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Knee jerk reactions to male midwife, how do I feel more progressive about this?

post #1 of 105
Thread Starter 

This might not be in the right place, so mods, I'm sorry if you have to move it!  I also hope this discussion doesn't violate any terms of use.  I'm also not trying to offend anyone here, I'm just confused about the conflicting inner dialogue I'm having.

 

I found out yesterday that the group of midwives that I am seeing will be having a male apprentice (I say "group" but there are just 3 of them).  Anyway, he is supposedly a very nice man, although I don't think he has any children.  He is training to be a Naturopath, and a midwife.  He will only be attending mamas who have okayed his presence, and it won't just be assumed that his presence is okay (I.E., they're asking mamas to volunteer to have him as an apprentice at their prenatals, births, and postpartums...  He won't be there unless you specifically okay it).

 

And I just feel sick about it, which is wracking me with guilt and all kinds of awful emotions.  I had a lengthy argument with my husband about it this morning.  Logical me says, "to each mama her own" and "if a mama is okay with it, then it's none of my business," and "what difference does it make if he attends other mamas, he won't attend you..."  Logical me also says, "women shouldn't be excluded from certain professions, why is it any different for men?"  And then the totally unprogressive, awful, emotional me thinks it's... I don't know.  Bad juju?  Sacrilege?  I guess I had always just sort of thought that my midwives were protecting a sacred space, a space that men (aside from a birth partner) should really have no part of.

 

I know that lots of mamas, even here, are just fine with male OBs.  That plenty of women have no qualms with men being their gynecologists, or being their birth attendants, and have had great experiences with men...  And logically I know that midwifery should really be no different, right?  So why do I feel so upset by this?  Can anyone weigh in?  I'm having a hard time reconciling the rational part of me that knows that midwifery is a profession like any other, with feeling (I know, bad bad bad me) almost disgusted by the idea of a man being connected with midwives, especially MY midwives...  It's so dumb!  Help!

 

Edited to add: I AM NOT DEBATING THE VALIDITY OF MALE BIRTH ATTENDENTS.  Be they OBs, midwives, nurses, whatever.  NOT DEBATING.  NOT DEBATING.  I don't need explanations as to why you may or may not prefer men for your birth.  I FULLY SUPPORT you having your birth HOWEVER you want.  I am an ardent supporter of all types of birth.  Just like every person is different, every birth is different, and what every woman NEEDS at every birth is DIFFERENT.  What I need in MY (only my, only my, only my) pregnancy and birth experience, is a woman-centered experience.  This thread is merely me trying to wrap my head around WHY that is, especially since it flies so far against my own life experience.  This thread is NOT about why other women might choose a male care practitioner.  I truthfully don't care why other people make the choices they do...  You have to do what's right for you, and I absolutely support your right to do so!!!

 

 


Edited by Italiamom - 3/8/11 at 8:21am
post #2 of 105

I just have issues with male doctors in general so I can understand where you're coming from.  DH and I were watching some late night talk show last week and whoever the guy who plays Will Schuester on Glee is said his dad was one of like 10 male midwives in the US .  DH thought it was so cool, but I was ehhh on it.  Male OBs weird me out too.  I don't like being touched by people who aren't related to me and by males even less so.  There is no way anyone with a penis other than DH is getting near my crotch.  Heck, I don't even like going to a male eye doctor or dentist b/c they have to get so close to you.  So really I have no advice, but I understand. 

post #3 of 105

Hmm ... this makes the brain work hard, eh?  At first, I equated it with this thought about midwive who have not birthed their own child:  "Well, we don't expect oncologists to have had cancer, do we?  Or paramedics to have survived a horrific car crash?  Or ER docs to have had a drug overdose, fractured femure, finger amputation?  Or a psychologist or counsellor to have survived serious depression or a suicide attempt?"

 

But then I got thinking further ... birthing is a woman's challenge.  All my other examples are human challenges, and we are all human.  But we are not all women.  I would be suspicious if he could support a pregnant and labouring mama as fully as a woman could.  But having said that, I'd want to be be willing to let him try, and would hope to be open-minded about it, but I wouldn't.  I'd want women midwives.  I allowed a student to be in charge last time, and I think that's the end of my comfort level.  A male student, no way . 

 

Neither of my midwives had birthed a child, and I felt fully supported by them.  Had they been male, I'm not so sure how I would've felt.  Midwifery is a womanly craft.  Perhaps times are changing, but that's the way it's been since the dawn of time.  

