Sunday, February 20, 2011

Midwifery as A Calling

You have to check out this post at The Gift of Giving Life and read about how Mormons in the early days of their church considered midwifery a position in the church where women were called according to the inspiration of the spirit to serve the women in their congregations. Unfortunately, this practice did not persist beyond the days of birth moving to the hospital but for the time that it did exist, I can only imagine how empowering, spiritually uplifting and community strengthening such a tradition would be. 

As a Mormon by conversion, I am wistful for the days of this practice and wish that society hadn't changed so much that midwives called in each ward or take became a thing of the past. Right now in the church, there is no structure in the organization to connect Mormon (or as I prefer LDS) women with LDS midwives. I know they exist, along with a score of doulas, childbirth educators and birth junkies because I have become acquainted with many of them across the internet. 

I know that I as a birthing woman would love to work with an LDS midwife or have an LDS doula. I don't even know if there are LDS doulas or midwives in my area and I wish I did. I love the Christian midwife that I worked with during my last pregnancy but a Christian worldview was second best in comparison to a Mormon worldview. (I can clarify on this if my readers are interested). 

As an aspiring midwife and birth attendant, I feel prompted to offer my services as a doula during labor and postpartum to the women in my local congregations. In the past I have tried to get the word out that I am interested and willing to offer this as an act of service but like I said there are few ways to get this known to the local women. Meetings are structured so that there is time for very little else and the scope of the LDS church's women's organization is so broad that its hard to cover all of the many ways that relief can be provided through charity. 

I would really like to see a directory/registry/list of LDS doulas, midwives and childbirth educators that is shared on the internet for LDS women to refer to as they are looking for maternity care. In a way, it would bring back a little bit of the community that once existed in the church with Relief Society sisters literally providing relief during some of the most important and hard work of a Mormon woman's life.

Since the church is organized in geographical areas called stakes, I would love to see this list be organized by stakes. Usually a stake covers a city or town (or in some cases a few towns near each other) and has around 1,000 members of the church. Its usually within driving distance from one end of the stake to another and given the distances that I've heard some midwives travel to assist women at their births seems doable for one woman in the stake to reach any and all of the sisters when she is in labor. And there's nothing wrong with having more than one midwife listed in a stake. 

The main difference between a list like this and the former way of issuing callings is that no one is assigned to be a specific midwife or doula to a certain area. There could be a dozen midwives and doulas in a given stake (oh what a dream!) and there wouldn't need to be competition or obligation. A childbearing woman has so many options when it comes to birth attendants (hopefully) that often what she needs to make an informed choice is access to information about the options available to her. I truly think that if LDS women knew that there were LDS women near them who were trained and qualified in attending births that they would work together in many cases. What a blessing that would be to the community of sisters! 

Who's with me in creating his list? Do you know of any LDS doulas, midwives or childbirth educators in your stake or ward boundaries? Are you one? 

Or even better, does what I'm hoping for already exist?? 


Rixa said...

Why don't you spearhead a stake-wide list of these things? I'd first contact the stake RS president and ask her if it's okay if you work to compile a list of LDS doulas & midwives in the stake, for members' benefit. (Or you could just do this, no need to ask permission, really). Then contact each ward or branch RS president and give her a flyer to hand around in RS for people to sign up if they are (or know) an LDS doula or midwife. Put the list together and distribute to each ward RS and voila! You've got a listing. You could also figure out something online to allow people to search, to update information, etc.

Our stake regularly takes surveys of members' professions, specialities, and special training/education. Every year we fill it out, and the stake has it for, I'm guessing, situations where they need to call on someone with a particular training. If yours does the same thing, have them add doula and midwife categories.

Katie said...

There's an LDS Doula in the Louisville, KY/Southern Indiana area. She attended one of my good friend's births. ;)

siobhan said...

our back-up midwife with #4 was lds and it created such a connection that we used her for #5. i LOVE having an lds midwife! when i was juggling three callings, four kids, and nine months of pregnancy, she understood how the callings worked and could offer helpful suggestions more than, "just tell them you won't do it anymore!"

i hooked up with doulas within the stake by checking the dona lists for our cities and scoping for familiar names.

we had grand plans for a series of enrichment nights. we were going to do a six-week women's health series with basic childbirth classes (i'm a childbirth educator as well as birth doula), talk birth plans, how to give support in labor, and a "taking charge of your fertility" thing. unfortunately, leadership changed and they thought it was inappropriate, which disgusted me. :( they were concerned about men "hearing" it? and the rsp had a daughter who did several rounds of ivf before adopting and thought the fertility part would be insensitive. i tried explaining that it would be basic "how your body works," but her heels were dug in. they felt it was all just too intimate subject matter. we had twelve babies being born that year and several of us really felt inspired that it would be useful to the ward, but whatever.

cc said...

