I understand that home birth is not always possible or everyone’s choice, nor is anyone 100% guaranteed to have a positive home (or other) birth experience. However, I made my choice, and I value everything my care providers contributed to my baby’s successful home birth, particularly the aspect of midwifery.
(By the time my pregnancy, birth, and early postpartum were said and done, I got care and/or teaching from a combined holistic MD, a certified midwife, midwife trainee, EMT midwife’s assistant, and a birth class teacher, who was also had experience as certified nurse and doula.)
Midwives are only part of our journeys for a few moments in comparison to the rest of life, but they do a sacred work for mother and child and even the extended family unit if present.
I will definitely be telling my daughter about her midwife who shares her first name. I grew to love her as much more than just a care provider. I have so many fond memories of my visits and our laughs.
Although my baby was immediately laid on my chest, my midwife did a lot of “firsts,” and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. She first touched and caught my daughter’s slippery body. She weighed and measured and gently examined while we watched. She soothed cries with a mother’s voice, and her hands were gentle. She changed my baby’s first poopy diaper and got her dressed.
When it was time to stick my tiny baby’s heel, my new baby was put in my arms to nurse and hold close. Alex was reluctant, yet swift with drawing blood, while her assistant, Rebecca, was there to comfort me as tears came listening to my baby scream in pain for the first time.
Midwifery is so much more than physical care. There are so many “extra mile” gestures and laughs and hugs and praises in-between the technicalities. There is a professionalism, yet the warmth of familiarity all in the same package.
Midwives provide a rite of passage into motherhood. They mother and empower new moms. They provide emotional support throughout pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
Postpartum hormones do weird things to a mama. I fiercely loved my precious little human, but I simultaneously felt weak, overwhelmed and like I didn’t know what I was doing. I remember thinking, “What are we going to do with her? We can’t send her back!” 🙂 Not that I could bear to be separated from her. It’s just the roller coaster of emotions that crashed over me in waves, from one extreme to the next. I really did know what I was doing. Parental instincts are beautiful guides for newborn care; I just needed someone to guide me through it and let me know that I was doing a great job. That is what my midwife and her lovely assistant did for me.
Having Alex in our home during the monumental transition of parenthood brought a sense of security and comfort. Ah, somebody knows what they are doing. She was there when it happened. She was there in the aftermath.
While my husband and I were consumed with our baby and trying to take everything in, Alex and her EMT assistant were doing so much behind the scenes, a lot of which we didn’t discover until later. They didn’t just clean up their supplies and leave. The dishes got washed, the birthing pool was drained and taken down, the living room was cleaned up, the dirty linens and towels were washed, dried, and folded neatly. They even folded a pile of laundry they didn’t make.
I probably looked a wreck at my 72 hour followup home visit with my midwife, Alex, and her lovely assistant Rebecca. I was still in the throes of recovery and adjustments with little sleep. I had woken up a few minutes before they came, and I only had time to brush my teeth, wash my face and crawl back into bed before I was exhausted. Muscles I didn’t know existed screamed in pain when I moved, and my bottom felt like either a train wreck or a forest fire had passed through.
I look horrible. I don’t want anyone to see me. My baby will be hungry. I hurt all over. I feel out of control.
I was probably wearing only blood stained granny panties and dark circles under my eyes, but when Rebecca popped in my room to see me, her smile lit up the entire room as she genuinely gushed at how beautiful I was and what a great job I had done. There were tears in my eyes before she even asked how I was, but the tears were replaced by light by the time our visit was over.
Rebecca wasn’t able to be at the birth like I wanted, but she was with Alex at followup, and she was such an angel. She spoon fed me sausage and eggs at my bedside while I nursed my baby, for goodness sake. “Mama has to eat too!”
I’ll never forget the quiet moment she stole a free moment to watch the birth video on my iphone while Alex, my husband, and my mom were busy with the baby elsewhere. There were glassy eyes and awed exclamations and praise.
It was no cold, sterile environment; it was like mothers and loving sisters were caring for me. Even the physical touch of having my stomach prodded to see if my uterus was down where it should be felt like love. After all I had just gone through, their praise and approval was just what my tired soul needed.
I already went through hell; I can do anything now.
Who enjoys spreading their legs to be probed and examined? Before birth, the thought of such personal space being invaded would have made me uncomfortable, but after labor and birth, it just doesn’t matter anymore. Being already in such a vulnerable fragile state emotionally and physically, their care was like a warm blanket hug over cold bones.
At my six week follow up and last appointment with my midwife, I got pretty sentimental and emotional.
In her motherly way and Netherlandish accent, Alex said, “No, don’t cry. It’s not sad; it’s life!”Alexandra picked good parents. I play a part, then we move on, and it’s ok! I carry a piece of this with me. It’s not goodbye.”
“But you brought my daughter into the world, and now you’re leaving.”
I’ll never forget her response.
“No, you brought her into the world. I was just there with you.”
And that, my friends, is the heart of midwifery: a rite of passage.