A Changing Force: Carolee Dunivan

By Wendy |

From 2009 – 2011, Our Bodies Ourselves honored the work of women’s health advocates worldwide by asking readers to nominate their favorite women’s health hero. View all nominees by year: 2009, 2010, 2011

Entrant: Margie Levy

Nominee: Carolee Dunivan, Certified Nurse Midwife

Carolee Dunivan, Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), left a successful midwifery practice at UCLA to make many positive changes at one of LA’s largest and most protocol driven hospitals. She gave up being supported and appreciated as a CNM to enter an unfamiliar environment where some some may not have been too happy to see a midwife enter their domain.

Up until then, there were no midwives at this hospital, either on staff or with privileges. The hospital was not always an easy place to deliver for women wanting a birth experience free of interventions. Due to lack of choices in LA, women found themselves delivering there with care providers that they liked, but in a hospital that did not always support the choices they made to help them achieve an unmedicated birth.

It has been about  four years since Carolee began this mission and I’ll tell you, she must have the patience of a saint! She has ever so slowly made many changes for the better. As a doula, I used to be very concerned when going to a birth there, and now I look forward to it. One of the key changes is that the residents are now learning from CNMs about the process of normal birth.

I witnessed a resident catch a 9 pound, 8 oz. baby under Carolee’s instruction. She had him put the betadine away, and keep his hands out of this mother while the she delivered her baby onto the bed which was not broken down. Carolee had the resident gently support the baby as it came out and onto the bed without manual manipulation.

This mother actually chose to deliver on her back, but once the baby was out, Carolee told the resident to help the father put the baby on the mother’s tummy. She also stopped the resident from clamping and cutting the cord immediately (as the mother wished). The resident admitted that he had never done a birth like that before and I’m thinking that he did not even know it was possible.

I imagine that his faith in a mother’s ability to birth her own baby (even a big one) without intervention was completely changed that night. I can also imagine that if this is just one birth that I witnessed like this, how many other residents Carolee has impacted. I realize that these new residents will choose to practice how they will, but at least they have seen more of what is possible, and Carolee is responsible for that.

This is a huge hospital with many, many students and residents. And now, the residents have an better opportunity to learn that women can deliver their babies without medical interventions if they wish to, thanks to Carolee Dunivan.

10 Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    Margie, thank you so much for nominating Carolee! What an amazing midwife who works within the system for change, and has had so much success already.

  2. Dia says:

    Margie:

    Hats off to all those on the front line. I would have hoped we would have taken the hill by now, but I’m grateful for Carolee and for you.

    Peace, Love.

  3. elizabeth says:

    With all honestly, I tell parents that this hospital is a great place to birth because Carolee is there and has changed the whole tone of the Labor and Delivery floor of this hospital… doctors, nurses, doulas, midwives and families work together, as teams, with mutual respect for the choices of the parent.

    Well Done!

  4. Joanne says:

    I think Carolee is amazing…. She makes me feel like I have an ally at the hospital and that allows me to give more and more to my clients! She has changed the energy there and allows for conversation to occur between Doulas and nurses. She is lovely and open and truly a blessing! I enjoy going to Cedars knowing that Carolee is there and that birthing women will feel respect and will be ackowledged for their own way of birthing.

  5. Yana says:

    Carolee is such an inspiration. You know that a birth will go well, when she is on call. It has been such a pleasure working with her at UCLA and now at Cedars. She is the voice of change and what I love about her is that she gets to bring everyone together;medical team, doulas, nurses, laboring mothers and their families. she is a uniting force and a leader in the quiet revolution for change in maternity care. Thank you Margie, for recongnizing her power and nominating our beloved Carolee Dunivan

  6. Liz Sidener says:

    Carolee is a good friend of mine and has been my Midwife through both of my pregnancies. The first birth she was working at The Woman’s Place in Camarillo and there was a group of midwives so she was not there to attend the birth but I got to know her very well at many of my visits. I went to the Woman’s Place again for my second birth which was a VBAC. I went to Cedars Sinai since there is basically a ban on VBACs at this time in Ventura County. I had a doctor there but I was in touch with Carolee throughout my pregnancy and she told me that she would be there in a heartbeat to support me during the birth. She arrived just as I was getting wheeled in to have another Cesarean (wonderful unmedicated birth with my loving friend/doula Tammy by my side but baby’s heartbeat was decelerating with each push at the end so off I went). She was there to assist with the surgery, as they needed an extra pair of hands. She stayed on the unit in the recovery room and watched and monitored me. She came later to talk and cry with me (I was sad to have another cesarean). She has been there for me time and time again as a friend and as a medical professional and I adore her and think very highly of her and believe she is a wonderful asset to Cedars and anywhere else she chooses to work at.

  7. Priscilla says:

    Carolee hired me when I was a new midwife, and taught me to do normal births. I have always felt a profound gratitude, both for having her as a mentor and for my exposure to care that supports and trust normal birth at the beggining of my career as a midwife. I experiences and beliefs about birth would have been very different if she had not hired me.

  8. patricia schneider says:

    Carolee is one of the strongest, safest, kindest midwives I know. She brings strong personal convictions about birth together with evidence based practice. As a midwife we continue to face the same battles that we have been fighting for over 30 years. To be able to influence and reach the next generation of doctors and nurses -ONE BABY AT A TIME, will eventually change the face of hospital birth. Kudos to you Carolee! For all those moments you feel you can’t explain one more time why babies do not need to be constantly monitored, or why babies need to be in their moms arms after they are delivered, know people are listening, people are changing and what a difference you make!

  9. Cheri Masek says:

    It is hard to add more meaningful words than have already been said. I can only attest to the fact that Carolee has really opened the doors for women and their families to be given the opportunity to birth and welcome their babies in a more respectful and gentle environment. The fact that the residents are witness to this, means this loving work will be carried on for the next generation of doctors. Thank you Carolee for your dedication and perserverence.

  10. Pam says:

    Awesome!! Carolee is amazing & I am so glad I have been given the opportunity to get to work with her and get to know her as a friend. It has definitely been a win/win for me! She deserves every accolade out there.