The Herbal Bath

This is something I have had in my files for many years. I’m posting it for those who are interested. The only time I have prepared all these herbs, we had them “cooking” while the woman was in the birth process. She didn’t like the smell so we had to interrupt the process, take the big pot outside and get the house cleared of the smell. So, lesson learned, don’t do this during the birth. I’m not in agreement about the idea of getting a woman into a bath to stop excessive bleeding or the idea of opening the labia and swooshing bath water into a post partum vulva. Actually, there are lots of ideas in here that I don’t go along with but I thought you might like to read this handout from around 1985.

I’m sorry I don’t know the source of this to credit the author. Gloria Lemay

Beginning of the quote:

This bath mixture should be prepared, strained and put together in a large container ready for the bath. Remember, this bath is also used as treatment for heavy bleeding, and must be ready for immediate use if necessary. A quart or two of strong shepherd’s purse and extra comfrey (fresh if possible) should be set aside for internal use and for adding to the bath if needed.

¼ C sea salt
1 ounce Uva Ursi
1-2 ounces Comfrey
½ – 1 ounce Shepherd’s Purse
1 large bulb fresh garlic

Have ready for emergency use:
2 quarts strong shepherd’s purse tea
2 quarts strong comfrey (fresh if possible)
1 qt. alum root tea, or alum crystals

Simmer the tea and let set for some time before straining. Simmer the tea leaves again to get their full benefit. If you have garden fresh comfrey, do not simmer—use raw. Whiz it in the blender, strain and add to the tea mixture in a large container. Whiz the fresh garlic, add this and the sea salt to the mixture. Cover, label and set aside. Add to the warm bath water when needed.

This herbal bath is highly recommended for every woman following childbirth. There is absolutely no danger of introducing an infection, if the baths are done correctly. The garlic and sea salt make the bath solution aseptic. Uva Ursi is a specific for healing a woman’s reproductive organs. Comfrey contains alantoin, a cell proliferant, which causes the edges of wounds to grow together. It is very healing and soothing. Shepherd’s purse is excellent for preventing and controlling excessive bleeding.

The bath should be taken shortly after the birth. If the placenta has not been expelled, and you would like to get in the bath, you may do so. When you feel a contraction coming on –squat over a bowl and push it out.

A warm bath to soothe after the birth.

A warm bath to soothe after the birth.

The water should be comfortably warm, but not hot. The water should be about hip level. Lie back, spread your legs and swoosh the healing waters up inside the birth canal. Thirty minutes should be the minimum time in the bath. You will find the bath very soothing, relaxing and rejuvenating.
The baby should be put in this bath with you. The herb bath will start the healing process of the cord stump, and it may drop off as early as 3 days. In this bath, your baby will become mellow, and may even smile. He will unfold, stretch and float in the lovely weightless, warmness of the water. It’s wonderful to watch his pure joy at finding something so familiar and enjoyable in this new world. Caress and speak softly to him. He will love this communication, and will respond by total eye contact and facial expressions. When the infant is taken out of the bath, he should be patted dry, not rubbed. Dress him in soft, warm things. Put him to bed with you and let him cuddle up next to your warm body.

End of quoted material.

Letter from Jenny (Homebirth after 2 cesareans)

My dear sweet Gloria,

A year ago today at 4:45 a.m. I gave birth. I have treasured that moment every day. I know it is really Rowan’s birthday. But it’s my birthday too. I feel like that was the day I was born as a woman. Whole, powerful, beautiful, healed.

As you know my other births left me with scars. Scars on my body and scars on my soul. This birth healed me. I am not broken, I am whole. I am not helpless, I am powerful. I am not less than a woman, I am beautiful. I am healed.

Thank you, Gloria, for being there for me. I will never forget the first time you put your hands on my large belly. I could feel love through your touch. For me and for my baby. Visits with you were relaxed; you spent so much time with me. You told me so many stories. Stories to make me laugh, give me courage and impart knowledge. You challenged me to dream of this birth. To really think in detail how I wanted it to be. And I had the birth I dreamed of! What a gift.

Thank you, Gloria, for your quiet confident presence during my labour.
You gave me my space and that’s exactly what I wanted. You gave me quiet encouragement as I pushed, and through the fog I heard your words and they helped me. You reminded me to get ready to catch my baby; you knew how much I wanted that! And you left us to get acquainted with her as you went to get me some tea. What a peaceful birth. I still remember her looking at me with those eyes. Nothing is like that first look a newborn takes at the world around, and I got to see it!

