Believe in your fellow midwives

I believe in midwifery, and I believe in midwives. I believe that each midwife does everything she can in her care of women and families, each and every time. And I refuse to let that belief falter. And I believe all of my fellow midwives believe in the same things, but at times might forget.

We all came, and continue to draw, from a love of midwifery. We all followed experienced midwives, we all had a class of fellow midwife students who challenged and encouraged us, and we all absorbed other practices and eventually created our own. We became midwives for a reason. First and foremost, we love and respect women. And we believe in midwifery care.

The care midwives provide to women is individualized. Each and every woman for whom, and with whom, we are fortunate enough to provide midwifery care, has different needs. Midwives’ flexibility, holistic approach, and utmost respect for each woman’s uniqueness, is an absolute beauty of the profession. To provide diverse care is to provide compassionate care.

In attending birth, for all midwives, there is a struggle between strength of belief in the normalcy of the process and the recognition of the unknown, unexpected, and need for rapid action. Each midwife manages this struggle in their own way, the tips of the scale weighed by past experiences, comfort levels, the woman herself, and birth place. The goal of every midwife attending birth is a healthy woman and healthy baby.

Midwives constantly grapple with the role of the profession within a vast continuum of healthcare: starting from the midwife them-self, to the group of midwives in the practice, to the collaborating providers, to the community healthcare groups, to the state and national works of obstetrical and gynecological care. Being a midwife is not as simple as just “being a midwife.” This wider interconnectedness guides our practice, affects us as individuals and as a group, and affects and drives midwifery care.

As a new graduate, I have been blindsided by the amount of negativity spoken about midwives by collaborators, Attendings, and Residents. Particularly in environments where midwives are in an uphill battle to provide midwifery care in the face of opposition, the midwifery ideal of having patience with the process, is challenged regularly. It is in environments like these that I have been most particularly surprised by midwives speaking badly about each other. “She is a great midwife but…” “He really does this well, except…” “I don’t know why she did that, she still has a lot to learn about…” “She always leaves women to be delivered by the night shift because…” “She was a nurse for a long time prior to being a midwife so that’s why she… ” I heard this in places where I rotated as a student, where I currently work, and from friends who are in similar practices.

This language is overheard, learned, and perpetrated. It echoes in the world of women’s healthcare to create a negative environment around that midwife them-self and the group as a whole. It also generates a learned history about midwifery care by students entering nursing, midwifery, and medicine. Midwifery as a profession, as a belief system, and as a movement, is on the rise, and we need to find ways to ensure the everyday conversations that culminate in our current cultural story lend themselves to our professional achievement and growth.

I implore of all midwives to always speak well of other midwives. We are in this – this work,this profession, this fight – together. Today, while I am attending a birth, so are you on the West Coast, so is he in The Gambia, so is she in London, so are they in Australia. I remind women of this in the throes of their labor, when the going gets particularly tough, that they are doing this with women all over the world at this very moment. And, fellow midwives, so are we. There are midwives caring for women at the exact time we are, all over the world. What we say, how we speak of midwives and midwifery, should always be with words of encouragement and respect. This gives credence and love to the work of all of us, every day.

We are all students of life, and professionally lifelong students of midwifery. If we wonder why a midwife practices differently than ourselves, let us ask them in the spirit of learning and love toward the spectrum of midwifery care, rather than with intent to critique or negate their work. When reading another Midwife’s notes about a birth or a well-care visit, let us recognize that we were not in the room to know exactly what caused the midwife to provide the care she did, to have that care be different than the time before, or to be different than the care we ourselves would have provided. If and when a non-midwife provider speaks negatively of ourself or another midwife, let us find strength in language to speak positively about them, about midwifery, and about everyone’s work in obstetric and gynecological care.

Let us fight for midwifery in our everyday work, in our relationships with other healthcare providers, and in our language in speaking of one another. Let us continue to believe in midwifery care. Let us continue to believe in each other.


  1. says

    I’m a lactation counselor. And student CNM starting fall 2013 atYale (if I get the $$). The lactation consultants in my region have an unspoken pact: do not speak ill of another LC, ever, since its safe to assume she chose the best care plan possible in the situation at hand. She did her best under the circumstances.

    This positive, collaborative and trusting approach is my hope for CNM practice.

    I appreciate your call to speak well of colleagues in women’s health arenas. I adore your blog to no end. Thank you.

    • Feminist Midwife says

      Thanks so much for this comment! It really made my day to read this morning, and is inspiring in so many ways. Best of luck at Yale!!!

  2. ecd says

    I love this reminder. And I think it’s applicable across the spectrum of health care provision. I’ve been shocked at times by the way I’ve heard my in-mentorship-type-roles colleagues disparage others’ practices. It happens, it seems to me, when someone is practicing differently than how said naysayer practices, or when there’s a question that needs to be answered about patient care that isn’t clear through the chart. In the latter example, sure, it’s frustrating, but it also seems a very ungenerous reading of colleagues’ practices. There is an NP in our group who is part time and has been there less than a year, and this very topic came up one day in conversation, and the way she put it resonated with me: “I am shocked, sometimes, at the lack of respect that’s shown for other peoples’ practices here.” In my setting, it seems to also be informed in not a small way by some sort of weird ego-protection type thing–if I can disparage another practitioner, I can boost myself up by illuminating how I don’t practice that way, how much better my way must be if I preemptively point out how stoopid this other way is (also conveniently dodges a critical inquiry into one’s own practice). How ugly it is, truly. And what an insidious culture it sets up, as you say. Maybe as we become seasoned we notice it less, but as a new practitioner I’m very sensitive to the scorn and derision leveled out in subtle or not-so-subtle ways by collegues. It leaves me thinking, “you know, if you didn’t know me and you saw some of my charts or were following up on some of my clinical decision making, you’d be saying these things about me I betcha.” It shakes my confidence and seriously inhibits a safe environment for collaboration, one where, as you put so beautifully, “If we wonder why a [clinician] practices differently than ourselves, [we can] ask them in the spirit of learning and love toward the spectrum of…care, rather than with intent to critique or negate their work.”

    Inspiration strikes again in the form of the Feminist Midwife. I resolve to speak up to this point when it happens this week. Gracias. xo.


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