My Job?

Life and death. In good times my job is the most joyous…and in bad times it can truly suck.

This morning I attended a beautiful birth in this family’s bedroom. Just 2 years prior I had attended the birth of their first baby, a daughter. With the rising of the sun, a baby (gender not yet known) slipped gently into a doula’s tub and into daddy’s waiting hands. Both dad and mom lifted baby up and held her like Simba being unveiled in The Lion King. They looked together and announced to each other – another girl!! She sputtered, then protested by letting out a grumpy whine. Mom cradled her new daughter in her arms and golden sunlight filled our area of the world.

Approximately 12 hours earlier I had gotten a phone call from another client – at 11 weeks she had begun to spot and was scared. As soon as possible we met at my office. I gave her a brief hug and brought her immediately to lay down on the exam bed. As I put my hands on her belly my heart sank….I did not feel 11 weeks worth of uterus under my hands. Still, knowing I could be wrong, I put the Doppler down and began to search. The mom told me that she had felt like something was wrong, that she didn’t feel like her uterus had grown like it had last time. I stopped the Doppler and said yes, my hands felt the same thing and let’s get an ultrasound for some answers. Several phone calls later (labs all closed for the night) and calling in a favor for someone who does ultrasounds that I know…..and they were off to wait for answers. I tried to stay strong and professional for them, but as the door closed my eyes teared up. Why them…why do I always feel so helpless. In a couple of hours I got the phone call I didn’t want to get – the baby was only measuring 7 weeks of gestation, not 11, with no heartbeat. They will call in the morning and make an appointment to sit down and discussion options.

And my heart broke.

Then the sweet little girl born in her bedroom reminded me….how lucky I am when immersed in the most joyous of events. That I shouldn’t take those perfect moments for granted. It’s those moments that refill my soul with love and gratitude and all that is holy so that I may have the ability to then gift those things to my clients that need them.

I came home exhausted from lack of sleep, but feeling a peaceful triumph. And now, as I look at the clock, I wait the passing minutes until I have to leave and have a conversation I don’t want to have. What will make this better for them? What will ease their pain? Absolutely nothing. I will listen, I will explain, I might even cry….and I know that it still will make no difference. They will still lose their baby.

I’ve had people tell me that they couldn’t do my job because they don’t want to have to deal with a mother who is bleeding too much, or a baby that comes out not breathing….but almost always we can fix those things!! I stress, I sweat, I grind my teeth….and when I leave a healthy and stable baby in the arms of a healthy and stable mother, that is when I know I made a difference! I did my job and this family has a better outcome because of it! What’s not to love about that?! Or if I’m not needed because they have a smooth ‘butter birth’ (baby slips out smooth was butter) and I never had to get my gloves dirty…that just renews the joy reserves in my soul!

But telling a family they lost their baby, nothing can be done, nothing could be done. Then what the hell am I for?? That is when I want to scream and that is when I feel useless. There’s nothing I or anyone else can do. I offer love, but it’s of little comfort in a time like that. I offer my shoulders, a hug, my tears – but the outcome is the same. I say to them, “I would do anything to make this better for you.” And I mean that with all of my heart.

I am just really lucky that the beauty of welcoming new life into the world, seeing those eyes open to light for the first time, watching their mouth make its very first sound, snuggled in their mother’s arms….that is what makes all of the other crap worth it. So thank you to the baby that I was blessed to meet this morning, and I pray for the wisdom to say the right words to this family that is saying goodbye to theirs.

That is all I can think of to write for today.


  1. Karen Joy wrote:

    That was beautiful.

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Permalink
  2. Erika wrote:

    Sometimes I think it is so hard for midwives when a client suffers a loss because we know the joy they have just been robbed of. We KNOW how good it could have been.

    As a caregiver, I tend to forget that there are times when I need cared for too. Often, it is another midwife that will gently remind me to “take care of you”.

    Gently, wonderful Stephanie, “take care of you”.

