My first pregnancy was great, don’t get me wrong. I used an OB-GYN and he was very present during my office visits, had a good bedside manner, and was an all-around nice guy. He delivered my nephew and was the OB for my mom and my aunts, so he knew my family and that made me even more comfortable with him. But there was something missing from the whole experience that I lacked: a connection. I don’t think if my OB had run into me in the mall he would've known who I was. If I had a question that I felt was important, I left a message with his office and waited for either him or another doctor to return my call, typically hours later or the next day. I wanted more of a relationship with my caregiver during my pregnancy and that’s why I made the switch and decided to use a midwife instead of an OB during my second pregnancy.
If you’re wondering what exactly a midwife is, a great definition comes from the Midwives Alliance of North America: “A midwife is a person who has successfully completed a midwifery education program that is duly recognized in the country where it is located and that is based on the ICM Essential Competencies for Basic Midwifery Practice and the framework of the ICM Global Standards for Midwifery Education; who has acquired the requisite qualifications to be registered and/or legally licensed to practice midwifery and use the title ‘midwife’; and who demonstrates competency in the practice of midwifery.” They are not board certified like an OB-GYN, but are perfectly educated and capable of delivering a perfectly healthy babe. Midwives are also known to take on fewer patients so that they can spend more one-on-one time with their patients and be available to answer questions more responsively and just be more present.
Additionally, midwives can also be your women’s healthcare provider as they also specialize in reproductive care, can write prescriptions, and even provide their patients with basic nutrition counseling, according to American College of Nurse Midwives. This was something important to me too; I wanted not just a pregnancy relationship but a longtime relationship. I wanted to be able to go to her for my regular well-woman visits, discuss birth control and my future family planning.
I started my search online, looking up profiles of different midwives at hospitals where I knew they accepted my insurance. It was important to me to see their faces and read about them before booking an appointment. I did a lot of Googling and finally found someone whose background matched what I was looking for — young enough for me to feel like I could talk to her like a friend but with enough experience to answer all my tough questions — and I made the appointment.
After I made the announcement of my switch, it lead to so many discussions with both family and friends about what a midwife is and lots of explaining and defending my reasoning on my end. The most difficult person to explain this to was my dad. In fact, it took about three conversations before he finally got it.
“I don’t understand,” he would start, “why would you want someone who isn’t board certified to deliver your baby?”
I kept repeating, “Dad, she’s perfectly capable and educated to deliver the baby. She’s been through extensive training, attended many births, and is on the same page as me with everything that I want during this pregnancy."
I wanted a medication-free birth, which midwives are known to encourage. They also have relatively few patients who end up with a Cesarian, which scared the crap out of me. My plan didn’t involve having a home birth, as I wanted to deliver in a hospital in case anything went wrong. It made me feel more secure knowing I'd deliver in a hospital. I chose a hospital that had birthing spas in a few of their rooms, so if I was lucky (meaning, if one was available when I went into labor), I could still have that water birth experience. If not, there were showers in the other delivery rooms and I knew I'd get by just fine either way.
“So, you want to deliver your baby in a swimming pool?," my dad asked.
“It’s not a swimming pool, dad. It’s a small pool filled with warm water that will help ease the pain of the contractions.”
“But, will she be under water when she’s born? How will she breathe? Is that really safe?”
“She'll be pulled out of the water and it’s definitely safe. I’m aiming for a medication-free delivery so I want to be able to move and do whatever I need to to manage the pain instead of getting an epidural and being stuck in a bed.”
That was what was in my birth plan was, anyways.
I went into my first appointment telling myself that if I didn’t sense my midwife and I would jive, then I could switch to a different midwife, as establishing a good relationship was my main goal here. But, my first appointment went better than I ever expected. Anne and I clicked immediately. She grew up near where my sister currently lived, was in the process of planning a trip to my hometown (so needed all my suggestions), and most importantly, was my biggest cheerleader for having the kind of birth experience that I wanted.
By my second visit, we'd exchanged phone numbers and she told me to text her whenever for absolutely any reason and she would be there for me. My mind was blown. I was getting exactly what I'd hoped for by making this switch. And believe me, I texted her a time or two asking about things like heartburn, cramping, working out too hard, and so many more random things — it seems like no matter how many times you’ve been pregnant, there are always more and more questions.
My midwife wasn’t on duty, which was a huge concern and quite frankly, it scared the living sh*t out of me on the way to the hospital. But, our little lady came so quick, I didn't really have all that much time to freak out. I got in the bed, gave the OB a few pushes, and out she came.
My delivery ended up being one for the books. I went into labor around 7:30 p.m., so I already had the gut-wrenching knowledge that my midwife probably wouldn't be on call. In fact, the labor went by so quickly, with my water breaking only a few hours in, that I ended up in such extreme pain with a complete inability to hold fluids in me that I ended up being delivered to the hospital by an ambulance. This was definitely not part of my birth plan.
I got to the hospital around 2:30 that morning and was pretty much ready to rock and roll in the delivery room. And since we all know that what we want our delivery to be and what actually happens are two totally different things, I will share this: I had the on-call OB end up delivering our little one in the end. It wasn’t a big deal because I labored for six hours in the comfort of my own home (a recommendation that came from my midwife to help ensure I wouldn't have any interventions if she wouldn’t be there to advocate on my behalf) so that when it was time to get to the hospital, I was ready to go. My midwife wasn’t on duty, which was a huge concern and quite frankly, it scared the living sh*t out of me on the way to the hospital. But, our little lady came so quick, I didn't really have all that much time to freak out. I got in the bed, gave the OB a few pushes, and out she came.
To this day, I still keep in touch with my midwife and text her here and there with pictures, baby updates, and sometimes even female questions, which she’s still more than happy to answer. It was like night and day when you compared my OB and midwife experience, and I was so happy that I chose midwife with the delivery of our second child, even if in the end the OB did the delivering. The relationship I formed with her is one I'll always cherish and I'll keep seeing her for my regular visits, too. She was there for me six weeks postpartum to put my new IUD in, chat about how overwhelmed I was about losing the baby weight, and was an overall important presence in my life. You don't just forget that.