Thank you Gloria for being who you are. You are a woman to be reckoned with! You supported me and my desire to have an amazing birth. And it has changed me.

Happy 1st birthday, Rowan. Happy birth day to me, too. Thank you, Gloria!
PS. My placenta is still in my freezer waiting to be planted under a Rowan tree when we have our own place 😀


According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, courage is a noun meaning ‘ability to overcome fear or despair” The fear has to be present in order for courage to exist. The English word “courage” is derived from the French word for the heart, “cour”. When someone finds the heart to continue on doing the right thing in the face of great fear, everyone around her is inspired to become a nobler human being. This is the source of courage for many midwives. In ourwork, we see women and men facing their fears in birth, we ask them to have faith in the face of no evidence, we demand that they be bigger than the circumstances and, when they conquer, we get a renewed vision of how life can look when our fears don’t stop us.

The paths of parenting and midwifery push me up against my fears and despairing attitude on a daily basis. Luckily, I have found teachers and teachings that have inspired me to keep going despite a rapidly beating hummingbird heart. When my daughters were very young and I was juggling my heart’s desire to be a good parent and make a difference in childbirth, one of my friends told me to use the affirmation “My vulnerability is my strength.” I thought she was insane and argued that if I lived by that slogan my children would surely perish. I was pretty sure that my strength was my strength—and by strength I meant my ability to force and push life to suit my will. I now know that true strength is an elusive quality of being able to strengthen others. At that time, I trusted my friend and, on faith in her alone, began toying with sharing my vulnerability. I tiptoed into revealing my fears and apprehensions to a few “safe” people and slowly began to realize that what my friend had given me as an affirmation worked a lot better than my stoic, stubborn, brave warrior act.

After a few harsh lessons, I began to realize that it wasn’t up to me to conceal information that was worrying me at a birth from the parents. In fact, if I am afraid at a birth, the best thing I can do is name the fear boldly and even ask everyone else present to say what his or her fears are. One of my dear clients released her membranes at 36 weeks in her second pregnancy. Her first birth had been a beautiful, straightforward home birth and I was deeply invested in her second birth being just as great. After four days of leaking, she began having regular, intense birthing sensations and we drove to the hospital for the birth. I drove and the parents were in the back seat of my car. As we approached the hospital, my hands on the wheel were clutched into white knuckles and a ball of fear formed in my gut. I started picturing the cord being whacked off immediately and the baby being taken away from Mom. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the father with his eyes looking terrified. I said to him “What’s your biggest fear right now, Brian?” He replied, “I am afraid we’re going to have a Cesarean.” I never imagined this would be his fear. A cesarean was not even a possibility, I explained, “Your wife is in strong birthing, she has already had one vaginal birth, the baby is small—for sure it will be born vaginally”. He asked me, then, “What are you afraid of?” I told him honestly “ I’m afraid that the baby’s cord will be cut too quickly and the baby will be taken away from Karen.” This had not occurred to him but he knew that my experience was a better barometer of things to come. He asked me what we could do to prevent this. I was able to tell him that it was very important to take the doctor aside out in the hall and tell him “It means everything to my wife and I that the cord be left to pulse and that the baby be placed on her skin until the placenta comes out.” We did a couple of “dress rehearsals” of what had to be said and then went in. The staff at the hospital respected the parents’ wishes to have the cord left intact. The birth went beautifully. I would have wished that the baby didn’t have as heavy doses of antibiotics as he was given (with resulting colic for months) but having a birth that involved no induction or anesthetics was a big accomplishment in these circumstances.

Nancy Wainer, author, midwife

Nancy Wainer, author, midwife

There was a period in my career when I was unable to divest myself of fear and dread. I wanted to have a breakthrough and so I decided to “import” some courage into my city. I thought about my heroes in the midwifery movement and asked myself “Whose the bravest person I know?” The answer was, of course, Nancy Wainer Cohen. Her book “Silent Knife” had kept my feet in the room at VBAC births where every cell in my body had been screaming “What the h— are you doing here?!!” I was pretty sure that if Nancy came and lived at my house for a few days, I could get some courage. My husband picked Nancy up at the airport and she came into my house and hugged me wracking with sobs. She cried her way through several boxes of Kleenex at the workshop she taught for my students. Her visit was four days of snot, tears and intense passion for healing birth. I learned so much about the vulnerability and strength connection. Nancy is still my hero in the courage department and she continues to live her life with her heart pinned right on her sleeve.

