An Excellent Short History of Childbirth in 20th Century America – What Happened
Faith Gibson, LM, CPM, is a gentle, sharp, right-thinking home birth midwife in California. In an article for Birth in 2011, she describes the “time travel” she experienced as a young labor nurse in the South, where segregation separated black from white mothers and treated them entirely differently during their births. Ironically, the white mothers got the full “knock’em out, drag’em out obstetric management” while the black mothers were left in a basement ward to labor naturally and support one another. It was hard to miss the difference in outcomes for both mothers and babies, and Gibson took this lesson with her as she moved on to midwifery. Her article is a fascinating personal experience and a telling snippet of the history of birth.
A PRACTITIONER PERSPECTIVE by Faith Gibson LM, CPM, in the September 2011 Birth (Volume 38, Issue 3, pages 266â€“268, September 2011). An excerpt in which Faith Gibson explains why she wrote the article follows.
“Between the extremes of obstetrical nursing in an era of segregation and scopolamine, and my life now as a midwife and activist, I studied the history of childbirth practices in the United States, paying particular attention to how and why we came to use this interventionist system on healthy women. Based on these insights, I’d like to offer my perspective on our aging 20th century maternity care system, keeping in mind that maternity care is ultimately judged by its results—the number of mothers and babies who graduate from its ministrations as healthy, or healthier, than when they started.”