Lammas Book Launch

My ancestors are from the Celtic nations. Among their cultural traditions is a dedication to celebrating eight important days of the years, which they call high holy days. Most people are familiar with the four solar holidays—the summer and winter solstices and the spring and autumn equinoxes. The other four seasonal holidays fall on the cross-quarters between the solstices and equinoxes. Many cultures across the planet perform rituals and share seasonal feasts in their own unique and traditional ways for these holidays. My ancestors knew that these eight festivals were designed to draw one’s attention to what had been gained and lost in the never-ending turn of the year. Honoring these high holy days keeps me centered, helps me measure time as cyclical, and inspires gratitude for being part of the ever-changing cycles of life. 

The cross-quarter that we celebrate at this time of year (around August 1) is called Lammas, or Lughnasadh in the old Celtic language. It is the high-summer Feast of the Harvest, a time for gathering and giving thanks for the fruits of our labor, and for the abundance in our lives. 

It seemed fitting to launch my new book—The Midwife Matrix, Reclaiming Our Bodies, Our Births, Our Lives—on the Feast of Lammas. My book is, quite frankly, a personal harvest of a lifetime of fullness and fulfillment. For over forty years I have walked in the shoes of a midwife, as a practitioner, leader, author, and scholar. The Midwife Matrix is an offering, a basketful of observations and insights, a story told from the perspective of someone who has been inside the maternal and child healthcare world for over four decades. The Midwife Matrix is a series of cultural narratives about what I think we have gotten right, and also, the ways in which I believe we are failing miserably in caring for pregnant and birthing people, their babies, their families, and also shortchanging the professionals who serve people in the child-making year. 

The Midwife Matrix is both the name of my book and a schematic I have created of 12 interconnected and interdependent qualities that create a paradigm. Midwives—past and present—customarily use these 12 essential qualities in their work. The Midwife Matrix illustrates how midwives and patients participate in a mutually satisfying energy exchange, within a healthcare relationship that is based on giving and receiving, for the benefit of all involved. How this relationship is structured, and enacted, makes all the difference, and the results are stunning for both givers and receivers of care. 

It is with both pleasure and humility that I invite you to explore The Midwife Matrix, and see firsthand what I have discovered on my Earth Walk—about people, and systems, and the cosmos. I will share more about The Midwife Matrix in future blogs. But for today, the Lammas Feast, it is enough simply to celebrate. To contemplate the immense mysteries and miracles that continually unfold all around us. To be grateful for the riches of the harvest of our lives. To reimagine our world. And to find our own ways to manifest a ‘new normal’ in which all of us share equitably in the riches and resources that we each desire and deserve. 

Lammas blessings to you and yours! 

Welcome Back!

Welcome (back) to my blog! One of the many hats I proudly wear is that of writer, and I love to explore new topics and share new information regularly. In each and every blog post, I strive to make evident my curiosity, authenticity, and deep passion for the subject matter at hand. While mostly my blog is about all things birth and midwifery-related, I cannot promise not to share about my travels, beloved family, and treasured friends. I care so much about so much! I love this life, and I am grateful for the journey.

I took a bit of time off from writing blog posts to write A NEW BOOK! It’s called The Midwife Matrix, and I am extraordinarily excited that it has finally come to life. I promise to share all of the news of its inception and creation in the days and weeks to come. Meantime, you can read a bit about my new book here!

If you would like to contact me, please do so! I always love to hear from you and encourage you to share your ideas.

Cuba: A brief journey in time

In the spring of 2016 I had the great good fortune to travel with my good friend and midwife colleague, Marina Alzugaray, as she made a journey to Cuba after 50 years of living in the United States, away from her beloved homeland of Cuba.

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Marina has been a practicing midwife in the US for nearly 4 decades. She understands the process of giving birth—even when it is giving birth to one’s self. She asked me and two other longtime midwives to accompany her to Cuba, and to be her support people, her midwives, throughout this momentous journey of rebirth and rediscovery.

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Thus, Diane Holzer, Yeshi Neumann, Marina and I spent several weeks in Cuba in April & May 2016. (All three of these women are authors in Into These Hands, Wisdom from Midwives. You can read their stories there.) And we returned again in 2017 for professional and cultural exchange, and to visit friends we had made.