 

 

 

post #4 of 105

I 100% fully support male midwives, and would have signed up for one if the option were available, to let the poor guy get the experience he needs to continue in his profession. I used to work at a OB/GYN office with a midwifery practice as well.  A male midwife applied for an opening there and he was denied because he was male.  The rationale is that many women opt for midwives rather than OBs because of a cultural prohibition of men seeing the women naked.  Even if the OB they chose was female, the chances were good that it would have been a male OB who was on call at the birth.  Since all the midwives were female, there was no chance of being attended by a man.  I think there is zero difference between how a woman can attend a birthing mother, and how a man can.  People are people.  I don't think we can pick or chose which areas we want male and female roles to mesh.

post #5 of 105

There is no way I would see a male midwife, but I would not be comfortable with a male ob or gynocologist either. I think if you are uncomfortable with it, so be it, they will have to just work around it and accomidate your preference. I just wonder why a male would want to do this? Sorry for my non-progressiveness...

post #6 of 105

I don't have any problems with the idea of male midwives/OB's.

 

     That said, I wouldn't worry about your feelings being illogical or "bad".  I don't think there's anything wrong with having a strong instinctive reaction that includes not wanting other men around you when you're in labor.  It would (arguably) be 'bad' or 'non progressive' to work to actively prevent men from becoming midwives and attending the births of women who wanted them there, but doesn't sound like something you're doing. 

     I don't think you need to somehow reconcile the conflicting beliefs that "logically men shouldn't be barred from this profession" and "emotionally, birth is for women and men should stay the heck away!".  It's perfectly fine to think/feel both things, unless you feel like your midwives' willingness to work with a male apprentice makes it difficult for you to work with them- then it might get tricky.  Otherwise, I'd just go the route of "Huh, it's weird that I have such strong feelings about this right now.  shrug.gif  I won't be having him at my birth, I guess."  And it's possible that you might feel differently about the idea when you're not actually pregnant and facing the immediate possibility of having a male birth attendant.
 


 

 

post #7 of 105

Seems wierd, but eh - who cares?  Lots of people see male OBs with no problems.  If you don't wnat to see a male ob, you don't if you don't want to see a male midwife, then don't.  In this day & time, you choose a midwife based on the type of care you will receive versus a doctor.  There are various degrees of midwives, some will be homebirths, some will be working right under a doctor like a doctor.  If he wants to help bring babies more peacefully into this world and help mommas birth naturally, more power to him.  And good luck.

 

That being said, I wouldn't see him, probably.  But I don't really care for males at my girly parts.  Well, you know, except for my DH!  :lol:

 

Oh, wait, I better say vagina or someone might think I think it's a bad word!  duck.gif

post #8 of 105

 

Quote:
     I don't think you need to somehow reconcile the conflicting beliefs that "logically men shouldn't be barred from this profession" and "emotionally, birth is for women and men should stay the heck away!".

Yes, that. There are a lot of issues at play here, about power, history, men "invading" one of the few professions that has been historically female-centric, hormones, the importance of personal experience vs book-learnin', empathy, abuse, civil rights... it's perfectly rational to have a more complex reaction than "men and women should all be able to do the same jobs", which I think it actually a tad simplistic given the issues involved. You may even have science on your side - isn't Michael Odent generally against men being present at births, for reasons related to birthing hormones? (Which seems kinda ironic, but hey...). It's hardly a closed debate - a few decades ago the "progressive" line was to have fathers present at births, whereas now a lot of "progressive" people seem to be trying to make birth solely a woman's space again.

 

So I guess what you need to figure out is, do you feel the need to be "progressive" (ie. pro-male midwives) about this, and why? Especially if you're limiting your reaction to your feelings, not to trying to change the Constitution so that men can't be midwives. :p ("I don't like it" and "this should be outlawed" being rather different things.)

post #9 of 105

Personally, I think it is great that there are men who believe in the midwifery model of care.  The Madison Birth Center in Wisconsin I believe has a male apprentice as well and I was reading his 'about me' and it sounded like he was turned on to the idea after being there for his I think sister's natural birth.  From what I gathered, he felt strongly that all women should be able to have the birth they want, including a natural birth where they are in charge of everything.  I thought it was really sweet that he cared so much for his sister and her experiences, he wanted to help give that to other women.  I'd definitely let a male apprentice attend my appointments and birth assuming he were someone who could give me what I wanted and I felt comfortable around him, just like the female midwives.

