Choosing a Midwife

Posted by Jennifer on April 18, 2011 – 12:07 pm

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photo adapted from jessica.diamond

Choosing a midwife doesn’t necessarily mean choosing a homebirth. or even a medication-free birth. At least around these parts it doesn’t. I live in Ontario, Canada where midwives training is regulated by the government and their services are funded by the government and thus free to residents.

Choosing a midwife:

  • means choosing someone who has the same belief, that birthing babies is a normal, natural process and, in most cases, our bodies are equipped to do so.
  • gives you the option of homebirth
  • gives you the option of a hospital birth and being discharged after 3 hours or enjoying the 3-day average stay {where you have the option of medication during labor if you wish}
  • gives you long, enjoyable prenatal appointments, often in a less “institutional” setting than your standard doctor’s office. They generally see fewer patients which means they have more time for you.
  • gives you confidence because midwives are all about “informed decisions”
  • means no pressure to do tests etc. because they are ‘routine’. They present options.
  • means you are completely involved in your care, every step of the way.
  • generally means the face you see when it’s time to have your baby is a friendly and familiar one.
  • means one-on-one care for you and baby. Whether you give birth in the hospital or at home, you are the only patient your midwife is caring for at that time. A second midwife will be there just for your baby.
  • gives you access to a wealth of ideas for delivery. A midwife is familiar with all sorts of laboring positions, aside from the traditional laying down in a bed with your legs in stirrups – which actually isn’t optimal. She will suggest ideas and help you to find the most comfortable and effective one for you.
  • often means you have a built-in lactation assistant. Despite the classes you can attend where you “practice” with a doll and despite the numerous books I read, nothing prepared me for doing it in real life. {My breasts were quite large and baby is awfully small}. For both of my babies, my midwife was right in there showing me the positions and offering help and tips.
  • Whether in the hospital or at home, the midwife comes to see you for your appointments the week to 10 days following baby’s birth. She will be a constant source of encouragement and advice for 6 weeks afterwards as well.
  • If something comes up in your low risk pregnancy that is beyond their scope of practice, midwives consult with an OB and even if your care needs to be transferred to the OB for medical reasons, your midwives will still be there to support you!
  • The overall feel of having a midwife, developing that relationship over the course of your pregnancy…it’s indescribable. {I was very sad to say goodbye to my midwife, Katie, after my first birth. Wouldn’t you know it, I began seeing her again 10 months later for my second!}

My Story

I took a home pregnancy test. We found out we were expecting. {Yay!} I called the doctor to book an appointment to confirm and then he referred me to an obstetrician who would see me through my pregnancy. I would then go to the hospital when the time was right and I would have medication or an epidural because I couldn’t handle the pain otherwise. Our baby would be delivered by whoever was on call. We would spend the 3-4 days in the hospital, be discharged and come home to begin our life as a family of three. Because that’s how it works around these parts. And yes, I was scared to death of labor and the pain it would inevitably bring! I didn’t believe that any “huff and puff” breathing would help me.

Then I stumbled upon The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence and my birthing view changed drastically. I began to research options. I thought you had to have an OB and go to the hospital. Aside from the traditional labor, the only other option I knew of was a C-section; I didn’t think there was any other way to give birth. {yep, I was clueless}. As I began to research options, I came across so many books about homebirth, including a lot by Ina May Gaskin. As I read more about having a midwife, the incredible care that they provided,  about how natural childbirth was, about how our bodies were made to do this, about viewing ourselves as an active participant in a miraculous experience rather than a victim of circumstance…

At 26 weeks, I began searching for a midwife. My local midwives were booked but the Hamilton Midwives (a 30 minute drive) were able to take me. That was a miracle itself since something like 40% of women who want a midwife can’t get one. The demand far exceeds the supply. Anyway, during the intake interview, they asked about homebirth. I hadn’t even thought of that!! I just knew I wanted the personal care of a midwife rather than my super-busy OB. But pondering it, I made that decision too.

Within a week, I had changed my mindset, my caregiver and went from dreading labor to anxiously awaiting it. I was also going to birth at home!

My husband was supportive during this time, though if he didn’t think switching to a midwife was radical enough, he was floored by the decision to have a home birth. He stood by me though, asked questions, told me that it was my decision, experienced midwifery care and that first homebirth and is now a convert on both accounts. He even spoke at a homebirth information night. I’ve asked him to write a guest post about his conversion from skeptic to promoter of midwifery care and home-birthing.

Midwifery care is not available everywhere and even if it is, many {like myself} are not aware of it’s existence. It’s also not for everyone. When I share my stories and rave about midwifery care, it isn’t to tell you that it is the right choice or the best option but rather to raise awareness. Midwifery is a a wonderful, viable alternative to an obstetrician for women who are healthy with low risk pregnancies. For those who have health issues or any sort of risk involved with their pregnancy, your OB is the best choice you could possibly make and I am thankful that we have them and the medical facilities available!

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  1. 1. Rachel Said:

    I was one of those 40% who really wanted a midwife but couldn’t get in with one, even though I called around starting from 9 weeks pregnant!

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