"We were homing in on a plan," Indra adds, "which was basically that Allison and I would both get pregnant and Geoffrey would be the biological dad."

The three friends graduated in 1996, and Indra and Allison moved to Denver, where Allison got a job as a social worker and Indra enrolled at the University of Colorado at Boulder to get a master's degree in theater. Meanwhile, Geoffrey moved to Austria to teach English. The three wrote to each other often. "There were lots of ideal, visionary, dreaming-big kinds of discussions in those letters," Geoffrey recalls.

In 1999, the women approached Geoffrey about starting a family. After some initial hesitation — he was studying for a Ph.D. in English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, at the time and wasn't sure if he was ready to become a father — he agreed.

Indra Lusero is putting her law degree to work for midwives.
anthony camera
Indra Lusero is putting her law degree to work for midwives.
Indra Lusero in a family photo, shortly after giving birth to Eliot Indigo.
anthony camera
Indra Lusero in a family photo, shortly after giving birth to Eliot Indigo.

They decided that Allison would get pregnant first, and began attempts at insemination the next year. Their process was low-tech; the only tools were little plastic medical cups and one of those syringe-like plungers usually used to give cough syrup to babies. The only costs were plane tickets. On the third try, Allison conceived.

At first Allison didn't think about deviating from the normal prenatal-care routine. "I think I just did what many women do. It was just a given that I was going to give birth in the hospital," Allison says. She began seeing a doctor who was friendly to LGBT families; her pregnancy was normal and her appointments lasted five minutes. An ultrasound revealed it was a boy. But when the women started attending labor classes at a local hospital, something didn't feel right. "It was like, what's missing here?" Allison remembers. "The classes didn't teach the heart and emotions of labor."

That's when a friend recommended they talk to a midwife named Flame Dineen. Allison and Indra's first meeting with Flame changed forever the way Indra thought of pregnancy and birth. "Even in our first meetings with Flame, and Flame working with me, there was a real click," Allison says. "Not just for me, but an even bigger click for Indra."

She adds, "Flame spoke her language."

******

For much of the nineteenth century, midwifery was considered a respected line of work. But as the medical profession grew and doctors banded together to form medical societies and schools, they began making an effort to usurp the domain of delivering babies. They argued that obstetrics was technical, modern and safe — and midwifery was not.

In 1917, under pressure from doctors, Colorado enacted a law requiring midwives to pass an exam and apply for a license in order to attend births. In addition, midwives were forbidden to use any instruments to deliver babies or administer any drugs. Despite this, many babies were still born at home. But in 1941, state lawmakers passed a law preventing any more midwives from obtaining licenses; already-licensed midwives could continue to practice, but no new ones could join the field. It was an attempt to make midwifery disappear, and though the number of babies born in hospitals skyrocketed in the 1950s, the law didn't completely succeed. Midwifery just moved underground.

The profession experienced a national resurgence in the 1970s, fueled by feminism, the burgeoning health-rights movement, and government reports that anesthetizing women during childbirth could harm their babies. In Colorado, nurse-midwives — nurses who specialize in midwifery and deliver babies under the supervision of a doctor, often in a hospital — won legalization in 1977. A group of so-called lay midwives — midwives who deliver babies at home without medical intervention — wanted the same thing. They'd been practicing off the radar for decades, risking arrest and charges of practicing medicine without a license. In 1979, they formed the Colorado Midwives Association in Boulder.

For the next several years, they fought to legalize their profession. "We threw ourselves against the state legislature again and again," says Jennifer Braun, a midwife who started practicing in Boulder in 1982 and now runs a nonprofit called International Midwife Assistance that offers birth services in Uganda. "It was a David and Goliath story."

Bills to regulate lay midwifery failed in the legislature in 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1991. Each time, doctors, nurses and even nurse-midwives testified against them, arguing that delivering babies at home was unsafe. Meanwhile, supporters said that women were going to give birth at home regardless of whether it was legal. State regulation of midwifery would make it safer, they argued, not the other way around.

In 1993, after several midwives were arrested and one case reached as high as the Colorado Supreme Court, the legislature finally agreed. The resulting law decriminalized lay midwifery and set up a process by which "direct-entry midwives," as they are now called, could register with the state Department of Regulatory Agencies, or DORA. The law directed DORA to set education standards and rules for when midwives could and could not provide care, as well as a disciplinary process for when they broke those rules. The law also protected doctors and nurses from liability for a midwife's "mistakes."

It was a victory, but an imperfect one. The resulting rules included several restrictions: Midwives could not care for pregnant women with diseases such as diabetes, sickle-cell anemia or hepatitis. Midwives could not suture. Midwives could not administer common pregnancy-related drugs. Midwives could not deliver breech babies or twins.

