The Business Of Making Babies: Supporting Midwifery Care

by Cookie


M0003964EB Ancient Roman relief carving of a midwife

Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Who’s in the business of making babies?

Calm down.  Not me.  I had my two and would be happy to bake another baby-pie for y’alls entertainment, but I think this kitchen is closed.

There are however a whole lot of women out there who are in the business of making babies.

And then there’s the ones in the business of catching them.


I personally did not have a midwife. You can read all about my heroic births here and here if you want a good laugh at my expense. My family doctor is one of those rare ones who does all of her own obstetrics (except when she is on medical leave at the end of your second pregnancy because fuck my life.)  She’s been my doctor since I was seventeen and I felt comfortable with the care and open relationship I have with her.  Had this not have been the case, I would have definitely sought out the care of a midwife rather than an OB.

But unfortunately it’s not that simple.

In Manitoba, we have about 50 practicing midwives, while the demand for midwifery care could support around 200.  That means that only 25 % of women who want to chose this kind of care and birth for their children are able to receive it.  Bitches, this is bullshit.

It is 2016.  Women are supposed to be in charge of their bodies and able to make informed decisions during pregnancy, labour and postpartum.  How is it that we are unable to provide necessary services to mothers and their newborns at a consistent level?

And yes.  Necessary.

How may of you have waited hours in an OB’s office waiting for your 10 minute prenatal appointment?  How many of you have spent the most vulnerable and raw moment of your life with a complete stranger as the resident on call came to catch the baby you were delivering and stitch up your vagina while he chatted casually with the nurses or you?  How many of your choices and desires were ignored or disrespected during labour or delivery because what you wanted was inconvenient for the hospital staff?  How many of you were laughed at or ignored at when you trusted your instincts and what your body was telling you during birth even when you were right?

All of those things happened to me.  And I have an awesome doctor who knows me well.

Midwifery care is different.  It’s personal.  It’s a bond of trust and care and guidance.  Of choices.  And those are all the necessary things you need during childbirth.

And there are some wonderful doctors out there.  Mine included.  But I can tell you from experience that labouring in a hospital and labouring at home are two completely different experiences.  And my doctor doesn’t make house calls.

So, what’s the solution?  Hire more midwives, right?

Not in this province.  First of all, the midwives here have been without a contract for two years.  Their current wages are so far behind the rest of the country that we keep losing the ones we have to other provinces where they are compensated better for the work they do.  They are about to strike, so we are about to have 0 practicing midwives if the province can’t get its shit together and offer them a decent deal.

The other issue is that we don’t really have a current training program.  A few years ago, the University of Manitoba teamed up with the College of the North in The Pas to develop a Midwifery program that included specific training in Aboriginal traditions and cultural sensitivity.

Sounds great right?  Women in rural communities without access to a hospital are the most in need of midwifery care.

Well, over 8 years,the program took in 26 students.  Only 8 graduated, and it cost the taxpayers 8 million dollars.  They have currently halted enrollment since 2015.  So now nobody is getting trained. *Edit:  There has apparently been a new intake of students in the fall of 2015.  Thank you readers!*

What the ever living fuck?  You’re going to invest a million dollars EACH to train these midwives and then you can’t compensate them properly when they are doing the job you deemed it was so critical to invest in?  Not only that, but half of them weren’t even offered full time positions.  So then the midwives we do have are so overworked with their clients that we don’t have enough of them to train the students.  AND SO it goes on.

We also built this beautiful birth center that is grossly underused.  With not enough midwives and doctors not allowed privellages there, it was a waste of money.  We keep trying to pretend like we are supporting women’s health and offering all these services, but we need to have an adequate number of midwives to make it all work.

The province needs to take a look at this.  They need to find a way to recruit, retain and train more midwives.  They need to stop putting the cart before the horse and get back to basics.  And for God’s sake, don’t lose any more of the ones we have.

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, demand better care.  Insist that you have choices in your care.  Insist that you are provided all of the options and that they are available to you.  Because birthing in a hospital on a doctors timeline sucks balls sometimes.