August 17, 2011
Volume 13, Issue 17
Midwifery Today E-News
“The Language of Midwifery”
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Help your clients have more comfortable labors

Germany conferenceAttend “Comfort Techniques for Midwives and Doulas,” a full-day pre-conference class with Debra Pascali-Bonaro. You’ll learn about techniques such as the gate control theory of pain, hot and cold compresses, music, massage/touch, acupressure, aromatherapy and the birthing ball. You’ll see demonstrations of a variety of positions and techniques for both first and second stage, and there will be time for hands-on practice. Part of our conference in Bad Wildbad, Germany this October.

Learn more about the Germany conference.

Midwifery: Skill, Wisdom, Culture, Love

Come celebrate who we are and what we do! Come to the Midwifery Today conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, April 11–15, 2012. Meet and learn from great teachers, including Ina May Gaskin, Stephen Gaskin, Mabel Dzata, Robbie Davis-Floyd, Carol Gautschi and Michel Odent. To receive a printed program by mail when it becomes available, please e-mail with your name and postal address.

Learn more about the Harrisburg 2012 conference.

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In This Week’s Issue

Quote of the Week

“I have no name:
I am but two days old.”
What shall I call thee?
“I happy am,
Joy is my name.”
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy, but two days old.
Sweet Joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while;
Sweet joy befall thee!

William Blake
“Infant Joy”

The Art of Midwifery

Natural Baby Wipes

2 cups warm purified water
1-1/2 tsp. natural plain castile soap
1-1/12 tsp. natural baby oil or lotion
60 premium half-sheet paper towels

Mix liquid together, then pour over towels a few at a time. Store in an airtight container.

Oklahoma Midwives Association
Excerpted from Midwifery Today’s Tricks of the Trade, Vol. III

ALL BIRTH PRACTITIONERS: The techniques you’ve perfected over months and years of practice are valuable lessons for others to learn! Share them with E-News readers by sending them to

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Jan’s Corner

Michel Odent

It has been my privilege to work on this planet at the same time as my friend Michel Odent. Michel has probably traveled to more places and spoken more times on birth than anyone in the world. He tirelessly spreads essential information on birth, love, primal health and many other subjects. His Primal Health Research Database should be known by all midwives, mothers and physicians. From the database: “‘Primal Health Research’ explores correlations between the ‘primal period’ (fetal life, perinatal period and year following birth) and health and personality traits in later life…we predicted a new generation of research confirming that our health is shaped during the primal period.” Be sure to visit the primal health database if you haven’t already (

Midwifery Today has had the honor of having Michel teach at most of our conferences, and I had the honor to speak at his Mid-Atlantic conference in Las Palmas De Gran Canaria in 2010. The conference was a big success, bringing together people from many different medical disciplines. Now Michel is on to organizing another big conference for October 2012, on Honolulu, Hawaii—The Mid-Pacific conference on Birth and Primal Health Research ( I have the joy of speaking again!

I really like what Michel says about this event: “This gathering will attract those who are wondering how we can climb out of the abyss in which humanity has fallen gradually after thousands of years of culturally controlled childbirth. It is easy to analyze the current situation in the age of synthetic oxytocin and easy techniques of caesareans, which is a time when love hormones have been made redundant in the critical period surrounding birth. It is also a time when the dominant deep-rooted cultural conditioning regarding childbirth is in complete opposition to the lessons of modern physiology.”

In addition to the Mid-Pacific conference, you can also hear Michel Odent speak at the next Midwifery Today conference in Bad Wildbad, Germany. I hope to see you in one or both places.

Jan Tritten, mother of Midwifery Today

Jan Tritten is the founder, editor-in-chief and mother of Midwifery Today magazine. She became a midwife in 1977 after the amazing homebirth of her second daughter. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies throughout the world. Meet Jan at our conferences around the world, or join her online, as she works to transform birth practices around the world.

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Midwifery Education: Caring and Sharing:

News and Research

In September 2011, Pennsylvania will join 30 other states in offering a Certificate of Birth in Stillbirth to parents who request one after the delivery of a stillborn baby. Advocates for the certificates say that legally acknowledging not just the death, but the birth of a stillborn baby helps parents with the grieving process. The law will cover both new and past recorded stillbirths.

