July was a month of catching up: with myself, with deadlines, with life around me. And suddenly, here’s the middle of August, demanding sleep and reflection and relaxation. None of which I am particularly good at accomplishing on demand, but must negotiate nonetheless.
Yesterday, my parents sent me a beautiful card in the mail. My mind was overwhelmed with lots of feelings and ideas and reflections, and even though I tore open the envelope, I did not get around to reading the card. I bought a candle and a new mug yesterday, knowing that I wanted today to feel more focused and filled with planned self care. This morning, as I started to make my coffee, I saw the opened envelope and remembered. What I read were pure messages of support and love and strength, knowing that the past few weeks have been tough in my world. What a beautiful image of relentless perseverance, pushing rocks, simply to enact one’s own intention. And, somehow, the three items together are a place of pure energy from which to begin the rest of my week.
Let’s sit down with our caffeine, take a breath, and reflect on the month behind and the month ahead. Are you feeling caught up with life, or are there things you are still chasing? What did July rush you through, and what is August demanding of you? What images and items and moments are starting points for your energy lately?
Taking a few sips of the hot coffee, I’d admit that I have yet to fully process everything that happened at the 60th ACNM Annual Meeting: being sworn in as Secretary, wrapping up my time as Co-Chair of the Students and New Midwives Section (SANMS), being totally overwhelmed by how many people recognized me from this blog and said incredibly kind words about my writing, and the new roles in which I find myself on the other side of it all. I absolutely loved writing about the work of the Midwives in Support of Reproductive Health and Abortion (MSRHA) in creating the “Midwives for Reproductive Justice” ribbons at the meeting, and encouraging others to get involved. More to come on my personal reflection of my writing and the recognition of it… Meanwhile, here are a few of my favorite ACNM photos to hold you over
Some way cool people at the Nursing Students for Choice Table.
Me, gushing over the coolness of Marinah Farrell, MANA President.
Amy Levi and Maura Larkin, reproductive justice goddesses.
Incoming Board Members: Lisa Kane Low and myself.
Chicago midwifery love: Judy Schlaeger and Liz Gabzdyl
Friend and girl crush Francie Likis.
Robin of Mindful Midwife, cool new friend, Tara Cardinal of NSFC and Miscarriage Management fame, and Lena of Notes from a Student Midwife
Immediately after the meeting, I was lucky enough to spend 24 hours with one of my closest friends and her newest family member, the adorable-ness of which is not to be ignored.
And, in case viewing pictures of my family doesn’t have you totally distracted from the task at hand of drinking caffeine and being present with each other, here is a series of my mother and I.
Then, I spent a whirlwind weekend in New Orleans with E, drinking heartily and eating beignets and snowballs and absorbing the life.
Returning home, I resigned from a job I have held for three years, only to find out (weeks later, mind you) that my end date needed to be different from that which I had proposed. The details of this aren’t important, but what felt important at the time was the ownership of my body and my work and realizing that a contract with my signature on it meant that I had little control over my own placement in my world. (Hence the card from my parents.) Thanks to the kindness and support of friends and family, I made it through that time with what felt like hands moving me along a crowd-surfing experience. Logistics are worked out and life moves on, like it always does, and now I’m on the other side, which is so hard to imagine in the midst of things.
As part of the weeks of resigning and believing I was finished, I began saying goodbye to the women and families who I have been honored to serve for years. I was unprepared for the responses: from some, an outpouring of gratitude and love and “how do I find you?”‘s; while from others, a curt goodbye and “who will take care of me next?”s… all of which felt appropriate and personal, though jarring and unexpected in their own ways. Another processing for another post, I’m sure.
To complete this circle of thought, I have accepted a job at a new place, which I will share more about as the time comes closer. To say I am thrilled at this new opportunity is an understatement… more to come.
Then, the month continued to rush and pull me forward with it: birthdays, galas, family visiting, friends, and then off for a few days of camping and concerts.
My media consumption has yet to slow down, you’ll be happy to know. Musically, I cannot step away from Reina Williams, Noah Gunderson, and, as always, Brandi Carlile, the latter of whom I saw a week ago for the (third?) time this year. I’m knee-deep in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, and recently purchased Mona Eltahawy’s Headscarves and Hymens, Brittney Griner’s In My Skin, and Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born. In transit to my home is Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, Emily Nagoski’s Come As You Are, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. Lastly, and constantly, Mary Oliver gives me one poem a day to feed my soul. In terms of articles that have been revving me up, you knew there’d be a list… here’s what I’ve been sharing on the Facebook page that doesn’t make it over to the blog:
- 12 Emerging Feminist Gamechangers
- Health worker roles in providing safe abortion care and post-abortion contraception
- Are women’s birth sounds silenced in the hospital?
