My heart goes out to the mamas and midwives in NYC who are losing their ability to give birth at home today. Big time.
As many readers will know, St. Vincent’s is closed as of today. It was one of the only hospitals in NYC who were willing to back up midwives with legally required Written Practice Agreements (WPA’s) for the approximately 600 births home birth midwives attend each year. This is a *huge* blow.
Mid-afternoon, I started hearing rumblings of an emergency press conference with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Élan McAllister of Choices in Childbirth, and Pat Burkhardt of NYSALM . I was out and about with a friend’s kids and we popped over, after promising the kids JOURNALISTS! and the PRESIDENT of MANHATTAN! and ice cream after, if they were good. I tried to explain the situation to the kiddos and when we saw some very pregnant ladies there, they asked “does that lady want to have her baby at home?” I said yes; I was both glad that I had conveyed the situation to their understanding but saddened to see ladies who would not be able to have their babies at home.
When we first arrived to the city building downtown, we walked right in and, three confused security guards later, (“it’s a press conference? about midwives? and St. Vincents? you haven’t seen any strollers or babies going all to one place?”) they sent me up to the 5th floor. Up we went, and walked ourselves into a board room with a big conference table and lots of suits speaking somewhat heatedly and kind of incomprehensibly. Hm, I thought, odd there are no cameras, no moms and kids sitting around the table, only one or so reporter. No matter, it was too bad others hadn’t made it in time. I sat the kiddos down with their cheetos and paper and pens, and I settled in, feeling slightly out of place in my jeans and tshirt. We left about ten minutes later, “weird press conference,” I thought!
We walked out, kiddos and me slightly confused, and found a crowd of folks – hm – with cameras! recording devices! posters! pregnant ladies! babies! microphones! Oops. Sorry for crashing the closed-door meeting, policy makers!
Anyhow, although there is no immediate solution, NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation are reviewing documents and considering providing WPAs for the home birth midwives in NYC. I can tell you that in the closed meeting, HHC were not making any promises. But they are looking at the documents. Although I’m not particularly sure what HHC will be able to do, I am enormously heartened that Scott Stringer is working on this issue, and blown away by the tenacity, bravery, and expert organizing of NYC’s homebirth community — especially Choices in Childbirth, who has kept us updated with action alerts.
Choices in Childbirth reports that the NY State Department of Health has received more calls about this issue than any other issue, EVER. They advise that folks keep calling – I presume until this issue is resolved. You can contact officials via:
* Wendy Saunders, Executive Deputy Commissioner for the NY State Department of Health, appointed by Governor Paterson. 518-474-8390
* Larry Mokhiber, he Secretary of the Board of Midwifery (518-474-3817, extension 130)
And say: I support a woman’s right to choose a home birth and I call on the [city, Dept of Health, Governor] to do everything in their power to insure that this option remains available to all women in New York.
People can also email the Governor at http://www.state.ny.us/governor/contact/GovernorContactForm.php.
Parenting Poppy has a great recap of the press conference (hi, neighbor!). There has been some coverage in the news, as well. RH Reality Check and Radical Doula put this in context of larger trends – this is happening in other communities, too. Let’s hope we can turn this one around.