My midwife was a beautiful, magical, sunshine-y unicorn of a woman. It's been two years since she delivered my daughter and I still think of her often and fondly. I cannot begin to count the ways my midwife made me feel understood, but I truly believe it was her personable, personalized level of care that enabled me to have the exact birth experience I wanted. Of course, some credit has to go to her own brand of fabulous: she was an awesome, kind, and intuitive person all on her own and separate from her practice. Another reason, however, comes down to the difference between midwifery and obstetrics and how those differences, usually, play out during pregnancies and births.
Don't get me wrong: I dig doctors! Doctors are f*cking awesome. My first child was delivered by a wonderful obstetrician and I am grateful for the care I received under her watch. However, care under a midwife is just, well, different. Only about 8 percent of births are attended by certified nurse midwives in the United States, but after my own wonderful experience I can't help but think that a lot more women (though certainly not all) might also enjoy being seen by a midwife.
I sincerely believe that women sharing their stories and other experience can serve to inform and empower other women. Even if, after hearing the story, the listener walks away with a feeling of, "Yeah, hard pass." While I'm a big believer of "to each their own," I also think that hearing where someone else is coming from is always an excellent idea. So I thought I would share just some of the ways my midwife helped to empower me, by making me feel understood and in charge of my own birth narrative.
Our Appointments Were So Long
With my OB, I was used to the actual appointment being the shortest part of my visit. I'd wait. I'd pee in a cup. I'd wait. I'd get weighed by a nurse and have my blood pressure checked. I'd wait some more. I'd go into the exam room. I'd wait some more. I'd meet with my doctor, she'd check, I'd ask a couple of questions, and we'd part ways.
Honestly, that was fine with me. I mean, the waiting around wasn't too fun but I was satisfied with how everything went down. But with my midwife, it was more like this: I'd wait. I'd pee in a cup. I'd wait. I'd get weighed by a nurse and have my blood pressure checked. I'd wait some more. I'd go into the exam room. I'd wait some more. I'd meet with my midwife and then we really got started, because in addition to my exam (which took no longer than the ones I'd had at my OB's office) she and I would talk for, like, 45 minutes. We'd chat about birth and pregnancy questions, pregnancy itself, my son, my job, and books we'd read. With well over a dozen appointments throughout the duration of my pregnancy, that's nine hours of talking, not including phone calls and text messages (of which there were plenty). You can't not feel understood after all that.
She Remembered Our Conversations
It really showed me that she was paying attention to who I was as a person, not just as her patient. If I had mentioned I was nervous about a deadline coming up at work in March, she'd bring it up in April and want to talk about how the project was going. If she had suggested a book for me to read in June, she asked what I thought in July. I treasured that sense of continuity; that I had a real, committed partner in my pregnancy.
(I mean, aside from my partner and friends and family: they're great but they don't know a damn thing about delivering infants and so were slightly less useful, practically speaking.)
She Was Down With My Birth Plan
I was initially interested in finding a midwife because I wanted a vaginal delivery after a previous c-section (VBAC). While there are OBs who will work with a mother to achieve this birth goal, many do not simply as a (misguided) matter of course. Generally speaking, midwives tend to have higher VBAC and vaginal delivery rates than OBs. That she understood why this kind of birth was important to me meant a lot and made me feel understood, because I know there are a lot of other practitioners out there who wouldn't have gotten it.
She Knew When Supporting Me Meant Pushing Me
My midwife was a big proponent of remaining active throughout pregnancy. "I tell this to all my patients," she said. "Just 30 minutes of cardio a few times a week is really going to increase your chances of delivering vaginally."
At the time I was very, very anti-exercise. I was pretty anti-moving in general, TBH. I'd blame it on the constant nausea that lasted 24 weeks, but honestly I'm just sort of happily lazy most of the time when it comes to physical fitness. She knew this (probably because I whined every time she suggested it). However, despite knowing this, she pushed me to challenge myself because she knew, in the long-run, it was important in helping me achieve my goal.
She Knew When I Need To Be Babied (Just A Little Bit)
You really have to know someone to be able to know when to push and when to coddle, and my midwife knew just when to coddle me. She knew when she didn't have to push and just had to tell me how capable and smart I was, because those are the things I needed to hear.
She Took My Personality Into Account When Providing Care
The one appointment I had with someone other than my midwife (even magical midwives get sick sometimes), I left in tears after receiving a long lecture about gestational diabetes. Suffice it to say, the OB I met with did not click with me. She did not have that whole "know when to push/know when to coddle" thing quite down.
When I reported this back to my midwife at our next appointment (politely as I could because this was her colleague after all) she sighed, rolled her eyes, and said, "Try not to take it to heart. She was talking to you as though you were a very different kind of patient — like someone who needed to be scared a little to get it. But I know you and I know your knowledge of GD. I know what your diet is like and I know you exercise even though you don't want to and I know your family history. I know you've got this. Everything is going to be fine."
She Never Tried To Scare Me
Doctors and OBs and all other professionals of the world, take heed: I do not respond to scare tactics. It's just going to make me think you're being a dick and start crying.
If She Had Her Own Agenda I Never Knew About It
I was never, ever pushed in giving birth any particular way. When my midwife told me she wanted to help me have any kind of delivery I wanted — medicated, unmedicated, vaginal, c-section — I believed her because she only ever supported me in my choices. I know she is a mother and has children of her own, so she must personally have a preferred method of baby expulsion. I'm sure there are certain methods that would be easier for her, but that never crept into how she approached my birth.
She Respected My Intelligence
My midwife knew I am someone who likes to do a lot of reading and researching. I like to approach things from an intellectual level rather than gut feeling of any kind. As such, she spoke to me technically. She knew that if I had questions about what she meant, I would ask. She recommended reading for me. She discussed studies with me. Appointments were almost like visiting a college professor during office hours; she knew I responded well to that and became more and more comfortable in my pregnancy and birth plan that way, so she accommodated me.
She Recognized And Honored How Important My Birth Was To Me, Even Thought It was The Third She'd Attended In Two Days
The day my daughter was born she had attended three births in 36 hours (and delivered four babies). That didn't stop her from being her usual supportive, encouraging, informative, lovely self for the birth of my child.
Every birth was important to her because she loved what she did, but she also understood that, as mothers, we have been through a lot to get to our baby's birthday.