Republishing this post from early 2013 as I head to Denver for the Annual Meeting. Remembering difficult conversations at prior meetings, and hoping we continue to only move forward in our work.
I believe in midwifery, and I believe in midwives. I believe that each midwife does everything they can in their 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.