I actually haven’t seen even a full episode of the TV series “Call the Midwives”, so I can’t say much about it one way or another. But with my due date literally only days away (4 – to be exact), midwives, and calling them, have been very much on my mind. I have some great ones, and they also assisted with my last two deliveries. (I’ll share some more on that in a minute)
Historically, all you had was midwives. The term midwife is derived from Middle English: midwyf literally “with-woman”, i.e. “the woman with (the mother at birth), the woman assisting” (in Middle English and Old English, mid = “with”, wīf = “woman”). It’s only been the last hundred years that doctors have become the main facilitators of birth in North America. In many other countries midwives are often still the primary birth attendance, equaling less intervention and ofttimes (in first world countries) lower maternal death rate .
I grew up in a community which had many older occupants who’d been delivered by the same midwife. The woman was a legend. Thousands of live births with no moralities of mother or child.
I could talk for hours about why I love midwives and why I think that for a healthy pregnancy and birth they are the best options, but instead I’ll just share my experiences.
Baby # 1:
Loving control of myself and my life as much as I do, I knew I wanted midwives before I even got married. My new husband, figuring it was my body and respecting my opinion, kept his mouth shut though he remained uncertain. About nine months after our wedding, I found myself about nine months pregnant. The pregnancy up to this point had been ideal and I was sold on the idea of a home-birth with midwives. Unfortunately at 38 weeks my usually very low blood pressure decided to play on the other side of the spectrum.
By 39 weeks I took a drive with my midwife to the hospital to have it monitored. By the end of our two hour session, we called an OB in to consult with. His opinion (or at least, the one he stated) was immediate induction. My blood pressure was pretty high, but I was confident not much was going to change in the next hour or so. Having a home birth planed, I wasn’t packed for the hospital and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast (it was now after four pm). I said I wanted to go home, pack, eat supper and then come back for the induction. The OB didn’t like this idea and tried to scare us into staying, naming every possible awful outcome from taking the extra hour to prepare myself. I consulted with my midwife, who, while not “disagreeing” with anything the OB said, painted a more realistic picture of where we were at and our reasonable options.
We went home.
About two hours later we got back to the hospital and I was induced with a small gel insert (prostaglandins) to see if that would get us started (I was two cm). A nurse helping out paused long enough to tell me I should get the epidural right away because of my blood-pressure, which was sure to rise in labor. I just smiled and said, “No, thank you.” Honestly the thought of an epidural and the complications that often arise from its use threatened to raise my blood-pressure more than pain. (After the birth we told one of my midwives what the nurse told us and she got quite upset that such was suggested as a “need”.)
My body reacted well to the mild induction and by 10:30 pm my body took over on it’s own and the gel was removed. Minute and a half contractions, a minute and a half apart made for a lovely wave across the monitor and my midwife again took over our care. Thankfully! Every hour or so she would hook me up to the machines to make sure all was well with BP and baby, but other than that I could spend my time walking the halls (I couldn’t stand to lay down for long) or hang out in the shower (hot water was just as good as any epidural for keeping that BP down and the pain manageable.)
Around 1 am I finally breached 4 cm and could move up to a labor and delivery room. My water broke half way to the stairs (Yep, I chose to take the stairs to help baby move down). Once upstairs, the birthing ball became my friend (I even fell asleep on it a couple times between contractions and hubby had to catch me!) and the monitor — my mortal enemy. The feel of those bands around my already pained uterus was just too much. Thankfully my midwife didn’t say much when she came back to find it without me as I’d escaped back into the shower. 🙂
By 4 am I stared feeling “pushy” and the midwife checked to find I was fully dilated. Yay! Except, wow, I hated pushing. The intensity of the sensation, and the need of my body to take over complete control was hard on me (I like to be the one in control!) Finding the most comfortable position was the next fun part. I tried several before ending up on my hands and knees, draped over the raised head of the bed. An hour later (though it honestly felt like a half-hour thanks to breaks between contractions), my baby was guided to the bed and I turned around to take him in my arms. Perfect. It was 5:35 am.
I’d like to say that was it, but probably due to the BP and/or induction, the placenta didn’t do it’s part and the full medical team was called in to keep me from bleeding to death. I’d never argue that Doctors and modern medicine and technology doesn’t have a place.
My midwife care continued for the six weeks after the baby, them coming to my home often in the first few days to check up on me and baby. Their care was professional, caring, well integrated, but most of all, about me and my baby and what I wanted.
Stay tuned for Birth story #2- a natural water-birth…in the hospital.