You Gotta Fight, For Your Right (To Have Funded Midwifery Care)!

Midwiferyrallycbc

~pics from CBC.ca

On April 1st, 2009, Alberta Health Services and Alberta Association of Midwives announced that they came to an agreement regarding funding for midwifery services. From that day on, women were given the option to have a midwife attend their birth (at the hospital or at home) and they would not have to pay out-of-pocket. This was a huge gain for consumers, birth activists and Midwives all over Alberta. Up until then, midwifery services costed roughly $2000 out-of-pocket.

International Day of the Midwife Rally 2008

International Day of the Midwife Rally 2008

My first midwife assisted birth in 2006, with baby number three, cost me $2000, plus $500 for the birth centre in Calgary. With baby number four, I had to hire a travelling midwife, as there were no midwives in Lethbridge at the time. That birth cost me around $1800, although the quality of care was not nearly as consistent as my first team of midwives (she travelled from the U.S.). I organized a rally in Lethbridge on May 5th, 2008, simultaneously with 4 other Alberta cities, demanding funding for Alberta midwifery services. A few months later, our cries were answered and we were assured that funding was on it`s way. This was a huge win for midwives, birth activists, future birthing women and their families.

aishabirth

Here are some slightly outdated midwifery facts and figures, taken from the Alberta Association of Midwives website:

“Alberta Midwifery Facts and Figures

  • Registered Midwives in Alberta deliver proximately [sic] 4% of the babies in the province. Midwives in Canada deliver 2% of the country’s babies.
  • The number of babies delivered by midwives in the province has more than doubled from 975 in 2009 to 1,984 in 2012.
  • The number of Midwives in Alberta has increased by 17% year-over-year since public funding in 2009.
  • Midwives have been registered in Alberta since 1992
  • In 2009 there were 31 midwives and this has grown to 80 in 2013.
  • There are 45 Midwives in Calgary, 16 in Edmonton, 3 in Red Deer, and 16 Rural.
  • Publicly funded midwifery care is available in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nunavut, Nova Scotia, and the NWT.
  • Women can choose to deliver their babies either at home, a birth centre, or in the hospital with an Alberta Registered Midwife.  On average, 50% of midwife-attended births in Alberta occur at home or in a birth centres – this number varies by practice and community.
  • There are currently 36 students enrolled in the 4 year Mount Royal University Bachelor of Midwifery program which started September 2011.
  • Alberta Registered Midwives are able to care for up to 40 clients per midwife per year.
  • Midwives are independent contractors and paid by Alberta Health Services based on the Course of Care for each client.
  • The full amount for a Course of Care that an Alberta Registered midwife can bill for includes a provision for 39-55% for overhead, registration and insurance fees.
  • Canada was the last developed country to legally recognize the practice and profession of midwifery.” ~ taken from Alberta Association of Midwives

It is not surprising that the number of midwives and midwife assisted births went up dramatically since 2009, considering that is when funding came in. Unfortunately though, the demand for midwives far out numbers the supply. To hire a midwife, you basically need to call either before or immediately when you conceive. DO NOT wait for the positive pregnancy test. Every midwifery practice in Calgary has a wait list, and I’m willing to bet it’s the same in every large centre. That said, even though the demand is huge and growing, the funding that AHS will provide is not.

When the contract renewed in 2013, not all midwives were able to use the full 40 courses of care they were given in the original agreement. This has to do with the growing number of midwives, the higher demand of services, and the insufficient growth of funding.  Some of the midwives who were granted 40 courses of care gave some to other newer midwives, so they took a hit and the new midwives were able to do a few births a year. Hardly enough to call a living really, and with the new registration, midwives cannot work privately and accept payment from their clients once funding has maxed out.

