Midwife of the Week: Josefina Saraf

josefinasaraf Josefina Saraf is a Florida Licensed Midwife practicing at The Birth Center in Winter Garden, Florida. Josefina immigrated to the United States from Chile in 2012, having earned a degree in Nurse Midwifery from the University of Frontera in 2007. Subsequently, she served as a nurse-midwife in Chile’s Health Department, providing prenatal care, birth control and gynecology services, as well as counseling women on sexual and reproductive health issues. In the Orlando area, Josefina is one of the bilingual midwives, nurses, and doulas who facilitate a support group, childbirth classes, and clinical exams for Spanish-speaking women and their families. This Latina Midwife lives the Center’s vision that “all women deserve a healthy pregnancy, birth and baby.” For more information about Josefina Saraf, please visit http://www.commonsensechildbirth.org/our-team/.

 Midwife of the Week post was written by Anna Boone. It originated on FoMM’s Facebook page and is archived here on our website for your continued enjoyment!
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Midwife of the Week: Debbie Allen

Debbie Allen, LM, CPM says the experience surrounding her first birth led her to the home births of her second and third children. These two births became the inspiration to practice as a doula for seventeen years and eventually become a Certified Professional Midwife in 2008. The fact that Black women and babies are much more likely to die during or shortly after birth is unacceptable to Debbie; she is dedicated to reducing these racial disparities by providing quality education and support to women of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Debbie is the Director of Tribe Midwifery in Los Angeles, which offers well woman care, doula and monitrice services, childbirth education, and placenta encapsulation, in addition to midwifery care. Debbie also attends births at the Los Angeles Community Birth Center, where Racha Tahani Lawler, a previous FOMM Midwife of the Week, is the Director. For more information on Debbie, visit tribemidwifery.com.

This Midwife of the Week post was written by Valerie Meharg. It originated on FoMM’s Facebook page and is archived here on our website for your continued enjoyment!

Midwife of the Week: Karen Kamyszek

karenkamyszekKaren Kamyszek served Northern Michigan, and at times Canada, for over thirty years. Even when she was not fully compensated for her work, Karen would often travel long distances to provide care in the northeast Upper and Lower Peninsulas, which remain underserved areas to this day.

For sixteen years, Karen lived in and cared for Forty Mile Point Light in Rogers City, which led to her nickname of “Lighthouse Midwife.” She was the Assistant Educational Director for the Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery and served on the Board of the Michigan Midwives Association for two years. In 2006, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American College of Traditional Midwives.

Karen died of breast cancer in 2007. For more information on Karen Kamyszek, visit http://traditionalmidwife.com/Karen.html.

This Midwife of the Week post was written by Valerie Meharg. It originated on FoMM’s Facebook page and is archived here on our website for your continued enjoyment!

Midwife of the Week: Sarah Davis

sarahdavisSarah Davis, LM, CPM, IBCLC was attending Pomona College working towards a degree in Black Studies when she began volunteering as a doula in 2003. Her experience as a doula, along with her interests in women’s health and feminism, drew her towards a career in midwifery. She began her training at a Texas birth center and then returned to her home state of California to begin an apprenticeship. In 2010, she opened Birth Root’s Women’s Health and Maternity center with her partner, Darynee Blount, LM, CPM.

California’s recent passage of SB 407 enables Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) coverage for CPM care. Under the law, CPMs can practice without obstetric supervision, legally obtain medications and supplies, and order diagnostic testing. Sarah, as the legislation and policy chair for the California Association of Midwives, said of the new law: “We are thrilled that, thanks to the passage of SB 407, California families of all income levels will have increased access to licensed midwives and the low-cost, high-value care that they provide in birth centers and home births.”
For more information about Sarah Davis, visit http://birthrootsbabies.com/about/.

This Midwife of the Week post was written by Valerie Meharg. It originated on FoMM’s Facebook page and is archived here on our website for your continued enjoyment!

Midwife of the Week: Karen Webster

Karen Webster (L) with Priya Morgenstern, attorney

Karen Webster (L) with Priya Morgenstern, attorney

Karen Webster, CPM began working in midwifery as an assistant, receiving her training from both Certified Nurse-Midwives and direct entry midwives. She became the first Certified Professional Midwife in both Delaware and Maryland, and was one of the first in Pennsylvania. She has served on the Board of Directors for MANA, currently as its regional conference chair. She also acts as a preceptor for the National College of Midwifery and BirthWise Midwifery School and as a Qualified Evaluator for NARM.

After 2002, Delawareʼs restrictive regulations required all direct entry midwives to maintain a formal collaborative relationship with a physician in order to obtain a permit. Physicians, however, were under no responsibility to enter such relationships; in fact, most were prohibited from doing so by employers and insurers. Consequently, only one midwife was granted a permit before new law was enacted in 2015. That midwife’s collaborating physician required her to limit her practice to the Amish and Mennonite communities, because of the belief that religious custom prevents those communities from filing lawsuits.

In 2012, Karen was charged with practicing medicine without a license. Even though her legal costs were high and attorneys willing to take her case were scarce, she was ultimately able to proceed all the way to the Delaware Supreme Court with the help of monetary assistance from consumers and support of legal advocates.

Karen’s defense asserted that because Delaware had implemented a permitting process for midwives under the state’s public health department, charges brought against her under the Board of Medicine were jurisdictionally incorrect. Unfortunately, early this year the lower courtʼs decision was upheld.

