“Midwives? What is this, the 1400s? Do I have a feudal master to whom I pay monthly tithes in grain?”
To say the least, my husband was unenlightened when it came to childbirth practices. He has since come a long way in a short time, but we were young(er) and stupid(er) back then, and he had never heard of a midwife delivering babies—doctors did that, duh.
Optimistically pregnant for the first time, I chose my midwifery practice based on the advice of my friend who was also a midwife. We met in grad school and bonded over cheap beer and stupid men (those bonds last a lifetime, really).
“This midwifery practice delivers at Northside. You’ll be in good hands there,” she reassured me. I knew she wouldn’t lead me astray. She had my best interests at heart and knew these women personally.
And so, I registered with Atlanta, Georgia’s Northside Hospital—or Atlanta’s well-known “Baby Factory” that delivers over 18,000 babies each year. If anything should go wrong, I knew they were prepared to handle my care.
I met with my midwives every month as part of my routine prenatal care. They rotated during each appointment to meet me in case they were the ones on-call when I went into labor. I wouldn’t be able to pre-select which of the eight midwives would deliver my baby—that part was out of my control.
When your midwife isn’t as excited about your birth as you are…
The Friday night when I went into labor, we waited as long as we felt comfortable before heading to the hospital. Our choices were to drive in at 3 am and stay at the hospital or wait a few more hours at home and risk getting suck in the infamous Atlanta rush hour traffic.
With choices like that, our decision was a no-brainer. We headed in when the streets were calm and quiet.
After getting checked in, my midwife on-duty arrived. She was bleary-eyed, slurring her words, and leaning on me in exhaustion. At the end of her shift, she informed me another midwife would take over my delivery.
Fortuitous timing aside, I felt both sympathy toward her for working a long shift and a flood of relief and gratitude that she was heading home.
An exhausted midwife does not a happy laboring woman make.
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I didn’t blame her for being tired. Instead, I blamed the unreasonable demands of the hospital, the “Baby Factory,” and hospitals around the country that insist on 12-hour shifts (or longer) for their nurses, midwives, and doctors.
Patients and unborn babies deserve better than medical care through blurry eyes.
The internal pause button
After saying goodnight (or was it good morning?) to my first midwife, my second midwife introduced herself. She brought an air of freshness, eyes bright, and a wide smile and looked like someone who had a good night’s sleep. Practically bouncing around the room, I felt confident moving forward that everything would be fine.
Those experienced in childbirth (or have heard a hundred birth stories) will tell mothers that if there is stress or uncertainty during their labors, the body will freeze up and labor will not progress. This is a natural process and defense mechanism so that mothers don’t birth in unsafe conditions.
However, babies are born in war zones and other incredibly dangerous situations so I’m not saying that a woman can pause her labor indefinitely to get to safety. All things considered equal, your body often does pause labor during times of acute stress. Perhaps my body pressed the pause button on my labor until my midwives changed shifts. I’ll never know.
The jokester becomes the midwife
During my second labor and delivery, I gave birth unexpectedly at home (read the full story here), with the help of my husband—the same guy who passed out in a restaurant after listening to a friend’s birth story.
He was given a certificate as Honorary Midwife for his bravery during our homebirth. Prince Valiant. He was incredibly proud to have earned such a title. He learned firsthand the incredible work midwives do while bringing babies safely to our chests.
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From being confused about the term, “midwife,” to proudly calling himself one, my husband has come a long way. (I told you he got smarter with time and experience.)
This week is Midwifery Week so take a moment to reflect on your own birth story. Reach out to a midwife you know and thank them for all of the nights that bleed into mornings, the hands they hold during times of bliss and despair, and the new lives they bring into the world.
To all the tired, hopeful, and dedicated midwives around the world, we thank you.
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Want to listen to my unplanned, unexepcted homebirth? Here’s the link
Two American moms gave birth in Germany and here are their tips