Thursday, March 19, 2015
People's Clinic's and Communes
The renaissance of midwives in Oregon and the United States emerged from many places; a reaction to the war in SE Asia, the women's movement and a desire to create a new and kinder world. There was a powerful view that corporations had caused all the death in SE Asia and the numbing effect of an American Dream that was inequitable and unfair. It was a time of a peaceful revolution. Everywhere small groups of people were deciding to take back their communities. Many things that exist today, stemmed from this movement to take control by building peaceful, cooperative communities.
People started food buying clubs, food co-ops, daycare centers, free schools and free clinics. Doctors, nurses, EMT's, herbalist and community health workers got together in small spaces and offered free healthcare.
Such places emerged in Oregon, both in the city and in remote communities that had minimal access to health care. One such clinic was the Takilma Clinic near Cave Junction. The community that started the Takilma's People Clinic also started schools, Natural Resource Organizations and much more. They devoted themselves to making a healthy, peaceful world for themselves and the people around them. People left the city to start a new way of growing food, making decisions and raising families.
Having their babies at home, training midwives grew out of this. There was the Deadwood People's Clinic near Eugene and the Birth Center in Portland. There was The Farm in Tennessee. This was a time of minimal health insurance or medical assistance. People's clinics and the midwives who worked in them, became the answer to many a pregnant woman who lacked the resources to pay hospital and doctor fees. It was two things; it was cheap or free and the midwives were willing to spend lots of time with a pregnant woman and her family. Midwives of this time, in Oregon history, threw themselves into the practice and art of catching babies with love and a belief that a new world order was emerging. Clinics run by the people and for the people were one of those values.
Fast forward to 2015, and the free or people's clinics have largely been incorporated into state and federally funded clinics. There is Oregon Health Plan, The Affordable Care Act, Medicaid. The few "free" clinics in Portland are mostly for the homeless or drug effected and often have large boards and are non-profits with substantial budgets.
For many years, I offered free prenatal care in Portland. First at a mother-baby Head Start and then in my own clinic. It was always pretty low key; one time a week of free prenatal care. I also almost always lived in some form of community. It is a little hard to reflect tenths time. I talk with a neighbor who says he spent an afternoon at Woodstock and how it changed his life because everyone shared. I look down. It seemed like everything almost always became corporate and always turned into making lots of money; not just a simple living.
I remember Ina Mae saying that birth was spiritual and so you could not confuse birth with making money. I don't know what she thinks now. This was in the 1970's when we got together and taught each other and people opened free clinics and traded a birth for eggs and carpentry and a piece of art.
It was a unique and special time in Oregon's history and midwives, delivering babies at home, were a part of it.
I think sometimes, I feel tricked. Like I was this hippie midwife and was on this track of peace and community and then I woke up and it was not quite there anymore. That somehow I had gotten too busy or too tried or spread too thin. Or that there was a river and we were just one small part of that and that change is inevitable and its all good. Practically, I could see that midwifery could not stay as it was in the 70's and 80's and yet as I read about the People's Clinic, I am filled with a longing.
For more about Takilma and the People's Clinic you might read, Takilma Tales by Susan Fahrnkopf.