Cuba is a beautiful and diverse country, the people are resilient and friendly, and we had marvelous adventures together. (The story is too big and too amazing to tell in a few paragraphs.) The best part of our trip was getting to know the local people. One of our most fortunate experiences was being invited to the home of Katia and Bernardo and their extended family, whom we visited on several occasions.

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I gave Katia a copy of Into These Hands, Wisdom from Midwives, which she really liked. She said, “I will use this book to learn to speak better English. And I am excited to read the life stories of my new friends from the United States.”

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So we now have a copy of Into These Hands, Wisdom From Midwives in Cuba and new friends that are absolutely dear. Needless to say … we are all going back for another visit as soon as we can. Viva Cuba!

Educators: Have you ordered your FREE case of books?

I am please to tell you educators across the country are taking me up on my offer!

To celebrate the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year I will send any midwifery program one free case of the text Into These Hands, Wisdom From Midwives. That’s 18 books, retail value of $450, for the price of shipping/handling ($24.00.)

Many program directors and instructors are using Into These Hands as required reading for midwifery courses and as gifts for new incoming students.

One instructor for the CNM program at the University of Cincinnati said:

The students love this text and often read far more than they are assigned. It really gets at the heart of midwifery.”

Ina May and Makeda_2

Into These Hands, Wisdom From Midwives is a unique text.

  • The Introduction… describes the context of maternity care in the US over the past century, particularly the last four decades in which women and midwives together have advocated for the midwifery model of care and normal physiologic birth.
  • The 25 Memoirs… deliver a compelling historical perspective on the culture of childbirth America, insight into what really matters to women, wisdom about how to properly welcome newborns into their families, inspiration about how to courageously takes charge of one’s life, and clear guidance on how to reform our profoundly broken maternity care system.
  • The Afterword… analyzes the themes of the 25 midwife memoirs, providing an excellent opportunity for exploration and discussion among students regarding the practice, ethics and unique benefits of midwifery care.

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Click here to order your FREE case of books now! 

A powerhouse of Grace and Guts: Who are the 25 authors?

Each of the 25 midwives in Into These Hands, Wisdom From Midwives was chosen because I considered her to be a Sage Femme—a Wise Woman. Who are these women?

Jennie Joseph, LM, CPM, Florida

“The midwives in this anthology are all over 50 years of age and each has been a midwife for more than 25 years, some for as many as 40 years or more. Collectively, they have more than 800 years of experience and have assisted at approximately 35,000 births. They are not only pioneers but accomplish professionals.” —Into These Hands, Wisdom from Midwives

Katsi Cook, Traditional Midwife, Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne

I intentionally chose a diverse chorus of midwife voices so as to shine a light on the complexity of midwifery practice and the myriad ways in which American midwives contribute to maternity care and public health in the U.S.

Sr. Angela Murdaugh, CNM, MSN, FACNM, Texas

“They come from all across the United States, from California to New Jersey, Arkansas to Florida. They are racially and ethnically diverse—American Indians, Latina, African American, South Asian America, and European America. They come from diverse ideological and training backgrounds. They are self-taught, apprentice-trained, attended midwifery schools, and/or received a university education. They practice in a variety of settings—homes, clinics, birth centers, hospitals, tribes and global villages and some work in other arenas such as education, research, public health and policy. ” —Into These Hands, Wisdom from Midwives

Rondi Anderson, CNM, BSN, MS, Michigan

When they began catching babies in the ‘60s and ‘70s most of them had no idea they would become part of an astonishing social movement that would influence and shape the discourse about reproductive rights and content of maternity care in America.

These stories—full of grace and guts, challenges and successes, passion and humor—give the reader an unprecedented opportunity to visit the interior lives of well seasoned midwives and glean their special brand of hard-won wisdom.

*FREE gift for educators

Why are midwifery educators using Into These Hands in their programs?

I am so happy to say Into These Hands, Wisdom From Midwives is now a required textbook in several midwifery programs in the U.S., both for CPMs and CNMs.

FREE gift for educators

In gratitude, and to celebrate the new 2015-2016 school year, I will send any midwifery educator one case of Into These Hands, Wisdom From Midwives free of charge for the price of shipping & handling only. There are 18 books in a case, retail value of $450. You can sell books at retail cost ($25), or at a reduced cost, or give them away. Such a deal! [UPDATE, this offer has been renewed for the 2020-2021 school year!]

