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National Midwife Week

Posted on Tuesday, October 14th, 2008.

One of our many wise participants once told me, “Who you love is your family”.

It was an honor for me to facilitate an interview between two beautiful women who aren’t related to me by blood, but I certainly call family. Maggie Benedette-Smith and Jann Foley came in to celebrate National Midwife Week (October 7 – October 13). I learned that midwifery has always existed in the United States, but was legitimized in the 1920s by Mary Breckenridge, founder of the Frontier Nursing Service. Breckenridge and her staff traveled on horseback or foot to women’s homes over a 700 mile radius in rural Kentucky and dramatically lowered both infant and maternal mortality rates. In Jann’s 12 years as a nurse and midwife she has guided women through the birth process. It has often been emotionally and spiritually uplifting. “I love to see the women be empowered by the fact that they take over the whole experience. I’m just there to facilitate the birth, give a helping hand when it’s needed.”

But it is equally as challenging. Jann has continually struggled to prove that there are safe alternatives to a hospital birth, and has even found it difficult to find supportive doctors to work with. The work is also long and physically demanding, keeping Jann on call (and away from her own children) many hours a week, “waiting for babies to come out.”

Maggie first watched her mother deliver a baby at age 12 on Take Your Daughter to Work Day. Jann wanted Maggie to witness her work first hand, “because if she could understand the importance of my providing care for other people when I could be providing care for her, perhaps that would help her not miss me so much.” Maggie put on scrubs and followed her mother around through the night witnessing deliveries.

Jann remembers that night with Maggie. “You were awesome. You were just amazed by the whole thing. I remember when the baby came out it was a little bit stunned and we had to take it over to the warmer… and the mommy was asking, ‘Is she ok? Is she ok?’ And you just reached out your hand and patted her on the leg and you said, ‘She’s ok. Everything is going to be ok.’ And I thought, ‘She’s 12 years old, I’m supposed to be saying that!’ ”

Maggie has recently decided to study medicine and has her head deep in Organic Chemistry books. She told her mom, “It took a while to find what I like, and this just sort of seemed right. I’d always sort of shadowed you and seen the births with you. I kind of had to convince myself that I could get through the science, and now I think, ‘Oh my god, I like this,’ and it’s just very exciting.”

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6 Responses to “National Midwife Week”

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  • I know this is an older blog post, but I found it tonight when I was looking for something on Jann. Jann was my midwife for prenatal care with my first five babies and was the one to deliver three of them. I followed her career (literally) as she moved around practices and was very sad (for me–as I face this delivery without her) when she moved to her current location. I’m so proud of her though, I can’t express it! I loved seeing this glimpse of her and her daughter together. Thank you for sharing it!

    Comment from Michele on July 11, 2009 at 1:01 am - Reply to this Comment
  • I had the honor and priviledge of being with Jann and Maggie when Maggie’s younger brother, Kevan, was born. Maggie was just six years old, but going on 30. She cracked me up. You should have heard her coaching Jann…”push Mommy, push Mommy”. Finally Keven was born and I was able to snap a picture of Maggie gazing into his eyes. I’ll send it along as soon as I scan it.

    Jann and I were Labor and Delivery nurses together at that time. Later, that year, when we were working together, we had a lovely woman who should have had a wonderful birth…. unfortunately, it was ruined by a doctor who came in and cut a huge episiotomy. The woman didn’t need one. She had delivered two previous babies without episiotomies. After the birth, I found Jann alone and crying. She told me she would just have to go to medical school so she wouldn’t have to witness such barbaric behavior. I had a better idea. I knew of nurse-midwifery scholarships that were available to registered nurses…. We got Jann a scholarship and the rest is history. Jann was able to attend nurse midwifery school and women in my state have been benefitting from it ever since.

    Jann’s a wonderful midwife.

    Comment from Ann on October 19, 2008 at 7:40 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • I personally had the wonderful priveledge of having Jann deliver two of my sons. She has been my inspiration, my friend, a great comforter, and someone who I am truely blessed to have in my life. What she has done for me and so many other women is life changing. All midwives should be thanked for their selflessness and giving hearts.

    Comment from Michelle on October 19, 2008 at 7:16 am - Reply to this Comment
  • Great story. Midwives are such powerful figures in our lives.

    Comment from Chaela on October 15, 2008 at 12:21 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • This is beautiful. Lovely post. I hope they get to see it.

    Comment from Nina on October 15, 2008 at 9:56 am - Reply to this Comment
  • I love this story! What a great story about mothers and daughters and the power of women.

    Comment from Jeremy on October 14, 2008 at 6:34 pm - Reply to this Comment

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