|View Poll Results: Does the age of your midwife matter to you?|
|I would prefer someone older||17||100.00%|
|Age does not matter||67||100.00%|
|I would choose someone younger if they had experience and I liked them||59||100.00%|
|Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 3. You may not vote on this poll|
I'm in an area that is pretty conservative and where age=wisdom=respect (gotta love the south). I put myself in the position of being my client's expert in childbirth, but really love how much I have to learn from them in other areas of life, and I think that might ease the age difference a little. Also, I know that for me at 28, there's not much difference between 28 and 22, so I'm sure that for a 35 year old mom, she feels closer in age to me than I do to her, KWIM?
And yes, I do want to be that granny midwife someday, but the fact that I started at 26 just means I'll have 40 years of experience at 66, which is so freakin' exciting to me . I'm in this for life.
I'll answer this about doulas:
My doula for my first birth was old enough to be my mother. For my second birth (different state) I interviewed many doulas of all ages and felt most comfortable with a woman close to my age. As far as my clients, most have been around my age or a little younger.
mom of (8) (5) (3) and born at home on Christmas day!
grateful mother to DD, 1/04, and DS, 2/08
I decided I wanted to be a midwife when I was 18, and in college. I finished my BS I was working on at the time (in midwifery related social history and pre-nursing school classes), and took a year off and worked for Outward Bound, and just read birth books all the time. I knew I would go to midwifery school and I kinda of thought of it like grad school after college. I went right into a three year direct entry midwifery school. I was really stuck on my decision between nurse midwifery school and LM/direct entry midwifery school, since no one had graduated form the schools when I started. They were just two years old, and so new and untested. The whole LM thing was freshly revived in our State, but I decided to walk that path and be a test case for whether I could make direct entry midwifery work in my State. Plus I was way to feminist, and fresh off of reading Witches, Nurses, and Midwives by Barbara Ehrenlich too go to nursing school and put up with the bullshit I heard my waitress coworkers in nursing school talked about . I did not want to take care of gangrened legs, I wanted to see babies born!!!
I started midwifery school on the day before my 22nd birthday and got my license when I was 25. I started working for an older midwife in my first job in a birth center, but she had an injury shortly after I was hired and so I basically did it all my first year, but she was always a phone call away and had the older maternal grandma kind of presence many clients liked. But she was pretty burned out and I had the juice to give, it was a good combo. I left after a year, I think I had done about 60 births in the team practice before I went solo. I started doing homebirths and opened a birth center and hired another midwife two years later to accommodate my busy practice. She was in her 40s and many people related to her in the maternal way, but it was weird because she was really green and had lots less experience than I did in midwifery. Most people presumed she was more seasoned than me because of her age, but that was not so.
There were only older midwives doing homebirth and I offered a more professional, current model of care than they did, in my opinion. I was just at a conference and Venus Marks, a 72 year old midwife from Trinidad, said midwifery changes every ten years....birth is the same, but what women are looking is different every decade. I have been in one decade, and I think this is really true. I came in on the wave of doulas ten years ago, and I was the one in our practice that had trained with Penny Simkin and came with my with the birth ball, all ready to do the hip press, do unwavering labor support, and do hands off waterbirths....I read my clients needs, and could write articles that spoke to what was happening with women in my generation....now its about catching your own baby and elimination communication. Its fun to feel like I can really see what she was talking about, the culture HAS changed around birth. As a new passionate midwife you bring that new research, and being in on the culture of birth to the clients in a different way than someone who has been at it forever.
The older midwives I worked with, and there were three at the time I was a student, did not have kids. So I did not stick out in that way. It felt weird to be 22 and doing prenatals on 35 year olds with 8 kids. But I am not of a culture that has 8 kids so it was more about the culture difference than anything. Your clients are always your main teachers, you learn so much, and in midwifery you are sharing information, not being THE AUTHORITY.
I've been at 250 birth as the "real" midwife/350 including my student births/assists/doula births. Now I have a kid. I had my baby at age 30 after attending 200 births as the midwife, 300 total. I had much more to give when I was a young passionate midwife than I do now. I used my energy then to build a successful business, and now someone else is running it. I sold it. I feel like I have a really strong foundation, and really glad I spent my twenties building what I did. Now I am being with my kid, thinking about having another, and doing things that do not require me to be on call. I know I served women really well. I think I only had a few clients interview that had an issue with my age. There are other midwives for them. You will find you have your own personality and strengths and weaknesses, and will build a practice and following that reflects who you are.
