By Jill Arnold
I had the good fortune of interviewing midwife Darynée Blount, who is planning the California Association of Midwives Annual Conference, which is less than one month away.
Tell me about the conference.
The 2011 California Association of Midwives Annual Conference will be held in beautiful Julian, CA, this year, on May 20-22 at Camp Stevens. We have a great speaker line-up that we feel is in sync with the conference’s overall theme, starting with the pre-conference sessions on Friday, May 20th. Attendees can choose from a few options, such as learning about how to do IVs with Marla Hicks, LM, CPM, or how to help women with postpartum depression using alternative treatments with CNM Vicki Wolfrum. Jennie Joseph, LM, who coined the JJ Way, will be speaking, as will Sheryl Nestel, author of Obstructed Labour: Race and Gender in the Re-Emergence of Midwifery, and Jennifer Gallardo, LM, CPM, owner of Andaluz Waterbirth Center, will be speaking about breech birth. More conference info [PDF]
Why did you decide to take on the planning of the conference?
Initially, hosting the conference was Sarah’s idea that she brought back to me after returning from a CAM meeting and feeling very inspired. I agreed, readily and we began brainstorming our ideas and agenda. Personally, I felt that this conference had to be a reflection of Sarah’s and my core midwifery beliefs, morals, and values. It also had to share an overall, profound message to all of the attendees, leaving them with a sense of inspiration and awareness.
What is the significance of the name of the conference (“Putting the Community Back in the Midwife: Reframing Contradictions in the Birth World”)?
We both take midwifery seriously and know that many other midwives as well as midwifery supporters do. We are very aware of the many issues plaguing our cities, nation, and world surrounding the topic of birth. It is can lead to very heated and politically charged discussions. Every place in the world has its own way of coping, managing, supporting, and harming birth practices. Studies have shown time and time again that midwifery is the gold standard for better outcomes for mothers and babies, yet it is not globally accepted, in or out of the hospital. Access is lacking, to say the least, in many places, not only due to location, and lack of resources and funds, but because of prejudices, social stigmas, propaganda about birth outside of the hospital, and division amongst the practitioners who serve these women and families, as to how a woman should birth her baby. In our hearts, we share the same common interest, safe and healthy mother and baby, but how we get there has created a battle that has been going on for over a hundred years.
Why racial disparities as a focus?
The main focus of the conference is to shed light on the simple fact that there simply isn’t enough midwifery going around to serve the women that TRULY need it! These groups are typically the minorities. African-American women are more likely to have preterm labor and have the highest instances of baby deaths. The Hispanic and Indigenous populations, as well as the Asian and Pacific Islanders are not very far behind. These are the women and families that need and can benefit from the tender love and care of midwives to have healthy, safe, term pregnancies. Sadly, many of them are not even informed about their bodies, childbirth options, or have access to prenatal care. Raising awareness on the community level is our goal. Having all that attend the conference take the message back to their communities to raise awareness and hopefully spread the word is what we feel our mission is to further serve these women.
Tell me about how you and Sarah decided to start the birth center?
Sarah and I both had a personal interest in opening a birth center before we even really knew each other. So when we started getting to know one another and discussing our midwifery goals and practices, it came up. We initially set a goal of opening a birth center in ten years. But, if you ask anyone who knows us, you will learn that we are pretty ambitious and impatient when it comes to taking big steps in moving our midwifery careers along! We started crunching numbers, and scenarios and decided that is didn’t have to take that long for us to open up another midwifery accessible base for women and their families. We wanted to fuse the idea of home birth with a midwife and access to quality care outside of the hospital. It didn’t have to be glamorous.
We decided to do it on a much lower scale but offering all of the benefits that midwifery has to bring. We did a lot of research and toured a lot of birth centers owned and operated by licensed midwives. We were able to see very different centers, started by midwives of different backgrounds and approaches. I feel we took all of the best pieces from everything we learned and put it into our center. Once we decided to move forward, everything else pretty much fell into place. I love the fact that we can offer families another option, we are accessible, and offer various plans to accommodate various financial circumstances by using our sliding fee scale. It has definitely been a labor of love! [Birth Roots Women’s Health & Maternity Center]
Long before you ever started working together, you and Sarah coincidentally were doulas for me separately at my births. Do you sit around and talk about me a lot?
Umm, not really.
OK, I think you’re missing your cue here. Darynée, do you and Sarah consider me to be the glue that binds your friendship and professional relationship? I like to think of myself as the nexus of your universe.
This interview is over.
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