Islander off to study midwifery

  • Aug. 16, 2004 12:00 p.m.

Celina Laursen walks over to a young pregnant friend in Hanging by a Fibre – “So, have you felt any movement yet?” She touches the slightly growing belly and her smile shows her excitement and enthusiasm, Mariah McCooey writes.
Ms Laursen has recently been accepted into the BA in Midwifery program at UBC in Vancouver. The degree program is one of only two offered in Canada – the other’s in Ontario. It accepts ten new students a year, an intake, she said, that barely meets the growing demand for an experienced midwife.
“Part of the problem,” Ms Laursen said, “is that there are just not enough midwives to train the new midwives.”
People want to have their babies here, she said – explaining her motivation to do the program was the birthing situation on island, where women often have to fly to the mainland to deliver – herself included. “I had a perfectly normal birth,” she said, “but I was evacuated anyway.” She said that she really wants to help all the women here, and especially the Haida women, give birth on island if that is what they choose to do. Haida women have been giving birth here for thousands of years, she said, that’s the way it’s always been.
“I think Haida Gwaii could be a model for other rural communities,” she said, adding that the doctors have been really supportive of her initiative. The situation here has improved a lot, she said, but there is still a need for a consistent source of care all the way through the pregnancy, as well as an option of home birth.
Ms Laursen envisions having a pregnancy and birth centre here, separate from the hospital and more welcoming – less scratchy paper dresses and sterile formality, and more tea-drinking, friendly, supportive atmosphere. She has worked as a ‘doula’ on island, someone who offers support during birth.
The reality of the situation, she said, is that high-risk women have to be identified, so they can be evacuated to intensive medical care. It’s easier to predict how difficult a birth is going to be when you have been in contact throughout the whole pregnancy, she said.
There’ll be a fundraiser party to help send Celina off to study to be the islands’ midwife- tomorrow (Friday, August 20) at the United Church in Queen Charlotte. The show will start at 8:00 pm, and will feature local music, drama, and spoken word artists. Admission is by donation. It’s a licensed event, so no minors allowed.