Lani is remembered for her beautiful singing voice.
Lani is remembered as a Wiccan high priestess; she could move energy through an entire circle of women with the strength of her spirit.
Lani is remembered for her “bawdy sense of humor, which helped earn her the honor of the CAM Brazen woman Award.”
Singer, midwife, mother, actress, writer, spiritual leader, activist, organizer and teacher, Lani gave birth to her first child in 1969 and adopted a second in 1985. She had an awful hospital birth experience, which contributed to her choice to write a thesis on birth for her psychology degree. She began actively working in childbirth in 1980.
She practiced as a midwife for 21 years. She guided hundreds of babies into the world.
Lani became active in midwifery politics in the years before CAM was formed. She was a strong force in uniting the Southern California midwives towards political action. She was one of the first members of both CAM and MANA, and she took her friends and colleagues with her, inspiring others to join. Lani was ready to pave the way at any opportunity: she was one of the first CAM certified midwives, one of the first NARM registered midwives, and one of the first California Licensed midwives.
Lani served on the CAM Board for many years. She played a big role in the self-certification movement, and was actively involved in the efforts to get licensure passed.
Midwives in her region remember her as a “fireball”. She “kept the fire under all of us”, kept the energy of CAM alive in Southern California. Lani was driven. She was politically aware and astute, and she shared that energy with those around her. She would “push, shove, prod, nudge whatever it took to never let the fire go out.” She kept midwives politically involved “whether you liked it or not” with the strength of her personality and voice.
Lani actively promoted midwifery through education and public outreach. She published numerous articles and photographs and taught at conferences. She was very willing to teach other women who had the calling. She was always available to students and new midwives; she would reach out anytime someone came to her wanting to learn and looking for help.
She and Karni Seymour-Brown organized and ran the Meadow Born midwifery workshops. They hosted the monthly workshops for 12 years. The workshops were open to anyone who wished to attend. She and Karni pulled in people from throughout the community to teach, and would also teach themselves.
Lani died on August 30, 2001 after a 7-year battle with breast cancer. She was encircled by her community in her final days. She held a Celebration of Life just weeks before she passed on. Friends she’s made in all her roles in life gathered to honor her, and venerate all that she had given. “She was surrounded by a circle of love as she passed.”
Friends say she “proudly wore her Brazen Woman t-shirt as she crossed over into the next world.”
Those who were blessed to know Lani say that she was very wise. She was an endless mother, clients loved because she made them each feel like her children.
She was nurturing and she was empowering, she knew when to hover with love and when to sit back silently, bearing witness. She said “we don’t do anything at births ‘cause our moms don’t need us. We just sit in the kitchen and smoke cigars and play poker!”
Lani’s spirit has remained, working still with laboring women. One client tells the story of her second birth. She wound up in the hospital, supported by a friend who also knew Lani. When she mentioned missing Lani’s presence, her friend said, “She is sitting here, beside you. What do you think she would be saying right now?” The doctor was surprised to walk in and see them both talking to an empty chair
Lani was much loved and is still very much missed. Her spirit lives on in Southern California’s midwifery community, in the many, many families she had touched over the years.
Thank you to the following people for the information in this article:
Sylvia Blackstone, Karen Ehrlich, Karni Seymore-Brown, Kathleen Williams
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.