Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy International Day of the Midwife!

Clearly Hallmark hasn't done their research, because if they had, they'd know that there's a huge market for "Happy International Day of the Midwife" cards. Ok, so the the title of today's celebration could use a little work, it's a little clunky, but still. Women love their midwives, anyone who has enjoyed the privilege of midwifery care can attest to that (can I get a holla?).

Our first two babies were born in a hospital, under OB care. The same doctor followed me for both pregnancies, however, she did not deliver either of my babies. Truth be told, I don't know who delivered Maddy or Hannah. My OB seemed nice enough, my appointments were always quite brief, usually checking my weight and blood pressure. No small talk, no banter, just straight to business. Fair enough, time is money, I get that. When I was pregnant with Maddy and Hannah, I assumed that's how all babies were born, in hospitals under OB care. I didn't realize midwifery care was an option, and I certainly had no idea that babies were born at home on purpose (gasp!).

Maddy's birth was OK, as OK as anything can be that involves squeezing something really big out of something really small, if you catch my drift. Before I continue, I'm going to confess I'm not a birth junkie. Giving birth hurts. And it's extremely messy. And you try not farting when you're trying to squeeze something really big out of something really small. But I'm getting off track here. I happen to really like babies, so I put up with the whole birth thing, it's a means to an end. I had an epidural for both Maddy and Hannah's birth, as it turns out, being numb up to your chin is a great alternative to the pain associated with pushing something really big out of something really small. However, being numb up to your chin isn't so great for the actual act of pushing something really big out of something really small. Maddy was born after about three hours of pushing, Hannah's birth involved pushing for about two hours. Can you imagine how tiring it is to push something really big out of something really small for three hours? It's really tiring.

I became aware of midwife-assisted births after Hannah was born, so when Owen was conceived, I called the Ottawa Midwifery Group. I was extremely fortunate, and I was accepted as a client immediately. This time around, I wanted to know who was going to deliver my baby, and I wanted to avoid the epidural. I'm convinced that not being able to feel what was happening was the reason why I had such a hard time pushing Maddy and Hannah out.

The thing that struck me most about my care under midwives was how friendly they were. Our appointments were not strictly about weight and blood pressure, in fact, they didn't weigh me at all! They asked me if I wanted to be weighed, and I said "no", and that was it. That's how everything went at my appointments, I was presented with options, and given choices. Under the care of my midwives, I felt I was a part of the decision-making process.

When it came time to give birth to Owen, my primary midwife spent about five hours with me before he was born. It was a hot August day, we spent a lot of time on our backyard deck alternating between chatting and throwing up (me, not her). To say I'm not graceful while birthing is an understatement. I was a barfy, moaning, sweaty mess. Through it all, my midwife held my hair out of the way and rubbed my back, never missing a beat. Owen, all almost-ten-pounds of him, was born after twenty minutes of pushing. Since I had been so long without food or drink, Chantal made a point to get me a glass of water and some yogurt, spoon-feeding me as I put our new son to my breast. Her care and compassion in that moment spoke volumes about her motivation for doing what she does. Owen's birth was followed by several home visits, Chantal and Josee came back to weigh Owen, check on my recovery, and ensure breastfeeding was going well. When my six-week postpartum appointment rolled around, like most women, I was sad to say good-bye. After being under their care for nine months, Chantal and Josee were more than care providers, I considered them friends.

Like her brother before her, Grace was born at home under the care of a midwife. Most people, once they've experienced a midwife-attended birth, never look back. We are very fortunate in Ontario, midwifery care is fully covered by OHIP. When friends announce they are TTC or expecting, I am quick to suggest they consider using a midwife. If you are TTC or expecting, I would urge you to do the same. If you're unsure, at least get your name on the waiting list (there will be a waiting list, that's how popular midwives are!). Midwives are trained professionals (four years of university, thankyouverymuch!), they can attend births in a home or a hospital setting. You owe it to yourself and your baby to fully explore your birthing options.


  1. All 3 of our little ones were born with midwives. I couldn't imagine having it any other way. I was very lucky. I went to my GP just before conceiving to talk about everything. She suggested midwifery and I thought that meant birthing in the middle of a field - ha! I LOVED my experiences with them. First born was in hospital with an epidural (after 12 hours of hard labour even the midwives were done). Baby # 2 was born at home because she came too fast - not fun. Then number 3 was the type of birth that makes you want to have an army of children. It was beautiful.

    I miss my midwife - she was wonderful. I reccomend that all women look into it. But call - the minute you conceive.

  2. I just had a baby, and also used midwives. I was planning a homebirth, but unfortunatly ended up in the hospital with a c-section, but the midwives were there the whole time, and took care of my baby while I was being stitched up. It was a great experience, and I'm missing my weekly visits. I definitly plan on visiting them just to weigh her and have a chat. I would recommend midwives to anyone.

  3. I had midwives for both my pregnancies. Unfortunately the first one ended with a miscarriage about 12 weeks in. I met with my midwife a few days afterward for a follow-up and she sat on the couch and cried with me. Betcha OB's don't do that! Betcha OB's also don't say during labour "don't worry about a little poo. We love it when we see poo. It means the baby is coming!"

    My second pregnancy went well and I had the same midwife. I delivered at home, 2 weeks early and after only 4 hours of labour, in a birthing tub supplied by the Cambridge Midwives. There was no mess and it was wonderful to be home. I had a 2nd degree tear that the midwives were able to stitch up right at home and their at-home visits after the birth meant that I didn't have to leave the house for 10 days after the birth. Lovely!

    The level of care provided by the midwives is incredible and the relaxed atmosphere and long, 1-hour appointments give plenty of opportunity to ask questions and to get to know one another. It absolutely boggles my mind when people tell me they have chosen NOT to go with a midwife.

  4. I am just weeks away from the birth of my second. My first was a fabulous home birth with midwives that we wanted to repeat this time around. Unfortunately we had moved with the military recently to rural Northern Alberta where midwives (let along home birth!) were not an option. But, both my husband and I felt so strongly about how we wanted to birth this baby that we decided to pay for midwifery services out of our own pocket and spend 6-8 weeks at my sisters home on Vancouver Island in order to wait for and birth our baby "at home". It was a big decision, with some definite risks and financial committments, but one we feel strongly about and I am so happy that this little one will receive the same loving welcome from Emma (our midwife) that our oldest did!

  5. Another thing that I have recently learned is that even if you don't think you can get in with a midwife (i.e. you are more than about 6 weeks pregnant...), apply anyway. Not just because you *might* get in, but also because when they have to turn people away, they keep records of that. When the province (aka OHIP) sees how many people are being turned away, they use that to adjust their funding for training and hiring/allowing more midwives. So, the more people who get turned away, the more midwives available in the future. Interesting.