I must pause to say a sincere, heartfelt THANK YOU for all
that you do. For not bending when the winds rush your
way. For speaking up on behalf of those who cannot speak
for themselves. For fully acknowledging that intactivism
is a necessary component of gentle birth, human rights,
and even of women's health. It is such an honor to have
your site as one that I am able to send
clients/friends/family to and never worry that they will
get myths/misconceptions, or that they will be left
hanging with a lack of information (as is ubiquitously
the case today). Simply, thank you. For who you are and
all that you do. The world is truly a better place
because of you!
. . . . .
You're the one...
keep up the good fight for us all, past and future.
In the present you've been there for all the caring, thinking mothers who wanted more, and because of you, got
I'm honoured to know you, to be able to say I know you well enough to
Owner, Small Planet Health Foods,
Former La Leche League Leader,
Mother of 4,
Activist with Raging Grannies
. . . . .
Gloria Lemay has been such a leader out
on the West coast of Canada, she has stretched the
boundaries of what is possible in birth and what we
define as normal. When we rule the world she should get
a medal and a huge pension.
. . . . .
“I love you to the bones and
back. To the moon and back. To the universe and beyond
and back, and even MORE than that doubled and
Nancy Wainer Cohen, midwife and author of “Silent
Knife” and “Open Season”
Gloria Lemay teaching placenta examination to Patricia Blomme, R. N. of Calgary, Alberta at the Wise Woman Way of Birth Workshop (2000)
|How I Became a Birth Attendant
by Gloria Lemay (written in l997)
I want my gravestone to read "Gloria Lemay
BIRTH ATTENDANT & MOTHER
She spoke up for babies".
I left school at the end of Grade 11 because I was a teen unwed mother in the days when that was worse than death (mid l960's). I moved to another city, had my baby and relinquished her for adoption. My birth was without drugs because I had read "l0 Easy Lessons for a Natural Birth" and other Lamaze type books from the public library AND because they didn't usually give teenagers drugs so they would "learn a lesson". I had a nice woman doctor who came in with a mask on only at the end but I can remember being happy to see her kind eyes in the room. I had an episiotomy that needed a lot of care in the l0 days I spent in the hospital but I had no baby to care for so I had plenty of time and energy to work on healing it. At the time, it seemed what could be expected.
I was young, fit and had eaten a good diet and gave birth pretty well to a 9# baby. I know I never made any noise except for my breathing.
As a student in high school, I would never have chosen a career in midwifery. First of all, I didn't know it existed. Secondly, whenever we had to do anything like talk about the circulatory system, dissect a cow's eye, cut up frogs, etc. I would have to go out on the front steps of the school and put my head between my knees I felt so queasy.
After I had Kara, I returned to Vancouver and took a two year course at a Business College. I then started work in the investment business and
took the required courses to become a stock broker. At the age of 21, I was the youngest stock broker in Canada and one of only about 6 women
doing that work. This was the days of women burning their bras and demanding rights--I thought there was something wrong with them. Doors
were always swinging open for me and I thought those other women should just stop their complaining and get on with life like I had. I didn't
realize that the reason doors were swinging open for me was because of their pioneering work and that I was able to manipulate a lot of things
because I had a good education, was pretty, bright, wealthy and healthy.
I had a lot to learn.
In the early 70's, I left the sagging investment industry and went into the "fashion" business. I owned two successful boutiques and sold
ladies wear wholesale for a time. I met and married a physician in l975 and in l976 I was pregnant and looking for a good birth experience. My husband and I were agreed that we would get the "very best" for our darling child. I thought I could get that easily through our connections, my charm, my wit, my money and my brilliance--sorry, not so!
In Canada, there is a public medicare system. Doctors do not compete for patients and they have no end of people lined up so they don't have to bend to meet patients needs. My husband and I had read Dr. Leboyer's book "Birth without Violence" and his ideas made so much sense. What I wanted was no episiotomy, dim lights at the birth and 24 hr rooming in. We went to Dr. after Dr. and none of them would assure me of getting what I wanted.
Looking back, I am glad they were more honest in those days. So many Drs. today promise they will meet women's desires, only to do what they routinely do at the time of the birth. We went for the hospital tour and I knew deep in my heart my birth would be horrible. They would not agree to me having my baby after the birth (mandatory 24 hr observation period in l976) even though my physician husband would be there every minute! I had read some books about homebirth and it was sounding better and better but I didn't have a clue where to go to arrange one. When I was 7 months pregnant, my husband called me into his study and showed me a letter to the editor of the newspaper. It was entitled "I Want to Have My Baby at Home". A woman named Janice Steinhauer was writing to say that she thought our maternity system very backward and pointed out that in Europe they used midwives, had homebirths, and had better stats than N. America. I wrote to her and told her I was in the same boat and would like to find a midwife . . . if she found out anything by having her letter in the paper would she please call me and let me know. She phoned a few days later. It turned out that she was not pregnant but a nursing student studying with nurse midwives at the University of BC and she had just written the letter to further
discussion of the subject. She knew where the midwife clinic was and she plugged me in to the whole homebirth culture that was happening in my city. I never was a hippy but, boy, those hippies came through for me in my hour of need. We found a warm, wonderful midwife named Elly. She was an R.N. and I proceeded to invite people to my birth who had medical credentials.
Although I didn't want the hospital scene, I still viewed birth as a medical procedure and I wanted as many medical minds as possible at that birth. I ended up with 2 RN's, my physician hubby, and a medical student. My best friend was there too. She was pregnant and, after my birth, she hired my midwife and had a homebirth, too.
That birth was harder than I recall the first one being. I was 26 days past dates--in those days, not a concern. I had mild sensations all day and then about 5 hours of contractions from hell towards midnight. My membranes stayed intact until pushing and the pressure was beyond belief. Finally, I pushed my little girl out at 2 a.m. The midwife placed her on my thigh as her cord was short. Her tiny hand squeezed my leg as if to say "Hi, Mom, we made it!" and that is when I was born as a
birth attendant. I wanted every woman to have the chance to have a natural birth. I saw women in a whole new light after this birth. I began to realize how hard it is for women to get what they want and how important a feminist perspective is.
I began to take training and teach with a local parent-run childbirth education group. I took my baby down to Seattle and attended an ICEA conference. That was the first time I heard Sister Angela Murdagh speak and she continues to inspire me to this day. I attended my best friend's homebirth and then started to be asked to do hospital coaching. Over the next four years I immersed myself in reading, eating and breathing birth. We formed different midwifery study groups and I also learned a lot from the Drs and nurses in the hospital. I learned a lot about what NOT to do at a birth, too. 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.
In 1981 I had my second homebirth. By this time I had a very different perspective on what made a good birth. I wanted to get the least trained, least experienced, lay midwife I could find. My friend Jude had been studying for the same length of time as me and she agreed to be my attendant after some coaxing. That birth was perfect. I had only about 5 minutes of what I would term "pain", the rest just felt like hormones. I caught my l0# baby girl myself with my 4 yr old daughter right beside me. I never had one BP, fetal heart check, vag exam or any interference at all. My midwives did everything I asked and more. I felt loved, respected and protected. That daughter is now l7 and the most beautiful woman (inside and out)--her birth was a completion for me i.e. I didn't need to have any more births to get it done right.
After 4 years and about 50 births attended in the hospital, people started asking me to attend their homebirths. There has always been an attitude of scarcity amongst the midwives in Vancouver. 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. I felt quite on my own until, in l983, I met a woman named Mary Sullivan who wanted to learn midwifery. Mary and I have been business partners ever since and I believe that God sent her to me as a "thank you" card for everything good I had ever done.
Many times through the years, I have wished I was freer to go to the States or Jamaica to do more intensive study and perhaps get licensed. I
have been a single mom for most of my parenting years and went through quite a few years of poverty with my kids. I'm glad that my path has
been so "organic" at this point because I think being educated outside an institution has left me with my heart and instincts intact. I have never
done anything gross to another human being just to show a teacher my skills and that is a good feeling in my soul.
I love being a midwife. I want my gravestone to read "Gloria Lemay MIDWIFE & MOTHER She spoke up for babies".
|Advisory Board Member of the International Cesarean Awareness Network.
1997 Nominee for the Vancouver YWCA "Woman of Distinction Award" in Health.
Advisory Board Member of the Canadian Doula Assoc.
2002 Recipient of the CHOICES (Ontario) Women's Voice Award
Contributing Editor of Midwifery Today Magazine