Rowan Bailey: the single best argument for opposing NC S107 decriminalization of lay midwifery

Rowan Bailey

Dear North Carolina Senators,

I could offer you many excellent reasons why you should vote against Senate Bill 107 decriminalizing the practice of lay midwifery.

I could explain to you that homebirth midwives, even those who have the CPM (certified professional midwife) credential, are not real midwives and would not be eligible for licensure in the Netherlands, the UK, Australia, Canada or ANY first world country.

I could offer evidence of the many preventable neonatal deaths at the hands of North Carolina homebirth midwives, leading to a homebirth death rate that is more than 10 times higher than birth in the hospital (and that’s only the deaths that I personally know about).

I could show you that the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA), the organization that represents American homebirth midwives, refuses to release the death rates of the 27,000 planned homebirths in their database and that they have NO standards for practice, declaring that each midwife can devise her own standards.

But I’ll take a shortcut and offer the example of Rowan Bailey, the lay midwife who is currently in jail for her involvement in one of the many NC homebirth deaths.

Read the following descriptions and ask yourself: should you really decriminalize the ability of any women to call herself a midwife and spout nonsense such as this?

Bailey describes herself as as Community Midwife, Placenta Alchemist, Co-founder Asheville Holistic Birth Collective, Birth Activist. In other words, Bailey has absolutely no formal training in midwifery.

So why does she call herself a midwife? She awarded the designation to herself after studying at The Matrona.

According to The Black Mountain News:

In a nondescript home on a quiet West Asheville street, Tina “Rowan” Bailey learned that to act as midwife, she was responsible for the birthing process — but not the outcome.

The belief that managing and monitoring a woman’s labor strips her of her power is a guiding principle at The Matrona, a nonprofit that trains about 20 women a year in unaccredited midwifery and doula programs.

In other words, the guiding principle at The Matrona is that anyone can call herself a midwife, but there’s no need to take responsibility if a baby dies as a result.

The Matrona school was founded in 2001 by Diane Bartlett, who goes by the name “Whapio” in the midwifery community…

The school teaches “quantum midwifery” and methods of “undisturbed birth,” designed for “self-directed families planning an unassisted birth,” according to the school’s website.

Bailey graduated in 2006 from the school’s “midwifery immersion program,” a four-month training that teaches “Returning Birth to the Family.”

In other words, The Matrona instructs self proclaimed “midwives” in how to think nonsense about birth, but not how identify, manage or prevent childbirth complications.

But wait! She also completed The Matrona’s Sacred Birth Mentor Program!

The Sacred Birth Mentor Program, according to the program’s Facebook page, is “a 2-year, three-level mystery school for birth professionals that focuses on consciousness, spiritual practice, physical, spiritual and financial wellness and much more.”

And that’s not all. Bailey also attended Birth Heaven Now! As Bailey herself explains:

The first time I read the words ‘Excellent Self-Care’ and ‘Birth Professionals’ in the same sentence something shifted deep in my core. When I first began working with Stephanie Dawn 1 year ago I was completely depleted spiritually and personally, rarely worked as a birth professional and cleaned houses full time to pay the bills. I no longer believed I would ever BE a midwife. Wow, how far I have come! Stephanie facilitated me in defining my ideal client and I now have a full practice of clients I love, have a soul-level connection with and who value my work. I am fulfilled now in ways I did not imagine possible before. My spiritual practice, which I used only in times of desperation in the past, is now part of my daily life. This part has been huge in creating harmony in my home, my practice and when I have challenging experiences they no longer seem so devastating. I have learned to receive as well as give. I cannot express how amazing this feels. I am looking forward to even more expansion over the next year.

What’s most disturbing about Bailey’s self-designation of “midwife” in not the fact that she has no education and training in midwifery. What I find most disturbing is that someone who clearly has no education and training in midwifery is fully embraced by the homebirth midwifery community. As far as I can determine, the homebirth midwifery community has made no effort to determine whether Bailey was responsible for the death of baby Avery. Indeed, a supporter succinctly explained:

The story behind the birth does not matter.

Rowan Bailey is a walking, talking argument for vetoing a bill that decriminalizes such behavior. These self proclaimed “midwives” are honest in declaring that they have no concern for the outcome of the births they attend. The organization that represents them is honest in declaring that they have no standards for homebirth midwifery, and, therefore, no accountability, regardless of the deaths and disabilities that ensue. At the moment, the existing North Carolina laws are the ONLY protection that babies and mothers have against untrained, self-proclaimed “midwives.” Please think very carefully before you take it away.