Magazine article Rural Cooperatives

Turning Solitude into Solidarity: Montana Midwives Co-Op Helping to Improve Conditions for Workers and Clients

Magazine article Rural Cooperatives

Turning Solitude into Solidarity: Montana Midwives Co-Op Helping to Improve Conditions for Workers and Clients

Article excerpt

Midwives in America have a deep love for women and a reverence for the normal process of birth. Studies show that women find midwifery care to be highly satisfying. Although midwives are licensed in most states, they are often overlooked, misunderstood and even invalidated within the obstetrics field.

They serve long, tireless hours--often at low, or for no wages, depending upon the financial welfare of our clients. Midwives usually work in solo practice, take little time off and are on-call for their women clients, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Because of these practice conditions, many midwives do not have the physical and emotional support they need and are susceptible to alienation and frustration--even fatigue and burnout over time. In Montana, the great distances that often separate midwives add to the challenges of providing support for each other.

Co-op idea takes root

In the summer of 2010, an idea took root that perhaps midwives in Montana could band together, pool resources and practice in closer proximity to each other, turning solitude into solidarity. The idea followed to create a "hospital" for midwives, where member midwives could practice alongside each other, enhancing their ability to provide the best possible care to clients.

But what business framework was best to use?

A corporation seemed ill-suited to our ideology, and we were not interested in a partnership. An Internet search led to the concept of a cooperative. It seemed to be the perfect model for this new venture!

We needed resources to help us along the path, to learn how a cooperative really works and what we would need to do to start a co-op. We connected with the Montana Cooperative Development Center, where CEO Brian Gion and the staff led us through every step in forming a cooperative. They helped us form as a Montana legal entity, answered our questions and offered to make site visits, as necessary--all free of charge. …

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