But yes you can absolutely succeed as a "young" midwife. You use all that up all night party energy others burn up dancing at bars being up with women in labor. I was a really driven, stable person and I am glad I got to use that energy to build something real in my community and develop a solid set of professional skills. My friend works in World Trade in Washington DC and had her first baby the same time I did. We both felt we put a decade or so into our careers in our twenties, and now we have kids we don't give to work in the same way we did as childless 20 something yr olds. We are both glad we did what we did.
It was weird to see my friends just partying and being 22 when I was up all night helping babies come out. I lived with my same college roommates when I started midwifery school. Those days were often a clash of cultures and I sometimes felt burdened by the sense of deep REALITY...Like I would come home form a really tough birth and it was weird to be around folks that how ever much I loved them couldn't to grasp what it was I had just been through and touched. I ended up moving home with my parents, getting a dog, and spending most of my down time with my dog in the woods or on the beach!!
After a while most of my friends were midwives, and I got support for that and that burden was lightened and I did not feel so lonely since I had friends that shared an understanding of the intensity of birth, and of how every life changes and takes on a new dimension when you work in birth. I met my husband when I was 25 and a senior student, and he had done rebirthing breathe training in Sweden and knew all about birth, and had seen waterbirth videos, etc...so he was also an easy natural birth buddy. He was my main "birth partner" in my solo practice years and can debrief a birth with the best of them!
I love being the midwife to my contemporaries. I will really miss it when my friends in my age cohort are not giving birth anymore! Now at 32 I actually feel "old sometimes" because I am just not in the culture of the 25 year old moms like I was ....I remember the first time a mom called me Ma'am and MEANT it, I was 25 and she was 16. I have since been with her for all 4 of her births and she is such a great mom, probably only now as old as I was then!
I'm 31 and feel that I am still too young to be a midwife, although I have been in the birth field for about 5 years now. I've training under several midwives and have found the older grandmotherl onesto be more knowledgable, stable, nurturing and skilled. The younger ones both with my training and those that have attended my births had more ego involved. Almost as if once you are past a certain age it's no longer about you. And I think it's critical for midwives to have born children (call me old fashion) breastfed, mothered teenagers, been with their spouses for many years, experienced fertility for years...bacause so much of what midwifery is about is the family, fertility, childbearing, counseling. It's not just birthing.
I personally try not to let my age be an issue. I don't bring it up and usually if it is brought up, depending on the situation will tell my age or make a remark (Like "Wow you look so young!" "Yeah I just look good for my age") or something. But I very rarely get asked. I have only gotten positive feed back.
I don't lie about it, but I feel like it may make some people comfortable or uncomfortable and I think in midwifery, the importance is the comfort of the birthing family. I try to work with that while still being honest.
Right now I am taking a break to be with my new son and decide where to go from here.
In some ways, I know I need to grow and mature. But I ma not rushing into anything. Just taking my time and learning as much as possible.
Also, my age can help in some ways because I am more agile. I can lay on the floor easier, get in funny positions easier. Even at 37 weeks pregnant with a baby who was born at 12lb 12oz, I was able to be all over the place- straddling my preceptor, balancing myself in odd ways. I am less tired, can massage for a long time, etc.
Erika, mama to three beautiful kids (plus one gestating), and wife to one fantastic man.
But I do think I would feel wierd about a MW who had not given birth. I don't see wisdom or experience as necessarily linked to age - but it does "feel" linked to life passages.
I did not pursue MW seriously as a career possibility as a teen for this reason. Now it's becoming clear to me that I don't want to be a MW - I want to be a CBE and possibly a Doula - because I am interested in the life-passage and spiritual aspects of birth, not the medical aspects of birth. But I think I had to give birth at least once and maybe both times to have understood this about myself.
I know there are probably great MWs who haven't given birth. But I think I wouldn't personally be comfy with them.
Here as mama to W (2/04), R (5/06), D (7/09), and J (12/9/12!), co-parenting with my DH
I WOH part-time, am a doula & childbirth educator, home/unschool, and hope we are nearing the center of chaos
I have not so much been worried about my age, but more about how young I look and that people won't take me seriously.
