My Relationship With My Midwife Was Everything During Labor
I've seen Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) for all three of my births, and they've all been wonderful. I love that CNMs provide medical care in and out of hospitals, and I've been really happy that I could have unmedicated births on my own terms, with care providers who trusted the natural physiological process of birth. For my oldest two children, I saw practices of CNMs. I'd rotate through all of the midwives during my many prenatal visits, with the goal of meeting each one before I gave birth. Both times, I ended up seeing one midwife for a lot my visits, and the midwife who attended my birth was one I'd only met once. Don't get me wrong, I had great birth experiences with both of these women, but nothing was better than having someone I knew really well attend the birth of my third child because my relationship with midwife was crucial to my successful delivery.
If I could give one unsolicited piece of advice to newly pregnant women it'd be this: find care providers who are going to follow your wishes and who you trust to keep you and your baby healthy and safe, however that looks, means, and feels to you. Birth is one of those times where it's absolutely OK to be picky. You can't know exactly how your pregnancy and birth will play out, but you want to be confident in all of the decisions you make. The best way to do that is to completely trust your care provider. And knowing your care provider well helps with this 100 percent — at least, in my opinion. Not only did I get to know my solo-practice midwife really well, she also got to know my entire family. She cared for me and my children and communicated so well with my partner and my mother, both of whom were my crucial labor support people. If I have any more babies, I wouldn't think twice about who I'd want to see because choosing a solo-practice midwife for my last birth was easily one of the best decisions I've ever made.
I hate doctors' offices and hospitals. I just do. I have anxiety issues, and nothing guarantees a panic attack like a crowded waiting room that smells like antiseptic. I know I'm not alone in this fear. I didn't want pregnancy and birth to ever feel like a medicalized or institutionalized part of my life. I had heard horror stories of women waiting to be seen by their OBs for prenatal care and being made to wait forever just to spend five minutes with the doctor. I know these doctors are really busy. A lot of them have dozens of patients due each month.
Of course, I'd rather see someone who doesn't make me wait. And of course, I'd rather be in a less clinical setting. And I definitely want time to ask all the questions that might arise during a pregnancy. Midwives have always made prenatal visits a great experience for me and my family. My older kids were as involved as they wanted to be in my care. When I was pregnant with my second child, my oldest would always get to push the button on the blood pressure machine. This last pregnancy, my second child always got the first crack at finding the baby's heartbeat with the doppler. Since I planned on including my children in the birth of their sibling, it made sense that I would include them in as much of the pregnancy as they wanted. Midwives have always made time for that. And in this last pregnancy, my midwife got to know my daughter so well that my daughter counts her (and her baby) among her friends.
My kids and I have this ritual at bedtime where we say goodnight to all the important people in our lives. My kids always remember my midwife. Not just because we had so many prenatal visits with her, but because she was there on one of the most important and memorable nights of their lives: when they finally got to meet their baby brother.
When I had a question, I'd call or text my midwife. I didn't need to phone an after-hours line to have someone paged. I didn't just leave a message and wait for her to answer my question during business hours. She was available to me 24/7.
Having a real relationship with my midwife alleviated a lot of stress for me. I've seen as my friends have questions during their pregnancies just how difficult it can be to track down their doctors and get an answer. One of my friend's had a concern during her pregnancy, and when she called the on-call number she was given two options: wait it out and see her OB at her appointment, or go to the ER. There was no middle option. I was horrified. The options (or lack thereof) put my friend in a really uncomfortable and stressful place. When I had a question, I'd call or text my midwife. I didn't need to phone an after-hours line to have someone paged. I didn't just leave a message and wait for her to answer my question during business hours. She was available to me 24/7. Another benefit of seeing a solo practice midwife is that she didn't have a ton of patients, so she could be this available. In fact, she wants to be available to these women. On her website, she describes how she feels a calling to nurture her clients and their families. For her, it really is a calling. She gets joy from helping women and families. And that joy is evident in how she provided my care.
I knew that I was in the hands of a woman I trusted, and cared about, and loved.
I know a lot of women are encouraged to create a checklist before their birth, laying out the things they do and don't want when they deliver. Yes, I want pain meds. No, I don't want Pitocin. Yes, I want my baby to get the vitamin K shot. But my birth plan was three pages long. I detailed all the things I'd loved about my previous births. I included things I'd find helpful and things I didn't want. It really allowed me to paint a picture of how I wanted this birth to be. And not only did my midwife read and study this plan, she was so encouraging that this was the type of plan she wanted to see.
When my water broke and I knew that labor and birth were imminent, there was no added layer of anxiety over who would be attending my birth. I knew my midwife would be there. I knew she was bringing her student midwife whom I had also gotten to know. I knew my children would not be surprised to see her hanging out with me in my bedroom. I knew she and my partner and my mother all had a comfortable and collaborative relationship. There were some nerves making that initial phone call to say "this is it!" but the nerves were pure excitement and normal anticipatory anxiety. I knew that I was in the hands of a woman I trusted, and cared about, and loved.
I really felt like I had created such a warm and nurturing environment for the birth that I wanted to have. I had decorated the birth space with a lot of care. I had prepared my older children to witness their brother's arrival. And my solo-practice midwife was a huge piece of the puzzle. She fit seamlessly into my family. She cared so much about my hopes and dreams and desires for a beautiful, calm, and loving birth. She respected my process and my ownership over my own experience. She was in the room, providing support, but letting me birth my own child. It was an amazing experience I'll never forget. And I am so grateful I got to share that experience not just with my family, but also with my midwife.