I felt like I hit the maternity care jackpot when I found the group of Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs) that my favorite midwife belongs to. I was nearing my 15th week of my pregnancy with my son and in the process of switching away from an OB/GYN (who treated me terribly and whom I knew I wouldn't be able to trust to listen to me or set aside her own agenda while I was actually giving birth). After researching and interviewing care providers at several local OB/GYN offices, birth centers, and private practices, I knew that midwives were far and away my favorite. I felt that friend-crush feeling immediately, like me and my midwife could totally be BFFs for life.
They were initially booked for the month I was due to give birth, and I remember texting my sister in a panic, asking if she'd ever heard of anyone successfully bribing a group of midwives and if so, how they did it. Fortunately, they added another midwife to their group in time to make room for us, no palm-greasing required. Within a couple of weeks, we had our first visit, a house call (yes, a house call!) with the woman who would eventually catch my son.
Over the course of the rest of my pregnancy, we went on to really get to know each other, far more than is typical for American families and their health care providers (of any type, usually). We had hour-long consultations at each of my visits, all of which took place in my home. Later, when I had a scary moment early in my third trimester, my midwife quickly arranged for me to be seen right away at the area’s best hospital-based maternity ward so we could confirm that my baby and I were still healthy, reassuring me that we could continue ahead with my birth plan, but more importantly confirming that I could trust her to make the right call during labor if it turned out we needed to transfer.
By the time I started to feel those "this is it" contractions that let me know it was time to call the midwife, we'd already spent hours talking about my values and needs, the past experiences I worried might affect my labor, and everything in between. Observant and sensitive like all truly great midwives, she managed to be exactly as present as I needed her to be; there to check up on how my baby and I were tolerating contractions and offer physical support as needed, but also out of our way when I just needed my husband or wanted to be alone. Though she’s not actually my best friend, mostly because I feel like I’d have to compete for that status with a lot of other moms she’s helped over the course of her career, she absolutely has all of the qualities I look for in a best friend, and I'm sure most women aren't alone in considering their midwives to be the absolute best for the following reasons:
They Just Get You
My midwife is unabashedly feminist and a total badass, which is right up my alley, attitude-wise. We're both on the same page about how our health care system treats women (and are advocates for positive change), and we see eye-to-eye on lots of other things, too. It's so great to talk to someone who has the same lens on how the world works that I do, especially when navigating something as momentous as giving birth.
They're "No Nonsense"
My midwife is no-nonsense in the best possible way; direct and upfront, yet compassionate. Hers is not a “brutal” honesty, just clear, practical, and empathetic. I think that's just what happens when you really, deeply care about and believe in women, and spend significant chunks of your time with laboring mothers, who aren't able to beat around the bush even if they wanted to.
They Support You, No Matter What
One of my favorite things about all of the midwives we worked with, was their commitment to giving us just the facts and then letting us make our own choices. There weren't a lot of “you should” in their lexicon, or “I really think that…” commentary. My midwives always kept me and my family at the center of things, not themselves.
They Actually Listen
After a lifetime of drive-by appointments with care providers who often talked more than they listened (which I don't entirely blame them for, given the ridiculous demands of America’s healthcare system), it was amazing to have the time and space to really develop a relationship with my midwife. It was even more amazing to actually be listened to, rather than just talked at.
They Were There For The Biggest Experience Of Your Life
You know how warmly you feel about that girlfriend you have who holds your hair back when you're sick from having too much to drink, and listens to you without judging you, no matter what, and has your back when sh*t gets really real? Laboring with my midwife was like that, times a million. (Oxytocin, man. Helluva drug.)
You Can Ask Them Anything
I have literally texted my midwife the most ridiculous questions, and she has never flinched. This one time, I was kinda sure but not really sure that I had accidentally eaten a moldy blueberry, and was terrified it was going to sabotage my entire pregnancy. My husband was laughing too hard at my description to even help me Google the situation, but fortunately my midwife was able to help me out. In person or over the phone, I could ask her all sorts of things (about sex after birth, or what to expect while breastfeeding, you name it) and she's always there to help me understand. Even now, a year and a half after I had my son.
They Took The Time To Get To Know You And Your Family
Just by listening and taking her time with me, my midwife was able to get the kind of perspective on who I am, in the context of my family, that usually only occurs between close friends. It made such a difference when birthing, because I knew I could trust her to see me as a whole person, and that she would make decisions based on that and not just what was most convenient for her or her colleagues.
They're Great At Connecting People
In addition to our regular house-calls, my midwives also held monthly community care sessions in their homes with all of the parents due to birth in the same month, so we could get to know each other, hear and share each other's experiences, fears, hopes and questions, and develop a community of support from like-minded families. As a first-time bio mom who had few local peers who'd given birth at all (let alone outside of a hospital) it was a godsend to be able to regularly hear from other women who had already done this.
They Believe In You (And Remind You That They Do)
Whenever I needed encouragement, especially during labor, my midwife would help me look inside myself for what I needed first, rather than immediately offering to do something for me or give me something. The more I reflect on it, the more I realize how special that is, and how much confidence that’s given me in the rest of my life as a mother. By always turning my attention back to my own strengths, capabilities, and sufficiency, she showed that she believed in me and that I should, too.
They Make You Feel Like You Can Do Anything
When I had been in the throes of hard labor for what felt like forever, and I was starting to worry that not only could I not do it, but that pregnancy itself was a massive, uncomfortable hoax that never actually resulted in any babies, she was there, gently stroking my skin and keeping me calm, and reassuring me that not only could I do it, but she was watching me actually do it. With her words and her presence, she helped me reach in and wring out the last ounces of strength and energy I didn't even realize I had, and do what I needed to do to bring my baby into the world.