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I've never done it before.... do you trust me?

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 

I could not help but throw this one out there to the greater Mothering community, as I trust many an honest response in return! 

 

Is a female Doula/Midwife "not as experienced" if she has not been pregnant or had a birth herself? I am a student midwife right now, as well as a doula, and I really wonder what moms, midwife & doula moms, and non-mom midwives & doulas really think.

 

I feel such a deep connection to birth, women, children, the earth, the sacred feminine, and life in general, but I have not experienced the very thing that I am assisting in managing. The artist in me does tend to believe that I'll only have the true picture once I have been there myself. However, that is some time from now (both my hubby and I are students and have chosen to wait--but eagerly look forward to parenthood), so in the meanwhile....... I dunno.

 

I once had a very birth-experienced colleague relay to me in so many words that she considered midwives who had not themselves experienced pregnancy and/or birth to be lacking. I completely respected her viewpoint, but I felt a bit weird nonetheless! It spurred the feeling that until that day, I will be less of a birthcare provider, in one capacity or another. And what if I never do--or cannot--have a baby?? The feeling of lack because of that thought is not something I particularly buy into, but I still feel a bizarre pang of inadequacy here and there. 

 

Well, folks, what do ya think? Lay it on me. 

 

 

[edit: typo whistling.gif]


Edited by Chuzzie - 5/24/11 at 7:46pm
post #2 of 37

I have had the same fear you are describing, especially since I am planning to start midwifery school in about a year. A woman who is in training to be a doula spoke in one of my classes last quarter, and she also had the same fear! At least it's good to know it's a common fear :) Anyway, she was speaking to one of the women who is training her, and she was told that it is excellent that she has not given birth. That way, she does not bring her own experiences to the table. She doesn't have an outlook like "my birth went bad when ABCD happened, and I HATED it, so I have to be absolutely certain that I do not let my client experience ABCD." So in that sense, I absolutely think it is a benefit to have not given birth. You aren't trying to a) live vicariously through your client from your birth experience gone wrong, or b) trying to replicate your amazing birth experience for your client. 

Does that make sense?

 

On the other hand, I completely see where not having given birth could be seen as a down side. But honestly, an oncologist doesn't have to have had cancer to treat it. It's about what you know about the procedures, how to help women in labor, how to be an advocate, and how to be a wonderful professional. And this means keeping your life separate from your work. I definitely think that once I do have a child (if I do!) it will change the way I view labor and delivery. But that doesn't mean that i think what I do up to that point will be bad!

 

I remember from the book "Baby Catcher" that Peggy Vincent said that once she had given birth herself, she learned that she had to let women deal with the pain the way THEY wanted to deal with it. She took a more "hands-off" approach, because she had been there and knew that when she felt that pain, there were some things that could comfort and others that were just useless! 

 

Sorry for the novel there! That's just my thoughts!

post #3 of 37
Thread Starter 

I appreciate your input!! I feel like no-kiddo[-yet] MWs/doulas have a unique outlook on birth, having no experience of their on which to base assumptions/whatever. I have met women who are involved with the birth universe because they want to change things based on what they disliked about their previous birth experience. It can be easily and understandably be negative or aggressive, which goes south really fast in many cases. Then again, I know that many women are drawn into birth universe for the same reasons, and I am so thankful that they were--they are absolutely incredible and they use their challenging experiences to make it better for all! I know that my interest with birth has much to do with the exploration of my being, and I look forward to connecting it all during my birth experience one day. (p.s. Good luck, siemeers, MW school rocks, and you'll rock too!) 

 

What do moms out there think? Is the choice to have or not have a MW/doula who has never been pregnant an issue, or is it simply personal preference that decides? 

post #4 of 37

I can only offer the opinion of a midwife in the same boat! I'm married with no kiddos yet, happily and by choice for now. That question always goes through my mind. What do people think?! In the end, I think of Ina May Gaskin who is the 'mother of midwifery' and yet has never had any babies of her own! I went through school with a whole slew of women that weren't even married much less have a baby! Its interesting how all of our perspectives are changing now that we are in different stages in life!

 

 

post #5 of 37
I only learned way after the fact that my midwife was an adoptive mother. She was fabulous - warm, caring, knowledgeable, respectful, knew her pregnancy/birth stuff backward and forward. I recommend her all the time. I really don't think it matters.

To me, it's like asking if an author can write authentically from the perspective of the opposite gender. Of course he or she can. If he or she knows what she's doing.
post #6 of 37

Hmmm..that's all really interesting. When I went through my doula training, I was literally the only woman out of a dozen who had actually given birth. Having given birth just 4 months before, I was very birth-obsessed at the time, and I actually remember being a bit bewildered as to how someone would ever think to CHOOSE this sort of work/training without having gone through a birth themselves. It totally baffled me because until I was pregnant, I literally had had zero exposure to birth. Most of these other women had also had no hands on experience assisting someone who was in labor...or watching a loved one birth or whatever...they had just stumbled on this life path that 'felt' right. 