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27 comments
Dlmakamartha
Dlmakamartha

Women and babies suffer at the hands of doctors and nurses way more than midwives....unnecessary interventions leading to major abdominal surgery.....I am so sorry for every mother/family that has suffered at the hands of any provider....but it is no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water! Tragedies happen in all stages of pregnancy and delivery and the right people need to be held responsible. But it's not a good reason to ban all midwifery or to issue a blanket statement that women should only have their babies in the hospital. Do you research people and make an informed choice for you and your baby....instead of following blindly like sheep.

I've had a baby in the hospital and one at home....I will forever have the rest of my children at one....

Liz
Liz

I have suffered tremendous injuries from a Colorado DEM. They aren't required any formal education. My midwife is currently under investigation for negligence. She tried to offer someone else's prescription to induce my labor because I was post due. She was gravely uneducated in GBS protocol. She wanted to "sterilize" her instruments in a baking pan in my oven. She tried to "PowerBirth" me without my consent (I wasn't dilated completely when she told me to start pushing.) She forcibly broke my water with her finger. She yelled at me to push every ten seconds, that I was wasting my contractions, wasn't working hard enough, didn't want my baby enough. She kept saying she could see the head, but I didn't feel it. After 3 hours of pushing, I was weak. She put oxygen on me because I was going to pass out, but she forgot to turn it on and left me alone in my room. When I transferred to the hospital, she did not take me to the hospital in our emergency plan, but to a hospital farther away because she had a "better relationship with them." She refused to transfer my medical records to the on call OB. I was so swollen from pushing before being dilated that it took over a half an hour, two L&D nurses, and many, many tries to even insert a catheter. The "head" she saw was a blood clot that had formed on my bladder- I was only 6 cm dilated. "Oh, she must have undilated when we got to the hospital," was her response to the OB. After my csection, my surgeon said he had to literally pick my bladder up and put it back where it belonged, I was pushing so hard before complete dilation. My child almost died from her incompetence. He had to be recuisitated at birth. I suffered uterine trauma, a severe prolapse, and I'll be lucky to sustain another pregnancy. My body will never be able to vaginally birth a baby. Dare to call me an "uninformed skeptic?"

LindaRosaRN
LindaRosaRN

Families who have been injured by midwife care are beginning to tell their stories at "Hurt by Homebirth" (http://hurtbyhomebirth.blogspo.... These are horrific stories of gross incompetence resulting in needless deaths and injuries.

On this site, note "Zen's Story" about a Colorado "direct-entry midwife" (DEM) who apparently couldn't tell the difference between a blood clot and crowning of the infant's head (and had a woman pushing for three hours when her cervix was only partially dilated). This DEM also prescribed garlic as vaginal suppositories for Group B Strep infections, etc.

I urge families who have been injured by DEMs to come to the Capitol in Denver on Tuesday, April 19th to speak to the House Judiciary Committee (hearing starts 1:30pm in Room 107) on SB-088, a bill that seeks to expand the midwives' scope of practice.

"Regulation" of midwives has done nothing to protect the public, but only dupe the public that DEMs have the State's blessing to provide what is really alarmingly substandard care.

If you have suffered a loss or injury at the hands of a Colorado direct-entry midwife, please contact me: contact*at*childrenintherapy*dot*org

john
john

Grace S and other closed-minded, uninformed skeptics, please check out the documentary, and website, The Business of Being Born.

Grace S
Grace S

It just AMAZES me that people can be so self-absorbed and egotistical that they would take ANY risk with the birth of their baby, as if it's all about *them* and not their baby. And now these unprofessional midwives want to be able to "play doctor" by using medications and suturing in people's homes!? Why don't they just become OBGYN doctorsi if they REALLY want to help moms deliver their babies? It BOGGLES the mind!

Njcronk
Njcronk

Grace, I think you have never been at a midwifery birth. If you had, you would see the huge difference in quality of care -- by midwives. Here is my story. I've had both. A birth with a midwife and a birth with OBs. I would pick the midwife birth every time if I could.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

Westword W. Westword
Westword W. Westword

If you would like your comment considered for our Letters to the Editor section, please e-mail me with your name and town (we don't print e-mail addresses)at patricia.calhoun@westword.com.

Leanna14369
Leanna14369

I pray for you and your family and hope this all happens in the best way. I want a midwife, so good luck!!

Karen Robinson, CPM, RM
Karen Robinson, CPM, RM

Because of the way the Department of Regulatory Agencies has collected information regarding homebirths in Colorado, information about perinatal demises is sketchy at best. Some midwives report first trimester miscarriages as perinatal deaths. DORA does not collect details on the surveys midwives complete, so we have no way to know what happened with the demises that have been reported. The Colorado Department of Vital Records also tracks homebirths and their reported demise rate for planned homebirth is less than 3 per 1000--which is what one would expect in the low risk population direct-entry midwives serve.

