From the time I was young (8 years old or so!), I had an interest in midwifery. I’m sure it stemmed from the fact that my mother used midwives for her pregnancies and the births of my five younger siblings, which gave me exposure to this “alternative” type of care. This was back in the day when having babies at home was NOT the popular, photographed and blogged about way to have your baby as it has become today! The midwives that cared for my mother seemed like an extension of our family, and as a young girl growing up, they were certainly some of my heroes that I wanted to become like when I “grew up”.
I think I was about 14 when I seriously felt like midwifery was something I wanted to pursue. Still very young and extremely inexperienced…with no idea what all this profession entails! I had read lots of missionary biographies, and a common experience in most of them included helping in some way (either unexpectedly or because they were prepared!) in childbirth in various countries. So it seemed to my 14-yr-old mind that this was certainly a skill that would be good to know, and I pictured myself helping women in some far-off jungle or desert clinic someday. As I got older, I continued to feel a major pull towards midwifery that wouldn’t go away.
By the time I was 16, I was convinced this is what I needed to start pursuing. My parents wisely recommend that I begin by doing some reading, and they told me that they thought I should probably try to attend a few births before diving in head-first in a midwifery study program. Their reasoning was that perhaps this was just a passing whim, and why sink all sorts of time, energy and money into something only to find out that I would faint at the sight of blood, or have some other sort of aversion to what all comes with the birth territory. This is no joke. I personally know people who were SURE midwifery was what they wanted to do, but when they faced the nitty gritty, it didn’t take long to realize that it wasn’t their calling after all!
So, the next question was how on earth was I going to get any birth experience in, seeing as I was so young and inexperienced?!? I figured I would have to wait years for the opportunity, though I was reminded that if God wanted it to happen, He could figure out a way. That’s what makes my first birth experience so special-it was completely unexpected!
The summer that I was to turn 17 found me helping several families out on a weekly basis, going in to care for children, clean, cook, or do whatever was needed as a mother’s helper. One family was expecting their fourth child that summer, and they were excitedly planning their first homebirth in our state. Seeing as they had several young children, and that I had been spending a lot of time with them over a number of months, they asked if I would be on call to come and help babysit when the mom went into labor. This was the plan, with a backup plan being set where the children could go to a neighbor family’s home if the mom decided she could relax better without children in the house.
So one hot (Kansas is REALLY hot in July!) day, I got a call that the mom was in early labor, and that they would be glad if I could come care for the children so she could concentrate on resting and relaxing. I went over and made supper, took care of some household things, and entertained the children so mom and dad could focus together. An hour or so after supper, the mom decided that she would prefer the children leave the house, which left me thinking that I should probably go since my job was done. But the mom looked at me and said “I want the children to go, but you are to stay. I don’t want you going anywhere.” I sure wasn’t going to argue with that! She then went on to tell me that she wanted me to rub her back “just so” while her husband finished setting up the birth supplies and called the midwives, which I was more than happy to do. All of a sudden things kicked right in, and I vividly remember both parents bemoaning the fact that they hadn’t studied better on how to catch a baby if the midwife didn’t make it! I was blissfully ignorant, as I was only aware of my own mother’s very long labors, and figured we still had a very long night ahead of us. Little did I know!
I continued my “job” applying back counter-pressure as dad set up birth supplies, sweated nervously as he watched the signs of his wife progressing rapidly, read his childbirth class manual, and gave his wife emotional support. Thankfully, the midwives arrived just as mom started feeling more pressure, and all the last details were quickly set up and ready to go. About half an hour after the midwives arrived, a beautiful, howling, red little boy made his safe and smooth appearance, and I was in awe. I had no idea birth could be this beautiful, and I was so very, very grateful for the amazing opportunity. I was flying pretty high for days after this experience, and as you can imagine, I was totally convinced that this was what I wanted to do.
What is really hard to believe is that this baby will turn 18 this summer…I cannot believe that time has flown, and this many years have passed. After this first birth, I attended random births that I was invited to (word started getting around that I was interested, and some very sweet, very brave women invited me to share in their experiences, for which I will always be grateful!), and eventually began midwifery school when God opened the doors. It’s now been over 10 years since I graduated and started my own practice, and I continue to be thankful for those who initially helped me to start down this path by allowing me to be present at such personal, private life events. As I continue to reflect back on memories and celebrate 10 years of practice, I want to especially thank each of you moms and midwives who took this very young girl under their wing and gave her experiences that will last a lifetime!