Celebrating Midwives: A Tale of Two Lindas

Daisy WinnerBlog, Featured, Malawi, Nursing, Tanzania

As we celebrate International Day of the Midwife, we reflect on the critical contributions of our Volunteer midwives to helping build the next generation of midwifery. Since 2013, Seed has placed fifteen midwives who have trained close to 2,000 individuals. These midwife educators are providing essential training to the next generation, who will in turn provide care for countless numbers of mothers and their babies.

Linda Jacobsen, Seed Global Health Deputy Chief Nursing Officer and Director of Midwifery Programs, has worked in reproductive health and public health for more than thirty years. She was part of the inaugural class of Global Health Service Partnership Volunteers and taught at Bugando Medical Center in Mwanza in 2013.

Linda Robinson is currently serving a Nurse Educator in Malawi and has been practicing as a nurse-midwife for thirty years, working from rural Maine to Malawi, America Samoa, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is also the author of Sunday Morning Shamwana, A Midwife’s Letters from the Field; a book about her experience in Congo.

Together, these two midwives have helped strengthen the quality of care for mothers and babies in many parts of the world. We asked them to reflect on their work as midwives and share their thoughts on the future of midwifery.

How do midwives matter for healthy moms and newborns?

Linda Jacobson (LJ): Worldwide, midwives save lives of women and their infants. This is most notable in countries with limited resources of equipment and personnel. Midwives matter because we are grounded in the normalcy of pregnancy and birth, and work with women to achieve best possible outcomes across the lifespan. This may seem simple, but in the face of either high technology or the most limited of circumstances, it requires knowledge and training in best practices, and the ability to translate and work with women and their families. It is this aspect that has made midwifery a most satisfying career.

Linda Robinson (far right) with colleagues and students in Malawi.

Linda Robinson (LR): It is well documented that women who are attended by midwives for labor and birth have a lower c-section rate (thus lower infection and morbidity and mortality rate), have fewer labor complications, require less pain medication, and have better satisfaction surveys than women who are attended by Ob/Gyns. The decrease in incidence of neonatal complications has also been well documented when women are attended by midwives. Also, the quality care we provide is less expensive, utilizes fewer resources, and still has better outcomes.

What’s been your greatest joy as a midwife?

LR: To deliver both of my grandchildren is probably the easiest to point to, but every time I have helped a woman have a satisfying, safe birth experience, or listen to her when no one else has, or help her through a traumatic event, I get a sense of joy. I guess being part of a profession that recognizes the power women possess despite all the factors stacked against them in this world is also a joy. I’m proud to be a part of this profession. Whenever I am with a group of midwives, whether at the national meeting in the US, or at a faculty meeting at KCN I am swept away by the intelligence and the passion that emanates from the women in this profession

 LJ: My career in midwifery was launched as a Peace Corps volunteer working in a rural clinic in sub-Saharan Africa, and I’ve had the privilege to work with women over 35 years as a clinician and midwife. Although I did not plan to be a midwife, the first birth I attended by myself occurred in the back of a Land Rover, with premature twins as we travelled on rugged roads to a hospital. The mother and one of the twins survived, and I became convinced that access to safe care is a right for all women.

Why is teaching and training important for the future of midwifery?

LJ: Many more midwives are needed, and high quality teaching and training is needed to equip midwives with the skills needed to provide excellent care. The current shortages of midwives also means that there are not enough midwifery faculty to train the numbers needed to improve maternal child health. Seed, in part through the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP), offers a unique approach to help address these shortages. In my time as GHSP midwifery educator, my potential impact was increased by helping to train approximately 150 nurse midwives to serve in their communities.

LR: Because we need to increase the numbers of midwives! Millions of women in this world, including in developed countries, do not have access to safe maternity care. Midwives are the answer to this vast crisis, but we need to provide quality education and teach them to utilize the power they possess to

Linda Jacobsen (left) with a student in Tanzania

advocate for women.

What is your wish for other midwives around the world?

 LR: That they are able to practice without discrimination with the appropriate resources needed to provide safe care. That they are enough in numbers that they can have a reasonable amount of time off to rest. That they have access to quality education programs with qualified faculty. (And this starts with access to primary education for girls who are denied such.) That they can practice without fear of prosecution and have appropriate backup for emergencies. The list could go on.

LJ: My hope is for all women to have access to safe and appropriate care during their lifetimes, including pregnancy and birth. My belief is that midwives have a vital role in the provision of that care and in advocating for women and children.