“I like how you help people who nobody else would help. Like, oh, me and Sean. And then when they say, well, actually, we can’t pay you we just said that because we were scared you wouldn’t come if we told you how poor we are, you say, oh that’s cool, I understand why you would do that, let me bring you a bunch of food too. So, maybe you could write about that, because I know you must have been like that to lots and lots of people, because you’re amazing.” ~ FeeBeeGlee
It’s true. However, it’s also true that they did pay me, in full, over the years since that birth between cash, baby hand-me-downs, and friendship (the last of which is the most valuable).
It has been almost a week since it was suggested that I write about this part of #midwifery, the part that I value and I have struggled with how to do it without listing off all of the reasons that I HATE modern, current midwifery and trends in midwifery and how I practice and view midwifery to be in exact opposition to the direction that newer students want to see things move.
So, I am going to do my best to just talk about what I do and how I feel with as little judgement as possible.
Midwifery is a calling for me. It is not something that I went looking for or decided would be the thing to support myself (or any future family). I was not a “baby/birth junky” looking for a way to keep getting a fix. #Birth reached out and grabbed me and said, “you will do this!”
Midwifery is not a hobby for me. While it may not be the thing that I do every single day like an office job, it is something that I do think about daily and participate in at least weekly. I do not just have a collection of tools, ideas, and knowledge just in case I feel like attending a birth here and there.
Being a midwife is a radical political act for me. I am here providing care, to those who need it the most and who desire the care I can give, often in direct opposition to how governments, certifying organisations, and the opinions of some others feel that I should be doing it.
“Woman after woman bore witness to how Miriamma saved her life when in crisis, giving her dignity and comfort, when many of us had felt like “untouchables.” Whether we were homeless teens, battered wives, single welfare moms, gay moms, Spanish-speaking moms; we were all welcome on earth, according to Miriamma’s open-arm policy. We all deserved superior health care. We all deserved safe births and breastfeeding without stigma. Due to these beliefs, my midwives were two of the most radical anarchists I have ever met.” (Rogue Midwifery)
I value a birthing person’s right to choose for themselves where and with whom they give birth without limitations imposed by outside entities. It is my client’s job to decide what is best for them and their family and it is my job as their care provider to be clear about what I can/will do and what I can not/will not do based on my skill set, experience, knowledge, and any personal convictions that might factor into their care. Together, we decide if I am the best fit or if I need to help them find a different provider. This is an arrangement that is between client and midwife. Period.
I value being in a position to really work with clients on an individual level. Deciding, on a case-by-case basis, if certain situations or specifics needs in their #pregnancy or birth are within the realm of possibilities. I refuse to look at or treat clients through a midwifery lens that is one-size-fits-all, because each person, each birth, and each situation is unique.
There are multitudes of birthing families out there that “can not afford” a midwife. I see it to be the midwife’s role to provide care that is needed, regardless of a person’s ability to “pay”. Almost 17 years in birthwork and I have never been unpaid except when it was agreed upon that I would serve pro bono (and even then, I have always been gifted something whether it was goods, services, or some money). I have never felt undervalued or unappreciated. It has never been about money for me. It has always been about serving and doing my best to help those that others will not because of money or ideological bigotry.
Despite belonging to the community that I primarily serve: despite living in poverty myself, I recognise that my family is primarily supported by my husband’s ability and willingness to work a job that keeps our bills paid. I am incredibly privileged in this arrangement. It affords me the ability to provide care to those that could not afford it (even *IF* they could qualify for medical assistance). I still greatly depend on donations of supplies and for clients who are capable of paying more than others to pay more. I do teach midwifery students and have a fairly successful #herbalist business, which further allow me to provide care for anyone that asks for it.
…to provide care for anyone that asks for it.
“One of my midwives, Miriamma Carson, was bisexual, spoke fluent Spanish, was a radical activist and feminist, and she offered me a safe place, when nowhere else felt safe. For $300, I was given private childbirth classes with other single moms, and pre/post natal exams, as well as a 30 hour labor and home birth attended by two midwives. When I had trouble paying it, Miriamma let me barter cooking dinners for her kids instead. I could never have afforded such superior health care under the status quo, for-massive-profit, medical system.” (Rogue Midwifery)
In the end, it all works out and everything falls into place. Families get honoured, babies get born, and I get appreciated and compensated. It has only been when I have lost sight of my calling and my values that I have experienced stress about compensation or being valued. When my mind starts drifting towards these untruths, I remind myself of the whole point and history of midwifery of the wise and witchy healers that have walked this path before me.
So, when beautiful families like Phoebe’s & Sean’s, contact me (and last minute at that ;-) ) and say that they can not pay me (the amount I ask for or by the date I would prefer) I can not, in good conscience turn them away, because that goes against what I believe in, what I value as a midwife, and goes against that initial voice of the #calling of midwifery that grabbed me and said, “you will do this.”
Edited to Add: "But don't people just say that they can't pay you to get free care?" A friend asked me this and I explained that part of my screening process is being a judge of someone's character; it is fairly easy to tell the folks who are trying to undervalue you versus the folks who genuinely can not afford your fee. And on that note, I have technically never provided care to anyone for free with the exception of care provided at the Three Rivers Free Clinic for the People. While it is true that I have been asked to attend 5 births to date without any compensation, I accepted all 5 clients AND was compensated nicely each time.
Sometimes, I think people see that global fee and think, "I don't have that much money in the bank, how can I pay this person?" Instead of explaining their situation, and committing to what they *can* pay. I've had several clients who said they could only afford half of my global fee and then went on to being able to pay the whole thing by the end of our time together, because of the generosity of their friends and family. One of my first Pittsburgh clients threw a riotous house party with a live bank and everything to raise money to pay me and they were able to raise enough money in a few short hours to pay me in full and purchase some needed things for their baby. With some trust, compassion, and creativity, clients always come through.
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