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Midwife Leaves Illinois After Legal Harassment

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I am leaving Chicago, where I have lived for all of my 36 years and practiced for 9.  Some of you have kept in touch regarding the midwifery hassles here in Illinois (Chicago), and they haven't gotten any better.  In brief, 2 years ago, the Dept of Professional Regulations, without provocation, started issuing cease and desist orders to Chicago area midwives.  There were no complaints or bad outcomes to preface this move, and there is no law in IL prohibiting DEmidwifery.  For those who want all the details, you can go to the website Home Birth and Midwives Support Network for Illinois www.geocities.com/Wellesley/5510.  We have been told that since there is no law regarding DEMidwifery in IL, we are being cited for practicing medicine without a license under the Medical Practice Act which governs MDs, DOs and DCs in IL (a class 4 felony).  We challenge anyone to show us a law prohibiting us in IL, and that is, in fact, what 2 of us are doing in our lawsuit that we brought against the state of IL 20 months ago.  That suit is still pending.  I was happy and proud in the work I was doing, and I was supporting my family with a very comfortable salary from midwifery alone.  It is common in this country for the "establishment" to take down midwives who are doing well in their communities.  I've lost all that in the last 2 years.  Chicago was a great place to practice...we were proud that women had so many choices...homebirth DEMs, CNMs, MDs.

I just won't be an underground midwife.  I tried, even earned myself a graduation right on up to a restraining order for violating my cease and desist order.  I was ambivalent about being the Chicago poster child for midwifery by getting arrested on a felony, although I did entertain the idea a number of times.  Guess I'm no Rosa Parks.  This didn't stop women from wanting homebirths; in fact, I got several calls every time I was in the paper or on TV, because FINALLY, they'd found a midwife, and "bummer about the state, but would I be their midwife?"  This crap made it less optimal for families, and in my opinion, less safe.  I am an open, honest midwife, and it felt wrong to start telling clients they may have to lie for me, cover up for me, not tell their families I was their midwife if I happened to be on the TV news that week.  I wasn't as worried for myself about getting arrested, but I felt an obligation to all the women that would still be pregnant and waiting for me.  I didn't want to be responsible for turmoil in the middle of their pregnancies, even though they chose me, fully aware of the circumstances.  It has been so hard to turn women away when they call, when they beg for me to "just attend THEIR birth," even harder to not be able to give them too many other resources.  Birth became not fun anymore, I wasn't enjoying it the same way, I was losing confidence in the process, as I tried to watch my own back.  When I started to feel FEAR around the birth process, when it became hard to distinguish the source of the fear, when I started to sigh relief after every birth, I knew I had to stop.  Fear has no place in birth.

Several midwives are leaving Chicago or midwifery because of this, leaving their homes, their families, the practices we have worked years to create.  After much soul-searching, I decided I had to leave home, too.  I can't be a midwife here, and I can't NOT be a midwife.  My one stipulation was we had to go to a state that was licensed, as I didn't want to live through the ambiguity again.  I possess three state licenses to choose from, and I decided to move to San Diego, California.  Sure, not perfect there, but while I couldn't stay in IL because of midwifery, I am moving there for more reasons besides midwifery, and over the last year, I have become comfortable and even excited in my decision.  Still, today, I feel sadness as I made it REAL by giving my clinic job notice.  There is so much I am leaving behind, and I feel forced out.  I feel sadness and anger for those women who really know they want midwives like me to attend them and who now will find themselves with an even greater shortage.  After having practiced here 9 years, I'd started to attend the fourth and fifth babies in a row in some families.  That felt special.  These people are part of my family, and I will leave them behind.  I want to stamp my feet and scream, IT'S NOT FAIR!!

As many of us do, I am trying to find the good in all this.  When my own homebirth plans resulted in an unnecessary CS of my only child 14 years ago, I learned to rejoice in the lessons I learned that helped me to later become a good midwife.  I have no idea how I will earn a living there, but I am hopeful that San Diego will bring me great joy and many experiences I would never have had if I'd stayed in Chicago.  My life partner accepted a job there 3 months ago in anticipation of the move, and we've been separated since.  My son and I follow in 6 weeks.  I am excited at the challenge of new beginnings, but I am also intimidated and fearful that I won't be accepted into the already-established community there.  I've grown up as a midwife here; I've been known in the homebirth community in Chicago for many years, and I don't want to be the new kid on the block.  But I've attended some difficult births, and sometimes we don't finish the birth at home.  Maybe I'll just look at it as a transport for Illinois's failure to progress.

This Web page is referenced from other pages containing related information about For Parents - How to Get the Best Care and Legal Aspects of Midwifery


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