Midwifery Education

Midwifery licensure is a product of colonialism

June 23, 2021

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We are mamas and birth workers who decided to do birth differently– and bring others along with us. We are kind, fun to work with, and great at (lovingly) calling people on their bullshit when necessary. With 11 children and 16 years of midwifery between us, we’ve learned a thing or two along the way, and Indie Birth is our space to share it all with you.


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I have written and spoken about the evils of midwifery licensure in many places, but recently had the desire to write about it again from this perspective, that occupational licensure like midwifery licensure is a product of colonialism and the dissolution of true communities.

Can you imagine living in a close knit community that helps each other, grows up with each other, shares ritual, ceremony, meals, births, deaths, and marriages? Where you know the names and families that live in community with you? And can you imagine those same people demanding that you show that you are licensed to be a barber, a home builder, or a midwife? Of course not. It makes no sense. In the presence of true community, certifications and licensure would be irrelevent or even offensive. Licensure only exists in the vacuum left behind when we rip communities apart through capitalism, industrialism, borders, war, slavery in all its forms (including wage slavery), lifeless institutions (hospitals, daycares, schools, prisons), isolation of families, the destruction of the earth, and destruction of the indigenous people that have the tools and knowledge to live in harmony with each other and the earth.

Colonialism has degraded humans and their spirits and made it “normal” to feel like you don’t have control over your own life or your own surroundings, and that permission must be asked before you do anything, even when you are engaging in consensual or non violent acts. The state has stolen what was already ours or perhaps an indigenous peoples’ (land, resources, our right to give our gifts and talents!), and now tries to sell it back to us piece by piece if we pass their benchmarks and have enough money. This shows up in small ways like when my partner (who is an anarchist!!!) says “I think we need a permit to put in an addition”. Or when we go for a walk on an unmarked trail and anxiously wonder if we are allowed to be there. It is the reason for widespread depression and anxiety and a lack of meaningful life affirming “work”.

The control of the state is embedded so deeply that every single day I get a message asking something like “Your program looks perfect for me. But does your midwifery school make it so I can be legally recognized as a midwife where I live?”. Often these women haven’t really even deeply explored midwifery enough to know about the work, the paths, the lifestyle, and STILL their first question is “but am I allowed?”. Even when our program sounds completely perfect for them in every way, they are ready to give it all up because of this external pressure from the patriarchal, colonial system that they still live within that tells them they are only worth what someone else SAYS they are worth. That is some deep an evil programming that we all need to root out in our own minds!

And here’s the thing…if our program looks perfect for you, like is a seriously clear “hell yes” while reading about it, I’m willing to bet that somewhere in your brain are also interested in these alternative ways of thinking about the world. And even if you somehow manage to squeeze yourself into the CNM box, or choose to attend a MEAC accredited school because its the “safe choice”, you’re going to find yourself miserable, disconnected and you’ll be right back here, knocking on our Indie Birth door once you’re ready to face this really big shit! Believe me, I’ve seen it unfold before my own eyes. Compromising yourself and your values takes a toll, even if there is a financial payoff.

So do yourself a favor and take a few breaths. Put away the question of “what path should I take?” and close the 500 tabs you have open on your computer with all the different possibilities. Get out a real piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Bonus points if it’s a sparkly gel pen. Use the following questions as a journaling exercise –

  1. I want to be a midwife because…

2. My most incredible gifts that I want to share with the world are…

3. I want my midwifery education to feel….

4. I want it to feel this way because….

Explore your answers to these questions and try to notice which of your answers feel the most true, like they are coming from your higher self, and which might be coming from your fearful, small, broken self (we’ve all got one). Anything that feels like it’s coming from your small self or your ego, spend some time reflecting on and journaling about separately. Decolonization starts in your own mind.

This exercise is where you really need to spend the time before you’re ready to do any kind of midwifery learning. Because midwifery that comes from that small fearful self is not what the world needs right now. We need brave, whole, strong, vibrant, light bearing midwives to guide their communities back to being those things themselves. If you choose your midwifery path from a place of fear, you might as well find a different way to share your gifts with the world, because there are many less intense ways to serve your community your gifts, I promise.

But if you know you are meant to be a midwife, dig in!

We have a free Student Midwife Primer and also a “Made to be a Midwife” free circle that is led by our IBMS students, which is a great place to bring your journaling insights and talk with others who will totally understand where you’re at 🙂 Register for that here.

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We are mamas and birth workers who decided to do birth differently– and bring others along with us. We are kind, fun to work with, and great at (lovingly) calling people on their bullshit when necessary. With 12 children and 18 years of midwifery between us, we’ve learned a thing or two along the way, and Indie Birth Midwifery School is our space to share it all with you.

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