Interview: 10 Year Anniversary of Gentle Delivery ~ Part 2
Thanks again to each of you who contributed questions for this “virtual interview” as Gentle Delivery celebrates 10 years of practice! I’ve enjoyed this opportunity to connect with various readers, and I’ve loved hearing from so many of you. If you missed the first post, you can check it out here. Here is installment two as I continue working my way through the questions entered:
How do you manage being a midwife and a mom?
Sometimes I’m not sure that I do! But seriously, it comes down to having a very supportive and involved husband. I could not do it without his help & support, and without him having a flexible job. He works from home, and generally speaking is able to set his own schedule. Without these key factors, I don’t think it would be possible. We both feel strongly that our children need to be our priority, especially while they are in their young, formative years, and Joel’s job situation allows us to almost always have one parent present. If I need to run off to a birth or client emergency, than Joel changes his schedule for the day and takes care of the children, which greatly simplifies my life! I honestly do not know how midwives serve year after year with a busy client load combined with stress of needing to figure out babysitting, especially at the last minute. A few months ago, I was called to cover for another midwife who had two moms in labor at once, and the second mom was moving fast. Without having the ability to just load up the car with my gear and run, I would have missed the birth! But since Joel was working from home (his office in our basement), I was able to be out the door in ten minutes, and he took over managing the children. His work-from-home arrangement also allows me to sleep in after a birth, and he will sweetly get children up, feed them breakfast, and care for things while I get some rest.
There are also some practical ways we have found that help to maintain balance, as well. As much as I am able to, I schedule appointments during my youngest children’s nap times, and I try to keep appointments confined to one day each week. This way I am limiting the amount of scheduled time I need to spend away from my children, especially since I never know how much unscheduled time I will be away at actual labors/births/emergencies. Another practicality is hiring cleaning help during especially busy months. My husband maintains that if I’m enjoying midwifery work and getting paid for it, then I might as well pay to get some of my other work done, instead of getting exhausted and stressed out! Oftentimes after a birth we will purchase supper (or take the family out) as a way to get some quality family time AND as a way to provide me with some extra time to do paperwork and miscellaneous business projects. I also get help with school, which is HUGE! My school-age children are part of a hybrid model co-op, where the parents help to teach classes, but they also have a classroom teacher who covers the “basics” and stays on top of the school details. If I was homeschooling full-time there would be NO WAY to do midwifery on top of it.
Balancing midwifery and mom life includes another factor when I have a nursing infant myself. Whenever I interview with potential clients who would be due after I have a baby, I make it clear that if you hire me, you’re also getting my baby. I always have an assistant or specific helper along who can care for my baby whenever I need to focus all energies on the laboring mom (and who needs a baby crying in the background when they are ready to push?!?), but otherwise I keep my tiny ones close so they can nurse and be with mama as much as possible. Some families are not okay with this arrangement, and that is their choice. I would much prefer they know what to expect ahead of time, and decide if they are comfortable with my boundaries, are there are always other options out there for them to consider!
One more key factor has been working with a midwife who is willing to trade call at times, which provides me with occasional time off to take trips and spend some focused time with my family. Without this arrangement, I would be tied to my phone and location almost 24/7 all year round! But this has allowed me to still spend some quality time making memories with my children, while knowing that clients are cared for, which is a tremendous blessing. While I still try my best to make it to my clients births, it’s also a relief to know that I can go “off call” occasionally for special events such as a school program.
Is it realistic to consider being trained as a midwife, and starting your own practice as a midwife, with small children? What advice would you give?
