What will you be remembered for when you’re gone?
The great midwifery mentor and educator, Carla Hartley, has died. I have strong memories of her presence and wanted to share how positively she impacted my life and my midwifery path.
I enrolled in Carla’s Intro to Midwifery in 2004, and became an apprentice midwife and a student of AAMI soon after. It took me 6 years to graduate from AAMI, and in that time I also sought a license to practice midwifery in Arizona. I received that license in 2009; and shortly after, the teaching and preachings that Carla was known for around the topic of midwifery regulation came to pass in my own life and experience. I lived the fact that regulation is not superior, a license didn’t make me a “better” midwife and that ultimately I had given my power away for a false sense of security.
I had to live this for myself; Carla never said “I told you so”, but what she did do was welcome me back into the “family” and held no judgement about the path I had initially chosen. Giving my midwifery license back to the State was one of the triumphs and also hardships of my life. It was the right thing to do, even though I had no clear vision of the path ahead. Carla encouraged me to follow my heart, and to serve women and families in love and beyond any other agreement. I was so supported by her in this choice, and in finishing the school.
I knew deeply that these papers did not make me a midwife, and returned to AAMI and Carla as humble as possible. What I value Carla most for in my midwifery life is this: She taught me to question everything. Everything. Midwifery can be a profession where women hand down knowledge or “myth” that really isn’t based in physiology; it’s our job to continually question WHY we do things or don’t, and how every possible thing we do or say in the presence of a birthing mother may affect her. Nothing has affected me more deeply than this belief that questioning is vital, and it is what is needed to keep our egos out of birth. It is also what is needed to return the power to the women and to birth itself.
I don’t feel that I was able to claim this title as “Midwife” for myself until after all of this soul searching and investigation around what is true for me, and how I honestly want to serve women. I credit Carla with teaching me, supporting me and introducing me to so many ideas that became the basis for me finding my own truth. Topics like oxytocin, oxygen use (or lack thereof), how postpartum hemorrhage REALLY works and why drugs are risky, not interfering with baby’s earthside transition, changed my life. Truly. Not to mention attending her conferences where I was exposed to the wisdom of elders like Gloria Lemay and Gail Hart. I met (former) midwife Lisa Barrett at that time too, and learning from her about breech and twins and her overall wisdom was a pivotal point in my midwifery life. I felt like I had come home.
Birth is safe, interference is risky. This is a quote that will remain with me forever, and within these simple words, holds the most profound truth about birth.
Thank you Carla; for being an inspiration, for reminding me who I was, for showing me that we need bold, smart, radical birth leaders and midwifery.
May your influence continue to ripple out and improve midwifery and birth for all.