Being subject to criticism for having chosen a midwife

Many studies have explored the history of midwifery. Sanchez-Ramirez (2015) detailed the many records of midwifery care in pre-Christian Egypt, then centuries of pregnancy, childbirth and puerperium care exclusively for and among women. The Middle Ages saw a gradual decline in the knowledges and skills of healers and midwives, followed by the systematic destruction of those knowledges and skills as the medical profession began to emerge.

Midwives came to be labeled as witches. Still, the 19th and 20th centuries witnessed the professionalization of midwifery. This period could be called the peak of midwifery’s glory.

However, the profession’s future is now imperiled by the rampant medical-ization of healthcare in general, and particularly by the extreme medicaliza-tion of women’s reproductive lives and childbirth. Fundamentally, this trend has delegitimized midwives as caregivers to mothers in the contemporary era (Sieglin and Sanchez-Ramirez 2015). This trend is endorsed by modern science, which plays with ethics and morality at its convenience, considering non-medicalized healthcare an archaic nostrum of ignorant people (see, for example, Riquer 1989; Esteban 2001; Blázquez 2008; Sánchez-Ramírez 2010).

Thus, in contemporary Ob-Gyn Mexico, women who decided to give birth freely and voluntarily with a midwife have been criticized for this decision and practice.

AZUL: The truth is that [birth] was fantastic because obviously 1 was very scared. All this context and then everybody told me, especially people who are in Mexico City, because we are from there, it was really a stage fright [reaction], of “Are you insane or what’s wrong with you; with a midwife and in your home; are you committing suicide or what’s wrong with you?!” So, the more prepared 1 felt I was for the birth, the surer I was about my decision.

The level of autonomy experienced by these women affected their decisions about the births directly. Usually, their commitment to birthing in the BC or with a midwife grew stronger during the appointments in the BC and with the midwives, who provided the expectant mothers with a set of elements to make themselves more secure despite the common opinions of the extended family.

ÁMBAR: We had a lot of pressure from the family; my parents are both doctors and from the beginning [they were] against having a natural birth. In fact, we didn’t even tell them that we were going to birth at home ... We didn’t tell them until the baby was born; until he was born! We called them and said, “You know what? He is already born..and honestly, the midwives, their care was really good in giving me confidence to understand my body a bit more, of how it works, that 1 can do it, they are like insurance because they have already attended many other, successful births.

As shown here, it is common for families to be doubtful about future parents because the families are so consumed by the predominant, contemporary cultural idea that a birth that is not attended in a hospital or by a doctor is unsafe. Women who decide differently have to be very firm in their decisions and in the discipline of continuing with the preparation for birth with midwives, as will be discussed below.

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