Here is what midwifery program directors are saying.

“My students love Into These Hands. I use this book and also invite Geradine to present a webinar each year. My students consider the midwives in Into these Hands as wise and trustworthy elders, and find inspiration and courage from their stories, experiences and advice.”  –Sherry DeVries CPM, LM, CNM, MSN, Midwife Program Coordinator and Lead Instructor

_DSC0599 copy“Into These Hands is used as the text for our first module, ‘Foundations of Contemporary Midwifery’ for our new class of students entering Nizhoni Institute. As you know, we feel this book is both inspired and inspiring.”  -Marla Hicks, RN-BC, CPM, LM, Executive Director/Program Manager, Nizhoni Institute of Midwifery, San Diego, California

“I am using Into These Hands as one of the required readings for Orientation this year for new Birthwise students. This book is so perfect for contextualizing the path our students are embarking upon.” – Heidi Fillmore, CPM, NHCM, Director, Birthwise Midwifery School, Bridgton, Maine

For midwifery educators:  To receive your free case of Into These Hands here is all you have to do. Send a check or certified money order for $24.00 (for shipping/handling) to: Geradine Simkins, 275 Cemetery Rd, Maple City, MI. Include your name and shipping address, your position at your midwifery school, and your email address so that I can let you know when the case has shipped. I will send the books within 5 business days.

That’s it—very simple! I hope you take me up on my free offer. And keep up the good work of educating the future midwives of the USA!

2015-2016 School Year Special: FREE case of books for all midwifery educators!

It’s almost ‘school time’ again for educators and new students. In my part of the world we are savoring the last gorgeous summer days and dazzling nights. For students and instructors its time for gathering materials and ordering books.

book signing MANA2Two years ago I sent every midwifery SCHOOL in the U.S. a copy of my new book, Into These Hands, Wisdom From Midwives. Since that time it has become required reading in several midwifery schools. As the new school year approaches, I am once again inviting US midwifery educators to consider using the text in their classes, particularly in the areas of professional development or the contemporary midwife’s role in the U.S. maternity care system.

[UPDATE, this offer has been renewed for the 2020-2021 school year!]

We know quantitative data is vitally important; but stories are what impact people’s hearts and minds. My goal is to get the extraordinary memoirs of 25 remarkable and diverse midwives into the hands of students who need to hear real life stories of the lived experience of being a midwife. Collectively these midwives have over 800 years of experience and have assisted in 35,000 births. Their stories are fascinating, compelling, and inspiring.

GIFT TO MIDWIFERY EDUCATORS 

Here is all you have to do a free case of 18 books. Send a check or certified money order for $24.00 for shipping/handling to: Geradine Simkins, 275 Cemetery Rd, Maple City, MI. Include your name and shipping address, your position at your midwifery school, and your email address so that I can let you know when the case has shipped I will send the books within 5 business days.

That’s it—very simple! I hope you take me up on my free offer. And keep up the good work of educating the future midwives of the USA!

The whirlwind adventures of 2013

New beginnings
New beginnings

I slipped away from my blog for what seemed to be a minute or two. In a blink of the eye so much happened. I started the year with a big surprise—I got engaged to my old lover from 20 years ago, dear friend, and very talented and sweet man, Fred Heltenen.

Baby barn for books and small tractors
Baby barn for books and small tractors

We built a baby barn in which to store my books—Into These Hands,Wisdom From Midwives—as well as tractors, garden implements, kayaks, homestead tools, building materials and other stuff.

My dive master and scuba team

I earned my PADI scuba certification and we went deep sea diving—a lifelong dream of mine—in a marine reserve in the Yucatan, way south near Belize. We visited an underwater fantasia of eagle rays, colorful corals and schools of gorgeous fish of all sizes and interesting shapes.

My daughter Leah got engaged to her sweetheart, JoMo, which was very exciting. I traveled all across the United States working with midwives, and I taught a half-dozen workshops around the country for the Healthy Native Babies Program.

Bob Russell, dear friend, shine on!
Bob Russell, dear friend, shine on!

My good friend and fellow environmental and peace activist, Bob Russell, gave up the good fight with cancer, fell into a deep sleep, and walked into the Spirit World.

