In Praise of Midwives, Among Others
I am informed that this is National Midwifery Week.
As tired as I am of the various insert-your-cause awareness months, weeks and days that litter PR media-buy calendars everywhere, I thought this might be as good a time as any to thank a group of folks I admire, and to whom I am profoundly grateful.
The title is a bit misleading, as this is not a post in praise of a particular model of maternity care, or type of attendant; it is a post in awe of birth, wherever and however it happens, and in thanks to the people who help women and babies safely negotiate the process of birth.
Birth is a miracle–a profound experience for anyone who undertakes it, and for anyone who witnesses it. In the way of miracles, it can be both beautiful and terrifying. And dangerous. It usually involves pain,and often involves sacrifice.
Deciding to have a child by any means is a leap into the void. It’s a free-fall, and you don’t know where you’re going to end up, but you suspect it’ll be a helluva ride. Pregnancy and birth are just a first step off the precipice. One quarter of the time, the ride ends before it even gets going. You’re brought up short, and sent back to the top of the cliff to start anew.
For those that continue on the journey, the ride can be clean, and smooth and oh-so-exhilarating.
My daughter’s birth was like that–easy, smooth, wonderful. Here’s to the OB that did absolutely nothing but catch and stitch.
Or it can be filled with bumps, both small and catastrophic.
My son’s birth was like that—late, induced, OP, shoulder dystocia. Here’s to the midwife who sprang into action, called for help and resolved the problem before the bump became a fatal blow. Here’s to the neonatologists, who did nothing, but were ready to do all. Here’s to the nurse who held my leg, the nurse who held the oxygen mask, and the nurse who pushed on my belly while the midwife had her hands inside me, pulling my son towards life.
Birth can be cataclysm.
My friend Jane’s son’s birth was like that. She had a sudden and total placental abruption. Here’s to the OB that saved her life with transfusions and, in the end, by removing her uterus. Here’s to the neonatologists who resuscitated her son—now profoundly disabled, but very much alive and adored all the more for the difficult miracle of his existence. Here’s to the anesthesiologists, nurses, pediatricians—everyone who made it possible for Jane, her husband, and their little boy to enjoy their life as a family of three instead of a dream in the memory of one.
Here’s to all the midwives, OBs, family docs, nurses, neonatologists, pediatricians. Here’s to the years of training, the sleepless nights, the family dinners missed, the willingness to walk a tightrope between doing too much too soon and doing too little too late. Here’s to the ones who listen to the women in their care, and the ones who tell them what they need to know but might not want to hear. Here’s to the people who hold the responsibility for life and death in their hearts, hands and heads every day.
Thank you all.