The (early) search for queer midwives

When my (chosen) sister announced her first pregnancy many years ago, I gave her Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth. I give great gifts. I mean, how else do feminists learn about pregnancy?

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This pregnancy book is a 2008 expansion of the hugely popular Our Bodies, Ourselves (OBOS) from the Boston Women’s Health Collective. OBOS is a for women, by women collection that was originally self-published in 1970 on newsprint and stapled together. At the height of the white mainstream second wave women’s movement, Our Bodies, Ourselves represented a reclamation of women’s knowledge of their bodies and resistance to medicalized expertise that too often positions women as passive patients needing care. It has since been reproduced in 29 languages and circulates around the world.

When I read the introduction to the pregnancy and birth edition, I was surprised to see it begin with the following sentence:

“If you are newly pregnant, or are close to someone who is, we hope this book will serve as a friendly companion through the months to come.”

I immediately checked the index for “insemination” which doesn’t exist and “lesbian” which connects readers to “co-parenting” and “resources.” The resource is  The Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy and Birth

I bought the wrong book.

Why would I ever think that a book for and by women would be lesbian-freindly? I mean, lesbian feminists? What was I thinking?

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I giggled about the book purchase for a while, and ordered the lesbian guide since I can’t seem to find a book on queer or trans conception.

I decided to read on. After learning how to “approach my birth with confidence,” I read about birth plans and settings, and models of maternity care. I am already familiar with the differences between midwifery care and critical of the medical model, and Norse and I plan on having a midwife and doula.

On a Sunday night advocacy rampage (which involves me writing stern emails to a bunch of local and regional institutions that are sexist, cissexist, racist, classist, homophobic, transphobic, etc or that forget rural queers exist), I decided to call our local midwives office. Sunday night seemed like a great time to leave a long and overly detailed message requesting information on their queer and trans* friendly midwifery practices (which ended abruptly after I mutter something embarrassing about a “difficult, but exciting journey”).

On Monday morning, I received a call from the office and was told that they spoke to the local LGBT* educator to retrieve information on how to best support my partner and I through the process.

The midwives called Norse! For their expertise!

We called them, they called us. And here begins the infinite loop of small-town knowledge and service gaps.

As it turns out, the midwifery office asked Norse for a LGBTTQ* awareness and support workshop, and hopes to be better aquatinted with our “situation” by the time we are pregnant. Good thing queer gestation periods are long.

If some other queerbos don’t beat us in the race to become pregnant, we will be the first queer couple through their office doors (they can’t remember of they’ve ever dealt with lesbians).

We’ll be educating the whole way.

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