Mommy to DS (8/07), DD ( 8/09) and one (5/01) Frontier Midwifery student
I know there are probably great MWs who haven't given birth. But I think I wouldn't personally be comfy with them.
Like if she had really easy pregnancies and you puked everyday, was it really the same experience? If someone has to go through 2 years of fertility treatment to get pregnant, is it really the same experience as someone who gets pregnant easily or on accident? If someone has easy short labors, are they then less qualified for helping women with long hard ones? If you have postpartum depression, or a hard time nursing, preeclampsia, or a crappy birth, does she need to have had those things in order to really be able to help you?
I mean if you go through something, you surely have a better perspective on what its like. But I think there are lots of scenarios where a midwife will not have walked in your shoes and still be of great help. That's where her experience of being part of lots of births comes in, she may not have gone through it, but she may have been part of it for someone else. And that means she may have lots of great experience but no kids.
When I was a midwife who had not given birth, I used to think about how no one asks their heart surgeon if they ever had heart surgery as a qualification for good practice!
I feel since becoming a mother, I have more experience and advice for many aspects of mothering, but each of our lives are different. I can say what works for me but it may not help them at all. I had a really easy baby, and a great partner/ husband, and that doesn't give me better perspective for the woman who comes back at 6 weeks with a babe that just cries and cries, or is married to a jerk that does not help her out.
Plus, I am actually not working now because having a young one myself, I don't want to give and give like I used to. I want to get home and spend time with my own family, not be at a labor for a day or more and then have to spend another day sleeping it off and another day making up the appointments I missed because of it! I have had people interview me and want to know I DID NOT have kids because they did not want my attention divided between my work and home responsibilities as much.
One midwife I worked with had been at thousands of births. She had awesome clinical skills. She had infertility (and I think she went through a lot with it) and adopted later in life. At the time we worked together, she was burned out and crabby, too. I never fit wither her personality- she was of a strict religion that did not speak to me.
When we worked together, some people liked her because of her religion, or age, or experience, and other liked me because of my personality, energy, or other things. I was the one you were going to wish you had if you were going to have a long labor, because I could go and go!
I think we each have a lot to offer women. I think young midwives have energy, new relevant information that older midwives may not incorporate into their practices, and other great qualities. And I love the archetype of the older, wise nurturing menopausal midwife who can guide us into motherhood. But I do not have a midwife like in my community. It all comes down to the personalities, experience, and options available near you.
Sometimes older midwives rely too much on their experience (and thus, habits), and not enough on research or current standards of practice. And conversely, less experienced midwives can freak out over strange yet normal occurances (for example: pustular melanosis).
I was 30 when I graduated and at the time people said I looked younger (now 5 years later no one says that anymore!). I remember one of my first clients was in her 40s and had left her hometown and moved thousands of kilometers to the city I was practicing in. Her other midwife, whom she had to leave behind, was present for her other two kids' births and a real sage woman-type. Our first meeting she was early 3rd trimester and I could see in her eyes that she was disappointed and worried that I was so much younger than her. I was sharing caseload with an older midwife and this client preferred the older midwife, I could tell. Well, she called in labour and I was on. I went to her and when she opened her door I could see that she was having a hard time accepting that I would be her midwife. Of course, I felt so badly for her, and just set about being with her as best I could. I really had to shake off imposter syndrome and a whole bunch of feelings of inadequacy that night! She had had a midwife before she had really liked and I felt like I would be compared unfavourably to her.
In the end she ended up turning her mind to just being a labouring woman and accepting my help and comfort. She had a wonderful waterbirth, her first, and later she confided in me that she had had so many reservations about such a young and inexperienced midwife, but that I had totally served her well. Her partner, a religious person, went so far as to tell me I was one of their angels. I was so touched. So touched that I was able to help them and just be the midwife that I was and could give her what she needed. In the end we really connected!
I think in the end what people want in a midwife is:
1) someone who they can communicate with, with ease and comfortably
2) someone who is trustworthy and confident and will put the woman's needs, both desires and medical need (if needed) first
3) someone who is open about their biases, their experience, and what they can offer
4) someone they can imagine caring for them, being kind, and cleaning up their puke
5) someone they can imagine will be sweet to their baby
6) someone with the necessary skills to take charge in an emergency and perform necessary skills
7) someone who trusts women and their bodies
Age doesn't really come in to play in these requirements, just a perception of ability.