Karen Robinson, CPM, RMPresidentColorado Midwives Association

LindaRosaRN
LindaRosaRN

About that 3 deaths per 1000 births. Shame on Ms. Robinson for presenting this very misleading statistic.

I called Vital Statistics. The Colorado Department of Health Environment has data on direct-entry midwives for 2007-2009: For midwives, the department does not collect data on deaths for the usual perinatal period (i.e. week 20 of pregnancy through 28 days after birth), but only deaths in the neonate period (i.e. first 28 days of life). Then only deaths that occur at home go on the midwives' record. Any distressed infants transferred to a hospital and die there (or are declared dead there) are not added to midwives' kill rate.

And actually, infant deaths with low risk pregnancies should be more like 1 death per 1,000 births. An obstetrician may only see one such death in his whole career.

DORA's data also under-reports midwife-related deaths in a number of ways.

So much for midwives being "experts at normal deliveries." As someone said, "That's like being a pilot who is an expert at flying in good weather."

Linda Rosa, RN
Linda Rosa, RN

Ms Robinson's statement does not seem to jive with the data provided by DORA:

http://www.dora.state.co.us/mi...

Where are those first trimester miscarriages of which you speak? I presume the demises are here, reported as required by Colorado law of register midwives.

Regarding the statistics by the Colorado Department of Vital Records: that rate must be largely for unassisted-by-midwife, spontaneous births. But DORA's data clearly shows that having a registered midwife assist at a home birth puts the death rate over three times that amount (11.3 deaths per 1,000 births).

And look at the huge number of transfers to hospital care. Presumably those are emergencies where lives and staving off injury are dependent on STAT care.

What is sketchy is the number and type of injuries suffered by newborns who survive home deliveries. DORA should be collecting that data as well.

I also note on websites of Colorado midwives that they generally state that home birth is "safe" and even imply that it is safer than hospital care. That is misleading the public.

I agree that adults should be allowed to risk their own fool necks, but putting infants at needless risk is another matter. Seriously, what is more important: having the best possible outcome for an infant or having a pasta party with friends after a delivery?

2AlbertaA
2AlbertaA

32 yrs ago, my daughter had a home birth with a midwife, nurse studying midwifery and a physician who approved of such and me holding a mirror so she could watch...important since I had been given that choice when she was born. It was wonderfull and within an hour we all sat around the table and ate lasagnia and toasted the great experience and new grandchild. Since then Ive had five grands waterbirths and a greatgrandson by 32 yr old gd.All have been happy and no problem events. New mexico and Colorado are with it....from a believer.

Linda Rosa, RN
Linda Rosa, RN

One thing more...

When things go wrong with lay midwives and home births, there is now a new website for families to tell their tragic stories:

Hurt by Homebirthhttp://hurtbyhomebirth.blogspo...

These heart-rending accounts are a far cry from the hot-tub-poetry-drumming-birth-as-theater sort of event described in this Westword article.

Linda Rosa, RN
Linda Rosa, RN

What I don't see in the Sunset Review or this Westword article is a comparison of death rates -- the bottom line on issue of direct-entry midwives.

The incidence of death of newborns at the hands of direct-entry midwives is appalling high in Colorado, and climbing. The last figures put it at 11.3 deaths per 1000 births. That is DOUBLE the rate of the rest of the state. Also consider that the direct-entry midwives are not involved in high-risk pregnancies, premature births, etc.

For more info, see comments by Amy Tuteur, MD:http://skepticalob.blogspot.co...

Linda Rosa, RNLoveland, CO

Bbcatcher
Bbcatcher

Linda, I am trying to research these statistics. Can you give me your source for this number, as I've not been able to verify it? Thanks,Janelle Komorowski, CNMGreeley CO

Guest
Guest

Seriously, you're quoting Dr. Amy??? The woman actually believes the Wax Paper is good science!

inkintheveins
inkintheveins

I heard Indra speak during the Senate hearing and she was absolutely amazing. I spoke too, but got too choked up a couple of times talking about how important home birth is for those of us who choose it. Here is the written version of my testimony: http://www.facebook.com/note.p...

Guest
Guest

"Home birth has long been a controversial issue. Doctors and nurses say it's unnecessarily risky, and they criticize the midwives who deliver babies at home as amateur and insufficiently trained." ------- How absurd! Women have been giving birth how long compared to the "Medical Profession" which has been established how long?

A great book on this is - Witches, Midwives, and Nurses, A History of Women Healers by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English- original publishing 1973 Feminist Press. It is only 48 pages and well researched and referenced.

Marvelousbobchestnut
Marvelousbobchestnut

The baby on the cover doesn't have nipples or a belly button. Is this because of anti-obscenity laws?

 
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