Local Midwife with Brain Tumor Learns to Let Others Help Her
“I came on this planet to greet the babies,” Jan Perrone’s raspy voice crackles over the phone. “That was my work–greeting the babies and helping their parents appreciate what child they got.” Her voice shaky with exhaustion, she continues by saying that no matter what problems a child might face, “This is their perfect child….It is a piece of God like we all are.”
Perrone, a retired midwife in the Arcata area, was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year. She had found it increasingly difficult to read. Eventually the letters swam around and refused to make senseand so she went to the doctor for help. An MRI revealed a mass on her brain. In December, doctors removed the tumor and she has just finished radiation. “I’m doing very good,” Perrone insists. But treatment is expensive. She is facing chemotherapy in the months ahead.
Over the years Perrone has given a lot to the community. She not only delivered babies late at night and on holidays but she taught midwifery classes and became active in the midwifery cause. In 2003, the California Association of Midwives awarded Perrone the Brazen Woman award for her work on midwifery.
Her many gifts to the community are returning during this serious illness. The community is rallying to hold a fundraiser for Perrone. On this Saturday at 4 P.M. there will be live music, a silent auction as well as an organic taco bar and more. There is a Facebook page about this event detailing all the many activities that will be available. The response has been so terrific that the venue was moved to Redwood Acres to accommodate the number of people wanting to attend. Over 500 people are expected and all are welcome. There is a $10 door charge.
Perrone became fascinated by home births in 1972 when she and a group of women met a male midwife at a birth. At first she went to Crescent City to learn from him but later, he moved his school to Eureka and Perrone says there she became his assistant.
In 1978, Perrone moved back into the mountains near Gasquet. “I lived in a refrigerator truck with a a little potbelly stove,” she says. She had her own baby there. But eventually, she moved to Manilla and began delivering babies. In those days, midwives often had difficulty with authorities. “We were outlaws,” Perrone emphasized. “There were no licenses…Eventually, we self certified midwives…Then we got licensed.” She added with a dash of pride, “More of my career was unlicensed than licensed.”
“I think I had the most wonderful career that I could ever ask for,” Perrone says with feeling.
Over the years, Perrone has grown close to the families of the more than 500 children she brought into the world. Her relationship with the mothers is often deep. “How can you not be in love with someone who is willing to go to the gates of heaven to bring a child forth…This could be the door to death… .”
The families, in turn, feel close to her. They want to give back. At first Perrone found that hard. “I am a big control freak. Giving, giving and not receiving” is what made her comfortable. “There is a vulnerability in receiving,” she says. However, now she feels she has reached a new level of understanding. “I am deeply spiritual…I feel blessed by this opportunity to recreate who I am.” As the community gives back to her, she is learning to accept the gifts and take joy in the process.