Most folks would say that I "deliver" babies (though I like to say "catch") and this is true, but it is a fraction of what I do....what this calling requires of me. The contrast between the jobs within my calling are surprising to me and unknown by many, if not most, who see my license plate and think they know who I am.
I am a teacher of an age-old "profession" and this carries a lot of responsibility. It is almost a given that a midwife will train others to be midwives - this is how midwifery has survived all of these years. Though I don't feel that I am a great teacher, I know that there is much to glean from me and if someone is willing and observant enough, they will learn the skills as they sit at my side, as they lend me a hand, as they serve the women with me.
You'll see me at the copy place as I work for hours, making copies, putting together the information that I have been given, and that I have created, that gives the best informed consent I can provide. I want all those who hire me to know who I am and what the responsibilities are when one choses to give birth outside of a hospital. Making copies, organizing folders of information, ordering books and DVDs, staying informed, myself, in all the ways available. It can be exhausting in itself, but I know it is a necessary part of being a current midwife, one who teaches others how best to interview a midwife and plan a home birth.
I can find a fetuses heartbeat and can tell if he is breech, without a doppler or an ultrasound machine. I know of many ways to survive weeks of nausea and what is safe to take - whether herb or medication - and can explain how to time contractions and what to do if your baby is jaundiced. I know many tricks to get a baby to nurse and how to make an herbal bath.
I keep my supplies stocked and never run out of cord bands or pitocin. You will sometimes find me making sterile packs at midnight or 1 in the morning because they didn't get done earlier in the day and a baby might decide it's not going to wait until the midwife has time to make them the next day.
I am trained and certified to resuscitate a newly born baby - the ones that think that breathing is an option. I don't allow them this lazy notion and go to work and convince them that its not so bad here after all.
I know how to follow directions and to be more dependable than my mother ever thought I could be. The weather can have no affect on my travel - I go when I am called and it matters not how bad the roads are. My husband knows and understands this - a midwife needs one of those, too - an understanding husband.
Though there is nothing new under the sun I need to continue to learn and to discover just what evidenced-based care is -- and practice it.
There is no job "beneath" my title - I wipe away vomit and clean toilets and feed the family dog. I hope to never feel that I have "earned" anything better. A midwife should always know that she is there to serve, in any way that is needed, and it has nothing to do with what her needs are.
I am an ambassador for midwives when I enter a doctor's office or a hospital and I take this responsibility very seriously. I've learned that I will gain more trust and respect by saying fewer words and humbly admitting our need for assistance. I have worked hard, for many years, but respect has been attained and my clients get better care because of this. My mother used to be so discouraged at how easily I could cry, but I have changed and matured, I know she would be proud. A midwife has to be strong for her clients, they need to know she will not waiver. A doctor once told me, after treating me harshly without my returning his anger, but also not backing down, that when I enter a hospital I need to come with "thick skin" and he was right. A midwife needs to learn from those who may not even realize that they are teaching her. There is always something to glean and take with you for another time.
Most of the time I truly love what I do - though my back and arms and legs may ache and I have gone without food and sleep and have had to miss a family celebration. Its a precious calling and it truly can be the easiest thing in the world, but now you know that it comes with much more than just catching babies.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
My dear friend Laurie Zoyiopoulos, a midwife in Michigan, wrote this today in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes the most beautiful things bubble up and have to be shared. Read this and know what it's like to be a midwife, one of the most beautiful, challenging, fulfilling professions on the earth...