Another post to come on the multitude of tabs opened on my phone, between Chrome and Safari…
My compression socks from Vim&Vigr are keeping me alive on the long day and night shifts standing with wom@n, friends recently introduced me to What’s App, I recently splurged on a ridiculous number of cards and stationary at World Market, where I finally bought plastic stemless wine cups for patio drinking. Lastly, I finally tried out Rent the Runway and LOVED IT.
In the rush and the bustle, I have neglected many of my inner circle of friends, who, somehow, someway, support me and reach out and love me regardless of my minimal contact. Ellie, Lilian, Kelly, Andi, Francie, Tina, and Paula… I know you all read this, and thank you for that. I love you and will be in touch with all of you so, so soon. Relatedly, I have new and awesome friendships with Missy, Adrienne, Leslie, and… myself. Working on that last one the most. (Also, naming the awesome people in my life reminds me of them, their importance to me, and their realness in a world that feels mostly like technology a lot of the time. Name yours!)
And now, here I find myself with a week off. With all intentions of accomplishing some big writing projects and home cleaning and decorating, I spent 2.5 days floating between the pool and reading and laundry and television, which in no way feels squandered. Now, this morning, I am renewed and reinvigorated and re-intentioned, with tasks to check off the list and music to dance to in the in-between.
So, August, here I am. Caught up mentally and physically, and ready to continue the work I love and by which I am impassioned in all things. I have the strength I create myself. I have the love of my family. I have the beauty of my friendships. And I have the confidence of knowing what is next paired with the optimism to know I can handle the surprises.
What about you?
Until next month, may you catch up and rest, or dance, in the in-between.
This post originates on the Nursing Students for Choice (NSFC) blog.
The American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) recently celebrated its 60th Anniversary with a gathering of over 2,000 members in Washington, DC. Prior to this meeting, a caucus within the college, Midwives in Support of Reproductive Health and Abortion (MSRHA), initiated a discussion of a how to publicly represent its membership in a way that would align with other public symbols of identifiable groups at the meeting. A tradition at ACNM, as with many conferences, is to announce involvement in College groups by wearing colorful ribbons on the conference badge, examples of which include “Preceptor,” “Future Midwife,” and “Speaker,” among many others. MSRHA asked, and received, a ribbon for distribution: “Midwife for Reproductive Justice.” Reproductive justice is the phrase that is used to represent the complexity of the needs of women seeking sexual and reproductive health care. The SisterSong Collective describes the reproductive justice movement as follows:
“The reproductive justice framework – the right to have children, not have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments — is based on the human right to make personal decisions about one’s life, and the obligation of government and society to ensure that the conditions are suitable for implementing one’s decisions.
Reproductive justice addresses the social reality of inequality, specifically, the inequality of opportunities that we have to control our reproductive destiny. Our options for making choices have to be safe, affordable and accessible, three minimal cornerstones of government support for all individual life decisions.”
“Choice” is well-recognized as not all-encompassing of the complexities of abortion access, economy, education, community, employment, sexuality, gender expression, religion, etc. One word just doesn’t cut it anymore: a broad movement is more nuanced and inclusive, as well as representative of the work to be done. Importantly, this linguistic and community work toward intersectionality was initiated and continues forward with force by indigenous women and women of color, a history not to be lost or co-opted as the movement gains momentum. Similarly, but not in mutual exclusion, many identify midwifery as a broad movement: toward physiologic birth, holistic care, informed consent, reproductive rights, and better integrated healthcare teams. The reproductive justice framework provides us with a unifying approach to ensure that we are addressing women in the complexity of their lives, and in respect for their human rights. As midwives, we are all encouraged to support and advance women’s comprehensive reproductive health and wellbeing, as outlined in the ACNM statement on “Reproductive Choices”:
“The American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) affirms the following:
- Every woman has the right to make reproductive health choices that meet her individual needs;
- Every woman has the right to access factual, evidence based, unbiased information about available reproductive health choices, in order to make an informed decision;
- Women with limited means should have available financial resources to support access to services to meet their reproductive health care needs.”
This is also consistent with the ICM Position Statement on “Midwives’ Provision of Abortion-Related Services”:
“ICM affirms that a woman who seeks or requires abortion-related services is entitled to be provided with such services by midwives… The education of midwives should prepare them for their role in providing abortion-related services that ensure safety and wellbeing for the woman.”
