have brought over one thousand babies [into the world]. Once again I give thanks to my Heavenly Father for His help and the strength the Lord has given me, for without it I could not have rendered this service to my sisters in our community. (Daughters in My Kingdom, p. 55-56)

I am in awe of the great strength of midwives like Emma. I can’t imagine how humbling it must be to know that you are overseeing the entrance of another human soul into mortality and protecting the sacred vessel bringing that soul here: the mother. Midwives are given life-saving inspiration.

My mother-in-law was born in New Zealand, the daughter of a transplanted cockney naval sailor, the son of a London midwife named Ann. My husband’s grandfather wrote of the many times his mother left their childhood home to care for women in labor. I don’t know how many births she attended or how many lives she saved, but I am proud to have the blood of a midwife running through my children’s veins. A midwife gave my children life.

My two youngest children were born at home under the supervision of a midwife named Mary. I chose her specifically because of her excellent stats and over 30-years of experience. I knew that she would have the skills and technology to handle most of the complications that could arise in my births and the presence of mind to know when additional medical assistance would be necessary. When my son’s heart rate indicated that he was becoming distressed, she assisted me in delivering him quickly and safely before the situation became an emergency. Had we needed to transfer to a hospital, I know she would not have hesitated to make that happen. A midwife kept my baby safe.

Midwives save lives. For thousands of years they have done so, and they will continue to do so because of their fierce love for women and babies. We now live in a time when midwives have the benefit of modern medications, life-saving resuscitation training, and hospital back-up when emergencies arise. These are things many of our ancestral midwives lacked. But having access to these modern advancements enables midwives to save more lives than ever before. Let’s keep it that way.

Arizona midwives are at risk of losing their ability to use their skills, experience, and life-saving medications to save lives. And mothers are at risk of losing their rights to determine where, how, and with whom they will give birth. The Arizona Department of Health Services is revising the rules governing licensed midwives in Arizona.

  • You can read the latest draft of the Midwifery Scope of Practice documents HERE.
  • Please sign the petition to help Arizona midwives continue saving as many lives as possible: Will Humble AZDHS: Change the current draft that is for the Midwifery Scope of Practice
  • Make a respectful public comment on the issue HERE. I’ll be posting a portion of this blogpost myself.
  • Many participated in a peaceful protest at the department of health building today. You can read more about it and see photos HERE.