So You Want to be a Midwife?
In Spring 2021 Common Sense Childbirth and the University of California San Francisco launched a national survey of people of color interested in becoming midwives. We also invited survey participants to share their powerful stories of why becoming a midwife was important to them, what barriers they have faced on their journey, and what it would mean to their community to have more midwives of color. You can read their stories below.
“I want to be a Midwife because I would like to change the care for women of color. My hopes to combat Black maternal mortality and close the disparity gap that Black women deal with, led me to pursue the journey to become a midwife. My hope is to be involved at a legislative level to bridge the gaps with health insurance, uneven services, and the social determinants of health.”
“My understanding and reverence for the longstanding history of granny,community, and nurse-midwives as healers, advocates, and leaders in the reproductive justice movement has prepared me for the next radical step toward changing how people experience health-related events, which is to become a midwife. As a Black woman and doula, investing in patient-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally competent care for communities of color and vulnerable patients resides at the forefront of my career.”
“It is my dream to become a midwife in order to offer a sense of comfort and acceptance amongst a world that can seem so monochromatic. As a nurse I see a vast majority of providers come from one race, while our community is so colorful! This juxtaposition can be frightening to people becoming parents and as a woman of color, I strive to empower through overwhelming love and compassion. To listen to birthing people, to support them, to make them feel heard. The color of your skin should not dictate your morbidity and mortality rates. Loving people comes in all colors, and I aim to be your rainbow”.
“I want to be a midwife because of the deep spiritual bond I feel while supporting birthing folks. I believe midwifery is the bridge that connects me to my ancestors”.
“I want to be a midwife because I realized more than forty years ago that midwives embody the best in low-tech community care that treats the whole person. I have waited a long time to pursue midwifery studies, and am so thankful to be here”
“My community deserves to have perinatal experiences and outcomes that exude dignity, respect, and are not traumatic”.
“Intelligence with empathy is the ultimate approach of a true midwife.”
“You got to use common sense here, because we got a long ways like a long ways still to go”
Margaret Charles Smith
“My heart is with children as they are our future. I am a radical advocate for change and sustainability on my island home of Bermuda. There are only three Bermudian CNMs on island and they are NOT “permitted” to practice Midwifery in the community as they have been silenced by unethically constructed Acts and mandates”.
Aspiring midwives of color are mainly motivated by racism witnessed during childbirth
This is a result of the evolution of the field of gynecology in the US, which first stripped Black women of their role in childbirth—replacing Black midwives with white doctors—then made midwifery a privilege accessible only to few, typically white upper-middle class women.
Yet even as the field of midwifery continues to grow, women of color, particularly Black women, have a hard time entering the field. This is especially detrimental to Black mothers, who experience a risk of maternal mortality up to four times higher than their white counterparts, and are proven to have better outcomes when treated by midwives of color.