My first pregnancy and birth was attended by a wonderful obstetrician, but there was something about one specific midwife that led me to consider her for my second pregnancy, labor and delivery. The first time we met felt like Romeo meeting Juliet, only less misguided teenage infatuation and more, "I want this awesome lady to help get a baby out of my vagina." This giddy excitement manifested in texts to my partner that I can only imagine looked a lot like texts every new mom sends when meeting her midwife for the first time.
There are a lot of reasons a woman might opt for a midwife attended birth, many of them overlapping. Maybe they wish to give birth at home. Perhaps they had a traumatic birth and wanted a completely different kind of experience to avoid PTSD triggers. They may be determined to have a medication-free birth and, in turn, know that their chances at accomplishing that goal are better with a midwife. Aside from falling in love with my particular midwife, the main reason I chose "alternative care" for my pregnancy and birth was that I wanted a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) and my state has the second highest c-section rate in the country. A VBAC with an obstetrician, therefore, was very unlikely. (In fact, many OBs will not agree to take on a patient who wishes to attempt vaginal delivery after a c-section, which is misguided.) So, long story short, a midwife it was.
One of the first things I learned about midwives is that I had a lot to learn about midwives. As enlightened and progressive as I thought I was, there was a lot I needed to learn (and eventually learned) in that first visit (and over the course of my experience). My lacking midwifery knowledge was definitely reflected in those initial texts I sent my partner, and I know I'm not alone in this sense of revelation and wonder; lots of friends who have relied on the services of a midwife have assured me their process (and the texting of that process to a loved one) was very similar and included the following:
When You Realize It's Like Da Club, But For Pregnant Women
If you head over to a midwife and notice that there's a whole bunch of other pregnant women sitting around, waiting to be seen by this wonderful wizard of obstetric alternatives, don't be shocked. More and more new moms are turning to midwifes for prenatal care and delivery. In 2014, certified nurse midwives attended 12.1% of all vaginal births in the U.S. and 8.3% of all births in total. That number only seems to be growing.
When You Realize You Play Into Certain Stereotypes
Sure, maybe you go to a midwife who decorates liberally with energy-channeling crystals, but that's hardly a foregone conclusion and, more often than not, not the case at all. This is probably the most pervasive myth about midwives: that they're all very spiritually minded "hippie chicks" more interested in your aura than how your labor is progressing. It's just not true. Midwives are professionals and, furthermore, are individuals. Their aesthetic tastes, spiritual beliefs, and personalities vary from person to person, you know, kind of like literally anyone else in the world.
When You Wonder If You're In The Right Place
I'm not going to lie, before I met my midwife I sort of bought in to the stereotype of the hippie-dippy midwife more than I'd even realized. So, I was bowled over (and a little embarrassed) the first time I walked into her practice, because her waiting room looked like the lounge in a swanky, Scandinavian spa. While the finishing touches were particularly lovely and inviting, ultimately it looked like any other medical waiting room I'd ever visited. Her actual office/exam room? Same. Everything was very familiar, just a tad cozier.
When Your Midwife Is Chill
"So, it's really nice to meet you," I said the first time I met with my midwife. "Um, I'm sorry, I really don't know how to address a midwife. What should I call you?"
"Oh, just call me Kristen," she smiled.
Then I was like...
And then she was like
And then I was like
It's exciting and refreshing to have someone you view as an authority figure be open to removing that barrier of formality. (Like that one cool teacher in high school, who sat backwards in a chair and told you about how much they liked Nirvana and TuPac.)
When You Realize Your Midwife Is Educated AF
Midwives didn't just randomly decide one day, "You know, I'd really like to delivery babies, but I don't feel going to medical school" then arbitrarily open up shop. Most midwives go through extensive training to be able to call themselves a midwife, and they know WTF they're doing. Midwifery masters programs can be found in some of the most prestigious schools in America.
When You Realize That One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other
It's true! From certified-nurse midwives to licensed midwives, different practitioners have different training and requirements. This makes doing your research very important. For example, whereas a certified nurse midwife (CNM) has both a nursing degree and midwifery education and is accredited by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB), a licensed midwife may be entirely self-educated and is not licensed by an organization like AMCB or the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM).
When You Find Yourself Fraternizing With "The Enemy"
Certainly midwives usually take a different approach to pregnancy and childbirth than traditional obstetricians, but that approach doesn't mean they view them as "the enemy." Many midwives work with OBs, and vice versa. While midwives are experts at normal, uncomplicated pregnancies and deliveries (and the great majority of pregnancies are normal, as are births), OBs are better trained to handle complications that may require extensive medical interventions. As such, most midwives are well-acquainted with experts they can call upon in cases of emergency or if they need a consult.
When You Wonder How Is This Possible
Avoiding medical interventions and c-sections is a major reason many women opt for midwives over OBs (among others). Whereas the national c-section rate hovers around 32% (but varies considerably from state to state or even hospital to hospital), midwife attended labors result in considerably lower cesarean births (studies on the subject routinely find well under 10%).
You Know It's Your Body, Your Choice
While midwives usually resort to far fewer medical interventions that traditional OBs, that's not to say that they're all against them. In fact, one of the guiding principles of midwifery is that the expectant mother, not the care-provider, is in charge of what happens to her. A midwife supports a mother's decisions regarding pain management. Shortly after I received my epidural (yes! I speak from a place of experience! I had a midwife and an epidural!), my midwife came in to chat with me about how I was feeling. No judgment, no eyebrow-raising or pearl-clutching, just warmth and support.
When You Just Worry About Having Your Baby...
A lot of people wonder, "Who cleans up after a home birth?" and the answer is "Well, not you." Your midwife is going to handle all the slippery stuff, from the baby to the placenta to the various fluids and gunk that gushes out of you during and after delivery. Needless to say, this comes as a massive relief to anyone who's been worried about whipping out the mop immediately after popping out a kid.
When You Realize This Isn't Goodbye
After my six week postpartum visit, my midwife gave me a big hug and said, "So I guess I won't be seeing you again until your annual well-woman visit?"
"Wait," I said as the tears that been forming in my eyes held their ground, "You do that?"
"Sure!" she said. "I think I saw on your chart you're due for one in November."
Then the tears turned from, "Boo hoo, you've been such a big part of my life and I never get to see you again," to, "Hooray! We can still be friends!"
Since the birth of my child, my midwife has been there for contraceptive counseling and prescriptions of antibiotics when I had a nasty case of mastitis.
Midwives: they're not just for pregnancy.
When You Realize Your Midwife Is Your New BFF
As I mentioned above, I really loved the OB who handled my first pregnancy and birth. She was compassionate, thorough, and respectful. Our visits were great, as was her attention to me in the hospital. But my midwife? Our visits would seriously last an hour. I'm not talking about from the time I'd walk in to the time I left. I mean my time with her would last an hour. Most of that time was just talking about my concerns, questions, birth expectations and preparations, parenting, and midwifery (I was super interested in what she did). I felt totally comfortable texting her randomly throughout my pregnancy, because she encouraged me to do so and actually meant it.
This is the kind of common experience that influences many women in choosing a midwife for their various birth and lady-needs. I can say first-hand it's really lovely, and sometimes you just need to share all that loveliness via text.