 

With that said though, I don't think there is anything wrong with not feeling comfortable with the idea of male midwives.  As Smokering said, it is one of the few jobs that has always been for women and it is a job all about women.  With the whole history of male OBs and women fighting to be more than second class citizens at the man's mercy it seems pretty natural to want to protect that little corner of women only complete with equality between patient and midwife.  Unless you don't want him or any man to be a midwife at all regardless of how other women would feel and actively seek to stop men from joining, I don't see anything wrong with the discomfort.  Assuming you are pleasant in passing with him I think it is perfectly reasonable to keep him out of your business and just be glad you can opt out.  I personally think using an OB for a normal pregnancy is pretty ridiculous but it is what it is... its only fair you can feel the same about male midwives :)

post #10 of 105

Since there are plenty of female doctors who buy into the medical model of childbirth heart and soul, why not male midwives who are equally invested in the midwifery model of care? One of the leading influences on midwifery is a male doctor--and OLD male doctor even.

 

Personally, I'd rather deal, in any care situation, with someone who has observed and accepted a thousand variations on normal than a person who has had their own experiences and when making the same thousand observations devotes their time to making comparisons with their own experiences.  (Note, I'd be in the second category, but I'm not going to be a midwife, nurse, lactation consultant, or the like.)

 

 

Oh, you're asking about having a particular person attend at your birth and consultations not just about male midwives in general? Go ahead and say no. Your comfort is important.

 

That said, if you're feeling in your heart that you really want to try to become open to the idea of that apprentice, then I'd talk with the midwives about having him present for less intimate portions of your prenatal care. Since his background is as a natureopath, perhaps if you have appointments concerning nutrition?

 

And, maybe he's stronger than your midwives and would be awesome at lower back/foot massages if midwives do that? (Don't know if that's part of the midwifery standard of care.)  Sorry, whenever I think of natural-health oriented men, there's a couple massage therapists who come to mind.

post #11 of 105

I think your reaction is normal, although as a pp pointed out, there are plenty of very medically-minded female OB's and midwives, too ....

 

I think it takes someone special to want to follow the midwifery model of care, to do that for mothers and their families. 

 

I don't think that excludes men, although I think men who can do it well are rare.  Awhile ago, someone linked to this blog post on the Birth&Beyond discussion boards -- and the birth story was so beautiful, I cried while I was reading it.  It still moves me.  It involves a male OB, but it's worth reading and thinking about:

 

http://navelgazingmidwife.squarespace.com/navelgazing-midwife-blog/2007/8/15/a-birth-unfolds-in-photos-words.html (Dr. Wonderful, for those who may have heard of him)

 

....I don't really have a choice, where I live; until very recently, assisted homebirths were illegal here, and there still aren't any midwives locally; my family births very quickly and that means I have a male OB.  I've been very happy with him; he probably could be quite medically-minded with other patients, but with me has been very calm, hands-off, and supportive of delayed clamping, "extended" breastfeeding, natural birth, etc.  I'd love to have a midwife-assisted birth, but at this point I've had two wonderful births with my OB; I wish he did homebirths! 

 

post #12 of 105

I have had a male gyno and didn't have a problem with him. But I don't think I'd be satisfied with a male midwife.  I feel like midwifery and birth are a sacred women's experience. My midwives both had children, but I think I would not have been as comfortable if they hadn't. Modern Western medical professionals treat patients' symptoms based on the information they learned about in school and in their work experience. But midwives LIVE birth. I see it as this raw, dank, beautiful, womanly life art. (I'm sure my homebirth in my steamy bedroom in the middle of the night has a lot to do with that!) While I also think that anyone should be able to pursue any career path they are able, I feel a little funny about men taking the role of a midwife (I'm not talking about the medically minded MWs that work in hospitals. I'm talking about my midwives and my close friend who is a midwife and all the others that fit into my probably arbitrary definition of what a midwife should be.)

 

I'm not at all opposed to men supporting women in childbirth, and not just the mother's partner. A friend had her husband, her best friend, and her friend's husband at her birth (along with 2 midwives and then after the transfer 3 nurses and a male OB!). She referred to her friend's husband as her "dude-la" :)

 

The more I ramble on the more I feel as conflicted as you do, OP. I don't know how I would respond to your situation if I were you.

post #13 of 105
Quote:

Originally Posted by Italiamom View Post

 

I know that lots of mamas, even here, are just fine with male OBs.  That plenty of women have no qualms with men being their gynecologists, or being their birth attendants, and have had great experiences with men...  And logically I know that midwifery should really be no different, right?  