Neither the midwifery nor the reproductive justice movement efforts exist in a vacuum. The individuals we serve are part of our daily passion and motivation toward justice, respect, humanity, and medically accurate education and healthcare provision. Midwives and Nurse Practitioners well know that there is never just one component to an exam, nor a history, nor a personal story: it is a beautiful and ornate web of life and experience and subjectivity and objectivity and truth and pain and progress and history. For a glimpse in time and an example of intersectionality… While ACNM gathered and discussed latest research, built community, challenged ideas, strategically planned for the future, and celebrated leaders in our community, many events pertinent to the reproductive justice movement dominated the headlines.
- SCOTUS rulings on gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act
- Bree Newsome removing the Confederate Flag
- Donald Trump’s racist comments about immigrants
- Black Churches being burned in the South
- Wisconsin passes 20 week abortion ban
- SCOTUS debates abortion access
There is no way to separate these issues from discussions of intended pregnancy, access to accurate information, finances, education, safety, racism, equality, healthcare, family, or community. There. Is. No. Way. Political leaders and young activists are doing great work to normalize abortion. Physicians are opening birth centers that also provide abortion care. Feminists of color are breaking down historically white walls. Writers title articles “Free Abortion On Demand Without Apology.” Radical birth workers are publishing and motivating community. The movement is forceful and passionate and led by some amazing people.
Within ACNM, a major effort toward furthering midwifery’s involvement in reproductive justice is through a task force entitled “Diversification and Inclusion.” Conversations about diversity can be complicated on both sides, but that in no way diminishes their importance. If anything, honesty and boldness are even more important in the growth process as injustices are identified and work that has been done by midwives of color is adequately recognized and white midwives and leadership begin the work to make change within themselves, as we jointly work within the organization as a whole. As midwifery fully recognizes its history (ACNM was founded on the premise that black midwives in the south be included equally in the organization’s founding) and eliminating a white revision of midwifery’s origins in this country (black midwives in the south traversing difficult rural terrain to provider birth care well before and during the Mary Breckinridge era, Guatemalan midwives teaching Ina May Gaskin the maneuver that now bears the latter’s name), only then can we move forward in understanding how midwifery needs to, must, and can align with the reproductive justice movement in proceeding forward in our collective intentions. Find your own path within reproductive justice. Wear ribbons and buttons and tattoos and your words out loud. Challenge your organizations to do more. Speak the words “abortion” and “midwifery” and “nursing” in the same sentence. Spread the history and the movement of reproductive justice at every turn. Elevate the voices of those who are powerful but unseen or unheard. Do more, everyday, every moment, with everything you have: we each deserve it, the individuals and families we serve deserve it, and the future we create together deserves it. Learn more about the history of the reproductive justice movement by following SisterSong and Forward Together.
Learn more about ACNM’s Diversification and Inclusion Task Force and the 2015-2020 Strategic Plan. If you are a midwife, join ACNM here and become a part of this conversation. As a member you are able to join caucuses and listservs such as Midwives in Support of Reproductive Health and Abortion. For more information about MSRHA, contact our Chair Amy Levi, CNM, PhD at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks to Amy Levi for her contributions to this post.
The views expressed in this blog are not intended to represent the official positions of ACNM.
Stephanie Tillman is a midwife in Chicago, IL, where she works at a Federally Qualified Health Center serving a predominantly Spanish-speaking community and attending birth at inner city hospitals. She has served as a Board Member of Nursing Students for Choice (NSFC) since October 2014, and joined the ACNM Board of Directors in July 2015. Stephanie founded Feminist Midwife in 2012, and through the blog and social media she continues to write about feminist and human rights issues in medicine and midwifery, engaging in and promoting work of the reproductive justice movement, and elevating conversations around women, health, and care. Follow her: facebook.com/FeministMidwife, @FeministMidwife on Twitter and Instagram.
Read more about the film and the follow-up at PBS.
“South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation is no stranger to strife and heartbreak, stark realities, and inspired idealism. In Young Lakota, we are brought directly into the emotional and often uncertain journey of Sunny Clifford, her twin sister Serena, and their politically ambitious friend Brandon Ferguson, who all share the desire to make a difference for themselves and their community.
Their political awakening begins when Cecelia Fire Thunder — the first female president of the Oglala Lakota — defies a South Dakota law that makes abortion a crime, even in cases of rape or incest. Fire Thunder takes a stand by proposing a women’s health clinic providing abortions on the reservation but open to all local women. While Serena is unwed and with a toddler, and Brandon is raising two little boys, Sunny is just back on the reservation after two years in college. All three find themselves immersed in this political battle as they struggle between opportunity and principle.
