To the Editor:
I celebrate The University of Chicago Hospitals for re-opening its nurse midwife unit this month. I was one of the pregnant and new mothers who led the protest to stop the closure of the practice 13 years ago. I feel vindicated and elated that the University of Chicago (U. of C.) now sees nurse midwifery as essential in obstetric care and childbirth. Nurse midwifery is seen as a less medically interventionist approach. Closing that practice caused many in the neighborhood to seek that kind of care elsewhere.
In 2003 when the new head of obstetrics at the University of Chicago Hospitals decided to close their nurse midwife practice they said it was because of the costs. It angered past and present patients because we valued their down-to-earth and accessible approach. We were mostly low risk women who held in high regard their personal services in a high tech hospital setting in our neighborhood.
Recently when I spoke with Erin Irwin MSN, CNM, Director, Midwifery Services at University of Chicago Medical Center, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology she told me our protests made a difference to her personally.
She watched the Hyde Park pro-midwife activism with envy as a clinic in a low-income neighborhood of Chicago where she worked at the same time was closing and no one made a peep. She also said the U. of C. Midwife practice has its work cut out for them in terms of gaining the trust and business from the neighborhood.
After having spoken to Irwin I feel bolstered by her motivation as a caregiver. She recalled a pivitol experience at the start of her career, being touched by a low-income mother whose baby Irwin helped deliver.
“Thank you for taking such good care of me even though I have a public aid card,” the woman told Irwin who was stunned by the woman’s expectation of lesser care.
Thirteen years ago, the closing felt demoralizing. But now as the practice reopens, hearing the administration’s support and Irwin belief that a nurse midwife’s care during childbirth is a human right, I feel more correct than ever that I was a part of a righteous battle. Now I know that our efforts paid off.