Gloria's New Blog
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”
View Vancouver Doula Training Dates
Time: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
($100 deposit to get pre-reading binder, balance on
first day of class)
Where: 604 W
(at Ash St., parking in the
Full details here...
Ongoing WATER BIRTH FILM showings. By donation.
Everyone welcome. See amazing film footage of women giving
birth naturally in water. Get your questions answered and
meet others who are interested in water immersion for birth.
A variety of natural birth and birth support courses and
study groups are offered. Phone 604 737 7063 for
your inquiries, with as much detail as possible, and I
will send you the details.
|In the meantime, you may want to browse
thru the articles below...
|Not Taking Pelvic Measurements
One day I heard the head of obstetrics at our local hospital say,
"The best pelvimeter is the baby's head."
In other words, a head passing through the pelvis would tell you more about the size of it than all the calipers and x-rays in the world. He did not advocate taking pelvic measurements at all. Of course, doing pelvimetry in early pregnancy before the hormones have started relaxing the pelvis is ridiculous.
-Gloria Lemay, Midwifery Today Issue 50
Reprinted from Midwifery Today E-News (Vol 2 Issue 29 July 19,2000)
To subscribe to the E-News write: firstname.lastname@example.org
For all other matters contact Midwifery Today:
PO Box 2672-940, Eugene OR 97402
541-344-7438, email@example.com, Midwifery Today
Back to top
|Midwife's Guide to an Intact Perineum
by Gloria Lemay
An intact perineum is the goal of every birthing woman. We love to have whole, healthy female genitalia. Many people consider the health of the vagina/perineum to be a matter of chance, luck or being at the mercy of the circumstances of the forces that prevail at the time of the birth.
Folklore abounds about doing perineal massage prenatally. No other species of mammal does this. Advising a woman to do perineal massage in pregnancy implies a lack of confidence that her tissues have been designed perfectly to give birth to her infant.
The intact perineum begins long before the day of the birth. Sharing what the feeling of a baby's head stretching the tissues will be like and warning the mother about the pitfalls in pushing will go a long way to having a smooth passage for both baby and mother.
The woman will be open and receptive to conversations in prenatal visits about the realities of the birth process. Here, in point form, is the information I convey for the second stage (pushing):
1. When you begin to feel like pushing it will be a bowel-movement-like feeling in your bum. We will not rush this part. You will tune in to your body and do the least bearing down possible. This will allow your body to suffuse hormones to your perineum and make it very stretchy by the time the baby's head is stretching it.
2. The feeling in your bum will increase until it feels like you are splitting in two and it's more than you can stand. This is normal and no one has ever split in two, so you won't be the first. Because you have been educated that this is normal, you will relax and find this an interesting and weird experience. You may have the thought, “Gloria told me it would be like this and she was so right. I guess this has been going on since the beginning of humankind.”
3. The next distinct feeling is a burning, pins-and-needles feeling at the opening of the vagina. Many women describe this as a "ring of fire" all around the vaginal opening. It is instinctive to slap your hand down on the now-bulging vulva and try to control where the baby's head is starting to emerge. This instinct should be followed. It seems to really help to have your own hands there. Sometimes women like to have very hot face cloths applied to their perineum at this point. If you like the feeling of this, say so, and if you don't, say so. We will do whatever you feel like.
4. Most women like pushing more than dilating. When you're pushing, you feel like you're getting somewhere and that there really is a goal for your efforts.
5. This is a time of great concentration and focus for you. Extraneous conversation will not be allowed in the room. Everyone will be silent and respectful in between sensations while you regather your focus. Once you begin feeling the ring of fire, there is no need for hurry. You will be guided to push as you feel like until the baby is crowning (the biggest part of the back top of the head is visible). All that will be touching your tissues is the hot face cloth and your own hands. It is important for the practitioner to keep their hands off because the blood-filled tissues can be easily bruised and weakened by poking, external fingers. This can lead to tearing. We will use a plastic mirror and a flashlight to see what's happening so we can guide you. We won't touch you or the baby.
6. This point of full crowning is very intense and requires extreme focus on the burning—it is a safe, healthy feeling but unlike anything you have felt before. You may hear a devil woman inside your head who will say to you, "All you have to do is give one almighty push here and it will all be over—who cares if you tear . . . just give it hell and get that forehead off your butt!" This devil woman is not your friend. Thank her for sharing and then have your higher self say, "Just hang in there. It's OK. Panting and rising above the pushing urge will help me stay together, and I will have less discomfort in the long run." Your practitioner will be giving only positive commands at this point, and she will be keeping them as simple as possible to maintain your focus.
Typically the birth attendant's instructions are "Okay, Linda, easy . . . easy . . . easy . . . pant . . . pant with me . . . Hah . . . Hah . . . Hah . . . Hah . . . Hah . . . Hah. Good, that one's over. You're stretching beautifully; there's lots of space for your baby. This baby's the perfect size to come through."
7. You will be offered plain water with a bendable straw throughout this phase because hydration seems to be important when pushing, and you can take the water or leave it, as you wish.
8. Once the head is fully born, you will feel a great sense of relief. You will keep focused for the next sensation, which will bring the baby's shoulders out, and the baby's whole body will quickly emerge after that with very little effort on your part. The baby will go up onto your bare skin immediately, and it is the most ecstatic feeling in the world to have that slippery, crawling, amazing little baby with you on the outside of your body. Your perineum may feel somewhat hot and tender in the first hour after birth, and believe it or not, the remedy that helps the most is to apply very hot, wet face cloths. This is in keeping with the Chinese medicine theory that cold should never be applied to new mothers or babies. Women report that they feel instantly more comfortable when heat is applied, and any swelling diminishes rapidly.
9. When you push your placenta out, the feeling will be like that of a large, soft tampon just plopping out. It is a good feeling to complete the entire process of birth with the emergence of the placenta.
When a new mother has an intact perineum, she recuperates faster and easier from birth. I like to twist a diagonally folded bath towel into a very tight roll and coil that into a ring for the woman to sit on when breastfeeding. Lovemaking can resume whenever the couple is ready; it feels good to use a little olive or almond oil as a lubricant the first few times.
Gloria Lemay is a Private Birth Attendant in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Back to top
|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".
Back to top
|Editorial by the late
Catherine Young, founder and editor of Compleat Mother
January 1999 -by Catherine Young
West Coast midwife Gloria Lemay, who attended the
mothers who shared their stories in Birth Sisters, Volume
49, is, without question the hardest working, longest
serving, most outgoing midwife Canada can call her own.
Too bad the newly formed British Columbia College of
Midwives, now 40 strong, has opted
to follow in Ontario's narrow, cliqueish, expensive
footsteps. Too bad for Gloria, too bad for us all.
Prior to registration in 1994, Ontario had 200+ working
lay midwives. Now, four years and 20 million dollars +
later, we have 139 registered midwives. To find them in
Toronto, a woman has to sign up, pre-conception. Instead,
women in the know are searching out helpful Doulas, who
unfortunately, get little hospital respect and no
provincial health plan funding.
Should an optimistic midwife-in-her-heart woman like to
become a registered Ontario midwife, here's the procedure:
Be under 20, have high science marks, spend four years
and $100,000 in tuition and
Here's how the BC College's new registrar (one of
Ontario's elite registered midwives, Jane Kilthei)
rewarded Midwife Lemay for her past birth efforts, by
Dear Ms Lemay;
Confirm in writing by two weeks, that you have ceased
using, orally and in writing, any
name, title, description or abbreviation that implies you
are a midwife, that you are not holding yourself out as a
person qualified to practice midwifery in BC for a fee or
otherwise. We have the authority to commence prosecution
against you; if convicted you face a fine of $2,000, a
term of six months in jail, or both.
Govern yourself accordingly,
Jane Kilthei, Registrar
fax 604-875-3581 tel
She sent a copy to her new pal, BT Taylor, the
registrar of the College of
Physicians and Surgeons of that
province. You know, the fine folk who gave us a 30%
cesarian section rate at an average rate of $250,000 a
year. Personally, I wouldn't have Ms Kilthei attend the
birth of a rat, unless BT Taylor was there to hold her
Gloria, birthing moms who didn't register
preconception, and Doulas who are there for bigger reasons
than money, please accept this publicized hug. We know we
are valuable, important, exciting, in this together, and
on the right road home.
Back to top
|Hepatitis B vaccine: Is it worth the risk?
Interestingly enough, one of the most prestigious medical schools, STANFORD UNIVERSITY,is NOT in agreement about vaccinating newborns against Hepatitis B. In his teaching module, Eliseo Perez-Stable, MD, says the following:
"ACIP, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Practice recommend universal immunization of all infants against HBV, regardless of risk. Although this policy is moderately economically attractive, many have criticized the unneeded vaccinations and the added pain of more "baby shots".
Bloom and colleagues completed a cost effectiveness study on HBV vaccination strategies and concluded that the strategy with the lowest cost per year of life
- Screen all pregnant women
- If HBsAg positive (if mother has Hepatitis B): vaccinate infant against HBV and administer
- vaccinate all children at l0 years and re-vaccinate with a booster l0 years later.
I urge you to send this information on to others. I am committed to stopping the routine vaccine of newborns throughout N. America.
Babies' immune systems are not developed enough to take this vaccine. I fear that this is a huge money-making scheme on the part of the pharmaceutical companies and that it is going to have huge health costs for the general public.
Contact at least one public health official in your community today and let them know there is a campaign to end the vaccination of babies against Hepatitis B. When the people lead, the leaders follow.
Yours in partnership to save one child's life,
Gloria Lemay, Private Birth Attendant, Mother, Grandmother, Uppity Woman
Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Back to top
Born in Bliss...