Monday, May 12, 2014

handing over and signing off

a few days in the tropical sunshine can boost an old girl's energy reserves!
Dear reader,
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, MiPP is undergoing a restructure.
MiPP members have decided that, as a group they will move out of Maternity Coalition, and sit under the umbrella of Midwives Australia.

At this time I am nearing the end of my midwifery practice: I need to leave homebirths and activism to the younger, stronger midwives.  I have therefore decided to step down from my roles in MiPP.  I want to publicly thank my MiPP colleagues (past and present) for the trust they have placed in me over many years, as representative at professional and governmental meetings, as spokesperson to the media, and as confidante and sometimes mentor/guide to younger midwives.  Before signing off, and handing this site over to someone else, I would like to take a moment to tell you some of my midwifery story.

I found my way into MiPP and independent midwifery practice in 1993, after I had taken a 'package' from a permanent employed night shift position at St George's Hospital, a small maternity unit in Kew.  St George's was closing its maternity wards, and amalgamating with Box Hill to form the Birralee Maternity Service.  At that time I thought I would like to support women for births in hospital - had no idea then that planned homebirth was an option supported by a growing body of evidence.  I knew I was 'good' at sorting out breastfeeding problems, and thought I could set up a little business as a midwife lactation consultant.   When I heard about MiPP meetings, bi-monthly on Saturdays in the Board Room of Vaucluse Hospital in Brunswick, I (innocently) went along.

I was ready, personally, to move into private work at that time.  My youngest child was 12, and I felt he and the other three young teens would not be upset if they needed to look after themselves after school, in the event that I was not home.  They were at the stage of life when they needed parents a driver instructors and taxi services, but not too much personal involvement, thank you! I was in my early 40s.  Coming off 'nights', I felt strong and well rested - going to bed each night!  I got myself elected to the executive of the Victorian Branch of the Australian College of Midwives; got involved in Maternity Coalition, Midwives and Mothers Action (MAMA), Australian Radical Midwives and Mothers (ARM) and any other group that seemed interested in reform of maternity care.  Remember, this was pre-internet, pre-email.  We had big, clunky mobile phones, and some midwives carried pagers.

Back to MiPP.  The midwives who were active in MiPP at that time were a bunch of strong women; each different, and all very different from me.  Soon after joining I had read and heard enough to whet my interest in homebirth.  Being a practical person, I soon worked out that homebirth was the one *item* that midwives in private practice had, that made independent midwifery practice sustainable.  And, reading the professional literature, I experienced a bit of an epiphany: that hospital did not make birth safe.

MiPPs who welcomed me into the group included Jenny Parratt, Annie Sprague, Mary McKenzie McHarg (Reilly) [now deceased], Christine Shanahan, Robyn Thompson, and Patrice Hickey.  Someone, early in my membership, aware of my lack of 'alternative' credentials, asked me how I thought I would get clients.  By this, she was referring to the fact that I had no sign of feminst or hippy roots, and my own four children had been born in hospitals.  I have never used homeopathics, or consulted a naturopath.  I was/am a pretty 'straight' person, with white anglo-saxon protestant middle class Christian conservatism written all over me.

Anyway, despite these 'obvious' drawbacks, Chris, Robyn and Annie all managed to invite me as 'second' midwife (unpaid) to witness homebirth.  I was converted!  After the third 'witness' experience, and after making a note of the paperwork and who I needed to contact to register births, I considered myself ready to fly 'solo'.   That was 1993.   By 1997, I was fully involved and passionate about my brilliant career.  I started writing a journal, much of which was later copied to my business website.   I loved midwifery, became an oxytocin junkie, and loved writing about my experiences.  At the same time I was writing a lot of professional submissions, reviews and papers, including the publication of Planned Homebirths in Victoria 1995-1998 (Parratt and Johnston 2002.  ACM Journal Vol 15 No 2) [available as .pdf on request], and the National Maternity Action Plan (Maternity Coalition 2002).  At some time I received an invitation to present a lecture on the midwife in private practice to the midwifery students at Deakin University; a role that I have loved, and repeated each year.  At some time I received the Irving Buzzard award, managed by the Victorian Branch of Australian Nursing Federation ANF (now ANMF) for midwifery leadership.


By 2006 I found out about blogging, and, after a tentative start, with a post on natural birthing in Australia today, I was off!  I found that by writing whatever I was discussing with clients or colleagues, I could record the essence of my midwifery knowledge.  I loved the idea of the unlimited page that blogging offered.  I loved the serial nature of the medium: that I could go back months or even years later and review what I had written.  I loved the possibility of a huge audience, spread over the globe. I discovered how to use search functions and other electronic functions that some glorious geek invented just for me!

By 2008 I began this MiPP blog: midwivesVictoria, and made it into an electronic magazine, recording items and news that might be of interest to other independent midwives, and women who are interested in engaging us for professional services.

I hope someone else will take this blog, and its audience, into their life, and make it relevant to the changing terrain of midwifery in Victoria today.

I plan to continue writing midwifery stories and critical comment on current issues on my personal blog  I am also available as villagemidwife at facebook.

signing off
Joy Johnston


Denise Hynd said...

Congratulations and thank you for all your efforts especially the recording of herstory in your blogs!

Andrea Quanchi said...

Thanks Joy for all your hard work and if anyone wants to contact Midwives Australia you can find them at or email