Here’s a photo of some of the contributing authors of Into These Hands, Wisdom from Midwives at the 2009 Midwives Alliance conference.
The Author List Reads Like a “Who’s Who in the Midwifery World.” Below are very brief bios of these remarkable individuals.
Marina Alzugaray, MS, CNM, CPM is internationally known as an innovative educator, water healer, dancer, midwife and women’s reproductive health specialist. Marina is the developer of the American AquaNatal® method, a prenatal water exercise and educational program with over 100 instructors currently teaching worldwide. She became a pioneer of water birth while swimming with dolphins in the ocean. Marina grew up surrounded by water on the island of Cuba, her motherland.
Rondi Anderson, CNM, BSN, MS wrote her memoir while working for Doctors Without Borders in Assam India implementing reproductive health programs for some of the world’s poorest people. Rondi has worked as a midwife in many settings including college towns with hippies, the Arizona desert with Navajo Indians, Lancaster County Pennsylvania with Old Order Amish, Sierra Leone in West Africa, and Somalia in eastern Africa. The passion that has driven her work is the realization that birth is profoundly important in the lives of women.
Alice Bailes, CNM, MS, FACNM has been a birth activist, speaker, teacher and author, but she has spent most of the last 35 years serving families directly as their midwife. More than 1400 babies have come into her hands in the intimate, undisturbed environment of either her clients’ home or a birth center. As a trained dancer, she leaned about the pelvis as the source of all movement, and she danced and performed all the way through her first pregnancy.
Maggie Bennett, BFA, LM is a midwife, artist, activist and teacher. In the Sixties her activism was centered on the issues confronting single mothers and later her interest was in reproductive rights. Maggie considers reproductive freedom to be a continuum that includes not only freedom to choose when and if to be pregnant, but also how and with whom to give birth. Maggie is an accomplished artist who draws her main inspiration from pregnant women and their children
Patrice Bobier, CPM is a midwife and an organic farmer. She graduated from high school at age 16 and began pre-med studies, but counter culture life-changing experiences interrupted her college plans. Patrice joined the back-to-the-land movement. She and her husband now operate their 200-acre farm, growing food for themselves, their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members, and the Sweetwater Local Foods Market. Her midwifery clients come to her home office for their prenatal visits where they also are taught about nutrition right from the garden.
Kate Bowland, BFA, RN, CNM is one of the pioneer lay midwives who rode on the first wave of the homebirth movement. The advent of a strong feminist movement, a natural birth movement, and optimism that permeated her generation led her to becoming a midwife. One of the sentinel events of Kate’s life occurred when the Santa Cruz Birth Center was raided and Kate and two other midwives were arrested and charged with the practice of medicine without a license. The ensuing court battle, Bowland vs. California, bears her name.
Katsi (guh jee) Cook, wolf clan Mohawk is a healer, midwife, researcher and a respected educator and elder in her community. For the past 25 years she has worked as a women’s health advocate and activist for environmental restoration in her Tribal community—the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne in northern New York State straddling the U.S.-Canadian border. Katsi was the founding Aboriginal midwife of the Six Nations Birthing Centre, the first school of indigenous midwifery in Canada.
Ida Darragh, BA, CPM has been involved in childbirth and midwifery since the birth of her first child in 1974. Early in her career Ida became involved in the politics of midwifery. After a midwife was served with a cease and desist order for opening a birth center in the poor, rural delta of Arkansas in 1982, Ida and a group of midwives lobbied successfully for a law to license midwives. Ida received the first license to practice midwifery in Arkansas in 1985.
Ina May Gaskin, CPM, BA, MA is a midwife, author, childbirth and reproductive rights activist and national and international lecturer. Ina May, her husband Stephen and 270 people founded the famous intentional community known as The Farm near Summertown Tennessee. The Farm midwife partners created one of the country’s first community-based midwifery services. Her seminal work, Spiritual Midwifery published in 1975, propelled her into fame and respect, guided a whole new generation of midwives and birthing women, and has been translated into at least six languages.
Diane Holzer, LM, CPM, PA‑C is an internationally known speaker, including one of her favorite venues, the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing China. She served on the board of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) as the regional representative for the Americas and was appointed ICM representative to the United Nations for a three-year term. Diane has a midwifery practice, teaches classes in women’s health, natural family planning, and works as a Physician Assistant in a bi-lingual rural healthcare family practice clinic.
Marsha Elaine Jackson, CNM, MSN, FACNM was told by a high school teacher in New Jersey that she would never make it through college. But Marsha did not let that statement cloud her vision; she graduated Magna Cum Laude from college. Later she co-founded a full scope midwifery practice providing home birth services and an accredited birth center serving the metropolitan Washington DC area. Marsha was profiled in the Smithsonian Museum exhibition, Reclaiming Midwives: Pillars of Community Support, which highlighted the contributions African-American Midwives made to U.S. healthcare.
Jennie Joseph, LM, CPM was born and raised in England and received her midwifery education in London. Jennie was the first foreign-trained midwife to be licensed in Florida under the newly reopened Midwifery Practice Act. She developed The JJ Way™ maternal and child healthcare delivery model. It has shown such promising outcomes for indigent women that it has been funded for an ongoing research study. Her book entitled Beautiful! Images of Health, Joy and Vitality in Pregnancy and Birth depicts the results of her JJ Way™ program.