Throughout the year I continued my work as the Executive Director of the Midwives Alliance of North America. Never a dull moment there.

Our wedding day, September 21, 2013
Our wedding day, September 21, 2013

And in the autumn my true love, Fred, and I got married on the Fall Equinox. It was also a full moon and the International Day of Peace. The ceremony was held in a cozy circle of family and close friends in a beautiful grape vineyard overlooking the Grand Traverse Bay.

 

Overlooking Petit Peton on St Lucia island
Overlooking Petit Peton on St Lucia island

We went on a honeymoon to St Lucia in the Caribbean Sea that was restful, adventurous, and simply divine. We also did more deep sea diving in the truly astounding underwater world. I am totally hooked!

Whew—and that’s only a small glimpse of the year. As 2013 begins to wind down and becomes a patchwork of amazing memories, I feel gratitude for blessings upon blessings, and for a life filled with both challenges and opportunities for growth and transformation.

Telling Our Stories

As seasoned midwives, each of us has stories to tell. Our years are filled with tales worth telling, and they will perish with us if they go untold. That is why I offered an invitation to these remarkable women to tell their stories in Into These Hands, Wisdom from Midwives about walking through the world in the shoes of a midwife.

Contributing author Marsha Jackson

The memoirs are not only about pregnancy and birth, newborns and new parents, but also about the politics and power struggles that have shaped how we do what we do. Many of us risked arrest or being jailed as we watched our beloved and honored profession become outlawed.

Almost every society in the world has midwives. Only two counties in the Western world have ever outlawed midwives. The United States is one. This book will tell you why.

An Elegant and Comprehensive Anthology

In order to give the reader a broad vista for viewing its multi-layered content Into These Hands, Wisdom from Midwives is divided into several sections: Opening, Introduction, Memoirs, Afterword, and Resources.

Opening

To set the mood and bring the reader right into the heart of the subject matter, the anthology begins with a short descriptive scene of a woman-centered natural birth attended by midwives in a family’s home involving three generations of family members.

Introduction

Contributing author Casey Makela

You might wonder how midwives, who in many cultures are revered for their knowledge and wisdom, have become the oppressed class of maternity caregivers in modern America. The answer to that question is a long and fascinating story. The Introduction to the anthology provides the historical context readers need to comfortably navigate the entire text. The Introduction begins in the mid-twentieth century and continues through the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century.

By the mid-twentieth century the U.S. diverged from the deeply rooted traditions of woman attending woman in childbirth. By the mid to late twentieth century traditional midwives, such as Black Southern midwives and indigenous midwives, were successfully eliminated. In about 100 years, American women had lost control over childbirth. Into These Hands, Wisdom From Midwives© tell you how that happened.

The authors of this anthology came of age in the mid-to-late twentieth century during the Cultural Revolution that rocked the world. It was a time when many traditions were dismantled and anything was possible. At that time it was customary for women to be drugged and strapped down during their labors and births. But as a result of the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s birthing women reclaimed responsibility for their reproductive choices.  A woman-centered, family-focused, social model of childbirth was fashioned and popularized in which women sought family physicians and midwives to be primary birth attendants for their low-tech natural births.

Contributing author Shafia Monroe

Women (and men) across the country fought hard for social and cultural reform, including childbirth reform. They re-learned how their bodies were designed to function in accommodating the natural processes of pregnancy, birth and lactation. And they discovered alternatives to drugs for dealing with pain and fear. In essence, they got off their backs and took charge.

It is during this era in which the authors in this book burst onto the American childbirth scene. Each authors had a unique path that influenced her calling to midwifery. Professional and general readers alike will find inspiration when reading these stories.

25 Memoirs of Courageous Women

Each author was asked to write a memoir by answering a series of 10 questions. Each memoir begins in the author’s early life and carries the reader along the path of what lead her to becoming a midwife, healer, revolutionary and reformer. Each author shares stories of the risks and rewards of her chosen profession. Each author shares pearls of wisdom about women’s procreative lives—conception, pregnancy, birth, lactation and parenting.

Contributing author Saraswathi Vedam

Because most of these authors are approaching the end of their active careers as midwives, they were also asked to share wisdom about what really matters in life. They expound upon the ethics of self-determination, serving one’s community, and living a life of compassion, activism and meaning.