The sharing other midwives have done about their fears has strengthened me to face my fears of birth One midwife wrote in Midwifery Today that “the drive to the birth with all the “what ifs” running through my head is the hard part, when I walk through the door and see the woman, all that disappears”. Another midwife told me “The scariest thing for me is the first prenatal class of a series. Meeting new people who have so much riding on my teaching is enough to give me an ulcer.” An acronym for fear is:

F= false
E= evidence
A= appearing
R= real

When I am most afraid, it is because I have forgotten the truth about how loved and blessed I am. The fear can dominate and stop me or it can be used to alert me to something to which I am deeply committed. Using a journal to write out fears in the morning helps to clear the mind. Once the fears are on paper, somehow they seem less foreboding. Being in action is another antidote to the paralysis that accompanies fear. Any action—cleaning your desk, organizing a drawer, making a phone call—will bring a new perspective and lessen the dread.

My favorite philosopher about fear and courage is the Wizard of Oz speaking to the cowardly lion “Courage is doing what’s right even though you’re afraid.” I have learned courage from birthing women and other midwives. We are there to inspire and raise the bar for each other on what’s possible in the domain of courageous action.
This article by Gloria Lemay was written in 2003 and first published in Midwifery Today, Issue 67, Autumn 2003

Gina and her men

Read Gina’s story on her blog at Quote from the story that I love: “It was the most amazing feeling reaching down, catching our baby and bringing him to my chest. No one other than Cody and I touched our baby, that was very special to me. He snuggled on my chest and Cody told me how proud he was of me and I told Jaxon how proud I was of him.”

College of Midwives of B.C.

Parents, grandparents, children and birth rights activists picketed the College of Midwives offices on Nov. 28, 2012. The College of Midwives conducts secret investigations and flagging operations to undermine the alternative birth workers in the province. By sending negative press releases and spreading half-truths and innuendo, they attempt to claim a monopoly on who shall attend births in the province.

Choice of birth attendant is a woman's right

From the film “Freedom for Birth”: — “One of the home birth mothers supported by Ms Gereb (Agnes Gereb, Hungarian midwife) decided to take a stand.
When pregnant with her second child, Anna Ternovsky took her country (Hungary) to the European Court of Human Rights and won a landmark case that has major implications for childbirth around the world.

Toni Harman, one of the filmmakers says, “the “Ternovsky vs Hungary” ruling at the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 means that,. . . now in Europe, every birthing woman has the legal right to decide where and how she gives birth. . .

. . .And across the world. . ., it means that if a woman feels like her Human Rights are being violated because her birth choices are not being fully supported, she could use the power of the law to protect those rights. With the release of “Freedom For Birth”, we hope millions of women become aware of their legal rights and so our film has the potential to spark a revolution in maternity care across the world. In fact, we are calling this the Mothers’ Revolution.”

Added on June 17 2013: EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS Fact Sheet
Under Article 37 § 1(c)of the Convention
Home Birth
Ternovsky v. Hungary
The applicant complained about being denied the opportunity to give birth at home, arguing that midwives or other health professionals were effectively dissuaded by law from assisting her, because they risked being prosecuted.
(There had recently been at least one such prosecution.)
The Court found that the applicant was in effect not free to choose to give birth at home because of the permanent threat of prosecution faced by health professionals and the absence of specific and comprehensive legislation on the subject, in violation of Article 8
Right to respect for private and family life.

ADDED June 2017: A case involving a member of the College of Midwives of B.C.
VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016 8:22PM EDT
Last updated Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016 8:24PM EDT

The mother of a boy who was born with severely debilitating brain injuries on Vancouver Island has settled a lawsuit against her midwife and local health authority for more than $3-million, as well as annual payments that could add millions of dollars to the cost of the case.

The annual $400,000 payments outlined in the settlement are rare, but a legal expert says if they become more common they could add an unpredictable liability to the B.C. government’s finances.

Cabe Crossman was born in December, 2011, at the Cowichan District Hospital in Duncan, located about 60 kilometres northwest of Victoria. Due to injuries suffered during the delivery, he now has severe cerebral palsy and intellectual impairment, and will require extensive care for the rest of his life.

