My Midwifery Demon

Midwife – that word is one of the craziest words I know. What does it mean to be a midwife? I’ve written many blog posts about all of the blessings I feel having such an incredibly important responsibility as well as how I feel about the highest of compliments…the gift…the honor…of being asked to attend someone during their birthing time. I hope my passion for my work has come through in all of the blog posts preceding this one (like this one “Being a Midwife“), as it really is as much my life as being a mother is. And, like being a mother, we cherish and adore our kids, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t CERTAIN ASPECTS of it that cause us to grumble or complain.

So I shall complain here today.

I would do anything to help…but sometimes all I can do is love and witness.

Birth is unpredictable – most people know that. It’s also uncontrollable. Oh we try with our drugs and our tools…but birth is more powerful than any of that and is impossible to control. There are times when I would give ANYTHING to help that mother’s journey be gentler on her! I would give anything to return that heartbeat to that 10 week fetus that, until 2 weeks ago, was growing inside her womb. I would give anything not to have to deliver the news that the test we performed came back concerning. Unfortunately, none of that is within my control. I have to bear witness, share the news, and help the best I can…but sometimes I CAN’T FIX IT! And that breaks my heart.

 

You see, midwifery to me isn’t a job…it’s a life. It’s not like a plumber telling someone, “Sorry, you need a new toilet. Sucks to be you.” I love – really love deep down in my soul – my clients. When they hurt, I hurt.

When I have to hug them goodbye at their final appointment with me (usually 6 weeks), my heart breaks. I will miss them. Oftentimes I turn from the door and busy myself quickly with other things – because I’m going to break into tears if I don’t. It is so much easier when I know that they will have more babies and assure me that I will be seeing them soon…that doesn’t seem like ‘goodbye’ but rather ‘see you soon’. I do much better with those. I often wonder if they know how I feel – or do they think this is just another appointment? Do they think I’m just “doing my job”, or do they know how deeply I care about them and their entire family. Do they realize how THRILLED I am when I see their name come up on my phone when I get a call from them? Have I been able to show them these things? And I wonder if they feel the same about me – or was I just someone they hired for a job? Did I make a difference?

I help big brother and his sisters listen to the new baby’s heartbeat. I was at both sisters’ births and will be at the new baby’s birth….the love I feel for this mama and these kids is simply indescribable.

One of the absolute hardest parts of this job is to give completely, knowing I will have to let them go out of my life. It’s transient…life goes on, babies will be born, and the families will continue with their life, and because they aren’t pregnant their lives no longer need to include me. I hold a “Families Reunion Picnic” once a year to help me cope with this very thing. It was simply unbearable to me to say goodbye time after time after time, so once a year I have the possibility of seeing them again. Quietly, away from the crowds, I usually share with my husband, “That one in the pink skirt? She’s the one that had the 10.5 pound baby 2 years ago. The one over there with the curly hair? Her little boy came out after 3 pushes, blinked at us, yawned, and went right to sleep in her arms! That one over there….what happened with her was…” As I review birth after birth after birth, my husband has said to me, “HOW can you POSSIBLY remember every single birth you’ve attended.” I remember the first time he asked me that and it seemed such an odd question to me. My response is always the same – how can I ever possibly forget?

There are times when I wish I could be more objective, that I could care less, just ‘do my job’. Having helped welcome someone’s baby into this world, but not being able to help with with a subsequent baby – yeah, it hurts. Having someone who I have witnessed birth their baby (or even multiple babies!) who then move and I’m unable to be there! This has happened several times and, while I was thrilled to witness their journey from afar, it broke my heart that I couldn’t be there for them! Or, because of my associations on Facebook, knowing that someone I know has chosen a different midwife for a subsequent baby – we have some AMAZING midwives where I practice and I’d trust any one of them with my baby’s birth any day! And even though I’ve had clients who hired me that I knew previously birthed with other midwives, when it happens to me there’s still the twinge of, “did I do something wrong?” Why? Because I give everything I have to every single birth. Because I have such a reverence for this profession that I don’t ever feel like I could ever be good enough to be worthy of such an honor. Because even though I know that not every midwife is right for every client, I try SO HARD to do the absolute best job that I can every single solitary time, that even though they might have chosen another midwife because she was cheaper/closer/better hours/or just because they like her more….I’m still left wondering if there was anything I could have done to be better for them.

My job comes with joys galore…but there is a healthy amount of pain that can be involved as well. And fear. There, I said it….the evil word not every midwife will mention. Fear. I do have fears…I fear that I won’t be worthy of the honor of being at that family’s birth. I will say the wrong thing during the birth, won’t make her feel the love I have for her in my heart. I fear that she will think I didn’t do enough…or that I did too much. I fear that she won’t be happy – she only gets one shot at this day! This is the most important event in her life and I will do my ABSOLUTE BEST to make it the BEST experience it can be. But remember that it’s uncontrollable. What if I fail. What if the uncontrollable happens and she’s disappointed not in the situation but in me? What if she interprets my presence as intrusive rather than supportive? What if she thinks that I don’t care and that’s why I’m in the other room. That happened once – she thought I didn’t believe in her or that she was close to birthing her baby and that’s why I kept leaving the room – when the fact was that my stomach was upset and I had to keep leaving the house to go outside to FART because they smelled THAT TERRIBLE!! Yeah….everyone laughs at it now, but knowing that she felt that way during the most important day of her life tore me up inside. If this was just a job, then maybe I could laugh as well. I could see the humor in it. Instead, I see that this powerful birthing mother felt I was abandoning her.