Negotiations for funding are currently happening again in Alberta, and we are anxiously awaiting the final numbers. From what we’ve been told though, it’s been an uphill battle for our long-standing midwives as well as the soon-to-be newly graduated midwives from Mount Royal University (“The little college that could” has been a University for 6 years! what what?!). This year the first cohort to take the MRU midwifery program will be graduating, and there are no confirmed courses of care for them to practice. Some are working as doulas, some are leaving the province, but none are guaranteed to be working full-time in the field they went to school and worked so hard towards here in Alberta.

midwifer demand video pic

 Click the picture above to watch a recent video addressing the Midwife/funding issue

Personally, I think it’s ridiculous to think that midwifery is a dormant profession, and that there would never be growth. Midwives are in huge demand now, and were in huge demand even when we had to pay out-of-pocket for their services. It confuses me how a huge government body like AHS could not foresee the growth in midwifery service usage and demand (even when they were being advised by AAM), and therefore plan to grow with it. Instead, we are still having to fight for coverage, for equal maternity care for all birthing families, and for acknowledgement of the value of midwifery.

So I guess now is the time to rally? Maybe send a letter or start a petition? I suppose now is the time to stand up and defend our student midwives and their future, along with the current midwives who have been serving us for years. Now may just be the time to stand up for birthing mothers and their rights to choice and access. Or not… Your call. But I encourage you to summon the activist within and get involved. A good place to start is MCAN (MaternityCare Consumers of Alberta Network), you can find them on Facebook, and just jump on in. You can also write a letter to your MLA sharing your concerns. If you don’t know who your MLA is, you can find out here. Lastly, please keep talking. Talk with your family members, with your friends, and with anyone who will listen. Numbers speak volumes, and the more people we have fighting for our midwives and our families, the more likely we will see successes. You gotta FIGHT! For your RIGHT! To par… um, I mean to have equal access and choice when it comes to your maternity care.

keepcalmbirthon

pic from http://www.birthwithoutfearblog.com

Thank you for supporting our Midwives and the consumer’s right to equal access and choice
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A Walk Down Memory Lane

Last night my rollerderby team played an Edmonton team in Calgary.  It was fun, although several players left being hurt physically and drained emotionally.  While the bout may have physically ended on the track, after every derby bout is an afterparty, and in true derby spirit, we showed up to win the afterparty.  Out of the 6 people from our team who made it to the afterparty, 3 of us were Doulas.  I’m not sure what the connection is, but it seems that there is a high percentage of birthy birthy ladies in the derby world, and I like it!

Anyways, we got chatting about past experiences and one of the things we chatted about was our trip to The Farm, and our stay in Nashville following our training.  First let me say, the Doulas that support birthing mothers AND play derby know how to have a good time in all situations.

**this photo was taken on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, which was the original Grande Ole Opry.  Sadly, one week after we left they experienced great flooding in Nashville and I’m pretty sure the auditorium was flooded.  However, looking at their website, it looks like it’s all repaired now!! 🙂

It was April 2010 and a fellow Doula friend and I decided to go to The Farm and take a “Midwifery Assistant” workshop with Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives.  It was essentially a pilgrimage to the Mecca of the birth world to learn under one of my all time idols.  We did so much there, like palpate a dummy pregnant belly with a baby inside, practice cutting a fake umbilical cord and drawing blood, setting up an oxygen tank, blood-borne pathogen training, watsu (essentially shiatsu in water for pregnant mamas), took blood pressure/heart rate, and even listened to the heart tones of a real live baby in a belly.  Yes, we basically learned about all the things that we cannot practice as Doulas at all, but it was still worth it.  Actually, it was beyond worth it, it was an amazing experience that I am thankful to have experienced.

The week that we were on The Farm we stayed with the Bloomfields.  The house was the original house built on the Farm that used to house 50-70 people who all practiced communal living.  It was such a beautiful house, with fantastic tile work in the bathroom of really hippy pictures.  🙂  Our host had a hula hoop and we enjoyed hooping on the front porch overlooking a massive garden and lush green forest.  It was amazing.

