“A woman, as long as she lives, will remember how she was made to feel at her birth.” — Anna Verwaal
When I told my sister I was going to have a midwife for my second birth, you could hear the anxiety in her voice through the conversation.
I don’t blame her; the last home birth she saw resulted in a 45-minute drive to the hospital. They had to perform an emergency cesarean because the baby was in a rare position due to a third trimester ER ultrasound that disturbed the infant. The mother screamed while under the gas and the doctor started cursing in the middle of the operation.
That was how I arrived into the world. 😊
So why am I, of all people, recommending midwifery over the modern OBGYN though my mother’s attempted homebirth with me ended so traumatically?
- Midwives are a much more intimate choice than OB doctors.
Where an OBGYN will see you on a set schedule, run a couple tests, and then send you home, a midwife wants to get to know you and establish a relationship. Midwives often become lasting friends and mentors to their ladies. Depending on the hospital a mother may see many doctors: passed around to whoever is available at the time. Often the doctor a mother chooses for her pregnancy is not the same doctor who delivers her baby. A midwife plans to be with you from pregnancy all the way to postpartum care. Building trust and having compatibility are essential parts of midwifery.
- Midwives put more store into ‘mother’s intuition’ than modern doctors.
When the baby is coming, when it is time to push, whether something is wrong, etc are all things a midwife is more likely to listen to the mother about than an OB. This is due to the belief midwives hold that birthing is a natural process and should be treated as such. Childbirth is something that we women have been doing for thousands of years with only the assistance of our families or the village wise woman, after all. It is common, however, for doctors to feel they know more about what is going on with the mother’s body than she does because they have been to school for it, despite the fact all doctors will tell you pregnancy is anything but predictable. Maternal gut feelings are something midwives take very seriously.
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I went to the Labor and Delivery Triage for three days in a row at 37 weeks for pain that was unlike anything I had experienced thus far. I knew they weren’t contractions, but no one would listen to me at the hospital. I was even mocked for thinking I knew what pregnancy pains should and should not feel like by the nurses on staff. When I finally brought my husband with me he tracked down a midwife who was the only one to take us seriously. If it hadn’t been for this woman it is very likely both my Peach and I would be dead.
- Midwives do not pressure unnecessary medical intervention nor procedures.
Midwives take a much more holistic approach to health than modern doctors. The use of essential oils, herbs, and vitamins are promoted over the use of pharmaceuticals. Proper diet, exercise, and staying hydrated are all very important to maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Often times if the mother is experiencing problems her midwife will offer specific exercises or stretches to do for the problem or go over the mother’s recent diet to see if anything is amiss.
It has been my experience, as well as the experience of many women I have encountered, that doctors are notorious for insisting on medical intervention, medications, and procedures that are both unneeded and expensive. In a delivery setting, many mothers have experienced doctors administering Pitocin or other medications without their permission. Others were told the medication was necessary when, in fact, it was only used to speed up the natural process, causing a much harsher labor on the mother. Epidurals are often pressured. Forceps, vacuums, pulling on the baby or placenta are all incredibly dangerous yet doctors have been known to do these interventions with mothers having no complications requiring them. It is common knowledge most doctors will insist on a mother who has had a cesarean in the past to have one for all her future children. This takes a horrible toll on the mother’s body and is, in many cases, scheduled due to greed – not necessity.
A midwife’s purpose is to offer her assistance and advice when needed or as the mother wishes. A midwife will not force her care on a mother unless there is risk of a life-threatening complication. Midwives have set fees for their care regardless of how much or how little they assist in the birth, so there is no temptation for a midwife to try and pick pockets.
Having children with no unneeded medical intervention is much easier on both mother and baby, allowing for a much less stressful birth.
- Midwives are trained to notice the signs of complications that require medical intervention.
Unfortunately, not all pregnancies go as planned. I would wager a bet no pregnancies go exactly how we envision them, but I digress. Diet, exposure to toxins, family history, exercise, or just rotten luck can all be reasons for severe complications. Although midwives are of the belief childbirth is natural, they are also aware of danger signs: quick to act if the mother and child need to be taken in. The primary concern of a midwife is a healthy mother and child, after all.
My midwife, as many midwives have, has a doctor she works closely with at the local hospital specifically in case medical intervention is needed. Despite the birth ending in the hospital, midwives will do their best to be advocates for the mothers to the doctors and nurses on staff.
- Midwives let you do you.
Want to eat a hamburger during your labor? Go ahead! Want to deliver laying down, on all fours, or squatting in a bathtub? No problem! Want to watch TV, go for a walk, or have the family over to celebrate the birth? You do you. Have your baby in the comfort of your own home, in a birthing center, or (if your hospital employs midwives) at the hospital. Have as many (or as few) people attend your birth as you want.
Want to spend some time alone with the lights off listening to classical music, or cuddling with your husband? That is fine. Want the midwife by your side at all times just in case? That works too.
Midwifery is a practice that stresses the individuality of mothers and their babies. The whole experience should be tailored to what is best for the mother and baby.
I think modern medicine is a fantastic tool when needed, but if the same or better results can be obtained using natural/holistic alternatives then modern medicine becomes unnecessary.