This is a good question that deserves considerable thought. I had the opportunity to do my midwifery training when I was single, which was ideal. In my opinion, training to be a midwife was decidedly more of a time and energy commitment than practicing as a midwife. Here’s the reason why: when you are training, you need LOTS of experience. You need to be able to be completely available to your preceptor midwife, and willing to take advantage of every opportunity you can be part of. The only way to get the experience you need to be a good, safe midwife is by spending an incredible amount of time immersing yourself in pregnancy, birth, postpartum and women’s health. There are a number of midwives who did this training while they were balancing a family, but it is HARD, and you need to be prepared that it will take a long time. As a single young woman, I had the flexibility of time & energy which enabled me to finish my studies and obtain my required clinical experience in about two years. But this included spending 18 months at a birth center where we literally immersed ourselves in the world of birth by living, speaking, and breathing everything birth related. Seriously! I don’t remember a day passing that didn’t include a significant discussion about something to do with an ongoing client situation, lab values, birth stories, complications, etc. This type of immersion would have been impossible had I been trying to spend time with family, and it certainly sped up the training process.
Now that I am an independent midwife, I can make my own decisions about how many clients to take on in a month, what risks I am comfortable with, what my parameters of practice will be (for instance, when I do prenatal appointments, or what seasons I may not be available for first time moms), and when I want to take personal time off to give my family some breathing space. In most apprenticeships, a supervising midwife counts on a student midwife to be available whenever needed, and the student cannot set these types of parameters and still get the training she needs along with keeping a good preceptor/student relationship. So these factors all need to be considered, and I think there needs to be some serious conversation with your husband and family about whether your family is at a good place to make the sacrifices that training would require. I don’t think one will ever regret spending quality time with her children while they are young, but you might regret not spending that time later on!
I would encourage any young mom interested in midwifery to read as much as you can, as learning more about your body and about the birth process is going to be beneficial no matter what. There are excellent books out there that can lay a great foundation of knowledge about how the pregnancy and birth process works. Watch videos & documentaries, read birth stories, connect with other moms and learn about their birth experiences. Look for opportunities to get involved on a small scale. Perhaps you’d be able to provide doula services for a friend, which would give you and your family the opportunity to experience what it is like to live an “on call” lifestyle (ready for mom to leave at any time day or night!), seeing how it works to have mom leave and how to figure out babysitting fast. This would give you a chance to see what this aspect of being involved in birth can be like. I don’t think any birth experience is wasted time, especially if you’re hoping to be a midwife, so slowly looking for opportunities and taking advantage of them as doors open can help as you consider further commitment. Always remember that if God wants to be a midwife, He will make a way for you…but in His timing, and in a way that it will be a blessing to your family. Be patient, pursue the small opportunities as they arise, and see how He directs as time goes on…one older midwife told me once that “women will always be having babies, but you won’t always have young children, so make sure you don’t regret not enjoying them while you have them.” Excellent advice!
I’d also recommend that any aspiring midwife read A Midwife in Amish Country, as Kim does an excellent job of detailing her experience training to become a midwife as a homeschooling mom of young children, relating her experiences and lessons along the way.
How many births do you take on, and why that many?
This really ties in with the whole mom/midwife balance topic, as this is another way we try to walk this line. As a general rule, I cap a month with two due clients. Occasionally I will take on a third, if my family is at a stage where this is more possible, and if I have a slower month before or after. As a mom approaches her due date, her prenatal visits need to take place more frequently, resulting in more mamas needing to be seen each week. Then you factor in a home visit (an additional afternoon besides my usual appointment day), the birth (for anywhere from 3-30 hours), birth paperwork, another visit to their home for a postpartum check, and the frequent contact via phone/text/email that takes place over this time, doing this more than twice a month in additional to caring for other moms is about what I can do and still enjoy my work. Here again, if I didn’t have young children, and all the unexpected things that factor into life as you care for little people, it would be much easier to add more clients due in a month. But I want to enjoy both my own children and the opportunity to do births, and this number seems to be working well for this stage in life!
Thanks for taking the time to read this second installment in this interview series! If you’d like to contribute a question for a future post, feel free to add it in the comments below. As always, thanks for sharing, and feel free to check out Part One if you haven’t read it yet. See you next month!