Shannon Anton says that she didn’t pick midwifery; she feels like midwifery picked her. She had been seeing birth images in dreams and artwork for years, when one day while driving her truck in the Northern California mountains, wondering what to do next, the thought suddenly occurred to her that she could become a midwife. Events continued to pull her towards midwifery when she moved to San Francisco in 1988. She and her partner, Julie, just happened to walk past an apartment for rent across the street from the Artemis Café. Julie soon got a job at the café, and less than a month after their move, Maria Iorillo just happened to walk into the café selling raffle tickets. Julie mentioned Shannon’s interest in midwifery, and Maria hooked her up with Elizabeth Davis’ Heart and Hands class.
On the day of her first midwifery class, Shannon went to the beach and stood by the ocean’s edge. Overwhelmed by the conviction that this was the moment to commit to birth, she pressed her hands into the sand...and watched the waves sweep away her hand-prints. The ritual was powerful, frightening and confirming. She made a promise to do the work that presented itself in front of her, and has frequently returned to that moment when confronted by a new midwifery challenge.
Within six months of taking her first class, Shannon had quit her job and started a massage practice, so she would have the flexibility to apprentice if the opportunity arose. In the summer of 1989, Maria Iorillo became the regional MANA representative, and asked Shannon and a classmate, Heidi Biegel, to take over her CAM position, just in time for the region to host the next conference. (Heidi is now a CNM, she completed her Masters at Yale in June.) Not knowing what the standards for conferences had been, they created the first two-day, comprehensive conference and made CAM money on the conference for the first time.
Shannon was region 3 rep from 1990 to 1992. Shannon began her apprenticeship with Labor of Love during her Saturn Return in August 1990. Shannon was CAM certified in 1992.She says that the certification process was a great experience for her and her preceptor, and afterwards, she volunteered to become the certification administrator.
Shannon also became involved in the legislative committee, advising Janice Kalman and working as committee treasurer. She also worked with Janice to negotiate the SMS challenge process in the following years; becoming one of the first CA licensed midwives.
In 1994 she co-founded the Bay Area Homebirth Collective, with her first apprentice Ellen Levitt, Maria Iorillo and her apprentice Danu Calderon-all CA licensed midwives now! BAHC is still going strong!
In 1993, MANA midwives began discussing the idea of national certification. Elizabeth Davis had pushed for a task force similar to the one CAM used in their certification planning process. As certification administrator for CAM, Shannon was included on the task force. She says that it was intimidating to go to these national meetings, a young midwife starting out with a small homebirth practice, but she recalled her commitment made on the beach and she went.
Shannon was nominated to the NARM Board in 1994. She became Chair of Accountability, and continues to serve in that capacity. She became the liaison between CAM and NARM. On the NARM board, she became the voice for the CAM certification process, arguing to uphold the model of care and apprenticeship put forth by the California midwives. The creation of the CPM certification required an intense negotiation. Ultimately, the details of the NARM certification were almost identical to those of the CAM certification. Shannon says that she learned then how wonderful the consensus system really is. Instead of having everyone compromise, consensus gave all involved a chance to be heard and to explain their perspective. Whereas compromise limits possibilities and creates an outcome that no one quite believes in, consensus opens up to all, and leaves everyone with a sense of ownership of the results.
Currently, Shannon is the Director of Accountability for the NARM Board and the NARM Board liaison to the MEAC Board. She continues to write items (questions) for the NARM Exam and is often a Subject Matter Expert for the Cut Score Studies (to determine the passing score). Shannon says that “for ten years, I have been the youngest NARM Board member, and I turned 40 last year. This is a plea to younger midwives to step forward!”
In 1995, Shannon started the National Midwifery Institute (formerly the Midwifery Institute of California.) At that time, MEAC was creating its first accreditation form and looking for pilot schools. The original intention was for MEAC standards to be so flexible that any single midwife with an apprentice could qualify as a midwifery school. This is not how the accreditation turned out, but at the time, the idea of creating something that flexible was an appealing challenge for Shannon. She had been involved in creating the SMS challenge process and seen the results of the culture clash between SMS’s nurse midwifery background and the traditions of the California midwives. She was eager to create something more in line with the CAM model.
Shannon asked Elizabeth Davis to be an advisor on the project, and together, they threw themselves into the process, drafting the entire policy in a matter of days. This was the beginning of a harmonious partnership.
Shannon says she is grateful to her partner Julie, who she has been with for seventeen years. Their relationship began in Iowa, before she realized she was EVER going to live in California, and even before she realized she was going to be a midwife. They have lived happily in rural Vermont since 1998. Shannon says she moved to Vermont because she felt the land and the seasons calling her. Yet she continues to work hard for California midwifery, as NARM liaison and NMI cofounder.
Shannon says that: “I am also aware that my days in Lutheran grade school had a big impact. I’m not sure that I learned what they were trying to teach, but I did learn that no matter how scary it is, we each have to do what we believe is right."
CAM celebrates the hard work and dedication of the awardee in midwifery activism. In no way should this award be construed as a determination of the midwife's skill nor as a recommendation to use her services.