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Alberta mom without midwife after funding crunch announced

Protest to remove midwife funding cap to be held Wednesday

The Hartnell family. From left: Sierra Kristal, David and Sky.


The Hartnell family. From left: Sierra Kristal, David and Sky.

For a moment, Kristal Hartnell considered giving birth at home without the help of a midwife or doctor. 

Hartnell is among more than 1,000 woman on a wait-list for midwifery care but, because of a broken funding model, won’t likely receive such help — the practice she plans to go to, St. Albert Community Midwives, intends to close this fall. 

On Wednesday at 11 a.m. in front of the McDougall Centre, midwife supporters will also hold a protest in support of removing the current funding cap. 

“I had an appointment but they’re closing their office the month I’m giving birth,” she said. “It’s really disappointing. It’s horrible — I can’t believe they didn’t have the funding to begin with.

“I’m just disappointed with the province in general — Alberta has always been ahead when it comes to health care.”

Hartnell hasn’t always had the best experiences with obstetricians, either.

She said she found waiting room times were long and appointments quick.

“I wanted a natural birth,” she said. “I think it’s pretty much impossible if you go to a doctor —they’re going to push medication no matter what.”

When she gave birth to her son — who had jaundice — she said doctors kept him for a lot longer than needed. She said her midwife — who couldn’t assist in the birth because she had no rights in the area at the time — told her his jaundice levels weren’t high enough to justify the length of stay. 

“It was unnecessary,” she said. “I wanted to breast feed my son but a nurse bottle-fed him right in front of me. It was just a horrible experience for me in general.”

After that incident, she then decided she would stick with midwifery care. 

So when it came time to give birth to her daughter, Hartnell said she had no trouble.

“I was up making supper within hours of giving birth,” she recalled. “I was very relaxed. I was calm.”

Recently, Health Minister Sarah Hoffman indicated more funds would be available for midwives, when the government releases its budget on April 14. 

Hartnell said she’s hopeful something good will come from that announcement.

“At the same time, I’m kind of nervous that it still might not happen,” she said. “It’s just hard to give up on that idea on how my birth will be and how it’s actually going to be.”

She said she understands not all women would like midwifery care, but she feels stripped of her right to chose her birth method.

“I have no choice but to go to a doctor now,” she said. “Ironically my appointment is on April 14th (budget day), so we’ll see what happens.”

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