I’m not exactly sure when or how I came to the decision of having a midwife attend my birth. It doesn’t seem like something we really had to discuss, it was a very natural decision for us. My family wasn’t too surprised. I was after all the hippie child who sought out naturopaths, acupuncturists and herbal medicines. These decisions were also easy ones for me, but apparently not everyone is as convinced. I generally prefer to use medicines that grow from the Earth to ones concocted in a lab. And I trust ancient healing practices much more than profitable textbook sciences. Although I do recognize the benefits and advances that technology and modern medicine have afforded us. I don’t discount them completely, but I do not take them lightly.
Those same philosophies are probably what led me to the care of a midwife, an ancient form of care for mommiesand babies. Midwives are mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends who come together to help other women through life’s most miraculous moments that only a woman could experience. It is this energy of thousands of years of female empowerment that I wanted to know and have at my birth. Again, it seemed like such a natural decision, a no-brainer, of course we’d have a midwife! But then I began to realize this was not a common feeling. In fact there were midwives being fired in my own community and others across the country facing similar fates. I truly couldn’t understand why or how this was happening.
I was expressing my disappointment and frustrations to my mom and I asked her, “How would you describe a midwife, what is your perception?” My jaw dropped as she described a woman living on a farm, with long hair, wearing a woven straw skirt and patchouli, barefoot and hugging a tree.
I hope that many of you know this is not an accurate picture of a midwife. That’s not to say that some midwives don’t fit that description, but many do not. I began to wonder if this was maybe half our battle. Were people simply afraid that a tree-worshiping, barefoot woman who’s only experience was assisting the birth of a goat on her farm was going to try to catch their babies?!
Let me set the record straight! Midwives are extremely skilled professionals who are highly trained to provide prenatal care and deliver babies. Many midwives are also registered nurses and hold advanced degrees. And they won’t make you do anything you aren’t comfortable doing! They can and will administer epidurals, pitocin and antibiotics, and they will order ultrasounds when needed. The only intervention a midwife is not trained to do is a cesarean section. Midwives practicing at hospitals and birth centers are backed by physicians who are standing by in the case of an emergency. Midwifery care is safe!
Midwives will take the time to get to know you. They will help you develop a birth plan and help you safely adhere to that plan. Generally they will be available to be with you throughout your labor, reminding you to breathe, helping you change positions or providing a calming touch. Or they won’t—if you would rather be alone you can ask them to leave and they won’t be offended! They will listen to your needs and respond with care. Decisions will be discussed and not ordered.
These women are smart, experienced and compassionate about their work. Women have been helping women give birth for thousands of years. In many cultures midwives are sought out and honored. They are recognized for the services they provide, the knowledge they share and the love they extend. It is not uncommon for patients and midwives to be friends for life, a wonderful benefit to midwifery care.
And all midwives that I have met wear pants and shoes, live in a house with running water and bathe regularly.