Every story is filled with unforgettable gems. They contain luscious nuggets about crafting the kind of life one desires and deserves.

Afterword

The Afterword draws together all of the individual strands of these extraordinary life stories and examines the fundamental question of why midwives matter in today’s society. In the Afterword the editor, Geradine Simkins, describes the midwives’ belief that every woman is a living environment and the chalice in which all human life gestates. She asserts that birth is not just a physiological event; it is a soul journey.

In the Afterword the editor summarizes the importance women attach to creating authentic relationships with midwives as healthcare providers, particularly in light of the fact that the average allotted office encounter with an obstetrician is only seven minutes long.

The editor also summarizes the fundamental question of self-determination. As women, are we in charge of our bodies, our births, our babies, our decisions and our lives, or not?

Contributing author Katsi Cook

For Midwives, courage underpins almost everything that we do. It is beyond boldness, it is beyond valor, and it is beyond daring. It is a way of life in the wake of risks we face to do the work we do. Every midwife in this anthology has breathed through the frightening process of freeing a baby stuck in its mother’s birth canal, or worse, staring death in the face.

Some of the authors in this text have opened their office doors to police, been charged with criminal activity for practicing midwifery, and sat in courtrooms while judges determined their fate. Courage is willingness, no matter how afraid we might be, to walk through life with an attitude of fearlessness.

Click here to see What Matters to Women, Matters to Midwives—13 Essentials

Click here for brief author bios

Insight Into A Different Kind of Healthcare Model

It is clear that our U.S. maternity care system is in crisis. In the Afterword of this book, the editor describes how the lives of these extraordinary women have been dedicated to a maternal and child healthcare model that is built on love, respect, justice, autonomy and the biological imperative of compassion. This model is different from the corporate bio-medical model and deserves serious consideration. Why? Because it works well, reduces unnecessary medical interventions, satisfies clients, saves money, and is fulfilling to those providing healthcare. If you are not already convinced, Into These Hands, Wisdom from Midwives© might just convince you.

Who Should Read This Book?

If you are a woman of reproductive age, her partner, or someone who loves her, you should read this book.  If you are a healthcare professional or a birth worker, you should read this book.  If you are a student or teacher in the fields of midwifery, medicine, history, sociology, anthropology, or women’s studies, you should read this book. If you are a general reader interested in memoir, social movements or healthcare reform, you should read this book. Why?

Contributing author Diane Holzer

Into These Hands, Wisdom from Midwives © is an important piece of contemporary literature. It is attracting a variety of readers because the authors are passionate (which draws the reader in), controversial (which stimulates discomfort, response or self-examination), intriguing (with remarkable characters facing high stakes and extraordinary situations), complex (which speaks to a diverse readership), educational (with valuable historical insight, data and resources), and enduring (because of the universality of the central themes.)

Into These Hands, Wisdom from Midwives is a must read!

What Matters to Women, Matters to Midwives – 13 Essentials

In the Afterward of Into These Hands, I identified common themes in the memoirs by analyzing “what matters?” to each of these midwives. I discerned 13 identifiable themes.

           

What Matters to Women, Matters to Midwives – 13 Essentials ©

1. Context Matters

CONTEXT is the circumstance in which events occur that will, to a large degree, determine meaning, define who is in power, and have a profound effect on those giving birth, those being born, and birth workers.

“Birth, this elegant, simple, yet intricate process has had unnecessary, complex, expensive technology superimposed onto it, creating a dangerous environment for birthing women.”
–Alice Bailes

2. Content Matters

CONTENT of maternity care is defined by the model of care. The midwifery model and the medical model each utilize different content, such as values, beliefs, ethics; skills, tools, interventions: practices, protocols, providers; politics, economics, and so on. While birth remains the same the world over, the model of care is a cultural construct.

“Midwives carry sacred knowledge of reproductive processes. The mother-infant bond, for example, is so central to the aims of healing and social transformation that it’s not just about delivering babies. It’s about the power of women to transform life.”
–Katsi Cook

3. Holism Matters

HOLISM in midwifery practice recognizes that what affects one part affects all parts because everything is intimately connected.

“At the moment of birth, there is a rare and brief glimpse of the connection between this world and another, of before and after, of mortal and immortal, of spiritual and physical, of known and unknown.”
–Ida Darragh

4. Nature Matters

NATURE has designed the elegantly complex processes of pregnancy, birth, lactation, and mother-infant attachment to work innately, and in most cases, no amount of tampering can improve them.