His mother, Sarah Corrin, sued her midwife, Selina Boily, the Vancouver Island Health Authority and two unidentified nurses alleging the care she received, first from the midwife and then at the hospital, was negligent. She alleged that her labour and delivery was not properly monitored, assessed or responded to. The defendants admitted liability and a B.C. Supreme Court judge approved a settlement earlier this month.

The boy’s life expectancy could be anywhere from 12 to 30 years, according to the court ruling, meaning the final cost to the provincial government could be well over $10-million. In addition to ultimately being responsible for the health authority, the province also sponsors the Midwives Protection Program, an insurance plan unique to B.C. across the country.

The program provides midwives with legal expenses and covers claims against them alleging negligence while practising, if they pay an annual fee of $1,800 per year.

A separate liability insurance program for midwives is also used in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. It was not immediately clear about the situation in other provinces.

The Midwives Association of B.C. says the cost of malpractice insurance was halved in 2007 by the Ministry of Health “due to the excellent record that midwives currently hold in relation to large claims,” and reduced again in 2014.

As of this year, midwives in B.C. are required to also hold commercial general liability insurance, which they can get through the insurance provider of their choice

Paul McGivern, a lawyer with Pacific Medical Law who specializes in medical malpractice and infant injury cases, said that over the past decade he has seen a trend in which settlements for obstetric cases in British Columbia have been going up – not in quantity, but in dollar value.

Mr. McGivern, who was not involved in the Corrin family’s lawsuit, has worked on many cases that have involved $3-million claims or more.

“Part of it is that the cost of care is going up. Part of it is that counsel are presenting much more sophisticated analysis of the cost of care – the evidence is getting better as to how much things cost,” he said.

However, Mr. McGivern said incremental payments in the agreement, without insurance backing, is unusual.

“It is very difficult to predict what your ongoing financial obligations are going to be,” he said.

“If you have one case or two cases, you can manage that. If you’ve got 100, 200 or 500 of those cases that build up over time, your finances can become incredibly difficult to manage and predict.”

A recurring payment in a case such as this “is not unprecedented,” said Barbara Webster-Evans, the lawyer who represented Ms. Corrin. “But it’s probably rare.”

Ms. Webster-Evans said the family requested privacy and that agreements are in place that prevent her from discussing the case in detail.

“Any of these cases when they occur are tragedies for the child as well as the family,” she said.

Added July 11, 2017

B.C. College of Midwives demands ‘death midwives’ stop using title
College says midwife title is protected by law; death midwife says her use of it completely different
By Liam Britten, CBC News Posted: Jul 05, 2016 8:51 PM PT Last Updated: Jul 05, 2016 8:51 PM PT

Death midwife Pashta MaryMoon (far right) instructs others on a live model, how to properly wash and care for a dead body at home. The College of Midwives of British Columbia says the title “midwife” is protected by law and has sent a cease and desist letter to MaryMoon’s organization ordering them to stop using it. (Canadian Integrative Network for Death Education and Alternatives)

The College of Midwives of British Columbia is demanding a group of “death midwives” stop using the term “midwife” when referring to their services.
The Canadian Integrative Network for Death Education and Alternatives is an organization that represents and provides awareness about “death midwives” — people who help a dying person and their loved ones with alternative funeral arrangements, often at home.
CINDEA’s webpage says they use the term “midwife” to “honour and parallel the role of a birth midwife,” but College of Midwives registrar and executive director Louise Aerts says the term is reserved under the Health Professions Act and CINDEA’s use is breaking the law.
“There can be a misperception from the public when a title is being used inappropriately,” she said.
“Part of the idea is to provide a sense to the public of what it means to be a registered health professional, and they know when those terms are being used, that there is a regulatory body overseeing the education and practices and standards of that profession.”
Even though death midwives have the “death” modifier before their title, Aerts says the potential is there for confusion.
“The public could conceive that they have the same level of training, the same level of oversight of their practice as do registrants of the college,” she said.
As a result, the college sent CINDEA a cease and desist letter this week to prevent them from using the term “midwife.”
• Death midwives offer a ‘more authentic’ funeral experience
• B.C. home funeral workshops teach loved ones to care for corpses
• Midwives call for better education and funding
Doubts about confusion
Aerts says she hadn’t heard of CINDEA until the CBC profiled the work of founder Pashta MaryMoon for a radio series.
MaryMoon says the term “death midwife” has been used for over a decade by people like herself, and she isn’t sure why it has become an issue now.
“We’re not talking about being a midwife for pregnant women,” she said. “People who are dealing with the death of a person have no confusion about what kind of midwife we are. So I don’t really see why that’s an issue.”