Not only did we soak up all the knowledge we could from all the amazing women on The Farm, we also experienced first hand what it was like to live within our means and off the land.  We spent that week eating entirely vegan, which is actually more challenging than you’d think, or at least it was for some.  They made amazing food and processed their own soy right on The Farm.  We ate dishes that tasted like cooked meat and cheese, like lasagna.  We ate desert called Ice Bean, which is essentially like ice cream except made with soy beans, and it tasted like caramel vanilla.  My mouth may or may not be watering right now as I type this.  Aside from the food, we visited the eco-village on The Farm, which is essentially where many of the bus homes, and mud/straw homes are.  They had gardens on their roofs and faces carved in the walls of their homes, it was amazing.  I’m not sure if anyone actually lives in the buses anymore, as some of them were pretty worn down, but it was awesome to see it all.

During one of the last nights on The Farm, we gathered on Pamela Hunt’s back porch to listen to Ina May tell stories.  That woman is an amazing story teller.  So while she was sharing stories of births past and present, stories about the witch hunt and the decline of Midwifery as a result, the safe motherhood quilt project etc., the sun fell and the fireflies came for the stories too.  We were surrounded by pitch black darkness and then fireflies everywhere.  Talk about surreal.

I cherish the relationships we formed with the other students taking the workshop at The Farm, we keep in contact and I find them inspiring.  We bonded with them over a few beverages that we may or may not have snuck on to The Farm.  😉  So just a tip for future farm goers… if you like beer or any sort of alcoholic beverage, bring a cooler, ice, and your beverage of choice, as you will find nothing there.  That said, I think the people there are probably the healthiest people I have ever met and it probably would be beneficial to follow suit with them.

One last memory and I’ll be done.  While navigating around The Farm during a break we found the school.  Yes, there is a school at The Farm, and guess what?  It is powered by solar power!  We’re standing there looking at the school and the kids are all out playing in the field with a couple adults.  Now I don’t know about you, but I used to play a game as a child called “Cops and Robbers”… well, these kids were playing “Cops and protesters”, for reals.  I overheard one kid saying, “It is against the constitution to…*insert something awesome here, as I forget what followed*”.  Seriously though, what a great place.

I like reminiscing about experiences such as The Farm and other life changing times in my life.  Visiting The Farm affirmed for me what I already knew, that my calling in life is to serve women and provide options that aren’t necessarily available for many women.  When I first took the Doula training in Lethbridge there were no certified Doulas here, and that is why we brought the training here.  When I first took the PBi training for placenta encapsulation, there was no one who would encapsulate a placenta here in Lethbridge.  When I opened my brainchild EcoBaby Canada, there was nothing in Lethbridge or Canada like it.  Every step in my life has lead me to where I am, and The Farm help ground me to who I am and what I need to do.  And man do I enjoy a good walk down memory lane.

ps… moving to Calgary between August 1st-14th!

Look out goals…. Here I come.

Some very exciting things are brewing in my world right now, and to be honest… they are a little too exciting to keep to myself.

As you may or may not know, I moved to Lethbridge almost seven years ago to attend University.  My goal was to finish with a B.Ed. and teach Religous Studies.  Yes, that is true story and if you know me personally you can stop laughing now.  🙂  Anyways, over the past seven years I had two more babies, taken time off of school here and there, started a business, became a single mother and then started dating the love of my life, became a certified Doula, changed my major a few times and figured out some pretty major life goals.  Here are just a couple of those major goals and how I came to realize them:

1. Pursuing my Midwifery Calling

On May 5th, 2008 I organized a rally here in Lethbridge in demand for Alberta Health Care to cover midwifery services.  The rally was held on “International Day of the Midwife” (which was yesterday) and was just one in five rallies being held across Alberta.  At the same time rallies were being held in Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton and Medicine Hat (although I’m not sure Med. Hat actually did have the rally or not).  Prior to the event I had circulated a petition and lobbied the government demanding this essential service be available for women.  Not even a year after this province wide rally Midwifery services were covered by Alberta Health Care.  Wow, you have no idea how huge this is.  This was a 20 year fight that had finally come to an end!!!  Yay!

