ChicagoDoula Goes to School. And Has a Baby. And Other Things

We’re writing this post to announce some changes at ChicagoDoula.  Amy and I have had a very full five years.  We’ve been gestating people and ideas and certifications.  We’ve been trying to blog here when we can – which is not often. Twitter has been a bit easier to use, so you may have seen some of Amy’s tweets there.

Five years ago when Amy joined me in using this identity, we had a lot of ideas about how we would develop the concept of ChicagoDoula.  And then we got busy.  Very busy.  Amy had a baby and I went to midwifery school.  Amy and her partner began raising the baby (along with their older children) and I spent three years assisting at a high volume home birth practice after earning my CPM credential.  Along the way there were other treats, like a house fire, pneumonia twice and appendicitis once, children starting school, and daughters going away to college, even a small part as an extra in a movie!  You can read more about the appendicitis and possibly some of these other things in future posts.  More recently, as the baby blur started receding, Amy began turning her attention to our joint venture again.  And then I began nursing school. (i feel like there should be a comedy drum riff here.  Ta Dum BUMP! )

So here we are, with Amy returning her to focus to ChicagoDoula as well as her new role at Chicago Volunteer Doulas (also the likely subject of a future post) while I am heading into another adventure that will take me farther away from the birth world for a while.  So we’ve agreed that it’s time to make some changes. Although I’ll always be a doula in my heart and will sometimes practice as a doula, and continue training doulas, Amy will be heading up ChicagoDoula from now on.  She’ll own the name and steer the business.  I will remain here as a friend, adviser, guest blogger and occasional back-seat-driver (meaning I still get to keep the honorable title of co-conspirator and, she says, ChicagoDoula emerita.  (Any actual doula work, doula training or monatrice work I might continue doing will be offered under my other long-time business banner of Women’s Way: Empowering Families in the Childbearing Year)

Why am I going off to nursing school?  I’ll probably blog about that at some point.  In the meantime, we have all sorts of ideas about how we want to see ChicagoDoula evolve over time, but I’ll leave it to Amy, as the New Management, to carry the conversation forward while I go back to studying.

~Rachel

Give it up on #GivingTuesday for Chicago Volunteer Doulas

And I don’t just mean applause! Will you please join me in making a donation today?

Rachel and I aren’t just running businesses and making a living as doulas who happen to live in Chicago, we also take our obligation of service to Chicago’s communities of pregnant, laboring and postpartum people and families very seriously. One of the ways we do this is through our support of the organization Chicago Volunteer Doulas (CVD).

I have been personally involved at CVD as one of the volunteer doulas since 2008 before the organization even had 501c3 status (as an official non-profit). I also serve on the board of directors, most recently as co-chair. I have become more and more involved in supporting CVD over the years because I see that there are multitudes of pregnant people who are left in the gaps between those served by community based doula programs and those who can afford the fees for private doulas.

These are the people who would otherwise not have doulas. This is where CVD comes in. CVD provides on call doulas to four different hospital midwifery programs in Chicago as well as offering traditional model private volunteer doulas to families with incomes under $50,000 per year. Until community based doula programs have expanded to meet the needs of unserved populations, and/or government funding and insurance reimbursement for private doulas is common place, volunteer organizations like Chicago Volunteer Doulas are essential part of changing birth culture. And so is our support.

I have volunteered at community based doula programs such as HealthConnect One, and also continue to work privately. I believe adamantly however, that *any* pregnant people or families who want a doula, need and deserve access to doulas.

One way that my co-blogger, Rachel, supports Chicago Volunteer Doulas in changing birth culture is through consistently offering a scholarship position in each of her DONA International doula trainings for a woman of color who is also a CVD volunteer. This is also, in my humble opinion, one of the ways Rachel is awesome, but I digress.

CVD is just a small part of changing birth culture, but for many Chicago parents, it has been an essential resource. Will you join us this Giving Tuesday and give what you can to Chicago Volunteer Doulas? Then please spread the word to others!

Thanks, friend!

Radio Interview on Birth Trends and Midwives

ChicagoDoula’s own Rachel Dolan Wikersham (who in addition to being a doula is also a Ceritifed Professradiowavesional Midwife or CPM) joined local Certified Nurse Midwife, Hillary Keiser today on WBEZ’s Morning Shift with Tony Sarabia. In addition to addressing concerns of several callers, they explained the difference between types of midwives, discussed the opposition of MDs in Illinois to licensing CPMs, and went further into details about homebirth and requests some parents are making in birthing such as delayed cord clamping. Listen to the full interview here:

Who Is ChicagoDoula?