Pashta MaryMoon, seen here practising on a live model, says using the term “death midwife” has “nothing to do with being equally credible as birth midwives.” (Canadian Integrative Network for Death Education and Alternatives)
MaryMoon questions whether the College has the legal standing to stop death midwives from using the title, but admits CINDEA has no legal representation.
She also says CINDEA’s use of the title is not about claiming the legitimacy of midwifery.
“What we’re doing is reclaiming the ancient word and the ancient practice. It has nothing to do with being equally credible as birth midwives,” she said.
“It has to do with bringing back the original practice of caring for your own dead and the people who would support the families to do that, who were the midwives.”
MaryMoon said on Tuesday she wasn’t sure what CINDEA’s next steps would be besides consulting other group members and similar practitioners in the United States.

View story online (with photos) here:

Interview with Gloria Lemay (1999)

Following is an excerpt from Rape of the Twentieth Century which is no longer in print.
Interview by Leilah McCracken.

Q&A with Gloria Lemay

Gloria Lemay is the only non-registered birth attendant in the province of British Columbia still serving parturient women; all others have been terrorized out of practice by a monopolizing, litigious, government-sanctioned midwifery cartel. Ms. Lemay has been in service for over twenty years, and is currently the most popular midwife in B.C.

Q- Why did you become a midwife?

A- Because having my first homebirth was a life-changing experience for me. Up until that time I had worked in fields primarily involving men; and
when I gave birth to my daughter, I really claimed my womanhood – it changed my direction completely into wanting to work with women.

Q- What does birth mean to you?

A- it’s one of the few opportunities we have in life for transformation. The suck of life is that people can change- that change will happen over time.
We come to believe that because there is a lot of common agreement around it; and transformation is expected to happen in a predictable time-frame. Yet in birth, a transformation happens outside of time – outside of time and space. It’s not something you can repeat or do again; it’s actually a change of substance. I was transformed in my births, and creating room for other people to experience that is really important to me.

Q- Sometimes you call yourself a “private birth attendant”. Why don’t you like to be called “midwife” anymore?

A- Legally managed and sanctioned midwifery tends to become invisible in the system very quickly. Working outside the system is what I do, and I am not attached to calling myself a midwife- it’s a lovely word to my ears, but my definition of the word seems to be quite different from the legislators in my province: to them, “obstetrical nursing” is equatable with “midwifery”.

Q- What qualities make a good midwife?

A- Patience number one. And an ability to be in true service- to put yourself aside and see what is really needed in the other person. Love in the
heart… It helps to be smart. One should be able to stay calm,and be reliable in the face of emergency.

Q- What is the role of modern medicine in childbirth?

A- Mostly, to get the hell out of it. In a small percentage of cases, modern medicine can make a life-saving difference. But the harm that doctors have inflicted on the women of North America for no reason is like a holocaust. A good analogy would be if you sent your kids to the local swimming pool on ten different days in the summer. If your child was given complete CPR, oxygen, and a drug injection on nine out of the ten days he went there because the Lifeguard “thought” he was drowning, and he wasn’t, you’d get pretty upset. The fact that normal, healthy young women walk into the hospital to have a baby, and 90% of them came out looking like they’ve had major trauma, is ridiculous.

Q-Do you feel a backlash happening against the homebirth movement?

A- I actually think that there’s less as we approach the year 2000. We’ve gotten to a point where alternatives- and practices that have endured over time- are becoming increasingly accepted. Did you know that twenty-five percent of people buy organic food? When an idea reaches critical mass, what was the idea of a few people suddenly becomes everybody’s idea. The day is coming quickly when the women who have been persecuted as midwives will be rewarded for
their perseverance with very busy practices.

Q- What is your single greatest fear regarding childbirth?

A- My natural fear is having a baby death, because of the pain that the parents go through. That fear keeps me smart, prepared, and keeps me working
preventatively, so parents have the best chance possible of having a live baby. I also fear that one of my clients will have a cesarean section- or a
forceps delivery- or any of the other interventions that I hate.

Q- How many women should be getting cesarean sections?

A- No more than three percent.

Q- Why aren’t you a registered midwife?

A- I believe in joining and giving my membership to organizations whose actions reflect my own beliefs regarding their actions and stated
philosophies. The British Columbia College of Midwives is not an organization to which I’d give my name or my money. They see new midwives as a threat to their monopoly of the homebirth market– I was not welcomed or supported as a new midwife, to say the least.

