Since the late 1970s Maine homebirth midwives, who adopted the name Midwives Of Maine (MOM) in 1983, have been a small but dedicated group of women committed to protecting the rights of childbearing families to choose midwifery care and homebirth and the right of midwives to practice in the state of Maine. We have worked hard to maintain a standard of excellence and to educate the public about the safe and personalized care midwives offer.
The first Maine Midwifery Week Proclamation was signed by the Governor in February, 1986. 700 people attended a benefit concert at USM in Portland featuring Tim Sample and David Mallet, both proud fathers of babies born into the hands of Maine midwives. Films, art exhibits, dances, auctions, picnics, music, workshops and conferences have marked MMW celebrations in the years since. MMW speakers have included Michel Odent, Lynn Richards, Laurel Ulrich, Nancy Wainer, Richard Moskowitz, Barbara Katz-Rothman, Elizabeth Davis, Marsden Wagner and Ina May Gaskin. We now celebrate MMW in May to coincide with International Midwives Day.
MOM has published a newsletter off and on since the early 1990s as a service to the birthing community. The MOM News has been a public forum and educational tool that includes midwifery and homebirth politics and news as well as birth stories, book reviews, poetry, and articles on topics such as breastfeeding, postpartum, nutrition, herbs & homeopathy, twins, waterbirth, fear, anemia, jaundice and rupture of membranes. The Spring 1994 edition won the NF Formulas Award for Excellence in Midwifery Newsletters, a national award recognizing the vital role played by midwifery newsletters in the health and survival of midwifery throughout the U.S.
Maine Midwives have staffed an information and education booth at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners’ annual Common Ground Fair since its first event in September, 1976. Affectionately referred to as “the birth booth” by many fairgoers, the booth is a hub of resources for homebirth families, aspiring midwives and the public. The booth has also won Blue Ribbons for its attractive presentation. In 2007, the fair, now located in Unity, was visited by more than 80,000 people.
Homebirth and midwifery are legal in Maine under a long-standing Attorney General’s opinion that pregnancy and birth are not medical conditions and are not included in the Medical Practice Act, therefore midwifery is not the practice of medicine. A complaint hearing in 1983 with the Board of Nursing also established the precedent that a midwife may practice independently even if she holds a nursing license as long as she does not advertise her midwifery services as an R.N. This is now true for Naturopaths licensed in Maine as well. There have been several unsuccessful attempts since the late 1970s to change the medical practice act and outlaw lay midwifery. Consumers have rallied to support freedom of choice in childbirth and legislators have listened to their constituents. One midwife was prosecuted in 1997 for “administering a substance by mouth to a newborn in respiratory distress” (a homeopathic remedy).
Midwives practice in every Maine community with diverse medical back-up situations. MOM has worked to build relationships with Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) and other maternity care providers. We have formed alliances with midwives from other states and countries through MANA. Maine midwives have participated at every stage of development of the national organization, national standards, and the national CPM credential as well as opening a ground-breaking school for homebirth midwives, Birthwise School of Midwifery in Bridgton. Maine midwives have served on national boards including MANA and the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC) since 1987.