I knew of the midwifery model, but it wasn’t until I became pregnant that I started to make links in the Seattle community. I started prenatal care (in my first pregnancy) with a Centering group at a local hospital. Three midwives ran a monthly group where couples would spend two hours discussing their pregnancies in addition to getting a quick check-up. I felt comfortable being under the care of a nurse-midwife since I had access to both the medical and midwifery world. Ultimately, I started to feel disenchanted with the process on the visit when the attending midwife forgot which due date month she was talking to. This was compounded by a visit to the birthing room; it was lovely but there was seemingly plenty of room for lots of people to be seated. My husband and I realized that there were some expectations of care that would not be addressed in a hospital setting. I would never get the woman-to-woman answer to questions since my midwives were employed by a hospital.
I get it. Liability and insurance coverage is a huge issue for midwives, and I’m sure that midwives in a hospital are operating under a different level of scrutiny. All that aside, I wanted the hands that nurtured my pregnant body and caught my baby to be those of someone familiar. My naturopath-midwife was fantastic and brought the sacredness and joy back to my prenatal care. I ended up doing a hospital transfer, but laboring almost entirely with my midwifery team kept the focus where we wanted it to be…on a natural birth. (More about my first birth story here.)
In my second pregnancy, we chose to go with a small midwifery practice. I had several recommendations from my naturopath-midwife, and she narrowed down to one particular midwife whom she thought I would gel with. And so I did. This practice had two attending midwives, and both were and are lovely wise women who have been catching babies for decades. There was an unparalleled maternal warmth to be under the care of these elder women. I felt like I had joined the age-old tradition of birthing babies and it was a perfect fit. I won’t go into the details of my second childbirth, but I will say that the midwife did more by doing less. They were quiet, celebrated moments under expert care.
I appreciate living in a city that serves as the training ground for Washington state’s midwives. With this comes a community that provides specialized training for midwives (lactation support, naturopathic care, massage), or you find enterprising practitioners who train in additional modalities to provide more comprehensive care. I boast that my city has some pretty amazing prenatal class options, new parent groups, and parenting workshops. Most importantly, many of these services strive to support the (economic, social, and cultural) diversity of the area.
I feel fortunate to have had the options to choose from until I found the right fit for me. The birthing culture varies drastically state-by-state, and I understand why midwives wouldn’t flock to the cities or rural areas where they are more likely to face prosecution, where their clients cannot receive insurance coverage for midwifery services, and where the state fails to acknowledge midwifery as a safe and viable option of care. But women and their partners everywhere deserve to know what birthing options are possible. Campaigns like the Big Push for Midwives are trying to make this a reality in the United States.
Things came full circle yesterday as I reconnected with the woman who attended my son’s birth with my midwife. She is a licensed midwife and acupuncturist who specializes in prenatal care. She is also delightfully pregnant. She lifted up her t-shirt layers and belly band so my children could put their hands on her belly and feel the new life moving inside of her. My daughter held her hands nervously over our guest’s belly and then climbed into the chair and snuggled beside her.
I felt a sense of gratitude that my daughter spent almost a year of her toddlerhood feeling her mama’s belly grow, listening to the drum beat of her brother’s fetal heart, learning about the labor experience from a generous neighbor who taught sibling classes with a renowned birth professional, who has read homebirthing books that were not afraid to show a woman’s vagina. I believe these are the ways a young girl builds a healthy connection to her body, and it looks like we may have a junior midwife-at-heart.