May 5 is International Day of the Midwife, a day to recognize, celebrate, and call for more access to midwives across the world. The 2018 theme is "Midwives leading the way with quality care," and that's exactly what I want to share with you about my three pregnancy and birth experiences in the care of Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM).
Some people are skeptical when they hear the word "midwife" -- they believe that a midwife would not be able to provide the same level of care, or is not qualified enough to safely handle birth. Unfortunately, this perception is a myth that's been perpetuated for years, beginning around the time that hospitals created campaigns to move birth out of the home and into hospitals.
The reality is that midwives are the ideal, safe option for those who are experiencing a low-risk, normal pregnancy. They safely serve people in hospitals and at home. And their level of care? Well, if my three experiences are any proof (along with scores of others who have had incredible pregnancy care and births with midwives), their care is top notch, in so many ways.
What I Learned in the Care of Midwives
It's ok to ask questions at prenatal appointments; in fact, it's expected! At every appointment, my midwife would sit down, and ask "What questions do you have?" Not, "Do you have any questions?" The difference seems minimal, but it's big. Even when I was in my third pregnancy, she expected me to have questions and never once appeared impatient, frustrated, or unwilling to take the time to answer them.
I can take charge of my own care. My midwife was a part of my care -- not in charge of my care. It was clear from the beginning that she expected me to make decisions based on the information and guidance she provided. There was a back-and-forth exchange in which she checked in with my thoughts and feelings about procedures and tests.
How I feel, what I think is important. My opinion matters! My midwife intentionally sought out my opinion, thoughts, questions, and feelings as she discussed options for my care. It felt like we were truly in a shared knowledge relationship -- she shared knowledge about prenatal best practices and options while I shared what I knew, felt, and believed to most important to me.
I have a knowing and power in birth that my midwife recognizes. My midwife never once made me feel like giving birth was something I couldn't handle. When I was a first-time mom, this was especially important.
Pregnancy and birth is not a one-size-fits-all t-shirt. The care my midwife provided was unique to me and my individual needs. I never felt like I was being rushed through my appointments or given standard tests or procedures just for the sake of it. When I was presented with a decision, my health needs as well as the things that were most important to me were both considered and respected.
If you've never considered a midwife for your care in pregnancy and birth, I encourage you to take a second look. Schedule an interview with a midwife near you, whether it be with a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) or Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). A midwife is specially trained to care for those in pregnancy and birth and to respect and uphold the normal process of birth, intervening only when necessary. For more information about the kind of care you receive from a midwife, check out the resources and information at the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA).