Sunday, April 29, 2012

My kind of midwifery

Future Midwife?

Recently I was in a parking lot waiting to get into my car.  I proudly display a bumper sticker that declares my passion to serve women as a midwife.  I was eavesdropping as a woman getting into the car next to mine was explaining to her daughter what a midwife does.   I was glad to hear her speak so highly of midwives, but when she stated that midwives deliver in a home birth setting or birth centers, I felt I had to enlighten her.  "We also deliver in hospitals."  She turned to me with what seemed to be scorn in her eyes and stated, "Not if you are the right kind of midwife."  Ouch.  What does that mean?  How can there be a right or wrong kind of midwife?  Doesn't the word itself imply that if we call ourselves midwives we believe in caring for women?  I know, I know ... there is the age-old argument about training, education, certification and location.  That is all worthy of debate, but that is not what I'm here to discuss.  It's what midwifery is and can be regardless of location.  For me and many of my sister midwives, it goes beyond the birth experience.  Midwifery for me often has nothing to do with birth.

She sits on my exam table.  Her eyes are sad, her shoulders sagging and her demeanor darkened.  I pull up a chair and look at her.  Most times, I don't have to say anything.  She just starts talking, weeping or getting angry at whatever situation is bringing her down.  I don't counsel, I just listen.  I hold hands, hug or offer a shoulder on which to weep.  I midwife her the best I know how.  Sometimes their sadness becomes my burden for a short while, but it's worth it to me.  I cannot solve the emotional pain or tough situations that some of my patients are going through, but when they stop to thank me for listening ... that is midwifery.

I get to talk about sex.  A lot.  More than most people would think. I suppose people think since I know how to get babies out, I must be the expert in the act of conception.  I am glad women feel comfortable asking me the tough questions about libido, orgasms and proper lubricants.  I just wish I had all the answers!  The freedom to discuss sex and contraception should never be taken away from women, and I feel my job is to protect women's sexual freedom ... that is midwifery.

The above picture is Louise.  Her father took this picture, and her mother said I could use it.  She is one of my mini-midwives.  I love siblings.  Forget sibling classes, I feel the best way to prepare siblings for the arrival of a baby is to bring them to as many appointments as possible.  I love to include children in measuring Mommy's belly.  I take their little hands and show them where to feel for head, feet or bottom (I often get giggles when I say "bottom").  The best part is letting them try to find the baby's heartbeat. And sometimes I feel sibling rivalry starts young, as the babes in the belly will wiggle as in protest to their older sibling finding them.  If I get caught up in my routine of questions and concerns, and start the exam without the help of my mini-midwives, I am quickly reminded.  "No, Midwife Sarah, that's my job..."  By allowing children to be a big part of the prenatal visits, we help them welcome their new siblings into their routine ... this is midwifery.

The woman in the parking lot made a snap judgment about me based on a location.  Midwifery is so much more than location, so much more than birth.  Midwifery is about sisterhood.  Midwifery is about humanity.  Midwifery is "with women" no matter where they are in their lives.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Darby,

    I was wondering if you accepted any guest posting on your site. I couldn’t manage to find your email on the site. If you could get a hold of me at, I would greatly appreciate it!