For Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15), we are highlighting Hispanic/Lantinx midwives.
My name is Martina Martinez Berryhill Granado. I am what we call in northern New Mexico, a “coyote.” My mother’s side of the family is deeply rooted in the orphaned ancestors of the Spanish Colonial explorers with surnames of Martinez, Trujillo, Jaramillo, and Mascareñas. My father’s side was an exciting mix of fighting Irish and Scotland highlanders, tough cowboys and women who didn’t put up with them. I’m not really surprised that my sister did genetic testing and that in this mix there is also 23% of Native American, although no one would claim us. I think “coyote” fits best because I’m a wonderful mix of many people with some stories I know and some I will never know…But I’m here. In my veins are not only the genetic make-up, but the resiliency, creativity, stubbornness, and fun, loving, compassionate mix of many who have shaped my life before I was even born.
To me, midwives have long held a sacred place in communities. My grandma told me that when they saw the midwife coming on the horse through Chimayó, people knew she was coming to help and that she was an honored woman. Midwives today still show this level of care for communities and families. I hope that this year we celebrate all the accomplishments we have fought hard to achieve as midwives. I want people to look at the women who shaped them and see the strength that is there within them, and the strength that has come before, so we can continue to honor the women, children, and families in our communities through our service as midwives.
I became a midwife after having been a labor and delivery nurse for about 10 years. During that time, I was amazed to see some providers who cared deeply for the women who came to them and other providers who treated those women from the valley with disdain and hurt them. It was out of this constant fight with two particular providers and becoming so fed up with how my friend’s sister was treated, and how my neighbors and other women from the valley were treated, that I decided to go to school to take care of my community. I did not know how difficult the path would be.
I didn’t know a fascinating piece of my history at the time, but my great Aunt Rose told me of Mi Queña. She was the older sister to my great grandfather, who was a midwife in the tiny village of Dixon, New Mexico. When my great grandmother passed away, leaving four little children, it was Mi Queña who would go get my aunt and her sister and take them to deliveries with her. Mi Queña spoke no English, but went and got whatever she needed to care for people, including the equipment provided to midwives by the NM Health Department. I’m honored to care for the women of New Mexico and to carry on this small part of my history. I was so blessed to have my daughter at home with a midwife in the very house and room my grandmother was born in 97 years before. It was an exceptional experience to feel the safety of the house and to know that my great grandmother Juanita had had eight healthy babies in that house. I have realized that I come from a long line of women who have helped women throughout the life span.
I became an licensed practical nurse (LPN), then registered nurse (RN), then attained a Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN) from Northern New Mexico College, in Española, NM. I was blessed to have met Dr. Kristen Ostrem, the certified nurse-midwife (CNM) program director at the time at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and a midwife I had worked with for a few years at an ultrasound conference. She had a table at the conference for UNM and I asked, “Do you think I could do it?” Without a second of hesitation she replied, “Martina, you’d be an excellent midwife.” I applied the year I finished my BSN and was accepted. I was so honored to attend my home state institution, University of New Mexico, for my Master’s in Nursing with CNM concentration.
My three kids and family put up with me studying day and night, getting up early to be on the road to drive the one and a half hours to and from classes throughout the week. My dad always made sure there was gas in the van, the tires were okay, and the oil was good. He would go get me when I needed money or just a break and take me to eat. After two dutiful years, I passed my boards and walked across the stage to get my master’s degree and become a nurse-midwife. Along the way, I was encouraged by my teachers to study and strive to learn the information.
My mentors have been Dr. Felina Ortiz, CNM, RN, DNP and Teresa Lopez, MSN, RN. Felina would often encourage me over a cup of coffee when there were struggles that would come up throughout my education and has remained a dear friend and mentor as I have developed my practice. Teresa came into my life when I was an RN student and taught me my first courses of OB care. These courses were where I fell in love with caring for women and newborns. She knows me and my family well, and has always supported and encouraged me. I’m honored that all my teachers and preceptors have been positive influences and remained valuable mentors. All these women have shown me that I am never alone as a midwife.
Today, I am honored to be practicing in Southern New Mexico. I work for La Clinica de Familia, caring for women who are often uninsured or low income, the marginalized women of the south. It is an honor to speak their language and connect with them on a personal level. I delight in the honor it is to care for these women who are struggling with social changes. I’m always amazed by them; they are my teachers. They are resilient and victors; they are not bogged down. And when they are, we will talk and sometimes cry together and come up with plans for better outcomes. No doubt the days are long, but very rewarding. The concerns I hear most from my patients are about COVID-19: the effects of the disease on their families close and far and how it has changed birth for many women. The other issue great concern is the increased incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Too often I bear the bad news of STIs and I see the pain of failed trust and broken hearts or worry that goes with these diagnoses. We are currently battling an increase in congenital syphilis. This also tends to lead me down the path of ensuring my patients are in safe situations at home.
I feel strongly that my education at Northern New Mexico College and the University of New Mexico has prepared me to see that midwifery is not just a career but a life of teaching, influencing, and empowering women to make strong choices for their bodies, their lives, and their families. Recently, I have had the privilege of precepting UNM midwifery students and teaching BSN level nurses at New Mexico State University. What I learned and continue to learn in my education and practice, I now have the honor of passing on to new midwives and future nurses. My mother says, “The true mark of success is when we reach back and help the next person in line.” I see daily that the life of a midwife is an investment in our patients, their families, newborns, students, colleagues, and our families. We are entrusted to reach back daily.