So Amy is trying to get me to blog. I have to say, I have never considered this and am not so sure how good I’ll be at this. I’m only here because she has the smarts and the drive to get us both here. Maybe I can start by giving you the back story. For the past 15 years, I’ve practiced as a childbirth educator, doula, doula trainer and occasional midwife’s assistant. I’ve used the web since the beginning and have always used the screen name identity “ChicagoDoula.” But as the web developed, I remained a very basic user – email, the occasional instant message, web-browsing.

I always thought I should make more of it. I even took a website design class. I created a draft version of a very pretty website. And it sat there on my computer for years. I had no idea how to get it published. Two years ago I finally figured out that I needed to purchase a domain name. So I did. But that sat there too. When Facebook came along, I figured it out to some degree, though I only have personal pages – no business page.

Then along came Amy, a new doula on the block, with some really neat ideas. She hoped to develop a website and call it ChicagoDoula.net. I agreed to this because after all, though I’d been using the name for years, I did not yet have a website and thought I would never get around to it. Amy began building the site and after a time we realized it was something we could work on together. We began to think of ChicagoDoula as a concept rather than a specific person and several months later, here we are.

Who is ChicagoDoula? She is a little bit of everything, just like the city she serves. She is an activist, a doula, a mother, a midwife (of babies or ideas or communities), a mentor and a student. She is experienced and wise, yet she is fresh and enthusiastic and full of new ideas. She is knowledgeable about a variety of childbirth preparation techniques and is comfortable working with them. She believes that life is precious and she also believes in a woman’s right to make a full range of decisions about her reproductive health care – whether that means choosing to terminate a pregnancy, choosing an epidural for labor, or choosing a homebirth with an underground midwife. She strives to help women understand the full implications of their choices and help them find their innate power, so their choices are not driven by fear. She understands that there is no single right answer for any given situation. She is willing to support women in whatever choice is right for them.

ChicagoDoula loves her city and the people in it. She joyfully serves families from all walks of life. She is ever-hopeful with a strong vein of cynical, anti-racist, queer-friendly, working on recognizing her privileges as well as her own internalized oppression, challenging others and herself to see and understand things differently. When faced with obstacles, she looks for creative solutions rather than struggling to achieve particular outcomes.

She envisions a world where all women get the support they need across the spectrum of pregnancy, labor, birth and parenting – a world where every woman in every community has access to the information and support she wants and needs so that she can be affirmed in her choices.

She envisions a world where women are respected, safe, honored and empowered.

In short, ChicagoDoula is many things. We invite you to get to know her, us, as we continue posting here and continue building our websites.

Birth Story of a Doula’s Doula

Holly Barhamand is a mother, doula and childbirth educator in Chicago and is also one of my real life, everyday heroines. Holly was one of the doulas at my labor with my second baby and has since become a wonderful mentor and friend.

Whenever I need to work something out about teaching childbirth classes or have a complicated labor to get pointers on, she is eager to listen and help – and always seems to have the right thing to say.

This week Holly gave birth! Oh and did I mention that she is a fantastic writer? I love a good birth story and am delighted to pass this one on.

Congratulations on welcoming your newest baby, Franklin Darius, into the world, Holly! And thank you for sharing your incredible story. Much love and light to you.

CNMs, CPMs and DEMs…Oh My!

Note: This is a first post by doula extraordinaire, midwife-in-training and legislative advocate, Rachel Dolan Wickersham. Amy and Rachel are thrilled to begin our work as a team to bring ChicagoDoula to you in its new format as a collaborative birth blog. Enjoy!

I’ve had a lot of requests for a basic primer on the different types of midwives available to home and hospital birth mothers and families. Generally, everyone understands that midwives have a more holistic approach than MDs, spend more time with their clients, and get better outcomes for both mother and baby. However when it comes to figuring out which type of midwife is best for a given situation, the devil is in the details. Here is my best shot at sorting out who’s who.

CNMs and CMs  (Certified Nurse-Midwives and Certified Midwives)

CNMs receive a degree in nursing and then go on to get a master’s degree in midwifery in most cases. There are a number of CNMs who have a bachelor’s in nursing and a certificate in midwifery, rather than a master’s, but basically, it’s nursing plus midwifery training. Starting in 2010, a graduate degree will be required for all CNMs and CMs.

