Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Story Of A Midwife...

I am often asked how I "got into" midwifery. It's such an unusual profession, off the beaten path, so ancient in it's history. I think it might seem odd to some that someone my age is a midwife - I've been told before that I did not match a person's mental image of what a midwife was. Apparently, I don't have enough gray hair!

Here is my story...

I have always been in love with babies. When I was too young to be in the church choir, I busied myself with every baby I could get my hands on while their mama was occupied. I carried babies on my hips before I even had hips! The maternal instinct was so strong in my little life. I used to pretend I was giving birth, groaning and moaning as I pulled my baby dolls out from under my shirt, then immediately pretending to nurse them. I don't know where, at such a young age, I got my notions of how babies were born! As I got older, I would sit, fascinated, when anyone would tell the story of their baby's birth. I remember one family friend waving aside the idea that birth was horribly painful, as her babies had all come quickly and easily.

On the other side of the coin, I thrived on anything medical, loving the stories of Florence Nightingale and other historical figures, wanting to be that life-saving heroine, calm in the face of danger, holding a flickering lamp as I aided the wounded and hurting. It was romanticized a bit, to be sure! I laugh when I think how that played out in real life. My brothers and I were very active, constantly reenacting some historical period or another. Sometimes I would join in the battles, scattering the enemy to the four winds while we bravely chased after them on our horses (bicycles)...other times I would be seen with my little pink plastic suitcase, full of "bandages" I had rolled. The poor wounded soldiers would get bandaged up, then I would carefully squirt red food coloring on those same bandages to simulate blood. Apparently, it wasn't enough to have them simply wrapped up in strips of cloth!

I thought I would be firmly headed down the path of nursing, until one day when I was about 12 years old I learned what a midwife was. I *knew* that was what I would be one day. I don't remember ever questioning that or looking back. When I was 14, I had the privilege of being in the house where a baby was being born. I was in awe of meeting "real live midwives" and I tiptoed around sharing excited giggles with my best friend. I will never forget when the baby was born and they let us into the room. I proclaimed with pride for years that, "I was the second person to get to hold a brand new baby!!" I can still see that bedroom in my mind's eye, mom in the bed, beaming with joy, the midwives quietly working in the background, a thrill in the air.

After that amazing experience, I read every age-appropriate thing I could about babies, birth, midwifery, and other related topics. I had the wonderful privilege of attending my first birth as an observer when I was 19. I remember being in shock at the intensity of the birth experience. To further break any preconceived ideas I had of what birth was like, she had the baby standing up, leaning over a chair. I remember quietly watching in the corner, overwhelmed and emotionally withdrawing, yet trying, in a clinical manner, to mentally walk through each step of the process. I smile when I think of how I was trying not to completely lose it! One lesson I haven't forgotten from that birth is how hungry a new mom is after her baby finally arrives. I was offering her "sick people" food in the form of soup, toast, etc. She said, "No, I want lasagna! I'm hungry!" It makes me smile even now...

The next birth I was able to attend happened over a year later. By that time I was older, wiser, and more educated. I had read a lot about labor support, and it was at that birth I believe I discovered my gift as a doula. Scenes are imprinted in my, dad, and student midwife all walking down the long dirt lane, goats and mules fist pushed firmly against her sacrum to alleviate the back labor while she held onto her strong husband...the blue sky and warm sun on our shoulders...the excitement in dad's voice as he proclaimed over the wails of his new baby, "It's a girl! No...a boy. No! It's a girl!!" The birth of that baby after a very long labor had the opposite affect of my first observed birth - this time I cried, joyful with them in the arrival of their little baby girl after 6 boys! I wasn't fearful anymore...

By the time of that birth I had been enrolled in midwifery school for almost a year. I loved my studies, awed by the whole new world opening before me. I wanted so much to be a good midwife one day. Since we lived rurally, my opportunities for hands-on learning were minimal. I was able to attend approximately one birth a year for those first few years, scenes from which will always be imprinted on my mind.

By age 23, we had relocated to West Virginia, where I began a formal apprenticeship with a local midwife. That opened so many more doors, and I have had the wonderful privilege of training under and working with other fabulous midwives. Midwives form a special sisterhood, one that is universal. I'm so grateful for the privilege of being a member.

In 2006 my practice sprouted it's wings, and the rest is history! What friendships I have forged...what amazing memories I've made. I wouldn't trade my life with anyone. It's not always easy - it takes a lot of work, requires long hours and much sacrifice, but all so worth it.

Last year, while at a conference, the question was asked, "How did you become a midwife?" As the circle of ladies answered that question one by one and I waited my turn to speak, I thought about what I would say. A long-buried memory surfaced and brought tears to my eyes. In my mind's eye I saw a mom, belly swollen, lying down on her bed, while her three-year-old daughter pressed an ear to her pregnant belly. The little girl laughed when the baby kicked her. And I knew. That is when I fell in love with the unborn, with pregnancy and birth; that is when my fascination with life started.

And in the beginning, a midwife was born...


  1. I love it!!! Awesome story of a most blessed calling!!! :)

  2. So the bottom line is that we have Will to thank for inspiring you? :) This is so sweet!! How precious that you were allowed such a wholesome and loving childhood that enabled God to speak to you and firmly direct your path to a such a noble work! Thank you for sharing stories like this. Hopefully, it will inspire other young ladies into midwifery-we need more midwives like you!

  3. That's the dictionary definition of a true calling! What a beautiful story.