Nevertheless, the outcome was not entirely negative. Under subsequently enacted legislation, Delaware CPMs will soon be able to be licensed and to practice autonomously. Thanks to this latest development, Karen feels that despite her loss in court, her case was worth fighting, because it led to change for other Delaware midwives – and therefore also for many families who wish to have their births attended by certified, regulated CPMs.

For more background on Karen or her case, visit savethemidwife.com.

This Midwife of the Week post was written by Valerie Meharg. It originated on FoMM’s Facebook page and is archived here on our website for your continued enjoyment!

Midwife of the Week: Carol Gautschi

carolgautschiCarol Gautschi, CPM, LM trained with physicians in California during the 1970s. Since 1979 she has attended home births on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, where she has practiced continuously longer than any other midwife in the area. Even though she was unlicensed for a good portion of her career, she later founded the Washington Alliance for Responsible Midwifery, which promotes quality, legal maternity care options by working with legislators, birth professionals, and consumers. She is also the chairwoman for Birth Matters, a consumer group that works to increase the public awareness of home birth. Carol writes for Midwifery Today and teaches workshops all over the world. For more information on Carol Gautschi visit gentlebirths.net.

This Midwife of the Week post was written by Valerie Meharg. It originated on FoMM’s Facebook page and is archived here on our website for your continued enjoyment!

Midwife of the Week: Vicki Penwell

vickipenwellVicki Penwell has been providing evidence-based midwifery care, rooted in respect and kindness, to women and their babies since 1983. A Certified Professional Midwife, she also holds a Masters of Science in Midwifery and a Masters of Arts in Intercultural Studies. Vicki and her husband Scott have lived and served poor populations in Alaska, Mexico, and the Philippines; they have set up birth centers and trained local midwives in all three locations.
In the Philippines, they founded Mercy in Action, an organization that runs the non-profit Mercy Midwives Birthing Center, that provides free care to the poorest families in the region. Its newborn outcomes rank four times better than the national average; the maternal outcomes rank eight times better! The birth center also provides skills training for local midwives, and education and apprenticeship opportunities for local student midwives.
In the United States, the Penwells founded the Mercy in Action Midwifery School in order to train future CPMs. Vicki is an outspoken voice in the midwifery community for increasing access for women of color and indigenous populations, both to midwifery care and to training in midwifery. She furthers this goal at Mercy in Action Midwifery School by offering scholarships to women of color. For more information about Vicki Penwell and her organization, visit www.mercyinaction.com
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This Midwife of the Week post was written by Emile Van Meter. It originated on FoMM’s Facebook page and is archived here on our website for your continued enjoyment!

Midwife of the Week: Hanna Porn

norfolk county courthouse

A historical Massachusetts courthouse.

Hannah Porn, a Finnish immigrant who trained at the Chicago Midwife Institute, practiced in Gardner, Massachusetts, serving mostly immigrants’ and laborers’ wives. Family practice doctors in the area felt that Porn’s very successful midwifery practice cut into physicians’ work attending births. At their instigation, Hannah was repeatedly arrested, undergoing four court trials in ten years. She left no writings to tell her story, but in 1908 was quoted as saying, “The reason I continued the business, after being told by the court to stop the work, is that I thought the law is unjust.” At the end of this trial she was convicted of practicing medicine without a license and sentenced to three months in prison. However, Hannah never gave up her practice; municipal birth records show that she attended the birth of a baby boy the very day of her death. For a detailed article on Hannah Porn, see Eugene R. Declercq’s article, The Trials of Hanna Porn: The Campaign to Abolish Midwifery in Massachusetts.

This Midwife of the Week post was written by Valerie Meharg. It originated on FoMM’s Facebook page and is archived here on our website for your continued enjoyment!

Midwife of the Week: Onnie Lee Logan

onnieleeloganOnnie Lee Logan puts her birth “somewhere about 1910″ — birth records were often not filed for Black babies in the South during that time. Onnie’s mother and grandmother, who had been a slave, were also midwives. Even though Onnie delivered nearly all the babies in her community, she nevertheless had to supplement her income by working as a maid. Most of the families she served as midwife could afford to pay her little or nothing.

motherwitAlabama encouraged local health departments in 1976 to revoke all permits of non-nurse midwives, but Onnie held such a reputation that she was allowed to continue her practice until 1984. In the same year, Onnie met Katherine Clark, who had come to Mobile to teach English at the University of South Alabama. Katherine helped Onnie to bypass her literacy barriers by recording many hours of Onnie’s stories and editing them into what became Motherwit: An Alabama Midwife’s Story. Onnie passed away in July of 1995. For more information see this New York Times article.

This Midwife of the Week post was written by Valerie Meharg. It originated on FoMM’s Facebook page and is archived here on our website for your continued enjoyment!

Midwife of the Week: Karen Ehrlich

karenehrlichKaren Ehrlich began attending births as a doula in 1974, then apprenticed with a midwife for just one year before her mentor sent her out on her own. The Supreme Court in California had declared pregnancy to be a “condition,” making midwives vulnerable to prosecution for practicing medicine without a license. Ehrlich was active in the movement to decriminalize midwifery in California in the late seventies. She helped write three bills that were not enacted; a fourth finally passed in 1990. Later Ehrlich obtained a masters degree from Goddard College, where she wrote her thesis, Life is a Sexually Transmitted Condition: The Sexuality of Labor and Birth. For more information, visit karenehrlich.org.

This Midwife of the Week post was written by Valerie Meharg. It originated on FoMM’s Facebook page and is archived here on our website for your continued enjoyment!