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At Howard University College of Nursing, Sharon Robinson performs

Leopold's Maneuver on Youvalanda French to determine the

position and size of her baby. Below, Sharon is seen as a little girl
(2nd from 1.) with her famous father. Jackie Robinson, her
mother, Rachel, and her brothers. Jack and David,


In the spirit of her legendary
father, Sharon Robinson
goes to bat for midwifery
S HARON Robinson could be taking on as much of a
challenge as did her father, Jackie Robinson, when he
broke into professional baseball. While some people were
slow in accepting Robinson because of his color, their love
for America's greatest pastime speeded the welcome of his
skills. But unlike baseball, midwifery — the delivery of
babies by laywomen and nurses—isn't as popular as apple
pie, and the 32-year-old Ms, Robinson is determined to
make improvements in an all-but-vanished field.
While the outlook is bleak for midwives in general, it is
even bleaker for Black midwives. That's why Ms. Robin-
son, a certified nurse who has performed 200 deliveries, is
striving to open a midwifery education program at Howard
University' where she is a nursing instructor. She estimates
that about five Black midwives graduate annually from 12
EBONY • December, 1982 Continued on Page 108
graduate and 14 certified midwifery programs.
"There are persistent drawbacks to becoming a midwife,
particularly for Black women," she says. "There are only
about 2,500 to 3,000 certified nurse midwives in the coun-
try, and I don't expect any great increase in that number.
Graduate programs in the field are limited and the co.'st of
these programs can run from $15,000 to $20,000. And once
you finish a program, there will be severe limitations on
where you c;m practice and how."
On the other hand, Ms. Robinson says, midwives have a
better image today than two decades ago. "About 15 years
ago, the nurse midwifery movement in this a)untr\' gained
wider attention because consumers began demanding a
change in the practice of obstetrics, which had become too
technical, too impersonal and too disease-oriented," she
says. "Giving birth wa.s no longer a family experience.
"Midwifery is holistic in approach," she continues. "We
get involved with a woman's spiritual, emotional and
physical well-being. We often become just another mem-
ber of the family during the pregnancy. "
Ms. Robinson doesn't discount the role of the obstetri-
cian— especially in complicated pregnancies — but she
stresses that the midwife is allowed more creativity simply
because a doctor often doesn t have the time to provide
one-on-one care. And even though most nurse midwives
work in a hospital under a doctor's supervision, they could
perform independently since they are trained to take a
woman through all phases of a normal pregnancy, she says.
Many of them practice independently—not too different
from the way it was in earlier days when midwives traveled
tlie a>untryside, serving rural pregnant women. That's
what Ms. Robinson wants to do in her spare time. She is
working with other professionals to establish mobile health
units in rural areas surrounding South Boston and Dan-
ville, small towns in Virginia. The project is important, she
says, because it would provide a rural clinical experience
for midwives, nurses and doctors.
Ms. Robinson says her father's emphasis on courage,
integrity and commitment in the midst of struggle has
helped her. "These values have been strengthening as I
struggle as a progressive Black woman, single parent and
nurse midwife," she says.
Her relationship with her mother, she says, is one ol \lake your IM^SI iii\(>süiiciU. Itiiy Ilio I!)S(.'( jei
"mutual respect for each other's individuality. My mothei Don't lot Üio y4*ar sOirl uilhiHil il.
is a friend and a mentor, and has given me real support in
for III«' iihiiiiiitp. die **
my choice of midwifery as a career,"
Each Morning, Ms. R()bin.son takes her three-year-old son Jesse to his class at
ivi'^^t non for a lilllc rvira p
till- Hiiwanl UTiivt-rsitv's Preschool Center. nioiilli of (lir M'ar. T I M ' H ' an* l.'i M'XV.
, youn;; ladH^i \^lio n^iircMMit lM*aii(y
in their onn S|HM iai wax. Ihr 1!Mí.'t Jrt < 'alriular
is #1. voii huv it and find out


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