Welcome, I'm Mary Lou. I come from a long line of healers and I am honored to carry this lineage.
My mother and her sisters were nurses and nuns who taught me to mend wounds, care for the sick, and sit peacefully with the dying. My paternal great-grandmother was a midwife and her husband, my great-grandfather, was a surgeon in the US Civil War. I am blessed to come from a family where health sovereignty, home birth, and home death were honored and normalized.
From the time I can remember, I wanted to help women in childbirth. I was told by my very supportive parents and teachers that this meant I wanted to be an obstetrician and I was tracked for medical school. When I was in college, not loving organic chemistry, I took an anthropology class and learned about midwifery. I had a classic lightbulb going off experience, realizing this was what I had always wanted to do! I just had never heard of midwives in a contemporary context.
I immediately switched gears and set out to learn all I could about midwifery, natural medicine, herbalism, and health freedom.
During this time, my mother was dying of cancer. I left college for a semester to participate in her hospice care.
I had experienced home death in as a child when my paternal grandmother came to spend her last year with us, dying peacefully in our home when I was ten. In my mother's large Irish Catholic family, home death was also the norm. I had been around many elderly relatives (and some not so elderly) who were at the end of their lives. I remember the energy as a time of peace and tranquility and unconditional love.
My mother's hospice experience was sacred and healed many old wounds within and between us. Leaving school to be with her during that time remains one of the best decisions I ever made. Still, nothing had prepared me for the rite of passage of my mother's death. Grief is a force of nature. No matter your age, you are a different person after the death of your mother.
Six months into my grief, I witnessed birth for the first time. I completed an internship at a birth center in Pittsburgh the summer between my junior and senior years of college. I spent my time attending births and prenatals, moving through grief, going for long walks in the Homewood cemetary where I could cry and cry without anyone asking questions.
Attending births had solidified my desire to become a midwife. I fully intended to study nurse midwifery at Yale's post-baccalaureate program where I had been accepted as a graduate student. The summer after my senior year I interned with Ina May Gaskin at The Farm Midwifery Center. That experience stretched my mind and soul. After studying with Ina May, I knew that Yale could not prepare me to be the home birth midwife I wanted to become. I decided to follow the path of direct learning through apprenticeship.
After graduating from Grinnell College, I moved to New Mexico with no money and everything I owned packed into my Chevette, without a plan but with the dream of becoming a midwife.
The Land of Enchantment has a way of working her magic, and the road to becoming a midwife unfolded perfectly. I was blessed to study herbalism with wise and wonderful teachers. I worked in Bert Norgorden's apothecary, studied with Michael Moore and Donna Chesner, then apprenticed in clinical herbalism with Tieroana Low Dog. In the middle of my herbal studies, I conceived and birthed my first child, experiencing another true rite of passage, the transformation from maiden to mother.
The Farm midwives had advised me to wait until I had my own baby to embark fully on the journey to becoming a midwife. Giving birth at home to my first child, breastfeeding and mothering deepened my desire and cleared the path.
I remain in perpetual gratitude to my preceptors, Pam England and Barbara Pepper. Apprenticeship is a grueling process and they held me in love and accountability as I learned the art of midwifery. My apprenticeship was bookended by the births of my own children. I gave birth to my second child at home two months after becoming a licensed midwife.
Over the course of 15 years I had a busy homebirth practice in Albuquerque, attending over 1000 births.
In 1991 when I started my path to become a midwife, home birth midwifery was legal in only 16 states. Midwives were being jailed for "practicing medicine without a license." Very few women in the US had the option of a legal midwife-attended home birth.
As a women's rights advocate, I threw myself into midwifery activism. Between 1995 and 2008, I served on the boards of directors of the New Mexico Midwives Association, the Midwives Alliance of North America and the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives.
In 2007 my youngest child became very ill with cancer, and that experience changed my trajectory in multiple ways. My son is now a cancer-free adult, but the journey involved both developing an appreciation for aspects of allopathic medicine and a lot of fighting against the unnecessary poisoning of my child. I realized that interfacing with the medical system is sometimes necessary even for families who prefer to rely on natural remedies. I decided to become a nurse practitioner to help families with their medical needs in these complicated times.
While I still attend a few births a year, since 2013 I have focused on providing primary health care to families. I consider myself a "medical unitarian" in that I believe there is truth in all healing paths. I am truly pro-choice on all aspects of medical care, and have appreciated being able to offer personalized integrative health care to families.
Herbalism remains my go-to for healing most health issues. My clinic hosts an apothecary of over 140 distinct plant remedies, all prepared by myself or my daughter. Teaching herbalism to those interested in gaining health sovereignty and caring for themselves, their families and their communities is one of my greatest joys.