— Moisse, Katie. “New Pennsylvania law allows birth certificates for stillborns.” Posted July 15, 2011.
Read about helpful resources for midwifing a stillbirth in Midwifery Today Issue 99, available in September 2011. Here’s where you can subscribe:

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Featured Article

A Question of Words

The most extensive work I have read about the use of language and birth is Robbie Pfeufer Kahn’s thought-provoking book, Bearing Meaning: The Language of Birth. She looks at hundreds of years of Western writing—from Plato and Homer forward, to Williams Obstetrics (Williams and Stander 1936) medical textbooks—tracing the co-option of birth language by patriarchal interests from warriors to obstetricians. Her book is a tremendously insightful, if sometimes discouraging, perspective of historical chronicling. Thankfully, she also offers us new terms to replace the old ones and even creates a new word, “maialogical,” to describe preverbal infant-maternal communication, which can be observed when a child is at the breast. Her work inspired me to contribute to this new set of words describing childbirth and the birthing women in my Master’s research study. Consequently, I have paid special attention to one particular word, “delivery,” in the hope of encouraging another way of looking at childbirth, a woman’s body, and her relationship to her baby and those attending to her in birth. I have focused on this word specifically because it disturbs my sense of being at peace with birth. Its connotations cause me enough distress to consciously choose an alternative when I refer to what women do to make babies, and I justify my choice here.

On the Word “Delivery”

Too often I hear physicians and many midwives speak of having “delivered” babies. I cannot abide the term “delivery” as a synonym for giving birth. Is this really how we want to speak of giving birth? I suggest that no woman is truly “delivered” of her baby unless she delivers herself. This would require that she be solely responsible for the birth (unassisted) and deliver herself throughout the whole transformation from pregnancy to mother-with-child-born. Only she can liberate, or free, or be set free of her own accord (i.e., the definition of delivery). Our current cultural concept of being “delivered” by a doctor is partly based upon childbirth practices entrenched during the middle of the last century when women were semi- or unconscious during birth. Women were either so drugged or forcibly confined that they became passive participants in childbirth and, as a result, were so wholly dependent on their attendants that they had to give up or hand over the work (and the glory) of birth (Romalis 1981). This dependence has held over in our modern times in a form of fear that women have about the challenge of giving birth. The high induction, surgical and medicated birth rates seem to be evidence that now, more often than not, women wish to give up on giving birth and instead rely upon someone else to get the baby out for them.

My distress comes from the fact that we unwittingly perpetuate the use of this term “delivery.” The use of the word reinforces the notion that women cannot rely upon themselves to give birth and further, it is principally the men in our culture who are credited with this great deliverance. In this interpretation of birth, the woman is rendered invisible. Without a change in our choice of words, women will continue to be regarded as foreigners during the birth of their babies. They will remain disembodied and dispirited from the event because the mechanics of their bodies will remain the measure of health in childbirth. For this reason (and with great passion), I remind others and myself to put the power of birth back into women’s hands. Using the terms “birthing” and “giving birth” helps remind women that they themselves gave birth to their babies, regardless of how much help they received.


  • Kahn, RP. 1995. Bearing Meaning: The Language of Birth. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • Romalis, S. 1981. Childbirth: Alternatives to Medical Control, 1st ed. Austin: University of Texas Press.
  • Williams, JW, and HJ Stander. 1936. Williams Obstetrics: A Textbook for the Use of Students and Practitioners, 7th ed. New York: D. Appleton-Century.

Heather Mains
Excerpted from “A Question of Words,” Midwifery Today, Issue 67
View table of contents / Order the back issue

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Placenta rituals, remedies and recipes…

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Midwifery Today Back Issues have the information you need!

Midwifery Today back issues

From second stage and prematurity to birth change and natural remedies, back issues of Midwifery Today print magazine are packed with informative articles that will help you improve your practice. You’ll also find inspiring birth stories, birth news, poetry and stunning black and white photography. Choose from these available back issues.

Web Site Update

Read these article excerpts from Midwifery Today magazine, newly posted to our Web site:

  • Cesarean Birth: What about the Baby?—by Robin Lim, CPM
    Excerpt: Imagine intrauterine life: the warmth, the softness, the taste of mother, the sound of her heartbeat and gentle voice. Mother is all baby knows. Even father the baby knows in relation to mother—how he makes her feel. Mother is nourishment. She is the universe. When we take the baby away, even a few feet away, trust is broken. The baby’s world is shattered.
  • Choosing Caesarean Section—by Marsden Wagner, MD
    Excerpt: There is an interesting relation between promoting women’s choice and the degree to which the procedure is doctor-friendly. A trial of vaginal birth after a previous CS (VBAC) is safer than a routine repeat CS but there are no articles in medical journals promoting the right of women to choose VBAC. CS is doctor-friendly; VBAC is not.