I talked to my previous doula about this yesterday and she thought it was an amazing idea! As I suspected, she said there weren't yet any LDS midwives or other doulas in our area (still surprising though). But I can provide her as a listing.

I was also thinking more about the practicalities of this idea, and I think it would actually be really easy to create a very simple site that does nothing else but provide listing and contact info. The real work would be getting it to spread around enough that it becomes an actual resource to direct people to.

I make no promises, but I can ask my husband if he would create a web form that allows people to enter the pertinent info into fields. That way I think it would be more indexable and searchable, but maybe that's not even necessary. Maybe as long as people list themselves in pre-designated state categories, it would work? I mean, there probably aren't so many in each state that it would be hard to find one in your area.

I do think something like this might inspire more women in the church to give this type of birth experience more of a shot.

Descent said...

Rixa, there's such a slim chance that my stake has an RS sister for each of these positions, let alone even one of them. Maybe I'm being pessimistic but I doubt that I could find what I was looking for. And truly, that's what i might do if I only cared to find an LDS midwife for myself. Really my intention is to build a community of LDS birthies that could emulate the structure of calling midwives from the early church. Since that's the case, it needs to be an effort that attempts to find Mormon birth attendants all over the country at least, if not across the globe.

That said, I do think that my new RS president is going to add my name to the move-in information book as someone willing to provide labor support as a doula. Maybe someone will take me up on it.

Siobhan, that must have been really frustrating. So often it seems like well-intentioned efforts like that have to be done separate from the church. It feels like there is a resource that can so obviously be tapped into and then you find that it can't/won't help. I guess that's why I've started to work outside of official church channels to build the kingdom in a way that serves me and others who have similar needs.

CC, I think I might start simpler than that. One of my facebook readers suggested a Facebook page (like Eats on Feets) to start. Maybe after a good list is compiled, a simple website can be created. What do you think?

And to everyone, what would you call this thing anyway???

If we wanted to keep it simple, it could just be LDS Midwives.

That reminds me of the billboards in Las Vegas and Southern Utah for LDS Agents (real estate).

If we wanted to get cute about it, we could figure out an acronym for MAMAS (e.g. Midwives and Mothers Assisting Sisters)

Any other ideas?

cc said...

I LOVE that acronym! And yes, I think starting it out as a FB page would be simpler and easier, and then go from there if you want people who aren't on FB to be able to access it. Can you create some type of organization on a page though? With state listings?

Jenni said...

There has been much discussion on the FB note concerning names... "Birthing With Sisters" is one that several of us like... scrapping the acronym idea and just going with the name.
Personally, I do like the acronym idea, but it seems that they get long, and don't always say quite what we mean (because of trying to find words for certain letters) and letting go of that idea seemed simpler.

Angie - WifeMamaDoula said...

So, how's this coming along? Was a website created? If not, I'd be happy to create one for you.

I have created & designed for free/low cost doulas and would love to help with this. I think its a wonderful idea and was looking for something like this (which is how I found your blog). I am very new to LDS and find it sometimes challenging to really be able to bond with other doulas who sometimes do not have the same way of life as I. I would love love love to be able to connect with other LDS birth workers for double-whammy benefits! I especially would love to have these connections for when its time to call upon a doula and midwife of our own. :D

Descent said...

Angie, I love that you are putting together that directory! I hope it goes viral and spreads around. Will you please post this link on the CIMS facebook page? I am so excited to support your effort. And you are LDS too??

The LDS directory is coming. I had a great group of friends help brainstorm a name that I LOVE. We're going to call it Birthing in Zion. I'm tempted to say that we'll host it on your site, but I'd like it to be an LDS resource at a LDS site as well. After we get the list going at LDS WAVE, I hope that you will link to us. I'd even be happy to have the directly co-listed in both places. Having it be accessible in more than one place means its more accessible, right?

I hope you'll find me on facebook and we can chat. My personal profile there is Jenne Erigero Alderks. I'd love to talk by phone as well!

Christine said...

I am looking for a midwife or doctor in Las Vegas that's LDS! I am around 2-3 months along. Please please let me know if you know anyone asap! I would love you forever! ;)

Jenny said...

Hi! I was also wondering if there is a website or facebook page going. We are trying to get pregnant with #4 in Denver and would love to know if there are any lds midwives around here. I would also love to help get this going if I can in any way. Let me know!

Jenne said...

Okay, update time!

The directory is happening. We are collecting submissions from midwives, doulas, OBs, L&D nurses, lactation educators, childbirth educators and other childbirth professionals.

The announcement can be viewed at

The full website and the directory with those submissions we've already collected will be ready in a few days. I'll update again when it is.

To foster the community and to keep in touch with fans of the project, there has been a facebook page created. You can "like" it at to keep up to date on the project and help provide support and information to women as its needed.