Let me just preface this post by saying that I grew up in a teeny, tiny, conservative town and I’d never even heard of a midwife until I went away to university where I learned about them in my gender studies classes. I did not personally know a single person who’d used a midwife, and everyone I spoke to about them either didn’t know what they did, or didn’t think they could competently deliver a baby. Even I wasn’t completely sold at first. What if something went wrong? What if I wanted an epidural? How qualified were a bunch of hippies to deliver my baby, anyway?
When I got pregnant with my oldest child, the first thing I did was run to a doctor, and I adored her. I didn’t even hate the OBGYN she referred me to. I kind of played around with the idea of getting a midwife because, intellectually, I knew they were the better option based on all of the studies I’d read in university. I did a lot of research in the early days of my pregnancy; I read books, surfed a lot of sites, subscribed to a bunch of “natural momma” YouTube channels, and watched some documentaries (I recommend The Business of Being Born, which was basically the tipping point for me, even though I don’t live in the US).
Chase, too, had his doubts about getting a midwife. He was dead set against the idea for a long time, until he randomly met a midwife at his work and became a convert after a ten minute conversation with her.
Phew. Okay. I’m getting to my reasons for choosing a midwife, I swear! Let me just say one more thing (two more things): I am talking about my midwife experience in Ontario, Canada. I can’t speak for midwife services elsewhere (I assume they’re all pretty much the same, but I make no guarantees). Also, I had two babies with midwives. My first, Butterbean, was a planned home birth but ended up being a C-section because she was breach. My second, a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), was a planned midwife-assisted hospital birth, but I had the Sprout at home because I couldn’t get to a medical centre fast enough (with these hips, it should have come as no surprise that a kid would basically fall out of me, but it was shocking nonetheless). I feel like, with the C-section and the home birth, I’ve had a bit of experience with both doctors and midwives (and doctors and midwives working together).
Okay, here’s why I chose a midwife:
Midwifery is a more holistic approach to childbirth
Not only does your midwife care for you while you are pregnant, she also follows up with you and your baby for six weeks after you give birth. She does everything a doctor would do, but sometimes she makes house calls, and she also doubles as a lactation consultant. When was the last time your doctor showed up at your home to ask how you’re doing, weigh your baby, check your stitches, and help you breast feed?
Midwifes, in my opinion, care more about helping you as an individual, as a mother, and as a family unit, than doctors do. They spend much more time getting to know you and your family, and they really focus on quality care. My OBGYN was nice and all, but I couldn’t, say, call him directly if I had a question, and I doubt he’d look after my toddler while I slipped away to take a urine sample.
I felt more involved in my own care
For the first 25+ weeks of my pregnancy with Butterbean, I saw a doctor and then an OBGYN before I switched to my midwife. My doctors appointments were fine, but I was never sure what was coming next and I didn’t feel like I was given any choices. They did tests, but neglected to tell me what they were testing for unless I asked. I had umpteen urine samples taken and until I had a midwife, I had no idea why. I’d pee in a cup, or on a stick, hand the sample to a nurse, and they would disappear with it.
My midwife, by comparison, had me check my own urine samples against a chart, so not only did I know what she was testing for, I knew exactly how high my glucose and protein levels were. She also asked me questions about every aspect of my care, and my baby’s care. Did I want to be hooked to a fetal monitor during labour (if I was in the hospital for my VBAC, a doctor would not have given me that option)? Did I want my baby to have silver nitrate put into her eyes (another mandatory practice at my hospital)?
I really felt that my midwife was there to help me with my labour, rather than save me from it. I was a person empowered to make my own decisions, not a patient who needed to be managed.
I wanted an intervention-free labour and midwives have much more experience with natural childbirth
It became pretty clear, early on in my research, that an intervention-free birth was the way I wanted to go. I didn’t want to be induced because I heard that it makes labour more painful, it can put the baby in danger, and it ups the chances you will have to have a C-section. I didn’t want an epidural because the risks and potential side effects for both me and my wee one didn’t seem worth it. I definitely did not want a cesarean because it’s major surgery and six weeks recovery time didn’t sound like a great way to start my life with a new baby.
I knew if I went to the hospital to have a doctor-assisted birth, the chances I’d be coerced into an induction or pain medication or even a c-section were much greater than if I had a midwife who a) knew how to manage the pain naturally and/or could coach me through it, b) wasn’t able to administer pain medications, inductions, surgery, etc., and c) would advocate against unnecessary interventions for me if I was too out of it to think clearly. When you’re in labour and experiencing the worst pain of your entire life, it doesn’t take much to twist your arm when some sympathetic person says “you know, we can give you something to speed up your labour/help with that excruciating pain”.
That being said, I also knew a midwife would let me cave and have an epidural if I really needed one.
I like that I knew the person who would be delivering my baby
My OBGYN told me that there was a 1 in 10 chance that he would personally deliver my baby (depending on what shift he was working, how many other women were in labour at the same time, etc.), and chances were, I wouldn’t meet 9 of those doctors until I went into labour.
On the other hand, I had several appointments with my midwife and her back-up, as well as their back-ups (they alternated appointments during my pregnancy), so I knew every single person who might attend my birth. AND, they spent more time with me than my doctor ever did (40 minute appointments vs. the 10 minutes I was allotted with my doctor), so I felt like I was really developing a relationship with the people who would be delivering (or “catching”) my baby.
I didn’t want to be tied (figuratively speaking) to a bed while I was in labour
If you do even a tiny bit of research, you know that giving birth on your back is the worst position to labour in (and it’s the most common position when you have a doctor-assisted hospital birth). Not only is it more painful (I can personally vouch for that), it is physically harder to push the baby out.
I wanted to be able to walk around and deliver the baby in whatever position was most comfortable for me, not what position was most convenient for my doctor. I knew a midwife would let me stand on my head to deliver my baby if I wanted to, and she could suggest alternatives if my labour wasn’t going well.
I wanted a professional to hold my hand during labour
When you’re giving birth in a hospital, you have nurses popping in and out of your room for the majority of your labour, and then your doctor basically shows up for the last hurrah.
A midwife is by your side basically from start to finish (and by “start”, I mean, she shows up at your house and then comes to the hospital with you, if you’re planning a hospital birth), and she’s there to support you and only you. Her attention isn’t divided between a bunch of different patients. Her attention isn’t even divided between you and your baby because midwives work in pairs, and your back-up midwife becomes your baby’s midwife after birth, leaving your primary midwife free to do your aftercare.
I am a people pleaser to the EXTREME (the ridiculous extreme), and if I felt my doctor (or his other patient) was “being held up” by my labour, I wouldn’t be able to voice my own needs and wants. I hate being a pain in the ass – even when it’s fully warranted. Because I knew my midwife didn’t have any other clients to deal with, no other agenda to attend to, I never thought for a second that she had anyone’s interests but my own in mind. I never feared my midwife would try to rush my labour because her shift was ending, because it was “taking too long”, or because she didn’t want to put up with my whining anymore. She was caring and attentive through my whole labour, and it really did a lot to put me at ease.
Bonus: It cost me nothing
In Ontario, your midwife is covered by OHIP and billed the exact same way as your doctor is. Which is to say, they are free. I did not pay one single cent for my midwife. Although, honestly, I would have gladly shelled out thousands for her services because there is no way I would go the doctor route if I had a healthy pregnancy and the choice to use a midwife.
Midwifery is a-freaking-mazing, and I can’t say enough good things about it. I feel like I am leaving so much out of this post – I could easily go on for another 2000 words. I’m not saying midwifery is right for everyone or that you should get a midwife but… if you have a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy, you should seriously consider it.