What does a midwife do? What is the role of a midwife within the vision I hold of healthy, vibrant, empowered communities? I’ve been trying to answer this question succinctly and clearly in my brain for a few weeks now, as I feel myself getting pulled into discussions (and sometimes arguments) over the topic more frequently. This post is as clear and succinct as I've gotten so far.
I am 13 weeks pregnant now, and this is the point in pregnancy where most people either have found a midwife, or are in the process of finding a midwife to work with. There is wide variation in the timing of this, but most people have a first appointment between 12-16 weeks it seems. Luckily, I don’t have to do this since between myself and my dear friend Maryn, I have all the pregnancy and birth support a lady could want. I say luckily because I have seen what a “make or break” process this can be, and I don’t say that in a fearful way.
hear from women regularly about their homebirth experiences. And being in the business of rabble rousing and questioning the status quo, many of these women who seek us out are unhappy with the care they received from their midwives, not just OBs. There are plenty of variations on the same theme. Midwives aren’t listening to women anymore. Midwifery care feels just as cold and clinical as OB care, just with a rocking chair and some nice music in the background. The rules and regulations are more important than the mother’s wishes. The midwife says she is hands off, or flexible, but when it comes down to it, she really isn’t, and the mother is left with few options at the end of pregnancy or during the birth – maybe the baby is breech, or she is getting closer to 42 weeks, or doesn’t want to transport but the midwife is unsupportive.
It seems like the intense focus we at Indie Birth have had on education has started to pay off in a lot of ways locally and in far off lands. Lots of women are more knowledgeable and more confident about birth. Some of them are doing their own prenatal care in lots of different ways. They are preparing for undisturbed births, and they are weighing the options they have carefully. When we go to births, it is clear that we are in mutual relationships where the family has taken responsibility and feels like they can direct their own experience. Unfortunately, some people also seem to think that based on our support for free birth, and our belief in birth as an exceptionally fine tuned and natural process, that we don't really see a reason to hire midwives anymore - but this isn’t true!
I have heard too many times from families that they are not getting the information or respect that they want from their care providers. I see this most often online – women asking other women for help, wondering what their symptoms mean, help decoding the sliver of information their OB gave them, or help interpreting their lab results if they are lucky enough to have gotten copies of them in the first place. Just today on a forum I saw something along the lines of, “oh, I’m not sure if I’ve had my B12 levels tested. They never tell me what they are testing for.” This is a bad sign. As wonderful as online and in person support groups are, I can clearly see that there is a lack of education, discussion, and informed choice taking place in OB (and midwife!) offices all over the US.