I don’t know that I would actually want it any other way. For ME, I wish I cared less….but would that make me a better midwife? I don’t think so. I have to resolve myself to the fact that if I give 100% of myself and it’s not good enough, then there’s nothing more I could have done. I can only do the best I can do…I simply am incapable of doing any more. I am not perfect, I will make mistakes despite trying my hardest. I will continue to cry with my clients, try my absolute best to be whatever they need as they travel their birthing journey, and give for as long as I can.

And then I will retire….as I honestly believe that birthing families deserve no less than all of me. I had another midwife recently tell me that she had grown to a point where, “If it’s keeping me up at night, it’s not worth it….no client is worth that.” I often lose sleep…did I do enough? How is baby eating? I wonder how she’s healing? I hope she’s happy? I hope dad feels happy with how things went?

I hear other midwives around the country talk about the downside of being on-call, lament how frustrated they are with the hours, dealing with bodily fluids, etc. My demon is the personal side….trying so hard and knowing that it won’t always be enough. There will always be challenging births, there will always be clients who move or chose other midwives.

There will always be those times when I wonder how I can keep doing this job because my heart is so injured.

And then I’ll get the call. And another sweet baby enters the world. And the mother looks at me with tears in her eyes and says, “Thank you!” And I will say to myself, “How can I not do this job….”

7 Comments

  1. And this is why you are our midwife! I trust in your abilities, of course. I like your level of caution and know you will keep me and my baby safe. But it’s alot easier to really trust your midwife when you know she loves your baby and your family almost as much as you do! That’s a pretty special thing. My kids might grow up and we might stop having babies but you will always, always be a part of our family.

    Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  2. KELLI wrote:

    I relate to your personal-side passion and think the same things “I can I cope…how I can I NOT do this?” I felt that from you the first time we met, Joe did too. I have so much to learn from you because I too invest my heart deep into birth work. I love the way you are. Everytime I show pictures of my birth I show the one of you holding my baby cheek to cheek after singing him happy birthday and whispering in his ear and to the person looking I say “Do you see how much she loves us? I love how much she loves us.” And even those who had crazy-eyes upon hearing my birth was at home sing a different tune after seeing that and say how lucky I am and how wonderful birth must be with a provider like you. Then they get it.

    Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
  3. Sunny Hyatt wrote:

    Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing this. I don’t know how you can have me laughing out loud and balling my eyes out at the same time while reading. Only you can accomplish that!! You are so genuine in every way and your love for your clients radiates from every fiber of your being. Thank you for your sacrifice on our behalf. I know I speak for all of us when it comes to our pure admiration for you. Thank you for the memories and experiences you share with us. Thank you for just being you.

    Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  4. elfanie wrote:

    Kelli:
    believe it or not, I actually had that picture of me and Orion cheek to cheek ready to include in the blog post, but then wondered if you’d be okay with me cropping it and such…because I, too, treasure that picture. It’s the candid ones of me with the silly huge smiles at births or cuddling a new baby that are my favorites at births…because it shows how I really feel. If you’d be okay, I’d love to add that picture to this post…?

    Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink
  5. Shannon Guse wrote:

    I am so grateful for all that you do for your clients and their families. I have known you for almost 5 years now (crazy, huh?) and you have been on a very long journey with us to have another baby. You were there when I got a positive test with Kelsey and shared the wonderful joy of that moment. And then you had to share the bad news that we were going to lose our baby and I know how much that broke your heart, just as it did to mine. And then when we got another positive test, you once again shared the joy and loved me when I started to doubt my body. So many times you rubbed my belly, and talked to Sofia and she always knew when you were around. When you were at Sofia’s birth, I felt so much peace and joy knowing you were there by my side. My birth was PERFECT and EVERYTHING I wanted because you taught me to trust my body and my baby. You also held our birth space with so much love and I will always remember that. I cry when I think back to you singing “Happy Birthday” to Sofia, while she was wearing the hat you made especially for her. These momenta are why you will always have a special place in our family and we will love you forever! Thank you for all that you do and I hope you keep doing it for as long as you are able to. We love you very much!

    Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink
  6. Kolleen wrote:

    Beautiful….your heart is just so beautiful. You love us well and we are blessed beyond measure to have the love and care you provide at such a precious moment. You do more than enough and thank you for it <3 <3. I was so excited to call you the day I found out I was pregnant after Lena…You knew almost as soon as Criss 😉

    Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink
  7. Kelli wrote:

    Stephanie I have no idea HOW I missed your response. If its not too late you absolutely have my permission to use that picture. And for future reference you have permission to share any of my birth pictures if you have them or can find them on Facebook, same goes with my story, written or verbal. I love my story, I love my homebirth, I love sharing them, and I really love my midwife.

    Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

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