What Is a Midwife?
Musings on the Mission of Being "With Woman"
The spectrum of midwifery caregivers ranges from non-interventionist, holistic traditional homebirth Professional Midwives to technocratic, obstetric-medically modeled, interventionist-minded, hospital-based Nurse Midwives. The historical Midwife, the once-revered and oft-called-upon cradle-to-grave “village doctor,” is most closely embodied by today’s well-trained, holistic, traditional homebirth Midwife, whose mission is to be truly and wholly “with woman.”
The real Midwife, after many years of education and apprenticeship, is a pregnancy and birth expert who guides and nurtures the well-being of women and babies. She trusts and admires the inherent capacity and innate wisdom of the female body to birth, and she revels in the process...the journey...of birth. A midwife desires to empower women to birth...to unleash their inner warrior mama to bring forth their babies safely, naturally and ecstatically. In contrast to the modern medical “delivery” system, which acts (even preys) upon the woman (often victimizing and harming mother and child), the genuine, unfettered act of Birth is an act of a woman, by a woman, which liberates that woman, revealing the beauty and power of mind and body.
The Midwife is a nurturing caregiver from pre-conception through the pregnancy year to birth and beyond, providing well-woman (gynecological) care, pregnancy care, birth assistance, postpartum care, and newborn/baby care.
Being “with woman” every step of the pregnancy, the Midwife forms an intimate relationship with her client, spending a great deal of time every month tending to the needs of mother and growing baby, physically and emotionally. She offers diagnostic testing (including lab work if desired) and healing remedies when needed, nutritional counseling for excellent birth outcomes, emotional counseling, thorough and comfortable prenatal exams, and natural comfort measures through the pregnancy journey; all along the way providing holistic, evidence-based practices, encouraging informed consent and client participation and decision-making. The Midwife educates, she guides, sometimes she protects...she does not belittle or control. Such is the beauty of the midwifery model...it is a relationship as much as it is “health care.”
And when the pregnancy culminates in the birth, the traditional Midwife plays multiple roles as needed. Often a self-professed “birth junkie,” the Midwife loves to assist a woman during birth as much or as little as that woman desires. The well-trained Midwife can attend to complications if they arise, but does not expect them. As birth progresses, the Midwife is a cheerleader, a comforter, an adviser, a guardian, and a calm lifeguard, expecting and hoping for positive outcomes. She is technically equipped and skilled to attend to acute traumatic needs, she is careful and watchful, but she is holistically minded to allow mama to blossom and attain her best birth. The skilled and alert Midwife knows how to guide the birth process so that many “traumas” seen in (and caused by) the technocratic system are utterly avoided. A learned Midwife can resolve myriad complications, ranging from perineal repair to shoulder dystocia, from posterior arrest to postpartum hemorrhage, from prolonged rupture of membranes to neonatal resuscitation and etc. If a truly acute crisis becomes unavoidable, an accomplished Midwife tends to it or seeks emergency assistance.
A Midwife’s ministry to woman and child is never a fear-based work. Despite the convincing mantra of our modern conventional medical culture, pregnancy is not an illness and birth is not an emergency. How we birth is important! The Midwife understands this deeply in her soul. How we birth affects mothers and babies...shapes them, impacts the culture. Birth is not merely a physical act, it is also a spiritual work; it is a journey in which attitude and perception determine outcomes as much as physiology can. Real Birth, Safe Birth, Active Birth, Gentle Birth is the fundamental and inviolable right of all humans...we must seize what is ours and revel in its goodness. Negative birth outcomes largely can be prevented with proper prenatal care and Midwifery care during birth. Educating, empowering and wholly caring for women improves their ability to bring forth their babies as they were designed to do. Birth should never take place in an environment of fear, anxiety, pressure; in an institution over-run with unnecessary and harmful intervention-oriented protocols. Fear is the enemy. Fear begets pain. Fear halts the natural birth processes. Fear has no place in the dance of new life.
In our technocratic, intervention-oriented, fear-based industrial birth culture, the traditional homebirth Midwife is the woman’s advocate: providing nurture, guidance and holistic care (physical and emotional) to women and babies, empowering women to birth safely, peacefully and joyfully.