Wednesday, December 3, 2008

marriage and midwifery

This post is partially about marriage and partially a rant about midwifery politics. And while I'm sure most of you aren't midwives, you may use one someday, so it's probably not bad information to have.

I never thought I'd be the kind of women to make choices about my job based on my husband or my marriage. But, it’s funny to me how actually being married does subtly change the way I think about things. I’ve made an effort to make my work about me and not let my husband influence my decisions surrounding it (aside from his financial support while i'm in school and undying love, of course). Now that we are married it suddenly seems very unrealistic to expect him to have me running out at all hours of the night, never able to leave town (really...never, ever). Like of course he could do that for months at a time. But for the rest of our lives??? And even if he would, do I really want to be married to someone who doesn’t care if they ever do things with me or see me? It’s a challenge for many midwives–the balance between family and supporting clients the way they want to be supported.

I brought this up at our regional midwifery meeting last night, and the midwives seemed deeply concerned. What would it mean for midwifery if there was even more of a shift in the midwife-client relationship towards midwife as health care provider and client as patient, versus midwife as a community member, friend, confidant?

The problem is, the number of midwives currently out there can’t meet the demand. And there aren’t enough women out there who want to entirely self-sacrifice to become midwives. So there has to be a middle ground. Some point at which women can still have safe, intervention-free births, in their home with a midwife. But it may not be a midwife they’ve spent fifteen hour-long appointments getting to know. It may be that the midwives who arrive at their birth are two of four midwives in a practice they’ve met just a few times during their pregnancy. And while that may be a dilute version of midwifery, it may very well be the only way to make midwifery a sustainable, healthy profession. One where more women can have homebirths as a foundation for a healthy family, and the midwives they work with can also take care of themselves and their families.

Home birth is too important to let it fizzle out because we burn out the women making it possible. And women interested in midwifery as a profession (not as the be all and end all of their life) need to see that there is support from the community for midwives to practice in a variety of ways.

And I need to be able to see my husband. And take my future, yet-unborn children to the beach on the occasional weekend.


Loaf said...

My future wife wants to be a midwife someday! She's a doula right now. And as the person on the other side of things, yeah, it sucks sometimes, but mostly I love and feel so lucky about how I found someone so committed to birth and babies and helping. We do go out of town when her clients are in the early stages of pregnancy, but I realize how that might change later. Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is the partners know what we're getting into when we marry midwives-to-be, so even if it's hard sometimes, we understand the choices you've made.

Also, may I say brava to you for choosing this path!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. It was an interesting peek into the profession :)

Blind, Irish Pirate said...

Way too intriguing. I'd love to know more about it.

Kim said...

I am currently on the path to becoming and doula and eventually a midwife. Even now I think about how to balance the demands of the profession with my desires and need for self care.
My partner is supportive and like you I am not trying to center my life around them.But being in and maintaining a relationship also requires work, energy, and the occasional long night.
Thanks for the post. Are you in school to be a midwife or already practicing?

bekapaige said...

Many women in my family have had midwives deliver their babies and they've had such great experiences-- but as the daughter of a doctor who's missed many birthdays, I know what you mean about needing to be able to enjoy life. I hope you find a good balance- and as a woman who plans to birth with a midwife in the (distant!!) future, I think I would be comfortable with the solution you mentioned. Good luck! :)

Rachael said...

You have an interesting point. It's a challenge to balance life and work. I think the key is to have great partners that you like as providers and individuals. And, most women will just be happy to have home birth as an option! A center by me has the women start circulating after 30 weeks to the various providers. The women almost always choose that practice over larger Ob practices because they rather receive the depth of care provided by midwives than the alternative. Good luck with completing your program!

Anonymous said...

why do midwives have to be so available? my grandmother had 11 out of 12 children with midwives, and most of them just showed up when someone came to get them because she was in labor. sure, she knew the ones around town, but it wasn't this long process.

is this because midwives are so hard to find these days, or is it just that we're spoiled? or maybe have we just gotten used to a higher quality of medical care?

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