Magazine article Herizons

Giving Birth to New Traditions

Magazine article Herizons

Giving Birth to New Traditions

Article excerpt

Call it a generational moment. My crew is suddenly breeding. Hardly a revolutionary concept. Or is it?

What happens when radical race-, class- and gender-conscious hell-raisers start to multiply in the belly of the beast?

We look into the recovery of the sacred birthing rituals of our ancestors. We comb our histories for the revolutionary names that will act as the living invocation of the memory of dissent and resistance. We start talking midwives, doulas and birthing centres.

And very quickly it becomes obvious that we're still a long way from home.

Although midwifery was traditionally practiced in both the Aboriginal and colonial communities of Canada, the practice was mostly eradicated with the consolidation of a more interventionist medical establishment during the last century. In the 1970s, however, a midwifery movement emerged that called for the revitalization of the profession. By the mid-to-late 1990s, Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta had all introduced legislation to regulate midwifery.

It's all very encouraging. So how come it's still virtually invisible in communities of colour in Canada, many of which have strong and relatively recent histories of the practice?

According to Sheryl Nestel, whose doctoral thesis examined race and gender in the re-emergence of midwifery in Ontario, racialized minority women represented nearly half of the women who inquired about having prior midwifery training recognized in the period immediately following legalization. Yet in 2000, they comprised just 10 percent of registered midwives in the province.

In Montreal, one of two birthing centres where mothers can birth with midwives is in Cote-des-Neiges, one of the most concentrated immigrant areas in the city. Yet only 14 percent of the people who use the centre come from the neighbourhood, and many of the local residents and community organizations have only come across it by chance. …

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