Advertising Opportunities

Find your international clients at our conference in Bad Wildbad, Germany

Reach a targeted international market by advertising at Midwifery Today’s conference in Bad Wildbad, Germany: “Preserving Our Traditions, Improving Our Skills”, October 19–23, 2011. By advertising at this exciting conference you will reach an audience passionate about birth. Space is very limited so contact us soon. [ Learn More ]

Advertise Using Midwifery Today’s Birth Market

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Expanding your personal library?

How about expanding your local library with books that encourage natural and instinctual birth? How much information about natural and instinctive birth is at your library? As a patron of a library, you have a say about what books they carry. Let your library know you want natural birth and midwifery materials to be available. Your library is your resource. Use it.

Birth Wisdom from the Web

A midwife’s work is not simply to provide safe, evidence-based maternity care—it is to stitch together with families the emotions, physical sensations, and spiritual dynamics of birth into a meaningful whole. The vocation of midwife is my authentic answer to the call of being a poet.

— Midwife and poet Tracey Johnstone, on the poetry of homebirth.

I believe that this issue needs to be looked at much more closely, particularly with the increase of non-medical personnel who perform these ultrasounds. A pregnant mother’s first sonogram may come from a keepsake ultrasound boutique at a local shopping mall. These boutiques have mushroomed into a huge industry.

— Nancy Evans, Health Science Consultant, on the risks of ultrasound.

If you are an adoptive mom, or a mom with a baby in need of supplemental milk for any reason, don’t just assume you have no choice but formula. There are options available. You just have to do the research. You may be able to induce your own milk, put word out to your close friends…that you would like to find a donor, or you can look on [Facebook] and find a local “Eats on Feets” chapter to perhaps start your search for a breast milk donor. If you happen to have access to good, clean, healthy, antibiotic-free, raw goat’s milk, that is also an option.

— “redgatefarm,” blogger and adoptive mom, on milk sharing.

If you are wondering if your midwife/doctor will let you do something, consider examining why you, as an intelligent, empowered adult, need permission to do something your body already knows how to do.

— Morgan A. McLaughlin McFarland, blogger, on the power of birth language.

If you’d like to share a bit of wisdom from the Web, please send a 4–5 sentence excerpt, accompanied by a link, to

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You want to be a midwife, but where do you start?

Are you an aspiring midwife who’s looking for the right school? Or maybe you’re trying to decide if midwifery is the path for you. Visit our Better Birth Education Opportunities page to discover ways to start or continue your education.

Conference Chatter

Conference Planning and the Global Midwifery Council

The conference in Germany is going to be another one of midwives from all over the world. I’ve been talking with a lovely midwife from Ghana about organizing a Midwifery Today conference in Africa. We have wanted to have an African conference for over a decade now and the possibility of it coming to fruition is exciting.

Before the Germany conference, Eneyda Spradlin-Ramos and I will travel to Turkey to speak at the Turkish Midwives conference. We also plan to visit several countries in Eastern Europe and the Middle East to consider as future conference locations. We are busy planning, and it is Midwifery Today’s conference staff that helps to turn our plans into realities. I am so grateful for the amazing staff I am privileged to work with!

The timing for our conference in Germany is excellent. A group of midwives who first gathered at our Eugene Conference have been working on the Global Midwifery Council’s statements and goals (outlined in Midwifery Today, Issue 99), and will have the opportunity to come together again in Bad Wildbad. We get the most work done face to face; if you are interested in getting involved with the development of the Global Midwifery Council, please let us know. More workers in the fields are always needed.

Jan Tritten

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Think about It

The role of a student midwife is to accept that she has been called to do this work and to appreciate the wise women elders who feel able to guide her on this path. Appreciation means that although she may not agree with her preceptor in each moment, she gives the preceptor the benefit of the doubt and follows her instructions in deference to her larger experience in the field of midwifery.

Sareanda Lourdes
Excerpted from “The Preceptor-Student Relationship,” Midwifery Today, Issue 91
View table of contents / Order the back issue

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