I coined the term “Community Midwife” in 1980 to emulate the history of the 20th Century Black midwife; as Ms. Margaret Charles Smith, co-author of “Listen to Me Good, Life of an Alabama Midwife, and featured in the award winning “Bringin in Da Spirit “documentary, says, “I became a midwife working around nigh you know, up around here, with Ms. Anderson, she taught me about being a midwife, ya know.” Meaning that she worked around her neighborhood, as an assistant midwife to an experienced midwife to learn midwifery. It meant, she worked in a certain radius of her residence. There is a wisdom in that. When you midwife in your community you get to see the babies grow and offer parents long term support and become the trusted resource.
I coined the term, “Community Midwife” to depict a visual description, that describes the midwife, living, working, worshiping, volunteering and shopping in the community that she serves. Essentially as a community midwife, I make a difference because I see the pregnant women beyond the prenatal visit, I see her and her family in daily life activities, where every moment is a teachable and loving moment, because that is the legacy of the 19th century African American midwife; “I teach and sometimes I preach the gospel of African/African American birth and postpartum traditions “
I teach what to put in the food cart, both by example and by teaching nutrition, when I bump into a mom shopping at the same store that I shop at, I comment on her good food choices or I make recommendations for better choices. Always humble and sometimes using humor. I can do that because I am the community midwife and I am known for caring, and I uphold the legacy of the Granny Midwife, who was a respected elder. As a community midwife, my work is beyond catching the baby, it is about teaching mothering and African beauty and passing on our traditions, (Wilkie,2003). When I see her in the parking lot and stop to help her get her baby into the car seat, and I discuss with her how her oldest child is, and when I see her mate at the gas station and ask the partner how is it going, this is how I follow in the footsteps of my midwife ancestors. I am proud and driven to follow in the footsteps of the African American granny-midwives who left a legacy of service, of caring and loving the community that she served, who prayed and thanked the Creator for her midwifery; and she entered every birth in pray, and with intention of service and helping the mom and her family.
I want to continue growing this movement because it strengthens the African American community.
For more information on the History of the African American Midwife see this link.