The year 2019 marks ten years since I started my practice as a midwife, after having spent several years studying, training and preparing to serve families in this way. I still remember the excitement of catching my first baby as a graduate midwife in January of 2009, after having moved home from TX (where I completed my academic training & clinical experiences here in Dec. 2008), and I cannot believe how quickly ten years have passed! Since that birth, I have been privileged to catch babies and care for moms & families in four different states, I’ve moved crossed country, married, and have had four babies of my own. All of this has certainly helped to mold, shape and broaden my experiences and skills, and I am so very grateful to each of the families I have been privileged to work with.
In honor of reaching 10 years, I thought it would be fun to see what questions some of you might have, and I was delighted by the questions that were thrown out on the Gentle Delivery Facebook Page. Here is Part One of a series in which I’ll start answering these questions…and I would love to hear yours, so if you haven’t left a question yet, feel free to do so below in the comments!
- How and why did you get started in the field?
The “how” is the fault of my mother, who pursued homebirth after two negative hospital experiences, back when birthing at home was not such a popular idea. After her first birth at home with midwives, she went on to use them for care with the rest of my siblings (there are 7 of us!), and I grew up with the idea that having babies at home is a normal experience, and much preferred over the standard hospital setting! The midwives became close family friends, and were certainly heroes one would aspire to be like, in the eyes of a 7 to 14 year old girl growing up watching these women serve, care for and love on our family.
The “why” part is two-fold: one, I had a dream of serving God on the mission field somewhere, and thought that having a skill to offer would be an amazing way to connect with and become friends with women, while hoping to make a difference in an area where women were at high risk during pregnancy & birth. I was interested in pursuing midwifery with this dream/idea in mind, and several friends and relatives knew of this interest. My dear aunt then invited me to be present at the birth of her son, and I still treasure the memories of the time I spent with her and my uncle while we waited on my cousin to make his appearance. This not-so-little cousin of mine still tops the record as the largest baby I’ve ever witnessed being born, and it required a great amount of skill on the part of the attending midwife to not only deliver him, but also to help him breathe and recover from his rocky transition. While this was not your typical smooth, low-complication normal birth, I learned a tremendous lesson through this experience: a skilled midwife can make a difference between life & death, and that this is a serious responsibility to consider. After this birth, the thought that kept playing in my head was that I never wanted to be in a situation surrounding birth and wish I had learned what to do to help. It also helped to solidify that this was something I wanted to pursue, but it also gave me the reality check I needed as I began.
In light of the fact that my original dream was to work with women in another country without access to good maternity care, I do find it a bit humorous how God has taken me down a completely different path as I serve women in a very prosperous, beautiful little university town in Central Pennsylvania!
- What changed in your approach / practice as a midwife from before you had children to after you experienced birth first-hand?
This is a good question! I find that I have a totally different perspective on the intensity of labor…there were times I seriously wondered if I could actually do it when I was in labor myself, and experiencing that has certainly helped me to understand what moms are going through. I also don’t look down on anyone for getting an epidural after experiencing labor myself! Before I had children, it was like “why would you do that?!? Don’t you know the side effects??” but once I was in labor I totally understood why that option would be considered! I’ve also found myself trying to be more sensitive to each mom’s individual preferences, spoken or unspoken, as I found out in my own labor that just because someone thinks they are helping, it’s not always the case. I think it’s helped to soften my opinions, too, as I’ve realized on a different level how many things are actually outside of our control. For instance, while not specifically about birth, I always thought that any mom could nurse if she tried hard enough. Well, I learned the hard way that trying hard isn’t always enough, and nursing has been a complete battle for me, which has taught me that each mom must figure out what actually is right for her and her baby, and that might look different than what you anticipated. So maybe the simplest answer to this question is that it’s helped me to grow in empathy!
- What is one “bucket list” experience you haven’t had yet but hope to in your midwife career (e.g. delivering triplets, delivering a breech birth, an en cual birth, etc.)?
To be honest, I don’t mind the un-eventful and un-exciting ones these days! All midwives know that at some point they will attend a breech birth (usually a surprise baby that turns between that last appointment and birth, or when the head is mistaken for a butt), and I experienced my first surprise breech two years ago (I was called to cover for another midwife, so it was a REAL surprise!), so that one is off the “bucket list” with plenty of gray hairs to prove it. I’ve missed several babies that didn’t want to wait for me to arrive (even if I was driving fast…my brother used to say he thought it would be fun to drive for midwives, so he’d have an excuse to drive FAST!), and I had the special privilege of catching twins & assisting with several sets. Two things I would love to witness yet would be an en-caul birth (I still haven’t had a baby born before the membranes have ruptured…though I’ve had plenty that ruptured JUST before birth, providing me with a shower of fluid!), and I’d like to top my current highest repeat client number of three babies for the same mama. One downside to moving across country (and then moving across several counties a few years later!) is that you don’t get to continue care with the mamas you might have started with. Up until recently, two had been the record I had been able to deliver for the same family, and I finally caught my third baby for the same family in 2018. If we can stay put long enough (and I can convince my clients to keep having babies-ha!), maybe that record will be higher eventually…though I’m guessing that not of all my clients want to help accommodate my wishes on that one!
So, after reading these, what are your questions?? Feel free to let me know, and stay tuned for Part Two of this 10 Year Anniversary Interview. Thanks for sharing & adding your comments!