21 March 2013

Religious Freedom in Every Sphere

A Guest Post by Daja Gombojav.

Below is a letter I wrote on behalf of my dear friend and midwife, Brenda, who was arrested for exercising her faith as it applies to childbirth.  She has always felt it was her calling to assist women in birth.  She's a Traditional Christian (unlicensed) midwife, a fact that she has never hid.  In fact, she has openly advertised that fact, because there are those of us out there who are looking for just that--independent, religious centered birth on our own terms.  

We also started a petition on Brenda's behalf.  Even if home birth is not your thing, please sign it.  Even if you are not a Christian, please sign it.  At its core, it's not about home birth or theology.  It's about the essential right we all have to decide what we believe and how that is best lived out.  That is the right and responsibility of every individual (our "inalienable rights") and should not be infringed upon by the government.
 
 
To Whom It May Concern:
 
           My name is Daja Gombojav.  I'm the mother of seven, all born at home.  In six of the seven labors I have been attended by Brenda Capps.  My husband, Gana, is seminary educated with a Master's Degree in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary.  We have been missionaries and pastors in Mongolia.
 
            When we found out we were expecting our first child we specifically searched out a Christian midwife.  We were thrilled to be introduced to Brenda Capps and to learn she practiced under the Religious Exemption Clause.  We have always viewed birth as not only a spiritual, but a religious experience.  Only in the rare cases of emergencies is it a "medical" experience. 

           This understanding of birth as primarily religious can be found to span many, if not most religious thought and dogmas.  In Judaism, "A midwife’s role, among other things, is to encourage a birthing mother to "let go" and allow herself to become a conduit for this great Force to flow through. Trust in the natural process of labor and in a woman’s body to birth normally and safely is the hallmark of midwifery care. Every culture and religion has their own words and metaphors to describe their reverence and awe of this process. But for Jewish midwives, this reverence stems from an understanding that birth is G‑dly in nature. Their faith in birth is inexorably bound with their faith in G‑d." (Source)
 
            In Catholicism, birth is understood to be participating in the same creative power that took Eve from Adam's side.  St. Hildegard of Bingen, theologian and Doctor of the Church explains, "When birth is approaching, the vessel in which the child is enclosed is torn, and then comes the eternal energy that took Eve from Adam's side, and is present and turns upside-down all the corners of the shelter in the woman's body.  All the structures of the woman's body rush toward this energy, receive it and open up to it.  They do so until the child emerges.  Afterwards, they return to their previous state.  As the child emerges, its soul too feels the eternal energy that sent it, and meanwhile it rejoices." (St. Hildegard of Bingen in Causes and Cures)
 
            In Charismatic/Pentecostal Christian traditions, the belief that Jesus reversed the curse, thus lifting the pain of childbirth is in agreement with Romans 14:23 which says that anything not from faith is sin.  In a now classic Christian childbirth text, Supernatural Childbirth, author Jackie Mize writes, "When I refer to supernatural childbirth, I’m talking strictly about being able to conceive and to have babies with a pregnancy free from nausea, morning sickness, pain, moodiness, depression and without fear of any kind; then going through the entire labor without pain, and through the delivery without stitches and anesthetic. I’m talking about using the Word of God to overcome, change and make things better." (Supernatural Childbirth, Jackie Mize)
 
           In Reformed Christian traditions, the understanding of birth being religious extends to conception and pregnancy also.  God is seen as completely Sovereign.  He alone opens and closes the womb.  "Each time a human baby is born, another image bearer of God is brought into the world, thereby making each birth a very spiritual event.  Birth may be a commonly-occurring experience, but that does not make it common, mundane, or insignificant.  It is miraculous.  Isn't that how God is sometimes?  Even His own son's coming to earth seemed "insignificant."  A baby born in a stable to a poor family is far from the regalia appropriate for our Messiah, the Son of God.  It almost seems like He chooses to allow Himself to be "hidden" in the most obvious of places." (AboveRubies

             For our family, we are always striving to live fully integrated lives where our faith informs every aspect of our day-in-and-day-out.  This includes our family planning (or lack thereof), pregnancy, birth, post-partum and the way we raise our children.  Because this is our outlook on family, we believe that childbirth is an expression of our faith.  It is not a medical event that should be managed by men. It is an act of the Sovereign God. 

