Midwifery wasn’t always Ali Tromblay’s life calling. First she tried the pre-med route, but found it wasn’t quite what she was looking for. She had a similar epiphany after being accepted to Bastyr University’s Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine program.
But then she attended her first birth, and everything changed.
Now Ali Tromblay, LM, CPM, is a midwife, a co-owner of Puget Sound Midwives and Birth Center and an adjunct faculty member at Bastyr University, all of which contributed to her being recognized with the Community Champion Award at Seattle Women’s Pride on June 9, 2016.
“We wanted to focus on people who are living day in and out in the forefront of empowering women and making sure women have access to good quality care,” says Jennifer Jimenez, CNM, co-owner of Eastside Women’s Health, which co-sponsored the third annual event with The Seattle Lesbian.
Tromblay shared the stage with Washington state Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu, who received the Luminary Award, and state Rep. Susan DelBene, who received the Crusader Award.
“It was quite eye-opening to be honored in the same breath as a judge and a legislator,” Tromblay says.
Eastside Women’s Health is located above the Kirkland location of Tromblay’s practice, so Jimenez and her colleagues have witnessed first-hand the effect Tromblay has had on the community.
“We wanted somebody from the community who wasn’t necessarily a public figure,” Jimenez says, “but someone who has dedicated their life’s work focusing on women’s health and women’s issues.”
And as humbling as the award was for Tromblay, it was also enlightening.
“It really helped me realize that I’ve done a lot for the community by advocating for and supporting birth choices for families,” she says. “My activism is my work, it has always been midwifery.”
Tromblay earned her midwifery license in 2000 after attending the Seattle Midwifery School. She started teaching there in 2006, then continued teaching when the school merged with Bastyr University in 2009.
Since then she has caught more than 900 babies and shares her expertise across the state as a member of the Department of Health’s Midwifery Advisory Committee.
Tromblay laughs about the experiences that brought her to midwifery, including her stints in a teepee on Lopez Island and a farm in Maine. But before all of that, she was a premed student at the University of Washington who was not at all happy about the path she was on.
“When I graduated premed at the UW, I didn’t want to go to medical school because I didn’t like the vibe of the competitiveness that’s so embedded in that program,” she says. “I am the kind of person who would rather we all work together to learn as much as we can and not try to be better than each other.”
That realization helped encourage her to apply at Bastyr University, but even after being accepted she realized she was not quite ready to go back to school.
Then she was invited to photograph her first birth, which not only took place on a Mother’s Day, but also was attended by Suzy Myers, LML, CPM, MPH, one of the founders of the Seattle Midwifery School and current chair of Bastyr’s Department of Midwifery.
“I watched her do her job and thought, ‘I could totally do that’,” Tromblay says. “You sit around all night signing songs, supporting women in labor, sipping tea, and then when it's needed, switch gears and use medical training. It looked like the perfect balance of both the right and left brain, or the head and the heart."
“It started to become more and more clear that in the realm of medicine, it was really obstetrics and birth that I was more interested in.”
Even as Tromblay’s career as a midwife progressed, she wasn’t exactly public about her connection to the LGBT community.
“The process of being out as a lesbian in my work took a little bit of transition for me,” she says.
But as her life has changed, so have her focuses. “When I started, I was single,” she says. “Now I’m married with children.”
Tromblay and her wife have two boys, ages 9 and 10, and they added a newborn girl to their brood just two days after Seattle Women’s Pride. “My life is so full in beautiful ways,” she says. “At this point I am just who I am and out in my work.”
And although her practice hasn’t started reaching out specifically to the LGBT community, the award is likely helping get the word out since Tromblay invited the 400 attendees at Seattle Women’s Pride to come visit Puget Sound Midwives and Birth Center.
“I’m hoping this helps the LGBT community start to understand how special midwifery is and how much better it would serve them,” Tromblay says. “It’s always very exciting when we have same-sex families come to us for care, but it doesn’t happen very often.”
In the meantime, she will continue her work advocating for women’s health and women’s rights to choose home and birth center births.
“It’s about educating the masses so that people know what their options are and all women who want it have access to high-quality midwifery care,” Tromblay says.