From a Mother’s Perspective: The Horrors of Midwifery Licensing

June 6, 2013

The Truth About Gestational Diabetes
A Miscarriage Story
That time I had a freebirth at the Hospital
Now Trending:
We're Maryn + Margo

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. With 12 children and 20 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.


Grab our free guides!
Free Doula Mini Course
The Student Midwife Primer

Talking about licensing midwives lately is drawing on my patience. I do feel it is divisive among midwives and wish in many ways the discussion would cease and maybe the mothers would stand up and correct all this nonsense. The legalities and politics about birth are REALLY about the women and their families, but some days I am not sure how much the average birthing women knows that she is needed.


Every day, you, the birthing woman, are losing rights. Every day, with the advent of a new law to license midwives, no matter what you are being told, you are losing rights in the end. There is nothing in the government regulation of birth that is in your best interest. You need to know this and you need to know this before it is too late!

I appeal to you mother-to-mother. As a midwife, I may (in many places) have more vested interest in obtaining a license: insurance reimbursement, a relationship with a medical doctor, the ability to order tests and ultrasounds, the way a license makes my profession seem more legitimate to some of you. There are many reasons why midwives all over this country are toiling long and hard to get licensing pushed through in their state. And although their motivations may be sincere and well-intended, it is through foggy-glasses that they push for what is not theirs…but YOURS.

But, I am speaking to you and sharing with you as a mother. I want you to know how valuable you are and how AT RISK we are all for losing that which we already know.

When my children have been created, it is in love and trust and privacy. Therefore…the birth of the child is, too. This sacred event is for whomever we invite in, midwife or not, friend or not, family, etc. It is our choice who is there to hold space for us and witness. And so it is with you. If you believe that birth is a private, non-medical event that happens at home, it is not anyone’s business who is there or what their role is.

Do you see how backwards it is that you would invite rules and regulations, that are not in your best interest, into your birthing space? With licensing, a midwife is indebted to the State. Not to you. No matter how much you like her or bond with her. When it comes down to it, your “care” is property of the State. Your private health information is property of the State. And the decisions about your care are not really yours to make. Your midwife will, if you decline certain testing or options, be responsible for fines paid to the State as well as investigations of her practice if she is found to be non-compliant (ie: allow you to override State rules by making your own choices.)

That is the reality. In states that license midwives, there are laws in place that make it impossible for your midwife to serve YOU. There are time limits on how long you can labor, or how long you can push, or on the size of your baby. If she ignores any of these rules and regulations, she is (again) subject to disciplinary action. But more importantly, if she ignores the rules (and many do)…then what happens to the “licensing equals safety” argument? How is she a “safe midwife” if there is blatant disregard for the rules that have been deemed to make birth “safe”? We can’t have it both ways, so which one is it?

I don’t know a single midwife who has never broken a rule.

That’s one that comes up a lot among moms. But for pregnant women that think that a license equals a “safer” midwife, I want to ask you how that changes in your mind knowing that unless you have the rules for midwifery practice in your state MEMORIZED (and are also up to date on current research and practice protocol), you have no idea what she is doing or not doing that is in your best interest. 

And the worst part about all that? It’s the idea that we should look towards the outside to verify safety in birth makes sense. Something that is acceptable. That responsibility in birth lies elsewhere, outside of yourself and the outcome is someone else’s triumph, or someone else’s fault.

Because your “best interest” is something only you can determine. I know that many women do not like that fact. They would prefer the responsibility, the often heavy, serious responsibility of growing and birthing a human being, to another person. But it is not possible. Before, during and after pregnancy, the true responsibility lies with you. There is no one that needs to tell you how, where, why or when. If you listen, you will find the answers. And if you desire the support of wise women, there are always midwives (those that serve women, and no one else) to help you find your way.

And a sidenote; my personal journey:

8 years, pregnant with my 2nd baby, ago I went looking for a midwife. In a place where direct entry midwifery was and is illegal, I decided 4 weeks before my due date that I had had enough of the medical world. Although pretty naive about birth (my first had been a hospital birth and I knew NOTHING about politics, or even “types” of midwives), my husband and I interviewed several midwives. Long story short, we chose the unlicensed midwife; without too much “knowledge”, just the inner knowing that she would respect our wishes and believed that I could do it. She was, in many ways, the midwife that I always hold myself up to this many years later.

With the next 4 births, I chose various degrees of midwife-assisted births. Mostly women that I was apprenticing with. It wasn’t until my 4th birth that I saw very clearly AS A MOTHER what licensing meant for me and my birth. A scary newborn resuscitation, a very fearful transport via helicopter, a baby that was ultimately fine, but left me with a whole lot of healing to do. By my 6th birth, the pieces had come together for me AS A MOTHER and I realized just how allowing a third party to be part of my intimate experience was not serving me. Or my family. For this most recent babe, I am sure I horrified many of my licensed colleagues by following my inner knowing and inner truth and deciding that I was best served with only my husband and friends present. I knew too much. I could not accept or allow someone, no matter how much I may love her, into my birthing space when her JOB was to follow the rules and regulations set by a fearful, medically-minded State government. I could not and would not allow all of my personal information, including how long I labored or what size my baby’s head was, with anyone that had no business knowing. And although an unassisted birth was the most healing and amazing thing I have ever done, I mostly chose it because there was not that wise-woman servant available to me. And as a mother, that saddens me.

In addition, it wasn’t long after this last birth that I also surrendered my midwifery license. I couldn’t talk the talk anymore without doing the walk; and in this journey, I realize that this is my passion. To communicate my experience with you in hopes that you will consider the future of birth with your daughters and granddaughters in mind. Making birth the regulation of the State (by mandatory midwife licensing), will in time, render future generations incapable of making the choices that are each family’s right to make. No one, NO ONE has a right to tell me who, where or when I birth my baby. I ask you to consider your rights as well when supporting mandatory licensing for midwives. I believe that you, too, are smart enough and informed enough to make the right choices and decisions for you and your baby.

+ show Comments

- Hide Comments

add a comment

  1. […] From a Mother’s Perspective: The Horrors of Midwifery Licensing […]

  2. Jewel Hernandez says:

    I just got off the phone with a dear friend, a midwife, whose hands are currently tied because she can not serve her 38 week client whose baby is breech. She is thinking of quitting midwifery, because of the unethical way that the law forces her to practice is killing her soul. This clearly is not the answer. And then I stumbled upon your blog. Thank you for putting the onus on the parents to create (and even fight) for what they want in their births. Midwives can point them in a direction but then they need to get out of the way and let their (the parents’) voices be heard.

  3. Doris says:

    This is what has killed any hope of a mother’s autonomy in Ontario, Canada. Midwives have become just another hospital worker.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

so hot right now

Meet the duo behind Indie Birth

We are mamas and midwives who decided to do birth differently– and bring others along with us. We are radical, fun to work with, and great at (lovingly) calling people on their bullshit to help move us all towards a new more beautiful world. With 12 children and over two decades 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.

Read Our Story

Margo and Maryn

Taking Back Birth Podcast

Listen now

The Podcast

Visit the
T-Shirt Shop

Shop Now

The Shop

More Amazing Resources

Indie Birth Private contract association | Terms of membership

Want the latest tips, resources, and success stories (with some ancient wisdom sprinkled in) sent straight to your inbox?

Indie Birth offers radical midwifery perspectives and resources for powerful birthing women and aspiring birth workers. We provide educational courses, inspirational content, and coaching.


Head to the blog >

@Indiebirth >

follow along 
on Instagram: