Midwives, Friends of Midwives,
and with my special greetings, all Hungarians in the world,
|I’m Andrea Noll, student midwife and member of the Board of the Hungarian Association of Midwives, and I’m writing to you to tell you about my unconventional quest.|
|Birth and midwifery are usually topics that people don’t pay much attention to, unless they are in their childbearing year or they are birth professionals themselves. Few are aware of the fact that birth is the very first impact of life’s reality on a person and as such, it’s probably the most deeply imprinting moment of life. Being at the same time a rite of passage for the birthing woman into motherhood, it may affect her (and her children’s) entire parenting experience and the way she preceives herself as a woman. Thus, it is no exaggeration to say „the quality of birth is the quality of life”.|
|During the last two decades, great efforts have been made throughout the world to improve the quality of maternity services. Modern midwifery, as the compassionate, holistic way of assisting childbirth has been reborn in most developed countries.|
|At a conference, once I heard a fitting comparision about the general pattern of the evolution of midwifery: It can be pictured with a circle-shaped diagram; one descending side of the circle represents the developing countries, where traditional midwifery from the ancient times is still in place; then, with increasing industrialization, birth is more and more medicalized and midwifery is on the decline, to the point, past the bottom of the circle, where people once again become more conscious of nature, their environment and their need for natural healing arts. Then, midwifery starts thriving again in its modern form, using both ancient natural remedies and modern medical tools, based on scientific evidence.|
Right now, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Danemark are on the top of this imaginary diagram, with their highly professional midwives, excellent maternity care, remarkably low perinatal mortality rates, as well as complete freedom of choice for the individual regarding where and with whom they wish to give birth.
the bottom of the circle, people have no choice. Their ancient traditional
midwives are no longer in practice, birth has ultimately moved into
hospitals and modern midwifery has not yet made its breakthrough, midwives
are reduced to obstetric nurses assisting doctors, there is no continuity
of care, no alternative remedies are allowed in perinatal care and
birthing women have little or no say in what kind of care they are
receiving. Oftentimes they can’t even decline unnecessary obstetrical
interventions (for example routine episiotomies, shaves or enemas)
performed on them.
Well, my country, Hungary is one of the few places in the world unfortunate enough to be at the very pit of this diagram. Out-of-hospital maternity care is illegal, the only independent midwife who has been in practice during the last 13 years (for a population of ten million people!) is constantly being harassed, prosecuted and threatened by the medical and legal authorities. Families who would wish to give birth at home or in a freestanding birth center are forced to give up their plans or break the law and lie about it. Women who give birth in hospitals are usually forced to accept every decision their obstetrician is making; the principles of informed consent and client confidentiality are abused on a daily basis.
As another hardship, maybe as the last curse of the former communist system that had tried to make every aspect of life uniform, we are facing the fact that it’s extremely difficult to convince the authorities of the possibility of the co-existence of several different options (alternatives), without the need of declaring one or the other as The Right Way for everyone. As of today, in Hungary it is impossible to give individualized perinatal care, because there is one single centrally determined obstetrical protocol that everyone has to follow, from the largest hospital in the capital city to the smallest rural maternity ward, regardless of the circumstances (or the price women who don’t „fit in the box” have to pay).
Finally, about two and a half years ago, a handful of devoted people has decided to try the impossible: to change these circumstances, including the law, against all these odds. We got organized, founding the Hungarian Association of Midwives, raised public resistance and literally cried for help at an international midwifery conference in 2001. The global midwifery community did its amazing best to come to our aid. Based largely on volunteer work of many people from all over the world, we held our first midwifery conference in 2003, and also managed to organize a consensus-seeking roundtable for the legalization of independent midwifery, involving international professionals, local chief obstetricians and a representative of the Ministry of Health. All of this has produced slow but steady progress, the authorities are getting increasingly mollified towards us, we have achieved considerable publicity and now we are planning our next conference, together with what we hope will be the „breakthrough round” of the roundtable in October 2004.
it became clear that we cannot revive midwifery in our country with only
one senior independent midwife and not even with three or four (some
members of the movement have gone through nurse-midwifery training during
the last few years). Also, most of the new trainees have little experience
in out-of-hospital care, because all of them have been
hospital-trained and lack holistic skills yet. It is said that „you tend
to practice the way you are taught”. Thus, we realized we needed to
rethink midwifery training as well.
we are getting used to the idea: „if it doesn’t exist, you have to
create it”, be it the new law, or a whole new system of midwifery
education. So we laid down the foundations of a new training- and research
institute called the National Institute of Midwifery Education. We have
invited several experienced, wise international professionals to form an
assembly of advisors, the Senate, to guide us in our efforts. All
of them have accepted our invitation, including Elizabeth Davis, Ina May
Gaskin, Michel Odent, Jan Tritten, Marsden Wagner, Betty-Anne Daviss, Ken
Johnson, Marina Alzugaray, Robbie Davis-Floyd, Sara Wickham and others,
most of whom are among the world’s most respected professionals in the
midwifery field. We will be forever thankful for their devoted support.
the other hand, it is also true that a country cannot be built on foreign
influence alone, so we realized that we needed more people within Hungary
who are well enough trained in modern independent midwifery to outface the
myself had never thought that in the end, I will be the „youngest
daughter” of the tales who had to go on this quest, but after trial and
error, I ended up being called to it. Currently, I’m in the United
States, studying midwifery at what I believe is one of the world’s best
midwifery schools, Maternidad La Luz in El Paso, Texas. If I succeed, I
will be the first midwife in Hungarian history who has acquired modern
professional training in an out-of-hospital setting. Then, God willing, I
can go home and continue writing that history together with my
colleagues, since with no preexisting system and a new law in-the-making,
we have quite a few blank pages!
learning program I have chosen (or rather, the one that chose me) sets an
incredible pace: 24 hours of clinical practice every third day in a
freestanding birth center, adding up to what would be normally required in
a 3-year program, within just one year. We are acquiring a wealth of
knowledge day by day, while our physical endurance is challenged to the
extreme. It’s one of the greatest challenges of my life, even more so
since I have my two children, 5 and 3 years old, with me, missing their
Daddy, who had to be left behind to help make our living.
when I’m writing these words, I have already completed the first Quarter
of the program (moreover, I can report with some pride, I wrote the best
end-quarter test in my class), and I’m busy trying to get through the
second by the end of September. However, some new circumstances are
beginning to put my undertaking in serious jeopardy.