 

However, to answer your question, I'm really kind of sorry to say, that I would probably never hire a doula or midwife that had not previously given birth. Mostly because I would be afraid that their interpretation of birth and what a birth should look like would be skewed in a way that might not answer to reality very well. Does that make sense? It really wouldn't have anything at all to do with their clinical skills...more about the emotional connectivity and my need to absolutely trust them with myself while in the midst of a birth. I just don't think I could fully connect with a doula or midwife who hadn't also experienced birth on a personal level. 

 

I think that Peggy probably got it right in her book...about the whole allowing women more control over their own births. You might not bring your own birth experiences to the table, but you might still bring a sort of fictional interpretation of birth...you know?

 

Idk. i hate how that all sounds a bit mean, but I think it's fairly truthful for me anyway.

post #7 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by lemonapple View Post

Hmmm..that's all really interesting. When I went through my doula training, I was literally the only woman out of a dozen who had actually given birth. Having given birth just 4 months before, I was very birth-obsessed at the time, and I actually remember being a bit bewildered as to how someone would ever think to CHOOSE this sort of work/training without having gone through a birth themselves. It totally baffled me because until I was pregnant, I literally had had zero exposure to birth. Most of these other women had also had no hands on experience assisting someone who was in labor...or watching a loved one birth or whatever...they had just stumbled on this life path that 'felt' right. 

 

However, to answer your question, I'm really kind of sorry to say, that I would probably never hire a doula or midwife that had not previously given birth. Mostly because I would be afraid that their interpretation of birth and what a birth should look like would be skewed in a way that might not answer to reality very well. Does that make sense? It really wouldn't have anything at all to do with their clinical skills...more about the emotional connectivity and my need to absolutely trust them with myself while in the midst of a birth. I just don't think I could fully connect with a doula or midwife who hadn't also experienced birth on a personal level. 

 

I think that Peggy probably got it right in her book...about the whole allowing women more control over their own births. You might not bring your own birth experiences to the table, but you might still bring a sort of fictional interpretation of birth...you know?

 

Idk. i hate how that all sounds a bit mean, but I think it's fairly truthful for me anyway.


so you would never go to Ina may Gaskin at the farm. or read her book or listen to her advice. she's one of the great midwives an has never given birth herself. 

 

post #8 of 37

A couple of thoughts....

 

I worked as a doula and birth assistant/RN prior to having a child, had my son in midwifery school and now practice as a midwife with one child.  He happened to be born out of the hospital, no meds, straightforward pregnancy and  birth without intervention or complication.  Does that mean I can't adequately support a woman who is dealing with a higher risk pregnancy, is being induced, is choosing an epidural, or is needing a c-section?  Of course not!  Each woman has her own path through pregnancy and birth, and while I certainly can offer my own experience to woman for commiseration or support, it is more often useful to be able to tell them that "many women I have cared for, worked with, supported have felt xyz" - my personal experience just doesn't matter because I am supporting them through *their* experience.

 

Second - not related to the OP, but I was just skimming Spiritual Midwifery a few weeks ago and Ina May describes birthing a premature baby that did not live, and I thought went on to have another child...?

post #9 of 37

Ina May has had babies.

post #10 of 37

I was mistaken, sorry. I had been told by several sources the opposite.

post #11 of 37

If a woman has had a lot of births she's probably more qualified to recommend a midwife, but I don't think it's any particular recommendation (or detraction*) to one's ability to be a midwife.

 

 

As for the "fictional interpretation" theory, I would assume that someone's views of birth would be shaped most strongly by the ones that affected them the most. So for a midwife who hadn't given birth that would be the first births they assisted at. Viewing from the outside, being careful to keep out of the way of the process, being careful to be unobtrusive, knowing absolutely that she doesn't know what is truly going on in the mother's head and being ready to change gears whenever an overt sign of the mother's feelings arises. Where as for a midwive who had given birth, their formative births would be their own. Being in the center of the action. Knowing 100% what is going on in the birthing mother's mind because it is her own. Knowing exactly how xyz feels because they've experienced xyz.

 

Honestly, I think it's probably incredibly hard for women who get into birthing because of their own births* to be any good as midwives.

 

 

(*the issue isn't having had the births, the issue is when the births are the primary motivating factor behind entering midwifery.)

 

post #12 of 37

Whether a midwife or doula has given birth to a child is really unimportant to me.  The three things I care about are 1. training, 2. experience and 3. birth outcomes.  Having biological children of ones own does not necessarily translate into better doula or midwifery care IMO.

 

post #13 of 37
Thread Starter 

Such great input! I feel that people are capable of most anything that they want to do, if they want it enough. As long as mom and baby are getting the awesome MW care that they need, it doesn't sound like it matters a whole lot whether or not they have kids of their own.  

