labor nurse has been reborn and shares her experiences as a new nurse-midwife, woman, and blogger

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Why I Became A Midwife

I have to say, I never set out to be a midwife. Actually, I never really set out to be a nurse either. Growing up, all I ever really wanted to do was be a writer. I wrote a lot when I was a kid, and even as an adult began writing fiction seriously (although no one ever seems to take you seriously when you say you write fiction). But it was very clear during high school my writing was not going to be cultivated as a practical career goal. And I was into biology and whatnot, and a teacher suggested nursing. Specifically, a teacher suggested I go to a local hospital's "Shadow A Nurse" program for high school students, and I was all for a legit day off from school. Funny thing was, as much as I ended up liking the Shadow A Nurse thing, I knew I didn't want to take care of sick people. And I was totally fascinated with the labor and delivery ward. And it was still a ward, likely the same type of ward I was born in.

Anyhow, back to why I went into midwifery. Like The Beatles say, it was a long and winding road. My first obstetrics job was in a large city hospital that had high c-section rates and low tolerance for normal. Of course, I didn't see it as that at the time. I saw childbirth as this very dicey event that was wrought in terrible danger. A lot of women needed c-sections. A lotof babies needed rescuing from the process. There were no midwives. And frankly, why would people see a midwife in a hospital when they were for homebirth, right? And while we are at it, only crazy people who want to take their and their baby's life in you get the culture I was in at the time. Of course I didn't see it this way back then. I just saw a lot of anti-normal practice and took it for the norm.

Same with the next job at another city hospital. I even remember this one shift where a homebirth midwife had come in with a woman who was ruptured with meconium for 3 days or so with no progress in the woman's labor and all of the nursing staff, residents, and attendings carrying on about it. This was my first experience ever with a homebirth transfer, and by this point I wasn't opposed to homebirth, but certainly wondered what the story was there. I was not their nurse or involved in any of their care, but the bias within the staff was so thick and the lack of respect for this woman and the midwife were so obvious the blind could see it. But again, this place was of a similar culture as the first place: normal birth didn't exist and a birth could only occur with any amount of safety with large amounts of intervention and technical monitoring.

However, this was the same place I began to see normal birth. There was a large midwifery group there and many of those midwives really did normal births. Intermittent monitoring, low intervention, spontaneous pushing....and the babies and mothers did so well that it was hard to ignore the difference.

From there I ended up working in another large city hospital (#3, if you are counting) that clearly was just turning out a product. At this point I was so fed up with the system that I began talking with the midwives of this large group about my feelings and thoughts about normal childbirth. I found that they also saw things how I saw things, and I started to read more about midwifery. But I never thought of becoming a midwife.

Fast forward to my last RN job- the one that inspired my blogging- and I wanted to protect normal birth. I was reading more and more about our backwards maternity care system as well as our horrible stats when compared to other countries that have high numbers of midwife attended births with better stats. I was seeing things I felt hindered normal birth, and even some practice that was a detriment to it. And by this point, I realized the only way I felt I could really help protect and preserve normal births was to actively participate in them as a midwife.

An opportunity opened up in my life to go back to school, so here I am. Now I am a CNM, and so ready to protect normal birth. I had a preceptor when I was in school who had always fought an uphill battle in her midwifery career, and gave me a great piece of advice: make small changes quietly until it adds up into something no one can ignore. I'm not so sure I have it in me to go hog wild and do big crazy things (at least, anytime soon) so I think her approach is the way to go. Isn't that something like the saying "walk softly and carry a big stick" or something? Or am I getting that saying wrong?


Heather Griffith Brewer said...

Nice how life pushes us in the right direction...I am excited for all the moms and babies in your future. They are so fortunate to have someone so dedictated to pregnancy as a normal event, and not an illness. I know that my experience would not have been so great without someone like you.
As always, Thank You.

I believe you are quoting the saying correctly--and such a great piece of advice!

delilah said...

Our local birth community constantly worries about what will happen when our old-school doc and midwives who support low-intervention birth and low c-section rates retire. There are so few young midwives in our area to carry the torch!

Thanks for fighting the good fight-- you're definitely going to make a difference to women who need choices!

Renee said...

I think your early experience sums up why our maternity system is the way it is. Nurses and OBs are not taught what normal is. And if they've never seen it, they have no reason to question what they are taught. Then by the time an alternative is shown to them, their beliefs are so ingrained that the real normal is seen as offensive and dangerous. But some people like you know in their heart that there is a better way and work towards the promotion of it. Thank you!

Iris said...

Very cool. Thank you for showing others that birth is normal and for helping moms have the kind of birth they deserve to have!

man-nurse said...

I'm so excited that you're a pro-normal-birth CNM. I'm a dad with four home births under my (wife's!) belt, and I find it difficult discussing birth issues with healthcare professionals even outside of maternity care.

We've consistently sought out CPMs because the CNMs we've seen and heard about seem little different from traditional obstetricians. I don't mind, but I've been concerned because midwives like that just reduce midwifery to a low-cost version of obstetrics. And since they're nurses, they undermine the very complaints that L&D nurses should be able to make against the birthing industry.

We don't really have a good concept of normal birth in this country at all, and I think we need more staff within and outside of the system to correct it. Congratulations on becoming a midwife. You will be able to make a difference.

Paula said...

Hi there. SUch fun to hear more about your story. It inspires me. I would say that you are a writer still, even if unpaid.

I am 38 and I've been a doula for 8 years. I got my IBCLC last October. I am working towards doing private practive lactation consulting.

but. but I keep thinking that becoming a nurse would serve my family and fit within the cluster of work that I am now doing. I would REALLY like to be a nurse midwife but that goal seems too distant for now. I would need to do all the prereqs (My degree is in sociology! soft.) then apply.

Around here no one wants an IBCLC who isn't an RN. I'm sure it has to do with the protocol, and insurance umbrellas.

You inspire me. I enjoy reading your blog and hearing about your journey.

Labor Nurse said...

And since they're nurses, they undermine the very complaints that L&D nurses should be able to make against the birthing industry.
Man-nurse- I am not sure I understand what you are saying here. Would you mind elaborating on this?

man-nurse said...

I guess I worded it funny. I think that nurse midwives who practice traditional, non-evidence-based, non-patient-friendly obstetrics betray some of the principles of midwifery and the principles of nursing at the same time.