Q- Is there anything positive in the medical model of birth?

A- There are a lot of positive things about it, and if midwives are smart, they’d take all the positives, duplicate them, and compete strongly on the things that are not positive. Taking things like clean fingernails, reliability (there’s always someone there when women show up at the birth captivity center), making sure there’s enough oxygen in the oxygen tank, always having lots of sterile gauze- there are certain things that are useful, and conscious, that doctors and nurses do that midwives can, and should, duplicate. On the other hand, we can compete very strongly with doctors and nurses because midwives can do all those things easily, plus offer preventative measures, womanly wisdom, and our own experience in giving birth. We can also offer
a lot of tricks of the trade that doctors don’t know about- plus a gentler approach.

Q- What is the role of men in childbirth?

A- To protect the women.

Q-What is your most important job as a birth attendant?

A- To create a safe environment for the mother and baby.

Q- What bothers you most about TV’s portrayal of childbirth?

A- In order to sell commercial space, whatever’s being presented has to have a dramatic element. Birth in real life is not dramatic- it is sacred, moving, alive and earthy- but it’s not something that would make a dramatic screenplay. Birth has to be warped a bit to make it saleable to commercial interests. Unfortunately, people get their general perceptions of birth, police work and legal matters- and their perceptions of those who work within these professions- through what they see on TV. Midwives, police officers and lawyers will tell you that the every day work of their businesses is nothing at all like what is seen on TV- but people never believe it.

Q- What questions do you hear most from families, and how do you respond to them?

A- Mostly- “How can we avoid being involved with the medical system in any way?” They want to avoid transfer to the hospital, having a doppler used to detect fetal heart tones ultrasonically, diabetes screenings…
Most people who come to see me are referred by friends- so they’ve already heard all about me. They already know that I’m out of the system. In the course of prenatal visits, we get to know each other, trust each other and understand each other’s vulnerabilities. This all pays dividends at the birth because everyone has only one focus- the highest good of mother and baby.

Q- What should midwives do in society to help heal birth?

A- What I concentrate on is one birth at a time, with excellence in my practice. One woman tells another, and soon a hundred people have heard the birth story. Each birth creates a ripple effect in the community- it’s amazing the effect that a normal birth has on people.

Q- What roles should midwives have- aside from attending birth- in the community?

A- Classically, midwives have been the wise women who looked out for their communities: they were the women to whom you would go to get help with burying your grandparents; the women who would come with hot meals for the family when the husbands have been ill; they were mature women who never gossiped or betrayed confidences. They furthered wise action and harmony in their communities, and in turn, their communities took care of and honored
the midwives. A midwife’s role should be to promote harmony.

Q- How would a woman go about becoming a midwife?

A- The way I did it twenty years ago was best for me. For four years I immersed myself in reading, eating and breathing birth. We formed different
midwifery study groups, and I began teaching prenatal classes. I did a lot of hospital labor support, and was helped by friends who were doctors and nurse-midwives. I learned a lot from them. I also learned a lot about what NOT to do at a birth… Some of these births were such gruesome rapes I shudder to think of them now. I know there are obstetricians who hate women and are just plain evil in their disregard. I really wanted to keep women away from medicine as much as I could- so I learned how do things like injections and suturing myself. Also, a midwife needs to know many things to be good at her job. She should learn all she can about all aspects of life- she needs to know about religion, government, history, economics, auto mechanics,
linguistics, geography, psychology, matters of the law, physiology, crisis management- she will have to have a wide repertoire of knowledge regarding all aspects of women’s lives.

Q- Could you briefly describe your legal battles?

A- In 1985 my partner and I attended a homebirth in Vancouver where a baby died. We were charged with criminal negligence causing death to the baby, criminal negligence causing bodily harm to the mother, and four counts of practicing medicine without a license. What ensued was a six-year odyssey of appearing before the courts in British Columbia and Ontario- ultimately culminating in an appearance before the Supreme Court of Canada. We were finally acquitted of all charges in 1991. At that time I returned to my midwifery practice (I wasn’t practising at all between 1985-91). In 1994 I had a baby in my practice who died at three days old; and there was a seven day Coroner’s Inquest into his death- which resulted in a finding of “accidental death”. There was a lot of negative publicity and again, once it blew over, I returned to my practice.

Q- What positive result came from your Supreme Court case?