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lemonapple View Post

Hmmm..that's all really interesting. When I went through my doula training, I was literally the only woman out of a dozen who had actually given birth. Having given birth just 4 months before, I was very birth-obsessed at the time, and I actually remember being a bit bewildered as to how someone would ever think to CHOOSE this sort of work/training without having gone through a birth themselves. It totally baffled me because until I was pregnant, I literally had had zero exposure to birth. Most of these other women had also had no hands on experience assisting someone who was in labor...or watching a loved one birth or whatever...they had just stumbled on this life path that 'felt' right. 

 

However, to answer your question, I'm really kind of sorry to say, that I would probably never hire a doula or midwife that had not previously given birth. Mostly because I would be afraid that their interpretation of birth and what a birth should look like would be skewed in a way that might not answer to reality very well. Does that make sense? It really wouldn't have anything at all to do with their clinical skills...more about the emotional connectivity and my need to absolutely trust them with myself while in the midst of a birth. I just don't think I could fully connect with a doula or midwife who hadn't also experienced birth on a personal level. 

 

I think that Peggy probably got it right in her book...about the whole allowing women more control over their own births. You might not bring your own birth experiences to the table, but you might still bring a sort of fictional interpretation of birth...you know?

 

Idk. i hate how that all sounds a bit mean, but I think it's fairly truthful for me anyway.


Thanks for being honest, lemonapple, I respect your feelings. I think that trust is possibly one of the most important aspects of a relationship. If you are able to give 100% trust to a MW who has experienced birth for themselves, then you are honoring your intuition by knowing that. namaste.gif

 

post #14 of 37



Ina May Gaskin has had five children, including a premature baby that died. From The Farm website

 


Ina May agrees, of course. She had her first baby in hospital in the late 60s and says it was a terrible experience. "I was offended by what happened [she was given anaesthesia without her consent], then they expected me to pay for it! I was so pissed off."
 

 

and

 

in the early 70s she had two miscarriages and a premature baby who died. Much later, her eldest child, Sydney, died from a brain tumour just after her 20th birthday. Her surviving children are Eva Marie, 37, a teacher, Samuel, 35, a personal trainer, and Paul, 34, a web designer � all were delivered on the Farm. She has six grandchildren.

 

http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/press/detailPress.asp?PressID=34 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaina View Post




so you would never go to Ina may Gaskin at the farm. or read her book or listen to her advice. she's one of the great midwives an has never given birth herself. 

 



 

post #15 of 37
Not a requirement for me. I dont ask my hairdresser if she does her own hair, I dont expect that a cancer doctor has had cancer, I dont assume every OB has children (think of all the males), I dont assume that a movie director has ever been in a movie, or that a chef has ever had a garden. Lots of people in this world are very educated about things and have a strong passion for them but are not directly connected to it in their own lives. I have a really good friend that is a doula/midwife and has never had children. She is just as capable as those who have had children, if not more so, because she probably assumes NOTHING.
post #16 of 37

It wouldn't be a factor for me at all.  It's more important that I am comfortable with you and your passion for what you do is sincere.

post #17 of 37

Wow, I'm actually SO surprised that i'm the only one who seems to have reservations about hiring a midwife or doula who hadn't given birth herself. I wonder if it's just the folks who are responding to this post or if that's a real indication of general sentiment? 

 

TOTALLY not trying to start something here! lol, I'm really just surprised. If it's true that I'm in the minority, why do you think that is? I wonder if it might have something to do with my opinion on birth itself? I would hands down have a UC next birth unless there was an emergency situation...so maybe it's that I value the emotional support of both a doula and a midwife over the clinical experience? 

 

Really interesting thread though!

 

 

post #18 of 37

For me, personal birth experience is not a deal breaker, but it can be a factor. I once interviewed a midwife and really felt like she could not relate to me, and I already felt that way before I found out she was not a mother. It's part of the overall equation. I would never suggest that women who haven't given birth shouldn't be doulas or midwives, but it is a fact that they lack that one aspect of experience.  It may not be the most important thing, but some people like that connection of knowing she has 'been there' and I don't think that is wrong either.

I haven't been at births with very many different midwives, but of the ones I have seen in action their status as mothers didn't affect how I felt about them.

post #19 of 37
I didn't even ask when I interviewed midwives if they had children. I wanted to know how many births they had attended and how they turned out. I wouldn't rule out a midwife/ doula who hadn't been pregnant.
post #20 of 37

Whether or not a midwife had given birth would not be a factor in whether or not i would hire her.  BUT i do think experience itself enriches any professional.  My cousin is a paediatrician.  She was a very good one.  She recently had a baby who has severe reflux and has been in and out of hospital for various tests (as he had FTT for a while too) and she spent several weeks as the mother of a sick baby - the mothers she has to encounter every day in her work.  She was a good paediatrician.  Now she is a GREAT one.  Because she REALLY understands.  She's not trying to understand anymore, she is genuinely able to empathise with some of what the parents of her patients are going through.  The experience has given her something that training and practice cannot.

 

So i think a childless woman who has never given birth can be an incredible midwife, but i think no matter how amazing she is she will be even better at it once she has experienced it herself.

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