    And you know, you just might hear some joy filled news from this mom again in the near future. She will never forget how you cared for her.(((Hugs)))

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Permalink
  3. Rebecca wrote:

    This is why you are the person we all love. You are compassionate and heartfelt in trying times and amazing and overflowing with happiness alongside us as we transform into parents.

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Permalink
  4. Bethany wrote:

    Thank you. You put into words what I’ve struggled to. When people tell me what an amazing job I get to do, I agree–I couldn’t agree more…but often they don’t see the heartbreak, the tears, the questions, the not understanding. It’s not that I don’t want to walk with parents through those times–but I wish “those times” never happened.

    Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink
  5. Mel wrote:

    But I just want to tell you, as a woman that has miscarried 5 out of 7 times (another was an ectopic, only one a live birth)……

    What you do for moms who lose their babies is amazing, too. Priceless, really. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You may be the only person–and likely the only care provider type–who helps her rather than hurts her as she goes through this.

    I’m one of the lucky ones. My CNM was gentle, showed me that she cared, made space for me to make my decisions within her helpful descriptions of the options, checked up on me as I went through the actual physical process of miscarrying, and when I was ready, followed up on my questions and the need to investigate. She put me in contact with the hospital bereavement counselor, who came to my house, picked up my little girl’s body with reverence, and told me exactly how they would take care of her.

    By contrast, every single other person I know who has gone through a miscarriage is not only scarred be the experience (who could escape it?) but also scarred by how they were treated.

    Thank you for taking away some of the pain of losing a baby. Thank you for not adding to a mom’s burden. Thank you for not only helping her in the only (small, but important) ways possible, but also for modeling for the dad how he can love and support his wife, and that there is room for him to grieve his loss, too.

    Sunday, August 7, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Permalink
  6. Sarah wrote:

    But why do we love you and invite you to be a part of our future joys? Especially those of us who barely met you? Those of us who lose the life we love, so early?

    It’s because you love us and our unborn children in a way that some cannot. It’s because you will cry, and it’s because you will hurt with us. It’s because you know that nothing you say will take away the pain of loosing the child we’ve waited for. It’s because you share in our brokenness and emptiness that you deserve to be a part of our fullness and joy. It’s because you choose to feel for us and with us instead of turning to shield yourself from the pain.

    I assure you, the words you say in the moment help. They help us heal. They show us your genuine heart. They make us wiser and stronger. They even give us room to let go of unnecessary guilt. They raise us up to hope for the future. And I THANK YOU for others and for myself and my family!

    Monday, August 8, 2011 at 12:32 am | Permalink
  7. Tinisha wrote:

    Why You have a place in my heart. Forever.

    Monday, August 8, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Permalink
  8. Amy Drorbaugh wrote:

    I know you feel useless Stephanie, in these situations, but as a mom who has lost several babies now it is such a relief to be able to call you. Because I know that you will grieve with me, cry with me, and understand what I’m going through. Compare that to the first time I miscarried and the clinical response of my care team who told me I had a “missed abortion” of my “fetus” that “happened all the time” and was “nothing to worry about.” Every woman should have a midwife like you when going through that horrible experience.

    Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 1:00 am | Permalink
  9. Kelli wrote:

    I just think you should know, that when I miscarried a few months ago a frequent thought of mine was how glad I was to have you as a provider to go through this with, that with just anybody I could not handle it, certainly not as well. I realized that as much as I want to share the joys of my childbearing experiences with you, what I need you for are those other things, I need a provider who will truely love me through it with my family esp. when its a trial, its just a wonderful benefit to have you love me through the good times too. There may be nothing you can do to change it but you were far from useless to me in my experience of loss.

    Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink
  10. Latisha wrote:

    I lost two babies at 12 weeks, and I didn’t have a midwife to tell me those beautiful things that you told this couple. Believe me, you ARE important even in the losses! Having your emotional support is such a blessing!

    Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 10:52 pm | Permalink
  11. Cerise wrote:

    I love you…you are a wonderful person, and an amazing midwife. Thank you for who you are and what you do.

    Sunday, August 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

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