I chose midwifery for the birth of my son because I believe in the intricate design of the female body and its ability to birth unassisted and in an unaltered physical and mental state.
Selecting a care team for labor and delivery is not to be taken lightly—according to the most recent data published by the Central Intelligence Agency, the United States ranked 169th out of 225 countries for infant mortality in birth at 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. Furthermore the United States has a rising maternal mortality rate 26.4 women per 100,000 live births according to a study published by NPR.
Choosing midwifery was more than being a crunchy Pacific Northwest mama pursing natural childbirth, making a trendy cultural statement, or sticking it to mainstream medical culture as a reaction to my prior high intervention labor experience. Birthing with a midwife team allowed me to bring my rainbow baby into this world trusting my body and my baby. Through midwifery you receive comprehensive care.
According to the Midwifery Task Force, “The Midwives Model of Care is based on the fact that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes.
The Midwives Model of Care includes:
- monitoring the physical, psychological and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle
- providing the mother with individualized education, counseling, and prenatal care, continuous hands-on assistance during labor and delivery, and postpartum support
- minimizing technological interventions and
- identifying and referring women who require obstetrical attention.
The application of this model has been proven to reduce to incidence of birth injury, trauma, and cesarean section.”
(Midwives Model of Care definition is Copyrighted © by the Midwifery Task Force, all rights reserved)
A midwifery approach to pregnancy is wholistic—considering the mother in totality. In my own experience, having a midwife allowed me to maintain authority over my body and empowered me to make informed decisions about the first precious moments of my son’s life.
To prepare for labor, my husband and I took a 12-week Bradley Birthing Method class. My midwifery team supported my husband Derek’s role as my primary support and birthing coach. I was given the opportunity to share my fears based on my recent pregnancy loss of my twin sons Enoch and Elijah and my midwives listened with compassion, provided reassurance, and encouraged me to have confidence in my body’s innate abilities.
At my prenatal appointments, my midwives asked me for consent each time that they made physical contact with me to check my blood pressure, my son’s heart rate, or fetal position. What an amazing precedent they set about respecting body autonomy and boundaries.
I contacted my midwifery team at 3:00 am on the morning of May 29th with suspicions of labor. During first stage of labor, I focused on nutrition, hydration, and rest and I was happy to labor at home. This was much different from what I experienced in my previous live birth where I was expected to report to the hospital immediately for monitoring and restricted to a clear liquid diet.
My labor progressed and around 6 PM my contractions were beginning to couple and felt strong enough that I could no longer deny I was in active labor. I called my midwife and she headed to meet me at the birthing center even though I had not settled into a consistent 5-1-1 contracting pattern. We arrived at the birth center at 8:00 PM. What a relief it was to meet a calm familiar face and not an unknown on-call physician.
My midwife offered a cervical check for progress which I declined and she supported my decision. After she checked my baby and my vitals, my midwife suggested that I take a walk outside and enjoy the sunset. My husband and I slow danced our way through every contraction. He took his coaching job seriously, ensuring I was hydrating and relaxed—he even snuck in a few lines from Disney’s “Let it Go,” to try to lighten the mood. We took our time and enjoyed the labor experience as a team in perfect harmony with each other before welcoming the newest member of our family.
With intense back labor and without much time to rest in between contractions, we headed back inside. My doula Katie, mom, sister, and husband said a prayer for the baby and me. My midwife and doula talked to us about how often times coupling is a sign of the baby trying to achieve a more optimum position for birth and suggested turning him through the Miles Circuit. What a blessing it was to have a team that understood the physiology of birth and natural ways to help its progression.
I completed one rotation of exaggerated SIMS —as the contractions intensified I asked my husband to help me get rid of all the extra clothes. “Loss of modesty”— I thought to myself, “this is a good indication that transition is approaching!” I was comfortable in my birthing gown and put my foot on a stool for part two of the Miles Circuit when I had a spontaneous rupture of membranes and then immediate pressure. It was quarter till 10:00—I began stage two of labor pushing on a birthing stool and was calmly transitioned into a side lying position when the baby’s heart rate dropped. His heart rate recovered and I continued to follow my body’s natural rhythms to birth my son without directed pushing or trauma. 24 minutes later, at 10:06 PM, Derek caught our 8 lb. 11 oz 21 inch son Amos as he entered the world.
In addition to experiencing a gentle birth, I also received comprehensive postpartum care from my midwifery team. I met with an IBLCE certified lactation consultant for free at the weekly lactation lounge to address breastfeeding issues. I didn’t wait for 6 weeks to see if my recovery was on track as maternal postpartum follow up appointments were as frequent as neonatal appointments. The midwives handled my somewhat frequent and anxious calls compassionately and met with me in-person without appointment in the weeks following birth.
At each meeting the midwives screened me for postpartum depression and anxiety and we discussed my sleeping habits (or lack thereof) at length. At my 8-week final appointment I was evaluated for Diastasis Recti, they provided techniques for strengthening pelvic floor muscles, and we talked about the benefits of natural family planning for child spacing. These are things that previous postpartum care omitted.
Much can be garnered from the Midwives Model. I believe it is because of this wholistic approach that I was able to have a natural birth and my son entered the world peacefully. As Ina May Gaskin so eloquently put, “Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic.” Trust in your body’s instinctive abilities and don’t settle for care that is subpar.