(Midwife doing baby exam.)
Through the years of teaching birth classes I have learned far more than any of my students. One thing I have noticed as time has marched on is that two different people can have very different experiences with the same care provider.
Even the “best midwife” in town will have detractors. And even the best doc will have patients whose births literally go off the rails and leave mom, dad and everybody involved feeling crushed.
What does this have to do with care providers and our need to be a little more gentle with them? I think in our quest for the best care provider possible (which I highly encourage and consider one of the most important choices you will ever make during pregnancy) has also led to some unnecessary blame placed on said care provider.
Here are some things about your doctor or midwife that you deserve to know:
1) Your care provider is human. This means that they have good days — and BAD days. They get stressed and they have family problems and money problems and they even get divorced (in fact, you could probably argue that they get divorced more than regular folks because of that awful schedule!). No matter how professional they try to be, sometimes this humanity will seep through and it might not make you feel like you have hired the mythical midwife you envisioned in your rose-colored dream.
2) Your care provider will make mistakes. Yes, ’tis true. Even the best doctor or midwife or doula (not a care provider but a labor support person) will make mistakes. This is part of their humanity. This really stinks, especially if they make a bad call when it comes to your birth, but it is going to happen. Unlike someone whose job is fitting you for shoes or helping you choose the right dryer, a doctor who screws up can really make life difficult or traumatic for those involved. In fact, medicine is one of the rare professions where mistakes can actually lead to a death. Frankly, I don’t envy their position.
3) Your friend’s perfect midwife might not be yours. It is SO tempting to recommend my favorite midwife to everybody I know. And I do recommend her. However, the truth is that when it comes to birth, there is not a “one size fits all” person who will be beloved and perfect for everybody. Maybe this is because of skill, personality, schedule, or even how they mesh with your husband. Whatever it is, choosing somebody just because you know your best friend chose her might not be the best idea.
4) Even if you DO have the perfect care provider, you might still have a difficult birth. Now this is something I know drives some birth professionals and care providers batty. For whatever reason, birth sometimes is very difficult. It can be abnormally painful, positioning can be a problem, it can be incredibly long or tearing can be bad. There are a lot of variables. In fact sometimes people have bought a tasty but often untrue idea that birth is always orgasmic and full of moaning and candlelight, only to be shocked when there is more blood and screaming than romance (unless you are into that kind of thing, in which case, I am not judging).
Some of the variables of birth we can control for. I think we would LIKE to control for all of them, but we can’t. This is the sad/scary/beautiful thing about birth. Sometimes a woman does everything “right” and things still go very wrong. As mentioned, this CAN be the care providers fault, but sometimes it is just something else, (bad luck, who knows?)
It can be hard not to blame a care provider or doula in this situation, especially considering the emotions involved in birth and postpartum, but it isn’t always appropriate or helpful for you or them.
Now I am not going to pretend for one hot minute that care providers are never to blame. There are some awful ones out there and there are even just plenty of nice ones who really love chopping women open and speeding things up and basically doing things that I have a big fat problem with.
But with that being said, I do believe that sometimes we can be a little too hard on those who have the difficult job of attending births. Yes, they chose it, but that doesn’t make it easy and that doesn’t make them perfect. I chose motherhood and I love it, but I still screw up all the time. I hope my kids forgive my mistakes someday, not because I need or deserve that, but because I think they will be a lot happier if they can forgive me.
The same is true for us.
Photo credit: jon.hayes / Foter / CC BY-C-NDN
About Sarah Clark
Sarah Clark is a natural birth teacher in Northern California (Santa Rosa and Healdsburg to be exact). She helps train childbirth instructors for Birth Boot Camp (best company EVER) and has seen almost 100 fabulous teachers march off to educate others about natural birth! She loves birth, teaching, her four kids and hubby, and spreading the word about how awesome birth can be.