Midwifery was in that legal grey area back when I was making my decision. The medical community was arguing that it put women in danger because all of the advantages of being in the hospital were not available. The literature, all written by scientists that identified more with doctors than with midwives, was filled with studies that didn’t even bother to separate the babies that were born outside of the hospital on purpose from those that were born en route to the hospital or those that came on unexpectedly and caught the mother off guard. Needless to say, these studies showed how dangerous it was to not be in the hospital when your baby is born.
Bob loved the idea because it was decidedly against the grain. We were doing something that others were not. This made him special and unique. He was fully in support of this decision.
The midwife was a lovely woman that had attended hundreds of births. She was not a Mennonite herself but had teamed up with the Mennonite midwives because they provided the same service. At each birth it is ideal to have two midwives. If the mother and the baby are both in trouble there is one midwife to attend to each person.
It was with full knowledge that there was a hospital within driving distance that I decided to have a home birth. If I found that the pain was truly unbearable and I wanted to have an epidural, I could always go into the hospital. If my pregnancy did not progress as it should and I needed a cesarean section, I could go into the hospital. The only other possibility was that there was a life and death situation that came on suddenly.
This could be something like the baby had the cord wrapped around its neck and could not be delivered and it was literally being strangled to death and an emergency cesarean was required. This is awfully gruesome, but this is the thought process that we went through. In this case, we would call ahead and the hospital would be ready for us when we arrived.
It was understood that a certain amount of time is required to ready a surgery before surgery can begin. At the very least, the doctors and nurses need to scrub up, gown and glove and assemble the appropriate equipment. The hospital was about 10 minutes away so it would not be much longer to get there.
So, on my next prenatal appointment I said to my doctor, “I’m thinking of going with a midwife.” He said that he knew that it could be a good experience and that he thought that it was a reasonable thing to consider.
On the prenatal appointment after that, I said to my doctor, “I have decided to have my baby with a midwife.” He unceremoniously told me that he would no longer do my prenatal care. This is the same guy that told my husband, not me, that I was pregnant. Good riddance.
In general, most people still feel this way about midwives. We have been so sold on the expertise of the medical profession, that no one even considers how many babies are born in this world without medical care. Would we have such large impoverished populations in many areas of the world if childbirth was as dangerous as we have been led to believe in North America? The death of many babies and mothers has more to do with hygiene and malnutrition than it does with the process of birth, but I digress.
We did decide to not tell Bob’s mother. She was the only family that was really involved with us at the time and we both knew that this would cause her undue stress. I knew that she would worry and I was also concerned that she would pressure Bob to try to change my mind so we both agreed to not tell her until after the fact.
The midwife was wonderful. She came to the house for the prenatal exams, which is a big deal when you are pregnant and you don’t have a car of your own to get to the doctor’s. She arranged an appointment with another doctor that supported midwifery and drove me to visit him.
She was really big on how to eat and what to eat and how to prepare for the birth, the first couple of days after the birth and breastfeeding. None of this instruction had come from the doctor. I had told him that I was concerned about how much weight I was gaining and he had put my name on a list to speak to a nutritionist. She still had not called.
There was a real intimacy with this woman. The three of us would sit together in our living room and we could ask anything. I always got the feeling that she had as much time as we needed. At this time, we had to pay cash for the midwife. She worked on a sliding scale which meant that the amount that she charged was based on how much the couple made. I thought that this was brilliant, because it did not exclude people that could not pay as much, but it still allowed her to charge people with higher incomes more money so that she could make a decent living. I don’t remember how much the midwife was paid, but it certainly was not a serious part of whether or not we were going to have a midwife.
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