Yes…that’s me holding my newborn son, just minutes after birth.
Home births and midwives generally go together, because there are very few doctors that will attend home births anymore. But women who deliver in the hospital can choose to have midwives, too (usually CNMs instead CPMs, though). I’ve actually seen a number of different doctors and midwives through my pregnancies so far. And really? I prefer midwives.
First, you should know that I don’t dislike doctors, per se. I think they’re necessary and they have their place. If you’re high-risk, you need to see a doctor. Doctors are specialized care: they know how to handle the situation when a pregnancy has a problem, and they are highly trained surgeons (i.e. c-sections). They’ve been trained to see pregnancy as a potentially dangerous situation and to handle any complication that arises quickly and efficiently.
That is just not the case for most women. And I think it worries and stresses women to have a care provider who treats them as if they might have a problem at any moment, even when their pregnancy is completely normal. Because doctors know what “could” happen, they are all about proactively testing and managing a woman’s care even when there is no specific reason to do so. A lot of women who are looking for a natural experience find themselves unhappy about this sort of treatment, as I was.
I did run into some doctors who were more hands-off, and I liked that. But even they were quick with the ultrasound wand: “Oh, you had 5 minutes of light pinkish spotting last night? Probably just minor irritation, but let’s go ultrasound to see.” Surprise…everything was fine. It didn’t exactly bother me, because they had a positive, laid-back attitude…but it was just…not what I was looking for.
Late in Daniel’s pregnancy — actually around 28 weeks — we found the midwives who delivered him. They are CPMs (Certified Professional Midwives). I loved them best of all. They did what I considered to be “necessary testing” — and if anything came back unusual, didn’t hesitate to send me in for further testing — but didn’t pressure me to do extra stuff. But there was so much more to it than that.
At all my other appointments, I felt rushed. Doctors spend an average of 8 minutes per patient — 15 if you’re really lucky. They checked me out and said “Do you have any questions?” often with one foot out the door. Even the better ones would only sit patiently for five minutes or so before wrapping things up. Small amounts of advice were offered, but as long as everything was looking normal, that was great.
The midwives talked to me. They were not just interested in how I was doing medically. They had lists of questions that we talked about through our appointments. They took a careful health history, including my first birth story and even my mother’s birth history. They wanted to know our reasons for choosing home birth. How we felt about birth in general. Who we wanted at the birth and what comforts we wanted and why. And sometimes we just talked about random things. They even asked us about our religion and how that played a role in our choices. They wanted to know us and be truly familiar with us and our preferences.
The midwives also invited family into the room. They have made it clear to us that they want husbands and children there — even though children interrupt! (They offer evening appointments to make this possible, too.) The husband’s role and the childrens’ role is just as important to them as the mother’s role. One of my midwives told me a story where she attended a birth and a child (maybe 2 years old or so) was desperately trying to get into the room to get to his mother. Another adult was trying to keep him away to help, but he was throwing such a fit because he was held back. The midwife went over and picked him up and set him next to his mother. He snuggled in and watched quietly. That was all he had wanted — and the midwife saw the value in allowing him in, rather than forcing the other adult to carry him away, kicking and screaming.
That’s the kind of attitude I want at my birth. Family comes first.
They are even supportive of, and knowledgeable about, breastfeeding while pregnant and tandem breastfeeding. One of my midwives tandem nursed three of her children at once (so she clearly breastfed through pregnancies too!). They don’t even blink when I say “My 3-year-old’s still nursing.” They consider it totally normal. They were able to give me advice about tandem nursing in the weeks leading up to my son’s birth, and the early weeks after, too.
I also felt very comfortable with my midwives because I knew that they were well-trained and experienced. My senior midwife has delivered over 1000 babies over a 30-year period and never had a single bad outcome. When I was worried about a small thing here or there, they easily reassured me. If there was a concern, they checked into it quickly and calmly. I tend to bleed during labor, and so the midwives checked on this frequently to make sure there wasn’t a problem (there’s not — and now we know that’s just “normal” for me).
I also loved that they were knowledge about “alternative” treatments. If there was a small problem (like when I got slightly anemic), they didn’t rush to suggest that I need a drug or other medical intervention. They knew of different vitamins and supplements that could (and did) help me instead.
They knew what to do in “difficult” situations, too. My son was born with the cord wrapped very tightly around his neck and he wasn’t breathing very well. But they calmly and efficiently handled that, too. They know how to deliver babies without having to cut the cord, which they did. They untangled him and laid him on me. When he wasn’t breathing quite as well as they’d like, they brought an oxygen mask and put it on him for a minute while he still lay on my chest. And then, he was fine. There was no freaking out, my son was never ripped from my arms. It was a simple situation, that midwives are trained to deal with. I have little doubt that the cord would have been quickly cut, my son removed from me immediately after birth, and probably even a trip to the NICU, none of which was at all necessary, if we’d been in a hospital. And believe me, he’s quite the active, intelligent 20-month-old now!
I felt so wonderful knowing my midwives were prepared and capable, able to calmly handle whatever popped up and keep us completely in the loop. There were never any stressful moments for me. Even if it may have been stressful for them — they never let on. They just kept on top of things, always doing their jobs.
And so, as we anticipate our next child’s birth, the same midwives who delivered my son will be delivering my new baby. And we could not be happier.