Five Things I Learned About Midwifery During My Birth
Midwives don’t just deliver babies - they birth mothers.
In the ten years that I waited (desperately) for the right person and the right time to have my first baby, I never considered using a midwife. My husband was actually the one who suggested it. My beautiful baby girl was delivered by a Midwife and a supporting Doula in a warm pool in my living room in the middle of the night - much to the chagrin of my poor neighbours whom I kept up with my screaming and moaning.
This week is National Midwifery Week. It is a time to celebrate and lift up the amazing work that Midwives and Doulas and other birthing professionals do in this world. Not only do they do the work of birthing babies, but they birth mammas too. Motherhood is an amazing and challenging right of passage in life that we have relegated to the medical institution - which we know is steeped in mostly white and mostly male history and perspectives. It has been, in many ways, largely stripped of its power and potency and women bear the brunt of that. There are many amazing doctors and nurses doing beautiful work and there is a lot more we could be doing in our system to honour this potent time in a woman’s life.
In the Yukon where I live midwifery is not regulated or funded yet (note that legislation is in progress at the moment). So if you want to choose a midwife or a home birth you pay for it yourself, you find your own midwife and you are strongly discouraged by the docs to have a home birth. It also means that most people aren’t aware of midwifery as an option - and they don’t know about it’s depth and history of practice.
Midwifery is the ancient practice of birthing babies and mothers too. It is highly specialized and a midwife can generally do all that your doctor can (depending on where she is trained and the scope of practice). In many countries, it is doctors who assist midwives and not the other way around. I’m not a midwifery expert so I won’t pretend to be but I highly encourage you to check out organizations like the Community Midwifery Association Yukon to learn more.
I ended up using a Midwife - though I started seeing the docs at the clinic too - and I was able to safely deliver my daughter at home mere minutes from the hospital (I may have made a different choice if I lived further). I don’t believe in telling women how to birth their babies, but I do believe in making sure that people have information so they can make choices that are right for them. I do also acknowledge that access to this kind of care, sadly, is still a privilege that not all have and I can’t wait to see funded and accessible midwifery in the Yukon and anywhere else in the world it does not exist. In that spirit, I am sharing five things I learned about Midwifery during my pregnancy and birth.
1) I got all the time I needed
During my pregnancy, I met with my midwife regularly. About once a month in the early days moving up to once a week by the end. These appointments were sometimes one hour and sometimes three hours depending on how I was doing, the questions I had, and what I wanted to talk about. Appointments happened in my home around my kitchen table. I was never rushed. I never felt like I was being squeezed into a busy day.
Because midwifery and homebirth are not common, in Canada anyways, family members can be nervous about your choice to go this route. My midwife helped me to articulate my choice and I’m sure my mother learned more than she ever thought she would about birth because I had a midwife with me on this journey.
2) Equal focus was placed on me and my well-being as well as my baby’s
During my pregnancy, my labour and the first six weeks post-partum my Midwife was doing all the things you do - like checking the baby’s size and location and weighing her and examining her once she was born AND she was constantly asking me questions to gauge my emotional state on this sometimes challenging journey. I shared my tears and fears with her and we were able to talk long enough that sometimes tears and fears I did not know where there could emerge.
3) I was empowered the whole way through to make the choices I felt were right - to trust my body and my intuition and myself
My midwife never told me what to do - in fact, when I tried to avoid a decision, or defer to her about something she would kindly and gently empower me to make the choice that felt right for me while giving me all the medical information I needed to make choices.
This encouragement from day one to own my birth choices left me feeling very in charge of my birth (as much as one can feel in charge of such a happening). It made me feel empowered and supported and in tune with what was happening.
4) Homebirth is pretty awesome (it was for me anyways)
I puked up watermelon on my own couch, my water broke in my bedroom, I pooped on my living room floor. I moaned and huffed and puffed as I watched Sherlock Holmes with my mom and husband and midwife. I grabbed whatever I wanted out of my fridge. I blared Thievery Corporation on my speakers. I walked around the neighborhood. There was a table full of emergency medical tools we thankfully never needed. I held my daughter in my arms for the first time in a pool of warm water in my living room. My husband cut her chord on our couch, and then we snuggled and took in her glory. We recovered then slept in our own bed - though I think I was too high to sleep and just watched Planet Earth on my TV. I didn’t have to travel anywhere, pack a bag, worry about what to bring - and probably the best part was delaying that first car seat ride (cause they are sooo smalll!)
5) Post-partum care launched me on my motherhood journey
For two weeks after I delivered my baby at home my Midwife came daily to weigh her and check in on us. For six weeks after delivery, she came regularly to do the same. She showed me how to bathe my baby, gave me tips on how to hold her and change her, was a phone call away when I had any worries or doubts and was a rockstar through the very onerous first few months of breastfeeding. She championed me and cheerleaded me as I found my footing as a mother and caregiver.
My mom was around during this period as many moms are and she was equally supportive and helpful, and also unsure - I mean it’s been 30 years after all since she had her babies. We both appreciated the expertise and support my midwife offered during this tender time.
If you had a Midwife lead or assist your birth, this is a great week to reach out and share any gratitude you have for her. If you are pregnant or considering and you don’t know much about midwives this is a great week to learn. And if you are a soon to be grandmother, auntie or any other supporting family member - now is a great time to learn so you can support your pregnant family member if they choose a midwife birth.
To all the babies and future babies, and all the mammas and future mammas - we got you.
Much Love - the Happy Vagina Project.