Something drew me to midwifery care before I was ever pregnant. At 23 and newly married I googled “midwives in Texas,” just out of curiosity, and came across a site for Cathy, a midwife in Katy.
I was surprised to find a section for birth stories written by more than twenty couples whom she served during childbirth. I couldn’t help but read them all, intrigued about the experiences they described birthing naturally, outside of the hospital, relying on this one woman’s wisdom and knowledge. They used phrases like, “I knew she cared about my family,” “I was so comfortable with her,” “I trusted her completely,” and even, “She is like family to us.”
They wrote about how she patted and rubbed them through contractions, held straws to their mouths, encouraged them and prayed with them. One in particular said she knew she was cranky and bratty in labor, but this midwife showed her nothing but patience. I had overheard women talk about things they liked or respected about their care providers, but not in this warm and personal way. It seemed so rare but so idyllic. A woman supporting a woman in labor with patience and understanding.
Of course, the concept of midwifery is not new. Midwives are mentioned in the Bible as far back as Genesis. The earliest works of art depicting childbirth show the laboring woman surrounded by women. And this just makes sense – women who have experienced birth without intervention and witnessed it countless times are well-equipped to help younger generations do the same. Safety of midwifery care speaks for itself. But there’s so much more to the care many midwives provide than just physical safety.
When I met with my first midwife for the first time, there was a calm and unhurried tone to our visit. I mean, who calls an appointment a “visit?” She met my husband and me after business hours so that he did not have to take time off work to interview her. And that’s really all it was- there was no commitment made to hire her, but she was willing to give up her time so that we could get to know her. She answered our questions and asked us about our families, our jobs, our hopes for pregnancy and birth. We left feeling not only reassurance in her experience and wisdom, but I also felt drawn to her personally.
At each appointment, we got to know each other. She knew about my family and my faith and I knew about hers. We texted often and I knew I could ask her any question, no matter how personal. By the time I went into labor, she was a friend. When I called her at 4 AM to tell her labor had started, I could hear her enthusiasm through her grogginess, “That’s great, Julia!” During the birth and after she was a constant source of encouragement. She praised me as I worked, telling me I was good at birth, as if I had done it before. She told our families that my husband and I made a great team. And she told me I was made to be a mama. I will never forget those words. They mean the world coming from her.
When I was pregnant the second time, and in a new city, I wondered if I would find another midwife I could trust and feel connected to. I interviewed a few, but knew I found my midwife when I met with Kim.
It seemed like we had been friends for years. She welcomed my 3-year-old to all of my appointments and we both felt comfortable with her. She really encouraged me to take responsibility for this birth and this pregnancy. I felt so at peace with her care and empowered by her confidence in me. Again, we were in contact via text throughout my pregnancy and when my labor started, I kept her updated that way. Since this was my second birth, I really needed less instruction and she was comfortable with that. She stepped back and let my husband and me work together through the whole labor, just quietly monitoring me, but mostly not disturbing our rhythm. She trusted me and I trusted her. This birth was remarkable and in the end, I just hugged her and thanked her for all the ways she believed in me.
These women walked with me through the most trying, overwhelming, rewarding moments of my life. They watched me move suddenly from one stage of life into the next. They knew the storm I was battling in my mind even when, on the outside, I was only breathing quietly with my eyes closed. I allowed them into a space where I was completely vulnerable and completely focused and they respected that.
They really asked very little, but I knew they were in tune with exactly what was happening. And when we locked eyes during the intensity, we saw power in each other that gave us both comfort. They celebrated with me in ways that only a witness and a kindred spirit could. And even now, there is unspoken appreciation between us because we gave each other the experience that our souls thrive upon.
My midwives are my confidants, trusted advisors, birthy heroes, fellow mothers-in-arms, my friends for life. That quality of care is priceless.