 

 


But I think it is.  I mean I hope it is different.  I think a lot of us are drawn to the midwife model of care because of the idea of women helping women, mothers helping mothers, passing our knowledge down through the generations.  There is probably some feeling that nothing can just be the realm of women, if there is money to be made, it's co-opted or taken away by men...oh, people have already said this better than I can.  So yeah, I can feel like a male midwife is not what I would want, if I wanted a male, I could just hire an OB.  But I do think it can be a good thing to have men as midwives if he is coming at it from a positive view, the view of empowering the mother and helping her navigate the tricky waters of the current birth climate.  I think there is room for male midwives, but I think it's understandable if that's not what you want.

post #14 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by Viola View Post




But I think it is.  I mean I hope it is different.  I think a lot of us are drawn to the midwife model of care because of the idea of women helping women, mothers helping mothers, passing our knowledge down through the generations.  There is probably some feeling that nothing can just be the realm of women, if there is money to be made, it's co-opted or taken away by men...oh, people have already said this better than I can.  So yeah, I can feel like a male midwife is not what I would want, if I wanted a male, I could just hire an OB.  But I do think it can be a good thing to have men as midwives if he is coming at it from a positive view, the view of empowering the mother and helping her navigate the tricky waters of the current birth climate.  I think there is room for male midwives, but I think it's understandable if that's not what you want.


I'm sure I'm the minority here, but while I love the idea of what I bolded in reality when I labor and birth I just want to be left the hell alone! lol.gif I had a male homebirth attendent last time (OB, though, not midwife) partially because he was agreeable to being there in case I needed help but not interfering otherwise. It was a perfect choice for us but I totally understand why you feel as you do; nothing wrong with that at all!  And I'm sure every aspiring male midwife out there knows that the bias/preference exists. 

 

 It would probably be a different story if male doctors hadn't co-opted birth in the first place and screwed it up so royally. 

post #15 of 105
I wonder if it would help if you considered that some women actually prefer male caregivers? Obviously you don't, and thats completely fine. You said that they arent going to make you allow him to be present at all, that you would have to opt in. I know, for myself, I've always felt FAR more comfortable with male caregivers than female. I know this might be somewhat unusual for a female, but thats the way it is. I've actually had people suggest females and leave out male candidates for various jobs (doctors, therapists, etc) because they assumed that as a female I would prefer female caregivers- and for me its the exact opposite. Its not rational by any means, I know female and male caregivers are equally competent. I just feel more comfortable with a male over a female. To say if you want a male, you could hire an OB, well, its not quite the same. A woman can want a home birth or midwife attended birth for any number of reasons, which an OB is unlikely to deliver on. I've often wondered if I would be able to find a midwife I am comfortable with, simply because of my discomfort with females. If there are options of both genders, than women like me will have more options for childbirth as well.
post #16 of 105
Thread Starter 

I would certainly never work to bar anyone from doing things under equal opportunity, for what it's worth.  This is my issue alone, and I know it.  Just so no one thinks I'm going to be at the next midwifery conference trying to convince everyone that male midwives are a cardinal sin.  I know MANY women who were perfectly happy with their male attendants, or male doctors, or male whatever.  This is by no means meant to be a thread admonishing male caregivers, or to be a thread trying to convince other women to be uncomfortable with male caregivers.  If you are, then you are more progressive than I, and I am frustrated that I can't make my heart get in bed with my head on the issue!!
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Viola View Post

I think a lot of us are drawn to the midwife model of care because of the idea of women helping women, mothers helping mothers, passing our knowledge down through the generations.  There is probably some feeling that nothing can just be the realm of women, if there is money to be made, it's co-opted or taken away by men...

 

I think my idea of midwifery is much to the tune of Viola's statement.  I guess herein lies my own selfishness/unprogressiveness.  I normally really look forward to my prenatal appointments.  Yes, DH comes along, and I think he enjoys it too.  But my appointments are, from start to finish, a woman's domain. While we'll be doing a homebirth, my midwives see clients at their country birth center.  It's a birth center owned and run by really amazing women (no doctors, no hospital connections).  And at that birth center, women hold the power.  Yes, there are occasionally men there in partner form, and they're certainly respected.  But it is a realm of women.  Not just in the appointments, but from the very minute you walk through the door.  It is clear that it's a space for women, by women.  Women get you tea, make chitchat, admire your belly, and your toddler, make jokes...  It reminds me greatly of being with the women in my extended family, gathered in kitchens...  There are very, very few places in life where I get to experience that anymore.  And I'm trying to reconcile the feeling of, I don't know, deep disappointment at the thought of a man being part of that picture.  No, he won't be a part of my actual prenatal exam, or be at my birth.  But he'll still very well be there in the kitchen, and it makes me guiltily, unjustifiably sad.

