On the Ground in Taos
The Northern New Mexico Birth Center (NNMBC) was opened in 1978 and served the Taos community until it closed in 2014. In 2020, the board of the NNMBC made the decision to dissolve its non-profit and entrust the National College of Midwifery (NCM) with its assets/liabilities and its mission. NCM is now in the very initial phases of visioning a process to create a new birth center to serve the community of Taos and to offer a model clinical learning site for midwifery students and preceptors throughout the country.
NCM recognizes that the birth center in Taos was historically managed by providers who were from outside of Taos and who did not share the lived experience of those who are from the community. Taos, considered on a federal level to be a Medically Underserved Community, is in need of culturally matched providers to help address health disparities by offering comprehensive midwifery care including prenatal care, nutritional counseling, childbirth preparation, home birth and birth center birth, home visiting, breastfeeding consulation, and referrals for other community services. By taking responsibility for the mission of the birth center, NCM is committing to facilitate the transfer of this beloved resource to those who hold the place-based ancestral ways of knowing and who can draw on that wisdom to better serve the community.
In Taos where there is a unique cultural heritage and a lack of economic resources, standard healthcare models do not translate into sustainable practices for the practitioners and do not genuinely meet the needs of the community. Recreating a birth center in Taos will necessitate a process of deep community questioning, visioning, resourcing and innovating. Creating this cultural shift will require dismantling previous notions and making reparations for lost midwifery traditions and access. It will elicit our community’s reclamation of self identity and wisdom, and will liberate the self determination of its own unique needs and abilities to meet them.
With students and midwives located all throughout the country looking towards NCM for guidance and direction, we are in a unique position to influence and energize equitable practices nationally. Our connection with the national midwifery movement places us in a position to be able to document and then share our process with the wider community. We will create a method of community investigation and realization that is untethered by expectations and norms around the practices of midwifery; one that can then be used by others aspiring to create their own processes of innovating midwifery care in their unique cultural contexts.