A- Our goal was for it to be the last time midwives faced the criminal justice system in Canada, and for our trial to be the end of all midwifery trials in
Canada. There has not been a criminal arrest of a midwife since.

Q- What is the climate for you inside hospitals when you need to take women in?

A- It varies- sometimes extremely hostile, sometimes extremely cooperative- it seems to depend on the mood of the hospital staff. I’ve learned not to take it personally.

Q- Do doctors really believe they do right by women by interfering with childbirth?

A- I think they’re resigned to birth as it appears to them inside the confines of a hospital. They get resigned to what they see every day, and believe that what they see is how birth is supposed to be. I really feel that doctors don’t have a clue about what to do or how to help birthing women- then they blame women for “needing” interventions. They blame the women for the terrible statistics. They’ve been taught how to do things- and have never questioned the wisdom of what they’ve been taught.

Q- Why do midwives in hospitals remain silent regarding alarming intervention rates?

A- I think they’re resigned to playing politics.

Q- Do some women- such as non-English speaking or minority- suffer more in hospital births than others?

A- I think that in Canadian hospitals some women are used as teaching patients more than others, so interns can learn procedures. These women often have no idea what’s going on, either to them or around them. They also have an unrealistic idea that modern technology is always better than the simpler, more natural ways in their own countries. I think it would make a difference to these women if there were labor support people of their own language or descent in hospitals to help them. Young and uneducated women are taken advantage of too. Two Burnaby midwives were running a program for teaching teenage mothers about nutrition in pregnancy; they soon got a huge number of young women coming to them for counseling. They would channel these young mothers for their regular prenatal care to doctors who never did episiotomies- that is, to gentle women doctors. Soon, other doctors could feel the pinch in their practices- and were forced to develop kinder approaches as well. Hit them where it counts to make change- in the wallet.

Q- What are the most important things a pregnant woman can do to ensure the health of her baby?

A- Eat a good diet. Muster all the social support she can around her. There have been studies that have shown that these are the only two things really make a difference.

Q- What are the two greatest advantages of homebirth?

A- No one will lose your baby, and so far no one has had a cesarean section at home.

Q- Can you think of any disadvantages?

A- Your midwife has to wash the sheets- there’s no paid cleanup staff.

Q- Do breathing exercises really help in preparation for childbirth?

A- Breathing exercises worked for me personally. I love to have some familiar tools when going into scary or unknown situations- learning how to
breathe was valuable for me going into my own births. Some women don’t care about them, though. Every woman has unique wants and needs, and midwives should listen, and put their own judgments aside. If women say they would like to be taught breathing exercises, then they should be taught. That goes for anything else as well. Midwives need to address women as individuals- they need to address individual needs.

Q- What do you find most rewarding about being a midwife?

A- Feeling like I make a difference- knowing that I make a difference.

Q- If you could tell all the obstetricians in the world one thing, what would it be?

A- That birth needs to be undisturbed.

Q- What would you like written on your gravestone?

A- “Gloria Lemay- MIDWIFE & MOTHER… She spoke up for babies”.
First published in 1999.

Hold that hat!


Someone on Facebook is doing a survey of what birth workers think about putting knit toques on newborn heads.

We have to ask ourselves about the way this hat thing got going. Babies were not doing well after being born to medicated women and immediate cord clamping. The baby who has started off at such a deficit will lose body heat and be in very rough shape. Helping keep in heat by a hat might be a matter of life and death in this instance where the body is so weakened.

Contrast that to a baby born spontaneously and placed on his mother’s body. . . both of them wrapped together in a warmed blanket skin to skin. The cord is intact, the placenta continues its work of transferring just the right amount of blood back and forth to the baby while he/she adjusts to life in an air environment in a leisurely fashion.

Then, the baby and the mother lock in a gaze; the mother recognizing that this is her own; she buries her nose in the wet head and drinks in the smell of her young; she locks the imprint of that child’s whole being into her vision and she would not ever confuse her baby with someone else’s. Later, she chooses the clothing SHE wants her child to wear; she dresses and grooms her own baby. . . she is in charge and has been born as the mother. No one and no article of clothing has come between her and her total impressions of that baby. Through skin, mouth, nose, eyes and heart she has claimed the baby as her own and the bond is strong.


Bringing medical birth practices to a natural birth is a sign that we lost so much knowledge in the dark years when homebirth/midwifery was wiped out. Now, we can look again at these things and lay them aside as foolish for well women and their infants.