ABOUT THIS PODCAST: Nicolle Gonzales, the Executive Director of Changing Woman Initiative (CWI), joins us for this episode of the Native Hope podcast. As the founder of the CWI non-profit organization, midwifery and “renewing cultural birth knowledge to empower and reclaim indigenous sovereignty of women’s medicine and lifeway teachings,” has been her life’s mission. With an extensive educational and professional background in both conventional nursing and holistic midwifery, she regards the everpresent need to aid indigenous women in the “ceremonial” nature of birthing. Empowerment, comfort, choice, and preference are not typically a part of traditional mainstream medicine, and when intersected with indigenous women can be entirely absent. Traditional tools like sage and cedar are not allowed for usage in conventional hospitals, which can deprive the mother-to-be of the spiritual aspects of the birthing process. Gonzales reminds us that before colonization and before the reservation era, indigenous peoples were entirely in control of the delivery of their next generations, conducted out of care and mindfulness. In modern days, there simply are “lack of options for native women,” when it comes to their personal birthing experience. For this reason, Nicolle, after fifteen years of being a nurse, made the important transition to midwifery, which she has devoted seven years to.
Nicolle relays the pressing need for indigenous women to have a “beautiful” delivery. The range of services that Changing Women Initiative provides do not merely extend to the physical birth itself, but extend into taking “care of women through the whole life span.” With a natural approach, CWI counters stereotypes of health disparities, as there is “a lot more to the story than what statistics are showing.” Such statistics paint indigenous women as at-risk and or unhealthy, which often is not the case. CWI focuses on solutions rather than “outcomes and problems.” Breaking the boundary of the strict confines of mainstream medicine, CWI brings reproductive education and services to indigenous women in both urban and rural communities, “tending to a wider scope,” challenging limitations, tailoring to the needs of each patient and bringing indigenous autonomy to pregnancy and childbirth.