           When planning for our births a few things are essential: We want to give birth in an atmosphere of faith, peace, and love.  We don't invite anyone who will bring fear, control, or worry.  Everyone present must be in agreement with our objectives of a birth without pain, fear, or intervention.  I want someone who will encourage me to surrender to the Power that is eternal and available.
 
            This is why we have chosen Brenda to attend us in childbirth six times.  The role she fills is not medical, it is spiritual.  She acts as a sort of guide between a woman and the innate power she has at her disposal to give birth.  Had Brenda not been practicing her art the way she has been, we would have searched out another Christian direct entry midwife.  If we were unable to find one we would have chosen to birth unattended.  That's how strongly we feel about our children not being born into a medical environment--whether that be at the hospital or recreated at home by a caregiver who doesn't truly trust birth.
 
            We count ourselves extremely blessed to live in a country and state where women have the choice to manage their reproduction according to their own conscience and religion.  We realize that many places the government tries to intervene to tell families how, when and where their children can/should be born.  We pray that California is not headed down that road.  It will be to the detriment to all of us.
 
            We stand wholeheartedly with Brenda Capps and her practice under the Religious Exemption Clause. 

Sincerely,
Daja Gombojav
Brenda and my sixth baby.
If you believe in the First Amendment, if you value your Religious Freedom, if you think that parents should decide for themselves how, where, and with whom they birth their babies, PLEASE sign the petition and make your voice heard.

4 comments:

  1. Daja here. She is unlicensed by choice.

    Here's how things are, at least in California: In order to be licensed a midwife agrees to practice a certain way. She must have an OB as back-up who approves who she can and cannot assist. This doctor must be within a certain mile radius of each client. So this itself limits her practice area. Then, she will have to carry malpractice insurance, which is extremely high for a home birth midwife, necessitating that her fees be so high that many women cannot then choose to birth with her. Then she must also be on the doctor's malpractice insurance, which again, raises her fees. Because of this insurance issue she has to limit her practice to a very narrow definition of "low risk." This means women who are over 35, are overweight or obese, have more than a certain number of children (I think it's five), have any health concerns such as high blood pressure, anemia, auto-immune disorders (even those which do not really affect birth in any way), are carrying twins or triplets, have a breech or posterior baby, etc. cannot choose to be assisted at home by her.

    I'm not saying that there isn't a place for the licensed midwife, but the unlicensed ("direct entry" is the term because they apprentice directly under a seasoned midwife) midwife serves a really important role in our system.

    She gives options to women like me, who could never afford to pay a licensed midwife. Brenda's fees are a quarter of what others charge. Plus, I have seven children. That makes me "high risk" according to the state. But, I am not high risk. I am actually extremely healthy.

    Then there are those women who for religious reason refuse medical care (Jehovah-witnesses, Scientology, Muslims, Amish, New Age, and every religion conviction in between) in the hospital for one reason or another. Are these women not to be able to be supported in childbirth? Must they all birth alone at home? That can hardly be seen as a good idea. So, again the unlicensed religious midwife serves an important role.

    So, Brenda has chosen not to be licensed for a variety of reasons. She feels that midwifery is her calling and that without the direct entry midwife there are many women who would be completely alone. She has been practicing safely and without complaint for 22 years.




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  2. Oh, one more thing:

    Unlicensed midwifery is not a crime in California. It is only a crime to represent oneself as a licensed midwife if you are not. Brenda has never done so. She even advertises that she is unlicensed. She calls herself a Traditional Christian midwife and every client she has had in 22 years has signed the Religious Exemption Clause. The text of which is in the petition I've linked to.

    She has committed no crime. This is religious persecution and a direct attempt to limit the choices women have in birth.

    The establishment wants their piece of the pie. *sigh*

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    1. Thank you for responding, Daja. You would think a simple waiver signed by clients that they understand Brenda is unlicensed would satisfy the state and preserve religious freedom at the same time.

      I am so sorry she is going through this, and I agree: you're an adult and you should get to choose.

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