The Baby And The Bathwater

Midwife and Jessica Breese, a Certified Nurse ...
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And the mother and the midwife.  If you haven’t heard the news on this, the nursing faculty at the University of Washington voted to eliminate their nurse midwifery program. News of the pre-Christmas faculty vote is now making headlines and creating controversy. Several weeks ago there was an impassioned opinion piece about the faculty’s decision, circulated by the listserve for the American Association of University Professors. Today in the Seattle Times, Danny Westneat published a column “UW School of Nursing’s Priorities Can No Longer Bear Midwives.” (1-15-12).

I love nurse midwives and tried to have one deliver my son a quarter century ago. But since I lived in the south—and did I mention it was a quarter century ago?—and had an extremely benign heart arrhythmia and maybe had been exposed to TB by a homeless patient, I was deemed too high risk to rate a midwife. In labor, I went to a birthing center to have my son and was doing just fine with the nurses there and with no real medical intervention—until some uptight female OB/GYN who I’d never met came clicking down the hallway in insanely high heels, yelled at me not to push until she returned—she had to go park her car—and clicked back down the hallway. I wanted to kick her or at least fire her. I’m sure it would have been a better birthing experience if I’d had a nurse midwife.

I’ve worked with nurse midwives in a variety of community-based health settings and they provide wonderful women-centric primary care. It will be interesting to see what emerges in the continuing—hopefully public—debate over the fate of nurse midwives at the University of Washington.

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