I am very up front about my intentions in serving in leadership positions. One leadership role I currently hold is at the American College of Nurse-Midwives, on the Board of Directors. For those not already members of ACNM, below I share what my membership and leadership work are trying to accomplish. My term on the Board of Directors is up as of 2018, and not only will my leadership position be open, but much of the work I currently do will be ready and waiting for someone to step up. To participate in ACNM means to have your voice matter: to serve in leadership, engage in national midwifery movements, write position statements and clinical bulletins that matter politically and legally, and vote. VOTE. Especially in the 2016 post-election area, ideally everyone understands how important it is to have a voice and choose the leadership who represents you. ACNM represents midwives, and if you aren’t part of that work as a member of the organization, your voice is left out. Please read my piece below, read the entire Fall 2016 Quickening, be moved by the level and intensity of work ACNM is doing on behalf of midwifery, and consider joining! This work matters. Join me by joining ACNM.
Photo credit: @Robert Levy Photography
Originally published in the ACNM Fall 2016 Quickening:
I joined the Board of Directors in 2015 as a new midwife finishing my third year of practice. When the Nominating Committee first contacted me to consider running for the position of secretary, I spent time reflecting on my possible contributions as well as potential implications of choosing to run. Who was I to think that I had a voice in the leadership of an organization with such a long and deep history, with midwives more experienced than I who could provide depth of service to an elected role?
Ultimately, I came to two conclusions: 1) I bring the valuable perspectives of new graduates, many of whom, myself included, represent an increasing community of midwives engaging in broad discussions of reproductive justice, queer and trans care, and full-scope practice including abortion provision; and 2) as a white midwife who actively seeks scope of practice to align my work with the reproductive justice movement, I might use the opportunity (running against another white midwife on the ballot) to actively identify strategies and pathways for increased engagement of midwives of color, and to elevate the voices of those speaking, but not yet at the table.
I struggled with being “another white woman” in a lead role of an organization serving a community of midwives and clientele with significant ethnic diversity not, in any way, sufficiently represented in leadership. Being an active member in an organization currently seeking to foster conversation and community along lines of diversification and inclusion, I balanced how my nomination and possible election would continue views of a non-diverse Board with the work I might accomplish as someone with intentions to actively change the conversation. Referencing the impressive work of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, how might I utilize my role to purposefully “Shift the Frame”?
As a cisgender femme woman who identifies as queer, I additionally balance aspects of my personal identity with engagement in professional work. I know many midwives are new to conversations of transgender and genderqueer, spectrum of sexual identities, relationship models, sex positivity, and interrelationships with midwifery scope of practice. Additionally, acknowledging trans and queer midwives in our membership, and seeking ways to welcome and engage with each other, is also an evolving conversation for many members. In being open about myself, I hope to create a safe space not only for other queer midwives to do the same, but also to welcome questions and dialogue around these topics.
As a midwife who also works in abortion care by serving on two other Boards of Directors which train providers in family planning, options counseling, and termination provision, I seek to further conversations about midwifery education and practice related to abortion services.
As a midwife who works for a federally qualified health center (FQHC) with immigrant and black women on the South Side of Chicago, I seek to promote discussions about midwifery care in high need populations, and the challenges midwives face in settings of high acuity, social support needs, and integration within broken health care systems.
In my (almost!) year and a half on the Board, I feel incredibly positive about meeting many of the goals I set for myself. Beyond my role in writing the minutes, I have sought opportunities within leadership to align specifically with my intentions, including serving as liaison to the Midwives of Color Committee (MOCC) and Chair of the Gender Equity Task Force (GETF). I have opportunities to revise, edit, comment on, and propose position statements; and committee conversations with high-level leadership at ACOG.
These are examples of change I give to new midwives when they ask me, “Why do you serve in leadership?” The number of new midwives who have reached out to me since I’ve joined the Board is astounding. They want to know whether the conversations I am able to have are pushing boundaries and are welcomed, and how others could be engaged in similar and different ways. I share nothing but rave reviews about the mentorship I have received as a new Board member, the support system in place through my co-leaders and in the volunteer leadership structure, and the opportunities to expand my own learning and participation. New midwives seek opportunities within the College and want to be involved in ways meaningful to both their own intentions and the historical and future work of ACNM. This is a call to recognize those people who have already sought engagement, to encourage those who are considering doing so, and to challenge midwives experienced in the College to encourage that engagement.
I hope that my presence on the Board as an easily identifiable new face and thus new midwife, my openness about my identification in the queer community, my vocal work in full-scope midwifery, and my intentions to create space for people of color, will in some way pave the way forward for those who have not yet considered being involved, but for whom these topics remain vitally important to their work as midwives, and thus important to ACNM. And I look forward to hearing from membership what other work I can do in my remaining time in term!