Two different midwives helped me birth my first two babies, and soon one of them will help me through my third labor. I recognize that for the midwives, the service they provide is demanding, but now that I've experienced personal, quality, midwifery care, I can't imagine birth any other way.
Pregnant mothers all over the U.S. are seeking a change from the current maternity care system, in which the average experience lacks evidence-based care and may yield less than desirable outcomes for moms and babies. There are some common misconceptions about the credentials of Certified Professional Midwives, but the way I explain their field is that they are natural birth experts.
While some mothers require interventions and even surgery that only an Obstetrician can provide, many low-risk women labor most effectively without restrictive policies that come with a typical hospital birth experience. Midwives who assist labors at home and at birth centers are able to offer moms intermittent monitoring, oral hydration and fuel, freedom to move and be comforted by partners to name a few benefits.
Women are offered preventative care in pregnancy and because midwives are easier to contact directly through pregnancy and birth, women get quick responses with suggestions for discomforts and reassurances for concerns.
When a midwife attends a laboring woman, she stays with her for the duration, whether that is two hours or fifty hours. So mothers have continuous and consistent care. Even if a transfer is required, often a midwife stays with the family through delivery. But this type of committed care comes at a cost to midwives.
I've heard stories of midwives being awake for two days with one mother, catching a few hours of sleep and then heading out to another two-day birth. They miss Christmas mornings, birthdays and anniversaries. They leave in the middle of the night, in the middle of arguments, in the middle of sentimental and precious moments with loved ones, not knowing when they will return.
In Peggy Vincent's book, Baby Catcher, she chronicles her years as a homebirth midwife in California during the 1960s and 1970s. She writes about times she drove alone, in the dark, through rain storms, nights she slept on her clients' couches waiting for babies, times the phone lines were down and she could not even tell her family she was safe for hours.
She talked about how her husband and children all had to sacrifice to support her in this service to young mothers. Many midwives and their families are making these same sacrifices today.
Aside from the physical and logistical demands, midwives take on a lot of weight emotionally. Many women see their midwives as confidants and share their fears, hopes, doubts, traumatic history, marriage struggles, financial pressures, family tensions at prenatal appointments. But midwives know birth is more than a physical process, it is emotional and spiritual, as well.
And so they listen and hold their client's hands and help bear these burdens as part of building an environment of trust and support.
And I have to wonder… why? Why would a woman enter a field that is so demanding, not just on herself, but on her loved ones? How could she commit to offering such personal and constant care when it must also be so draining for herself? How could she take all the responsibility, not just for the health and safety of a mother and baby, but also for building trust and connection?
So I asked a couple of my favorite midwives. Both run lovely, successful birth centers in Texas.
Cathy was my midwife with my first baby. She went through years of infertility, during which she learned about midwifery care. She started her education, but then got pregnant and over the next few years she birthed six babies. Later, she pursued her career in midwifery.
She said, "I became a midwife because I had a driving passion to help women have the births they desired. To assist them in the process of realizing their dreams and to know they were strong and that with the Lord's help they could do it! That their bodies were made for this and they too could be victorious!"
It's clear when you speak with her that she values mothers and motherhood and just wants to support women in all aspects of that role.
Kim helped with my second and third babies. When I asked her why she became a midwife, she said, "The question should be, 'How could I NOT become a midwife?' I truly believe God wrote it in my DNA and I never knew this until after the birth of my third son. Being a midwife and owning a freestanding birth center is not the easiest career, by any means. Sometimes it's the back to back births and being up for 72 hours with no sleep that make me wonder, 'Why, again, am I doing this?' Simple. The answer lies in the sweet texts I receive late at night from a mom pondering her birth that happened two weeks ago, and the raw moments shared during a postpartum appointment that validate my calling. Just when I was thinking, 'I didn't do enough for her or maybe I should have comforted her through those contractions a bit differently,' my beautiful client says, 'You were the perfect midwife for me. You were exactly what I needed in that moment.' It's a beautiful reminder that being faithful to my calling in all times makes an impact on women, families and even myself."
These women gained my trust, my respect and my awe. And I know they are among many gaining fulfillment through this process of supporting women and honoring the birth process. I will gladly support them because I understand the impacts of women feeling respected, safe, involved and valued as they bring babies into the world.
To all the midwives offering these gifts to expectant families, you are helping to build a legacy of confident and capable mothers, which will affect generations to come.