Makeda Kamara, CNM, MPH was born at the mouth of the Chagres River in Gamboa, Panama, the last child of second generation immigrant parents from the Caribbean. Raised in a very small tight-knit community she was imbibed with the essence of social responsibility and the importance of community, family and women’s ways of knowing. Upon completion of her undergraduate studies she left the U.S. to work in Tanzania where she witnessed her first birth and was called to the honorable work of midwifery and women’s health.
Abby J. Kinne, CPM formed a support group in the 1960s for parents who were frustrated with the status quo of childbirth. Many of these families invited her to share their home births, and soon thereafter, her community identified her as a midwife. She is co-founder and current Executive Director of the Center for Humane Options in Childbirth Experiences (CHOICE), a non-profit organization committed to providing educational services to couples seeking safe alternatives in childbirth and training programs for aspiring midwives.
Kip Kozlowski, RN, CNM has worked in several venues including as an NICU nurse, a midwife in both hospital and home birth practices, a women’s book store owner, and most recently she manifested the crème de la crème of her career—the Greenhouse Birth Center. The birth center offers full-scope midwifery care, massage therapy, childbirth classes, doula services, mother’s support groups, mentoring for aspiring midwives, and community events. It is a place where families can have unbothered births in a quiet safe place.
Casey Makela is a Traditional Midwife, author, lecturer, and artist, and is the founder of the American College of Traditional Midwives and the Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery, the first licensed school in Michigan to offer midwifery as a vocational art and not a medical science. She has attended almost 2000 births and currently serves “plain” Amish and Mennonite communities. Casey is an author of books for both adults and children, has written birth-based articles for midwifery periodicals, and has done considerable lecturing, teaching and performing.
Linda McHale, CPM, EMT received her early midwifery training with a study group and then through an apprenticeship in Texas. When she returned home from her apprenticeship Linda went from being a Licensed Midwife in Texas to an illegal midwife in New Jersey. This sparked Linda’s activism and she became a leader in the efforts to get Certified Professional Midwives legalized in New Jersey. Besides having an active midwifery practice, Linda is also skilled in energy medicine and is a practitioner and teacher of Reiki.
Shafia M. Monroe was sixteen years old when her Muslim elders encouraged her to become an obstetrician. At age seventeen her uncle told her about the work of midwives and she discovered the history of the southern Black midwife and knew she wanted to become one. Shafia is the CEO of International Center for Traditional Childbearing, an organization devoted to infant mortality prevention, breastfeeding promotion and training for midwives. Shafia has designed several training programs including international cultural exchanges.
Sister Angela Murdaugh, CNM, MSN, FACNM is a Franciscan Sister of Mary, a daring voice for the profession, a talented administrator, a master clinician, a pioneer in birth center care, a sought-after speaker and a midwife with a vision of hope for the future. Sr. Angela established Holy Family Services and Birth Center near the Texas-Mexican border, a private, non-profit model that brings quality nurse-midwifery care to a population of underserved and impoverished women and their families.
Carol Nelson, LM, CPM-TN is a midwife, social and environmental activist, researcher and preceptor. She works in partnership with five other midwives at the Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee. Carol has been actively involved with the development and implementation of the Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) credential. Carol has served on the Board of Directors of Plenty International, a non-profit alternative Relief and Development Organization affiliated with the United Nations, and is a founding mother of Swan Conservation Land Trust.
Yeshi Neumann, MA, CNM, MPH is a midwife, international speaker and trainer, and advocate for social justice. Yeshi worked for many years as a staff midwife in inner city hospitals. Her disappointment and frustration with the kind of care she was able to provide in the obstetrical paradigm of managed care impelled her to create Homestyle Midwifery—unhurried, hands on, soul-satisfying care to childbearing families in a hospital setting. It is her way of having women be welcomed at their own births and babies be welcomed into this world.
Debbie Pulley, CPM has a midwifery practice in Atlanta where she is the liaison between the local midwives and the State Department of Health, Vital Records, and Children’s First program. Debbie is a leader in midwifery advocacy and public education at professional conferences each year, including the National Conference of State Legislatures, the largest annual gathering for state policymakers, and the American Public Health Association. Debbie is now a midwife for babies of the babies she assisted into the world—the next generation.
Arisika Razak, RN, CNM, MPH has served as midwife, health care advocate, and administrator. Arisika has worked for over thirty years in the fields of Women’s Spirituality, Women’s Studies, and Women’s Health. She has three film credits, has contributed to several books, and does presentations on multiculturalism and diversity, women’s health and healing, and embodied spirituality and movement. Her dance and performance work celebrate women’s bodies along with the blood mysteries of childbirth, menstruation, sexuality and menopause. Her teachings are based on spiritual traditions from around the world.
Geradine Simkins, DEM, CNM, MSN is an activist, midwife, author and visionary. She started as a self-taught homebirth midwife and became a nurse-midwife and worked in a bilingual clinic for Hispanic migrant farmworkers. She was co-founder and midwife at a freestanding birth center, and worked as a women’s health expert for American Indian organizations co-managing maternal and child healthcare programs. Geradine is president of Midwives Alliance of North America where she concentrates on sustaining the midwifery profession, advocating for healthcare reform, and mentoring the next generation of midwives.
Saraswathi Vedam, RM, CNM, MSN, SciD(hc) is an Indian woman who grew up between India and the United States and has been a practicing midwife, midwife educator, and academic midwife. By the time she was a teenager Saraswathi had witnessed the care of women in a variety of settings, including the Bombay slums, rural locations, tertiary care hospitals, and maternity centers. She has authored national clinical practice guidelines and articles on evidence-based midwifery practice and has taught midwifery and medical students in schools across the USA and Canada.
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.