“I think midwifery was developed by people with common sense, people who were close to nature, and people who observed other species of mammals and saw that there were lessons there to be learned.”
–Ina May Gaskin

5. Sacred Matters

Midwives say there is a SACRED and invisible domain through which women and infants must pass to birth and be born. Birth is not just physiological; it is a soul journey.

“I pushed three times, and for a moment I felt I had the Universe between my legs…an image of the Hindu Goddess Kali giving birth to the Universe. It left me joyfully ecstatic. It changed my life forever.”
–Arisika Razak

6. Relationship Matters

It is essential in human nature to be in RELATIONSHIP with one another. Midwives and the clients they serve are dynamically intertwined like a braided grapevine of interlaced roots, branches and fruits that feed and support one another.

“I have learned that when you are with a client, she must feel as if she is the only person in your life. She is the center.”
–Abby J. Kinne

7. Compassion Matters

COMPASSION is not a luxury, it is a biological imperative, because as humans our brains are hardwired to care about one another.

“Women need to be cared for and given a safe haven as they walk through the sacrament of birth. Babies need to be properly welcomed as they begin their Earth Walk.”
–Geradine Simkins

8. Self-Determination Matters

At the core of the ethic of SELF-DETERMINATION is the critical question: Are women in charge of their bodies, their births, their babies, their decisions and their lives, or not? Midwives resoundingly say “yes” and relentlessly advocate for women.

“Years of standing by, of listening to thousands of birth songs, birth cries, complaints, years of seeing joy, blood, sweat and tears have taught me…a woman and her baby are wise together.”
–Kip Kozlowski

9. Service Matters

The ethic of SERVICE affords deep connection to a community, creates an experience of belonging and purpose, and allows us to live our passions.

“My walls were lined with honors, yet I reflect that somehow it seemed wrong to reward me for doing what I loved to do. I consider myself blessed beyond measure to live and work in such an authentic manner as I was granted.”
–Sister Angela Murdaugh

10. Activism Matters

ACTIVISM is about ordinary citizens taking charge of creating what we want and fighting for what we feel is right. It is not idealistic. It is a pratical way to live, a way that many culture have, and still do, function.

“I love catching the baby, it is the ultimate experience, but I am also birthing a movement that will eradicate infant mortality, increase breastfeeding rates, and increase the number of Black midwives to improve community health.”
–Shafia Monroe

11. Courage Matters

COURAGE underpins almost everything that midwives do. It is beyond boldness, it is beyond valor, and it is beyond daring. Courage is not a skill, it is a way of life, a willingess to walk with an attitude of fearlessness.

“I never intended to be an outlaw, but I was born at a time when the midwifery profession was illegal in many states. Future generations will wonder why we risked jail and our freedom to do midwifery. It is our hope that our grandchildren and our great grandchildren can be born without fear, safely and surrounded by love, into the hands of midwives.
–Kate Bowland

12. Lineage Matters

Midwives know and value that we stand on the shoulders of a LINEAGE of ancestor midwives. They may be blood relatives or the family tree of indigenous, traditional, immigrant or grand midwives of the past. They are connected throughout time to this lineage.

“The Smithsonian exhibit celebrated the impact and work done by ‘granny’ midwives from the 17th century to the present and included my authentic birth bag and supplies I take to home births. I learned so much about my sister midwife ancestors. It was in my blood!”
Marsha Jackson

13. Midwives Matter

MIDWIVES matter because what they offer women, infants, and families is unique, ephemeral, artisanal, precious and rare. Midwives will relentlessly advocate for women and will continually take risks in their own lives to support women’s choices.

“I know how we are born makes a difference. The midwives who fought to keep birth sacred and free can be seen as folk heros. We are legendary! I am proud to be part of this noble cause.”
Linda McHale

Birth Matters. How one gives birth, and how one is born, matters deeply.

Whether we enter it intentionally or unintentionally, happily or unhappily, prepared or unprepared, giving birth is a rite of passage like no other. And afterwards, birth is forever embedded in our memories and embodied in our flesh. It is something we remember deep in our bones and our souls our whole lives.

Photo Credit for images on this page: Tina L. Williams