Fire Thunder’s bold proposal is seen by some as grandstanding, and the tribe becomes divided over both the abortion issue and Fire Thunder herself. Ultimately, Fire Thunder is impeached by her political enemies inside the tribal government (perhaps with the help of the South Dakota political right), an act that sets off a chain reaction in the lives of Sunny, Serena, and Brandon. Young Lakota shows the diverging paths they begin to take, and the complex interplay of personal choice, cultural, economic, and political circumstance that defines who they are and what kind of adults they will become.”
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m a tab-opener, who desires to be a tab-closer. Truth be told, on my cell phone, I have 100 (even more truthfully, more like 150) tabs open between Safari and Chrome. I know, I know, this is out of control. Part of my issue is I want to remember all the things I desire to read, but then don’t take the time to do so. Here, I share with you what I am reading right now, and, thusly, may close the tabs and feel both fulfilled and accomplished. Join me in reading, and thinking
Regarding the links below…
I was so, so moved by the piece by Sara Zia Ibrahimi on the “burden” of children, or at least her experience as a mother entering spaces of those without children and being made to feel like inclusion of those future “revolutionaries” was an insult rather than an invite. As someone who does not desire children, I adore those who are considerate in their work to raise strong people and am thrilled to bring them into radical spaces and introduce them to ideas of family and community and progress and dialogue, at whatever age. To think about having children in a space where, perhaps, we read aloud the piece by Alice Walker and think about it as a group, consider the collective work of reproductive justice and all of our contributions to it, discuss intentionality and cross-sectionality in career paths like in the piece by Robin Marty, and consider international birth issues like access to water in the video curated by Upworthy… what an opportunity to hear the voices of the young, to allow community to mean not just the now but the future, to have our thoughts challenged by those with minds wide open, and to grow within and throughout… Also, kudos to WHO on their latest publication, particularly for reinforcing the need for a consistent classification system as we move forward with interpretation of cesarean section data on population levels.
“…For the sake of women and infants health, the WHO said physicians should focus on providing the surgery at a case by case basis. “Every effort should be made to provide caesarean sections to women in need, rather than striving to achieve a specific rate,” the report said…” To reach the World Health Organization Executive Summary, read here.
Mutha Magazine: Whose burden? Sara Zia Ibrahimi
“…When did children stop being seen as a part of all of our existence and survival? Even if you are a dedicated self-identified radical, don’t you need more children to continue to carry out the revolution? And, we were all children once. Why isn’t it in everyone’s interest to want to provide more intergenerational spaces where children get to witness more of the world and connect with more people?
As someone who never wanted kids originally, I understand the resistance to “taking on the burden” of other peoples’ children. Culturally, most communities don’t respect peoples’ choices to not have children. People who choose to be child-free often feel marginalized. It’s further compounded with the weight of heteronormativity, patriarchy, and all the feelings of being devalued that come with them…
…If I work toward creating a world where you aren’t burdened with the expectations of having children, can you work toward one that allows me, and my child, to be included?…”
“Doris, who lives Morogoro, Tanzania, had to bring her own water to the health center where she was giving birth in 2014. The water she brought was used to clean the nurse’s hands, clean the delivery area, and wash the babies (she had twins!). Unfortunately, the water Doris brought ran out before she was able to wash herself or her clothes, so she had to wait 24 hours before cleaning herself…” See the video at the original website above.
“…Abortion, for many women, is more than an experience of suffering beyond anything most men will ever know; it is an act of mercy, and an act of self-defense.
To make abortion illegal again is to sentence millions of women and children to miserable lives and even more miserable deaths.
Given his history, in relation to us, I think the white man should be ashamed to attempt to speak for the unborn children of the black woman. To force us to have children for him to ridicule, drug and turn into killers and homeless wanderers is a testament to his hypocrisy…”
“…I have never had a point where I didn’t think this was the right thing to do. I didn’t know how being a family physician was going to be — I just simply liked helping women, and I thought it was a simple, safe procedure that could change their lives. I had a mentor here in Phoenix that took me under his wing and taught me after-hours. Once I started doing it more and more, and I started offering it in my private practice, the need became so great. Other doctors have told me that as well. Of course, doctors don’t usually offer it in their family practices anymore, but 10 or 20 years ago, it was more common, back when I started.
Obviously, 95 percent of gynecologists in 1973 were male and they would see the ravages of illegal abortion and knew the damage done to women and see the effects it had on women, and it was compelling to them. But now I think I certainly see it from a woman’s perspective. Having gone through pregnancies, childbirth, miscarriages, I can see how important it is to control your fertility. It becomes personal. I can feel for my patients. I can relate to their concerns…”