Global Midwifery Council
by Jan Tritten
© 2011 Midwifery Today, Inc. All rights reserved.
[Editor’s Note: This editorial originally appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 99, Autumn 2011.]
The birth of the Global Midwifery Council was in June of 2010 at the Home Child/Midwifery Today Conference in Moscow, Russia. It was born to change the paradigm of birth around the world. At international conferences, Midwifery Today has learned enough about midwifery and birth around the world to realize that birth itself is in deep trouble. The Global Midwifery Council (GMC) is an organization born to help make long-term changes in how mothers and babies are treated and how midwifery is carried out. We have a mission to stop inappropriate over-medicalization in birth care!
Through international conferences and networking we have learned so many different ways to view and work with birth, such as using rebozo, which we learned from our Mexican sisters. It is necessary to turn from the over-medicalization of birth and return to a more organic, physiologic model. And the time is now.
We have a lot of work to do on many levels. Maternal death is not just a result of disease and malnutrition. I learned from my sister in Haiti recently that it is also caused by harmful cultural habits. Women there routinely douche after birth to “clean out their insides.” There is little clean water in Haiti. Women die from this. They also sit over boiling hot water after birth, often burning their labia. These habits are taught by their “aunties” as necessary, and cultural habits are hard to break. Many cultural habits are dangerous to mothers and babies and need to be stopped; some are likely harmless or even work on levels we do not understand yet and should not be changed; others are practices the world’s midwives can put into practice and begin sharing. Discernment is of utmost importance. In Western medical culture we have many dangerous practices, too, such as cutting women open to extract their babies for no reason at all!
Birth belongs to the mother and baby, but we want them both to live! Midwifery has always been God’s design to serve mother and baby, and we are always looking for better ways serve mother and baby in our work at Midwifery Today conferences.
The mission of the Global Midwifery Council all began with Midwifery Today receiving correspondence asking for help from many countries around the globe. Letters and e-mails came several times weekly and still continue unabated today. The time is now, and not because we are saying it! It is coming from mothers and midwives in many, many places. They are asking for help to change appalling birth practices, most of it abuse in hospitals.
The inception of the Global Midwifery Council (GMC) began with many e-mails sent back and forth to find a core group of dedicated and interested midwives. Many ideas of who we are and what we would do were written out. We worked on those ideas, and at the spring Midwifery Today conference in Eugene, Oregon, 2011, appropriately titled “Gentle Birth Is a Human Rights Issue,” Marion Toepke McLean, Mabel Dzata, Sister MorningStar, Vicki Penwell, Elizabeth Allemann, Carol Gautschi, Eneyda Spradlin-Ramos and I met for hours and hours of brainstorming, and came up with ideas, plans and notes.
Finding that we got the most done with face to face contact, we took those notes to Midwifery Today’s 2011 conference in Moscow, Russia, and worked on our foundational wording. Again, during many, many hours of meetings, Carol Gautschi, Gail Hart, Elena Plantino, Katerina Perkhova, Sister MorningStar and I fine-tuned our mission and goals (see sidebar).
Midwifery Today will be keeping the GMC’s “Situation Room” on our Web site. This made sense since we have been covering international midwifery and birth for the past 25 years. The International Alliance of Midwives’ (IAM) Goals and Beliefs, Definition of a Midwife and its statement on the Autonomy of the Midwifery Profession, plus the flags of different countries and information on those countries are all on the Midwifery Today Web site (www.midwiferytoday.com/iam/). The site has many articles and reports from Midwifery Today magazine, as well as issues of a separate newsletter dedicated to international midwifery. We also have 73 country contacts. A country contact is someone from a country who can disseminate information and keep us abreast of the midwifery and birth situation in their country. If you want to be a country contact, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let us all work together to create and promote plans of action to make these changes real now! Everybody’s energy and talents are necessary. There are many solutions to these problems; the goal is to make them happen and help others make them happen.
Each one teach one,
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