Wednesday, May 4, 2011

International Day of the Midwife

Today is International Day of the Midwife. So today I'd like to tell you how much I thoroughly enjoyed my experience of having a midwife for my second child's birth.

Many of you have read my detailed account of Kaitlyn's arrival. Since Kate was born I've had many friends ask me how I would compare my hospital delivery with Mady to my midwife delivery with Kate. I have to say it was a complete night and day experience. Midwives understand birth (and the birthing woman) on such a different level than today's doctors and nurses. They are not guided simply by textbook (though they bring their expertise to the table), but allow the mother her own wishes and desires to take place at the birth in a much greater detail. Even if they need to intervene and do something not part of the plan, the approach they take is completely different than that of the hospital. To put it bluntly I would say that during my hospital experience I felt: violated, unheard, manipulated, like I had to fight for anything and everything, corralled, rushed and defeated. Like I was a spectator at my own child's birth. Contrast that to my experience with my midwives. Words I would use to describe it: supported, informed, personal, relaxed, listened to, like I was the key player.

I've had some well-meaning, but misinformed people tell me that the birthing experience shouldn't matter so much, I should just be grateful for a healthy baby. But here's the thing. You never forget the birth of your child (good or bad). When I go back to that day in my head, I relive every emotion (good and bad). Am I grateful Mady is here safe and sound? Absolutely! But, I would say (in the g-rated version of my thoughts) that the doctors and nurses did a terrible job assisting (and their job should really just be to assist!) in the birth of my child.

 The atmosphere with midwives was completely different too. The hospital was tense. I had a nurse I hated (pretty sure she knew it) and the doctors changed every 4 hours. So every 4 hours I had to refight my battles. I didn't have to fight with my midwives (okay, I complained about walking the stairs), they knew how to talk to me in a way that put me at ease, made me listen and made me feel heard.

Because of this approach, I had more confidence in my midwives' abilities (yup, years of medical school and I still thought every doctor who walked through the door was a complete idiot. And they didn't give me much evidence to prove otherwise). And as I told the midwives afterward, they completely redeemed the birthing experience for me. Had I been left with the experience of Mady's birth as my only reference to birth, I would have told all my friends to just get a dog or a houseplant.

I truly believe that every woman can deliver drug-free (it's better for the baby no matter what you say, and it's easier for mom to push) save for a few extreme cases where a c-section is necessary (and I mean FEW, like if you have placenta previa or something). I think our health care system would be for the better if births were put into the loving hands of midwives and the surgeons were saved for those few cases of high risk that need a c-section. Like most of the rest of the world. I also see the cost difference. I read somewhere that births (without drugs or any intervention) cost at minimum $17,000 (ha! Mady's birth has a lot of drugs and a lot of intervention, and then a 2 week NICU stay, I'm sure the bill was ridiculous!). But a midwife birth costs about $5000 (or is it $3000, now I can't remember). Either way, it's MUCH cheaper. Guess what? YOUR taxes pay for that bill (in Canada anyway), whichever it is. Think of the thousands of births done a year. How much would you prefer to pay for each one? Think of where all that excess money could go! So better care that's cheaper? Sounds like a no-brainer to me!

Places in the world that have midwives (MOST of the rest of world! Imagine that.) have lower rates of complicated, intervened and drug-used births. And they have higher success at breast-feeding and WAY better post-partum support, which also leads to lower rates of post-partum depression.  What's not to like?

I wish every woman who wanted one could have a midwife (and I think if they could, within a generation, every woman, save a few, would want one!). There are simply not enough to go around right now. So urge your government officials to support the schooling of these fabulous ladies. And if you've ever had a tug to do so, become one yourself! (FYI, Mount Royal just launched their midwifery program for September. Yeah!) I am SO thankful to the ladies who helped catch this little cutie!

Thank-you Wendy, Mary, Carol, Reanne, Penny and Shannon!

Ps-to my friends who are trying to conceive who want a midwife, just so you know, this is the order: Pee on the stick, call the midwives to register, tell your husband you're pregnant. I'm not even kidding a little bit. Why? They fill up fast! Those who have birthed with a midwife (at least here) automatically get in. If they have room for you will be based on your due date. If they are near-full from returning mothers, they will then look at the dates on the waiting list. If you're not on that list at that point, you don't get in. So call early!

Pps- I'm sure there are some fabulous doctors and nurses who deliver babies in hospitals too, this has just been a reflection of my personal experience and I strongly believe that no birthing woman should have to  go through what I did. So maybe a reeducation for many of our doctors and nurses would help too.


  1. I loved both stories. I have so wanted to be a doula.

  2. Absolutely agree, Melanna. And Mary was one of my midwives too (though I was with Team 2 and she had to pop over from Team 1 to cover for one of the absent midwives). Mary was wonderful! (and thank you Aisia -- you were in it for the long haul).

  3. Esther, I had the same situation with Shannon, but it was her suggestion of Clary Sage that got my contractions closer together so I'm very grateful! :)


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