International Day of the Midwife Rally 2008

**This is one of the only pics I could find at this moment of rally day.. 🙂

Now funding of Midwifery is fantastic and all, but Lethbridge does not even have one registered midwife so it does Lethbridge locals no good (unless they travel).  I had to pay for both of my births with Midwives and unfortunately Lethbridge families still have to pay, and it’s for a lay-midwife or traditional birth attendant.

Okay, I will quickly get to my point.  Having my second two children with Midwives and then becoming emmersed in the birth community… I came to find my “calling”.  I realized that becoming a Midwife was something I was going to do, regardless of how long it took me.  With that said, only two provinces in Canada had Midwifery schools at the time, and as a single mother of four, moving that far away was not an option.

In September 2011 Mount Royal University in Calgary began offering a Bachelor of Midwifery program!  Yay!  So now a Midwifery program is in my hometown, which makes my life goal of becoming a Midwife even that more attainable.  I did not apply for last years admission, and I did not apply for this years admission, but my plan is to apply for September 2013 admission.  And this brings me to the first announcement of my “very exciting news”… I am moving to Calgary!!  This August to be precise.

2. To work as a Doula again with one of my besties

While living in Lethbridge and dreaming of being a Midwife, I kept in close contact with a dear friend of mine, Hannah.  We would chat on the phone about opening a birth center after we both became Midwives and how great it would be to work together.  In June 2009 we both took the DONA Birth Doula training and became certified shortly thereafter.  In May 2010 we both took the DONA Postpartum Doula training, and we are both planning to take the CAPPA Childbirth Educator training very shortly.  Now here’s the exciting part.  When I am in Calgary I can work as a Doula again (as I have family there to help with childcare), and Hannah and I have decided to work together!  This means that we will be teaching prenatal classes together as well as being eachother’s back ups!

What that means is I can now accept Doula clients who are due starting in October and in the Calgary area!!!   But don’t worry Lethbridge, I am still available for placenta encapsulation and select births for friends, just contact me!

And this also means thatI am available for Placenta Encapsulation services in Calgary starting in September (without the travel fees)!!

So there are a couple of my goals… to become a Midwife and to work with Hannah.  With me moving to Calgary in August, I will be that much closer to actualizing those goals.  Hannah and I are in the process of putting together a website and all that jazz, so definitely stay tuned for that!

And I leave you with a quote from one of my favourite kids’ book, “Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Suess.

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own.  And you know what you know.

And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go. “

The Farm

I haven’t posted in a while, I’m sorry about that.  There is so much to talk about!!  On April 10th a friend and I flew in to Nashville and made the pilgrimage to the “Holy Land”, THE FARM.  If you don’t know what The Farm is all about, you can check out this link for the community info and this link for the Farm Midwifery info.  To make a really long story short, The Farm was formed by a large group of Hippies who were caravaning accross the USA and decided to stop in Tennessee.  The Farm used to be all about communal living, although they do not practice that anymore.

Ina May Gaskin was one of the first Midwives at The Farm, basically because people were having babies on the caravan and she and her hubby Stephen Gaskin chose to help out.  From that came The “original” Farm Midwives, including Pamela Hunt, Joanne Santana and Carol Nelson.  

We went to The Farm to take a Midwifery Assistant Training workshop, which was absolutely fantastic by the way.  It was one week and we were taught by all of The Farm midwives.  We learnt so so much, including how to find blood pressure, how to check dilation, effacement and station, how to use oxygen, usage and sterilization of instruments, midwifery history, all about the Safe Motherhood Quilt project, Watsu and much much more.  Keep in mind that this was a Midwifery Assistant program and not a doula workshop.  What this means is that most of the skills I learned can only be practiced when apprenticing under a midwife, I cannot perform them as a doula.  Well, except Watsu, I’m pretty excited to offer that to my Doula clients.

During the week we were there we ate a strict vegan diet.  I am actually pretty amazed and how good it was!  We ate so much kale and yet I could hardly even tell.  Another staple seems to be beans, they even made “ice bean”.  yummmm

The Farm was an experience that I will never forget, it was intense in the best sort of way.

**pictures to come**