 

Basically, I'm suddenly not looking forward to my next prenatal appointment at all.  The thought of seeing a man in that kitchen, of making chitchat with a man, of talking about little pregnancy things...  It makes my skin just crawl.  And I'm feeling like a huge, sexist, jerk for feeling that way.  Believe me, the self loathing here is making me feel actually sick.  I HATE that I feel so bent out of shape about something that I should just be able to let go.  I just really liked the girls only club, as horrible as it is to say.  How do I just Let.it.go?

 


Edited by Italiamom - 3/7/11 at 1:44am
post #17 of 105

I feel just as you do.  A logical outer voice and a little assenting inside voice!

 

Men should be able to have the career they choose (but they can have ANY job in our culture, why can't they leave midwifery alone!).

 

Men are perfectly capable of giving compassionate care (but they can't truly know what it is to have a vagina or give birth through it).

 

Men can be as strong in their commitment to natural birth as women (but how can they know what a "failed" birth feels like?  How can they comprehend how that feels?  How can they know how complicated our relationships with ourselves are and how birth can tie into that?).

 

It's annoying.  That little voice - i wish she weren't me!  I'm embarrassed by her!  How can i countenance such beliefs and thoughts?

 

I don't now.  I do know i would NEVER want a male midwife, and if that was the only choice i'd UC.  For the same reason i don't open counselling sessions for men with premature ejaculation - no matter how much i understand the biology of the penis and how ejaculation works i'm just not going to really understand what it's like to have a penis, to have a relationship with that organ at the centre of my sexuality, or how it feels when something in that relationship goes awry.  I "get" it, but i'm not going to GET it.  

 

And i had my DP AND my FATHER at DD2's birth, so it's not like i don't want men in my birthing space.  But for my midwife i want a woman.

post #18 of 105

I feel that if a man wants to be a more natural/alternative birth attendant they can do that but a "midwife" to me is someone you go to when you want a strong female support/advocate system for your birth. To me that is the whole point of midwives. I also feel that men aren't kept out of the birthing field by not being midwives so I don't think it is really sexist to be uncomfortable with it. 

Because the midwife- as a profession- was historically stamped on by male dominated society it doesn't seem altogether right that men want to be midwives now that it is more acceptable again.

 

I did have a male gynecologist and a male OB but if I had chosen a midwife to attend me then I would have expected a female and would probably say no to having a male midwife at the birth for sure.

 

 

post #19 of 105

What an interesting discussion! I don't feel that the medical model of care is necessarily male-led (at least, not anymore). Some of the most vocal medical birth advocates are women. I totally understand why a man would want to become a midwife. Everyone who supports midwifery always raves about Michael Odent (who of course thinks a "low profile midwife" is the best birth attendant). I think it's great for women to have as much choice as possible, including a male midwife who is also a naturopath. In fact, I know of several male midwives in Europe.

 

However, I certainly would not want a male midwife at my birth. Perhaps that is because I don't want anyone at my birth :) but I would choose a female over a male anytime. Of course, the skills, attitude, and personality of the person in question also matter. Part of me wonders whether this man made a poor career choice, though. I am a journalist, but when I was laid off two years ago (found a great job in my own profession since!) I toyed with the idea of becoming a car mechanic in my highly patriarchal country of residence. I found out no garage would hire me as an apprentice, or even if I completed the training at the "people's university" (can you tell it's a former communist country? LOL) that trains car mechanics. Their argument was that they wanted the male workers to look at cars, not a female colleague! I hope this poor guy will get enough clients to make a living once he completes his apprenticeship.

post #20 of 105

I have had both male and female OB/RE providers on my long road of issues.  The odd thing is that usually I find the men to be more compassionate.  Or I've just had a few really bad apples in the female department.


I would have no problem with a male midwife if I was comfortable with him.  I think it is all about trust and connecting with the individual, not just the sex of the person.

 

However, I don't think it is any big deal if you are not comfortable with having a man.  No biggie.  It is a personal decision who we allow to provide care and it is up to us to find someone we are comfortable with.  I think the way the practice is handling it sounds right.  It is not assumed he's allowed to participate in your care, you must specifically say it is ok.  I think that is a very good protocol to follow.

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