What it’s like to be a midwife for queer and trans parents

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Queer people have been having families for as long as there have been queer women, but in recent years, there are more resources and different methods to build families. The most conventional options—having babies at the hospital, high incidence of medical interventions all throughout the pregnancy and birth—remain the ones that people know the most about. There are a lot of ways that people can have families—including less medicalized options—that people may not have a lot of information about!

We are discussing these options not to shame or belittle anyone for making more conventional choices, but the opportunity to discuss what one practitioner finds valuable about midwifery and home birth in particular. She’s an old friend of mine, and I  (and most of my siblings) were born at home, back in the ’80s when fewer people were doing that. It’s something that has a special significance for both of us.

On a recent visit, I interviewed an old friend of mine, Tel Viehmann of Taproot Midwifery, formerly of Long Beach and recent transplant to Sacramento. Tel is a licensed certified midwife, the kind that has had medical training and a lengthy process of certification, (thousands of hours clocked, and hundreds of births attended) but sought this training specifically to do home births rather than a certified nurse midwife, who you might meet in a hospital.

Midwife cleaning newborn baby for mother

AfterEllen.com: What do you do and why?

Tel Viehmann: So, I’m a licensed midwife, which means that I help folks with their pregnancies and births, usually outside of the hospital. It also means that I do a lot of fertility work. I do inseminations with folks in my office or at home. I’m also certified in the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy. What this means is I do work on people’s pelvises and abdomens externally that helps with fertility and overall health of the reproductive and digestive organs.

 

AE: If someone was considering a midwife, what would you want them to consider?

TV: When you think about the type of provider you pick, think about the care setting that that’s going to be in. As a licensed midwife, I’m not working for a corporation or a hospital; I’m working for my clients, and I’m my own boss, which means I get to set up my practice however I want to. What that effectively means, is that when people come and have appointments with me, it’s at least an hour long, and my care is customizable and unique to their individual needs.

Frankly, when you think about, vulnerable populations having babies—queer and trans folks—you may want to have extra time for your care provider to get to know you to understand your perspective and make sure that they’re providing really excellent care.

It’s important not only that they’re understanding your gender pronouns but also, what do you want to call the bodily processes that you’re doing? What do you call your body parts? When I spend so much time with someone throughout the course of their care, I can hold that space for them. You don’t get that in 15 minutes with an OB or half an hour with a hospital/CNM midwife. I think lots of people would like to provide that space, but because of the structural challenges in providing hospital-based care, you just don’t get the freedom to do that.

From there, choosing a care provider who may be queer or a straight ally—you’ll want to do some interviews. The thing to think about midwives, in general, is that they have really big hearts, and want to serve vulnerable populations. But that doesn’t mean they’re serving vulnerable populations—POC, queer folks, trans folks—well.

I have worked with midwives who wanted to work with these clients, and welcomed them into their practice, but then expected their clients to give them a Gender 101 or a Queer 101 talk and start at the very beginning.

Having a baby or doing an insemination is not the same thing as going to get your elbow checked out, or your busted nose checked out. It is an incredibly personal intimate time. It is a time when [care providers] need to hold that space and care for folks, and it’s more important to do that when folks are pregnant.

 Homosexual female parents bathing new born baby

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