The midwives in this anthology are considered to be the elders in our tradition. They are all over 50 years of age and each has been a midwife for 25 to 40 years or more. Collectively, we have over 800 years of experience and have assisted in approximately 35,000 births. These authors are not only pioneers but also accomplished professionals. They were chosen for this anthology because the editor, Geradine Simkins, considers each of them to be a Sage Femme, a Wise Woman.
One Journey, Different Paths
Each of the contributing authors featured in Into These Hands, Wisdom from Midwive© had a unique path that influenced her calling to midwifery. Many entered the profession as a result of their own birth experiences—either the beauty and joy of a satisfying birth, or the disappointment and frustration of a terrifying experience.
Some came to practice the art of midwifery through a love of caring for people and animals, or a commitment to advocating for women’s ascendancy in their own lives, or as an experiment in creating new ways to deal with pain and fear in the labor process, such as kissing and making love.
One author grew up in an immigrant culture in which birth was a social and celebratory event. One author experienced her first birth as a student nurse in which the woman and her partner sang their way through the rigors of labor. Two authors accidentally stumbled into becoming midwives when each of their neighbors called them to deliver their babies that were coming too fast. Some are second, third or even fourth generation midwives who have followed a family lineage.
Midwife Means “With Woman”
In their lives as midwives these women have traveled the world and witnessed both profound suffering and profound joy while attending women. They have worked for international relief agencies in disaster sites, migrant farmworker clinics, tribal communities, health departments, universities, and large urban hospitals for the indigent. They have engaged in cultural exchanges and learned life-saving techniques and healing practices from indigenous midwives. They have faced incredible challenges, including power struggles with the medical establishment that is designed to put them out of business, police raids on their private offices, and court battles for practicing midwifery.
They have traded high paying jobs for work that satisfies their souls and connects them to their communities.
Diverse Chorus of Voices
The authors live in a variety of locations across the United States, from California to New Jersey, Arkansas to Florida.
They are racially and ethnically diverse—American Indian, Latina, African-American, South Asian-American, and European-American.
They have a variety of religious and spiritual backgrounds—Christian, Jewish, Islam, Hindu, Pagan, Buddhist and Goddess traditions.
They come from diverse ideological and midwifery training backgrounds. They are self-taught, apprentice-trained, attended midwifery schools, and received university education.
They practice in a variety of settings—homes, clinics, birth centers, hospitals, tribes, and global villages. Some also work in other arenas such as education, research, public health and advocacy.
Some of the authors have numerous professional credentials and licenses; some feel that midwifery should not be legislated or credentialed at all.
Some of these midwives are everyday heroines in their own communities. Some are nationally and internationally known speakers and authors. And one is known as the mother of modern midwifery.
Passion for Safe and Satisfying Births
While all of the midwives in this anthology have been forced to be political activists for the birthing rights of women and the legalization of midwifery, their primary passion lies in ensuring safe and satisfying births for mothers and newborns.
Like the ancient Hebrew midwives of the Old Testament, Shifrah and Puah, these modern day warrior women see through the flaws of the status quo and are fiercely dedicated to creating a new reality and making a difference.
Guardians and Leaders
Throughout her lifetime each author has contributed significantly to shaping and influencing the profession of midwifery and contemporary maternity care.
Even as an unsustainable health care system in the United States is crumbling, midwives see their role not only as the guardians of normal birth, but also as leaders in the movement to transform maternity care.
Their message is to begin the transformation at the community level, one woman, one family at a time. But in addition, they have each been involved in the politics necessary to create a more efficient and equitable American healthcare system.