Navajo midwives work to establish first Native birth center in the US

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Nicolle Gonzales in a video for The Changing Woman Initiative Fundraiser

Over at Colorlines, I wrote about an exciting new initiative led by two Native midwives, Nicolle Gonzales and Brittany Simplicio, to open a Native-run birth center for Native women in the New Mexico region.

Nicolle Gonzales is a 35-year-old certified nurse midwife (CNM) with three kids ages 9 to 14. She’s Navajo (or Diné, as Navajo people refer to themselves), from Waterflow, New Mexico, and has embarked on a journey to create the nation’s first Native American birth center. “I’d like to see a nice building with pictures of our grandmothers, cedar welcoming you into the door, and moccasins for babies instead of blankets,” says Gonzales. “I want a place where women and families feel welcome.”

Gonzales is among only 14 other Native American CNMs in the United States. She and Brittany Simplicio, another midwife who is Navajo/Zuni, began raising money for a nonprofit that will run the center, Changing Woman Initiative (CWI), last year.

Indigenous women face incredible health disparities and barriers to supportive and humanizing care during pregnancy and birth. I was really surprised to learn that 70% of births at Indian Health Services (the agency run by the federal government that provides most care to Native people in the US) are attended by CNMs. But very few of those midwives are Native themselves. Gonzales says she’s one of 14 Native American CNMs in the entire US.

It’s one major issue with the midwifery and birth center movement–just bringing the midwifery model of care isn’t enough. You also need to bring culturally appropriate care along with it, and sometimes the best way to do that is with midwives who are from the community they are serving.

Gonzales’ project is being supported by the National Association of Birth Centers of Color, and I hope we see more initiatives like this in the future.

You can support their work by donating to their online fundraiser!

And read the full article here.

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