CMs receive midwifery training alongside CNMs. They are part of the same program, however before the midwifery training they do not receive an RN. They do however, have to receive a bachelor’s before the midwifery training because they will be receiving a master’s in midwifery. Those who already have a master’s degree in a related field, may earn a certificate.

Both CNMs and CMs sit the same midwifery exam to receive their credential. The exam is administered by the AMCB – American Midwifery Certification Board. One is not required to prove out-of-hospital experience in order to sit the exam or receive a CNM or CM credential.

CNMs can practice in all 50 states. CMs can practice in 3 states – New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island. The vast majority of CNMs- or CMs-attended births occur in hospital settings. Less than 5% are outside of the hospital in homes or free-standing birth centers.

DEMs and CPMs

DEMs are direct-entry midwives – midwives who do not enter the profession through nursing. They learn through a variety of pathways. Possibilities include but are not limited to formal midwifery schools such as Seattle School of Midwifery, exclusive apprenticeship, or a combination of the two. These midwives may or may not use the same textbooks as CNMs and CMs. They may or may not be legal within their state. They do not carry a national certification unless they choose to become a CPM (see below).  They may or may not have education equivalent to that of a CNM/CM.  Whereas the CNM/CM proves her entry-level competence by passing the AMCB exam and earning her CNM/CM credential, the DEM who does not become a CPM has no such designation.

It is up to the consumer to discern their DEM’s level of education and expertise through asking questions, contacting references, and examining any evidence their DEM provides (such as certificates of training in neonatal resuscitation, etc).  In some states, licensure is offered to DEMs who meet certain requirements. Often, but not always, the requirement is to earn a CPM (certified professional midwife) credential.

Some DEMs wish to prove their competence by meeting certain criteria and then sitting a national exam. These DEMs become CPMs (certified professional midwives).  They may still receive their education through a variety of routes, (see DEMs above) but it is almost guaranteed that they will learn from the same textbooks as CNMs and CMs because the national certification exam draws questions from materials in these textbooks.

The national certification exam for CPMs is administered by NARM (North American Registry of Midwives). NARM’s exam tests for the same body of midwifery knowledge as the AMCB‘s exam.  It does not test for advance practice nursing skills and knowledge (such as knowing how to calculate and prescribe narcotics doses for pain relief in a hospital birth)  because CPMs are not nurses and are intentionally, out-of-hospital providers. In addition to passing the exam, in order to receive a CPM credential, the applicant must prove documented out-of-hospital experience (something CNMs and CMs do not need to do).

CPMs are legally allowed in 26 states and are selectively ignored in other states. Only 11 states actively ban them. In some states they even get Medicaid reimbursement, as can CNMs.

CNMs, CMs and CPMs have all earned certificates demonstrating competence in midwifery. Consumers should be able to verify proof of their certification. In the case of CNMs in all 50 states and CPMs in some of the 26 legal states, one can verify their state licensure.  Where licensure is not available, it is up to the consumer to ascertain proof of education. To see a list of legal states for DEMs and CPMs, go to www.mana.org and click on the resources tab.

Illinois

Since I live in Illinois, I can comment on our situation here.

In Illinois we have no CMs. We have many CNMs. Most practice in hospitals. At this writing, there are no free-standing birth centers for them to practice in, though a law establishing a pilot project of such centers passed in 2007.

Five nurse-midwifery practices offer homebirth services in the Chicago area. Two practices offer homebirth services downstate. Altogether, these practices are based in only 5 out of 102 Illinois counties.

Currently in Illinois, DEMs of all kinds, including CPMs, are illegal but there is a bill before the Illinois House for licensure of DEMs requiring the CPM credential as proof of competence. Licensure would also require an associate’s degree with specific science-based coursework in addition to the CPM.

There are DEMs all over the state of Illinois. Some are in the open. Some are underground. Here in the Chicago area, we have only a few CPMs.

CPMs are legal in some neighboring states (Wisconsin and Missouri). They are generally allowed/ignored in Michigan. Iowa and Indiana are working on licensure for CPMs, as is Illinois.

For more information on Illinois Licensure, go to www.illinoismidwifery.org
For more information on CPM licensure nationally, go to www.thebigpushformidwives.org