Over three years ago when I was in the last weeks of my second pregnancy, I wrote a piece on my personal blog detailing why I loved my midwife. As I skimmed over it today, I realized that it would be perfect to update and share.
A bit of my backstory first... I had my first child with an OB/GYN practice. The experience was fine. The birth was fine. I was your typical "passive consumer of healthcare" during that pregnancy. As a first time parent, I was scared and put my whole trust in my care providers. All worked out okay so I started my second pregnancy with the same practice. However, about halfway through the pregnancy, I was feeling pressured into an unnecessary intervention dictated by the doctor's fear of liability (and let's be honest, in a litigious culture like our own, that fear is valid and, while I wish care providers didn't make decisions based on fear, I totally understand and sympathize with them) so I made a decision that was best for *ME* and switched my care to a home birth midwife. I was immediately was blown away by how different an experience it was working with a care provider one-on-one. While I cannot promise that all midwives provide the following care or that no OBs offer similar experiences, here are the reasons I fell in love with the midwifery model of care and my midwife.
Open Communication – I truly felt like I could ask my midwife anything. She happily answered any question openly and was never in a hurry to end an appointment. Moreover, every time there was a “recommended” test, my midwife clearly explained the reason for it, possible complications, and alternatives. I was always asked “do you want this test?” and my answer was respected. With my first pregnancy, I assumed I had to submit to any recommended test and feared that I would be met with great opposition and possible rejection as a patient should I have resisted.
No Rush – At almost every doctor’s appointment I’ve attended, I have had to wait a good chunk of time to be seen. My OB appointments were no exception, sometimes waiting for over an hour, even though I always arrived on time. And then the average amount of time the OB would spend with me would be FIVE minutes. Even with my favorite OB, I could tell each appointment was overly standardized and impersonal (unimportant, even) because he used the exact same jokes at each appointment. My midwife. however, allotted 90 minutes for every appointment. Before my first visit, I told my husband that there was no way I’d spend the whole time there…I was wrong! Time flew by as we casually chatted like old friends and she strategically inserted any question she needed answered into our every day conversation.
Ownership – Prior to visiting a midwife, I always thought of myself as a patient to which a doctor could poke or prod as needed. However, my midwife gave me ownership of my body and health in our appointments. If I chose to, I was in charge of weighing myself, of testing my urine, etc. All were procedures that were “done” on me at the OB practice without any discussion. It was just assumed that I’d submit to all the procedures and I assumed I had to. The same was true in birth. I had my cervix checked in the hospital without giving my permission. With my midwife, I had to ask her to check me and she made it clear that it was my decision and was not required. In my hospital birth, I was told when and how to push (I did not have an epidural so the instruction was not necessary) and was lifted and moved from a position that felt conducive to pushing to a position that they preferred (on my back--the worst position possible). In contrast, my midwife encouraged me to listen to my body and to push when I felt the urge. She not once yelled in my face or counted repetitively in my ear about how and when pushing was needed. My midwife trusted me and treated me as a capable individual I was.
Accessibility – Gone were the days of only calling the doctor during business hours; of leaving messages; or of talking with an unfamiliar nurse. My midwife was accessible to me 24/7 via phone, email, or in-person. Unless there was an emergency, my preferred method of communicating was email. It was wonderful to be able to send a quick message to my midwife whenever I had a question or needed reassurance. She repeatedly stressed to me that I should call, even in the middle of the night, if I had any concerns. I rarely called my OB (preferring to consult the Internet) because I felt bothersome and/or it was unlikely that I’d even get to talk directly to the doctor.
Home Visits - After birthing my daughter, my following postpartum visit took place in the comfort of my own home. I didn't have to stress about wrangling my toddler while caring for my newborn. After my first birth, I was five minutes late to a postpartum visit because it was my first time navigating the public alone with a newborn. I was shamed.
One last note about my awesome midwife, she gave me a massage at every visit…how many other care providers will do that?!
In closing, I want to state that I believe that every care provider has their own strengths and OBs are certainly essential in our health care system. But, I also believe that every care provider has their own ideal client, just as every client has their own ideal provider. In my situation, my ideal provider was a home birth midwife...and, perhaps, your ideal care provider could be a midwife too!
I encourage all expectant families to consider what is most important to them in birth and what they need to feel safe and then to find a care provider who meets those needs and who treats them with respect. If you have trouble finding someone you love, continue to meet with other providers until you feel the "click." And I definitely encourage you to check out the midwives in your area to see if one might be a good fit (even if you don’t want a home birth, many midwives deliver in birthing centers and some even in hospitals!).
If you want to learn more about my experience as an OB patient, as a midwife patient, or about my home birth, please reach out! I welcome inquiries!