Compared to Hungarian conditions, the amount of money we need to survive in the US is the equivalent of approximately four average Hungarian’s wages. The united efforts of my family and the Hungarian Association of Midwives has been provided me with about three fourths of this money so far, and some savings have helped me with the rest. But by now, my savings have come to complete depletion and on top of it, my mate’s employer is visibly heading towards bankrupcy, leaving us with a very severe financial crisis. I have come to realize that I will not be able to complete the remaining 9 months without more financial support.
I know that in today’s economically instable times it’s almost impossible to get any large-scale funding for any non-profit project, not to mention an individual, lone, desperate Don Quijote-quest such as mine. Thus, following my country’s „tradition” of late, I have decided to try the impossible once again. I have set my mind to the task of organizing 100 private individuals who would support this project with 5 US dollars every month for 9 months (which is, by a nice coincidence, exactly the time of a pregnancy!). This would make it possible for me to stay and complete the program. This would make it possible for me to go home afterwards and help make some long-term changes for the better in Hungarian families’ lives. This would help my country to „carry the pregnancy to term” and birth its first out-of-hospital trained midwife.
My plan is bold, but not unprecedented. In 2001, when our only midwife’s license was suspended for half a year because of practicing homebirth, together with that of a genuinely talented and gentle pediatrician, Gyorgy Buki, whose „crime” was doing newborn exams on infants born at home, several hundred of the families whom these two professionals served, got organized in what they called the „Birth Fund” and kept them from complete financial devastation by raising a scholarship for them, 5 dollars at a time. They survived and keep working under the motto: „we are changing the world little one by little one”...
|My journey so far has been exciting, hard and rewarding at the same time. I have always felt strongly motivated to constantly acquire new knowledge and spiritual growth, but now I’m also feeling the thrilling and sometimes overwhelming responsibility for my country every step of the way. So as to share my experiences with the world, I’m writing a journal with lots of pictures and birth stories and I plan to present this to my supporters in return for their trust in me.|
|Some of the pictures can
already be seen online on my website (www.nandu.hu),
with parts of the journal that is currently written in Hungarian only, but
its translation is among my most important plans. I’m also writing some
short updates in English (see below).
If your situation allows you to help me accomplish my mission, please do so. I believe that sometimes the impossible becomes possible if we try it very hard. And hard we have been trying to make a change in our country, with more and more visible results. All has started to happen at once during the last two and a half years. We are so close.
You can help with any or all of the following things:
· Write or e-mail me if you feel called to be among the 100 people pulling me through the next 9 months.
· Send a donation through PayPal or to the mailing address or bank account number below.
· Forward this letter to all of your acquaintance who could possibly be supportive towards this project, especially to midwives or families who gave birth with midwives, or to people of Hungarian origin. If you do so, please write a personal recommendation for them so that they know it’s not junk mail.
· If you are a midwife and/or have any midwifery-related books or supplies to donate, I would appreciate those as well. From the books, I plan to form a small library that I would keep open to other interested colleagues in Hungary. Donations of instruments would help supply my midwifery bag and that of newly trained colleagues in the future. Here is a list of books/equipment I need the most.
· Please let me know in what form you would like me to write your name on the supporters’ list that’s to be published on my website and every other major written text related to my journey, or if you wish to remain anonymous.
Thank you for listening to me. Sincerely,
El Paso, the 22th of July, 2004.
account for wire transfer:
buy a gift certificate at Amazon.com
As of today, I can report with joy and some pride, that since my last update, I have passed the North American Registry of Midwives' (NARM) written exam with an honorable 86%, as well as Maternidad La Luz' final exam with a first-of-class 90%, worked my last shift Saturday the 19th, caught my 50th baby the same day and finally, GRADUATED midwifery school on the 21th of March 2005.
First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who helped me get this far. My achievment is theirs as well. I'm in awe of all the love, sisterhood and support I received from all imaginable parts of the world. It gave me the deepest understanding of the truth: "Peace on Earth begins with birth." - such amazing people, such selfless devotion. Many countries, colors, shapes and sizes - one heart, one calling. THANK YOU ALL.
It is true for any kind of graduation that the ending of one learning process is just the beginning of another, and this is especially true for midwifery. After 130 times 24 hours of labor (and countless more hours of studying), I'm finally born as a midwife. But now, I need to go and serve the women of my country, and in order to do so honorably, there's much more work to do.
Hungary's law about midwifery hasn't changed yet. Nor has the situation in hospitals, nor about the freedom of choice. Things are stirring slowly, but we have yet to make our breakthrough.
Thus, we need more help. I need funds for my journey home. We need books. We need midwifery equipment. We need you to get going. Please keep helping us!
to my current financial situation:
fact that I have made it so far, is due to the following people:
to our financial situation:
to funds still needed:
to my studies and
the situation of Hungarian midwifery: