The birth of my midwife heart.
It was quite a shock when I discovered I was pregnant. Children were not something we had planned on. Ever. So pregnancy and birth felt like some foreign land with a whole new language that went right by my very shook self. Once we made the choice to continue with the pregnancy I called the local OB/MW office and set up an appointment. Since I had no friends that had been down this road and didn't have Facebook to let me know everyone's opinion on everything (this was nearly 12 years ago..) I just did what I was supposed to do. I remember meeting with all of the caregivers in the practice and feeling uncomfortable with the men. I wanted a woman to care for me, my primary care giver was a midwife, I liked her well enough. At some point in the pregnancy I learned that it didn't really matter who I was seeing I would get whoever was on call when I went to hospital. That was my fist real disappointment.
The morning I went into labor I had some bleeding, I didn't know that birth sometimes started with a little bloody show. The prenatal appointments I had been going to where not very informative. They were quick and cold, there was no relationship built, or warmth put into my baby and myself. I don't recall anyone ever palpating my growing belly. Mostly I was weighed and told not to gain too much weight. So the blood came as shock. I went to the hospital, was put on a monitor, checked and told that I would probably be having my baby today. Then they let me go home. That was the best thing that could have happened at that moment. I went home, lit some candles, and labored up in our bedroom while Mike, my husband, watched Talladega Nights. (This only matters because some lines from the movie must have crept into my head and became my rally cries as I labored in the hospital. I yelled something about sweet baby Jesus a handful of times, enough so that I felt I should apologize after it was all said and done least I offend someone who loved baby Jesus.)
The labor itself was pretty straight forward for a hospital birth. I got all the bells and whistles. The epidural took the pain away but made me shake, vomit, and not really remember what happened. The thing that stood out the most was after I had been pushing for some time and the on call doctor (who I had never met!) stuck his head in and said if I didn't push this baby out soon he was going have to perform a cesarean. He literally just cracked the door and poked his head in to say this to me. That jerk later put an internal fetal monitor on my baby and pulled her out with a vacuum. I'll never forget the vacuum popping off my sweet baby's head as he pulled on her. It had to be reapplied a couple of times. At 11:50pm my little, wet, Sofia was born. She came into they world by force, immediately washed, swaddled and passed around the room while I lay there in shock asking for a coke.
Now some of this is my responsibility. I missed my opportunities to educate myself on how birth could be. I went to some lame hospital childbirth education class where the teacher scoffed at me when I said I wanted to have the baby without pain meds. I could have looked further into the things I could do to make this birth mine, but I trusted my midwife. I trusted the hospital.
I became pregnant again 10 months after Sofia was born. This pregnancy was planned, in fact it only took the one time trying to conceive. I knew I wasn't going to return to Westerly Hospital and that same practice. I went to the CNM every crunchy mom in the state recommended. I would deliver in a hospital again, but this time I thought it would be different because, well, this CNM basically made the skies part and angels sing. Home birth wasn't entirely foreign to me at this point, but it was not easily accessible. And since I was seeing *the best* CNM I thought, well, at least insurance will pay for this.
My prenatal care was a little better. Visits were still really short and somewhat cold. There was concern about gestational diabetes and me getting too fat, baby too big. I tell you to be fat and pregnant is not an easy road, so much judgement, stereotyping and fear in the medical community. Bonkers.
Matilda was born after a 12 hour induction. I of course needed to be induced at 39 weeks because my placenta was failing, I was fat, and my baby was going be too big. Other than the induction medication, cervidil, I received no other meds. It felt so good to labor and move and just be in my body during this birth. (but I did feel the need to apologize for NWA playing on my iPod that we had there on shuffle... ha!) Of course the phenomenal local midwife I traveled and hour plus just see for each prenatal visit was unable to attend my birth, it wasn't her call night. Seriously.
My baby came out wet, pink, and loud. She went right onto my chest and immediately latched on to my breast. I did have a massive tear, likely because I blasted her out due to the fear I had from my last birth with the vacuum and everything. But she was good, and I was better this time.
These two births, they progressed my independence and bodily autonomy. I don't think I ever really got to the place I wanted to be. I think I was close. I think if only there had been more midwives, more home birth, more conversations about what birth could be, I might have been able to get where I wanted to be. There needed to be more talk about how important pregnancy is, how tender and transformative postpartum is. I think that if more of these things had been in my world I would birthed Matilda in my kitchen in my old stone house, surrounded by her sister, dad, and our two dogs. I know this.
I initially went into birth work to be a doula. I wanted to support, educate and empower women. Assist them in having the births that they wanted. But all this did was take me back into the hospital system and show me over and over the same disempowerment I felt as it happened to others. It was not easy work for my heart, I had no control over what happened in that environment. One day it clicked and I realized that in order to have a space for people to birth the way they wanted I would have to provide that space. I would need to be a midwife. And in doing so, in being a midwife I would also be adding to the choices available to birthing people. I would be one more option, visible and available so that if someone did not want to labor on a gurney in a hospital gown they didn't have to.
I dream of warm summer births that happen outside while cicadas sing, welcoming new souls in quiet births under lit decorated Christmas trees, watching women lift their own babies from out of tubs in their bathroom, bedroom, living room. Wherever they wish, in whatever manner they envision. So I became (or am becoming) a midwife.