By Tosi Marceline, LM, CPM
Yes, I became a midwife because I felt called to it by my community. I, like so many midwives of the 1970s and 1980s had to recreate a model of care that was based in what families needed and what we as birthing mothers wanted for ourselves. We needed passion for our work and compassion and understanding for the women we served. But in order to continue to work as a midwife past the first few years, you needed more than idealism. So, for all the potential midwives among you and those who want a glimpse into the life of a midwife….I hope you enjoy my humorous, yet true (at least for me) view of what it takes to be a midwife with a long career.
What you really need to qualify as a midwife, according to my personal experiences:
1. Can eat anything and have an iron stomach. Must know how to squirrel away non-perishable food in her car for emergencies, or to eat to keep her awake while driving home after a long birth. Additionally, it would be helpful to be able to go long periods of time without any food, as the birthing family forgot to stock up on food for the midwives, or the appointment schedule is so tight that there is no time for lunch.
2. Can sleep anywhere, anytime, anyplace, and function well on little sleep. The floor may sometimes be more comfortable than the couch. You must keep a blanket and pillows in her car for short naps. Must scout out shady parks where naps are possible in hot weather. A park should not have too many ducks, especially if you are sleeping on the grass.
A book is helpful so that the sleeping midwife can put it over her face while she sleeps and needs to avoid looking like a homeless person. Hint: put your car keys in your bra, and don’t try to sleep in your car with the air conditioner running. It also helps to arrive at a social function after a nap so you don’t fall asleep among the non-midwife friends you still might know.
3. Have the bladder of a camel, especially if there is only one bathroom and the lady in labor is using it frequently. Control your drinking and save the coffee until after the birth! Out in rural areas, may need to know how to pee outside.
4. Need a good sense of direction. (Not as big a deal now that we have GPS, but what happens when they don’t work right? Don’t you hate it when they lose the signal?) We don’t want to get lost on the way to a birth or in a large apartment complex where the GPS is of no use.
5. Need a great family support system. Sometimes this means making your child believe that her birthday REALLY moved to Monday. “Honey, I was at a birth yesterday, so it couldn’t have been YOUR birthday. Your birthday must be tomorrow!”
It also helps to have someone who doesn’t think about saying, “Oh, I remember you!” when you call home. Oh, and you need a family that can tune out while you talk about bodily functions on the phone, put on a Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people without you, and put up with placentas in the freezer (or if they fall out on the family members ~ RFT)
6. Need a hefty dose of patience and tolerance. The man who used to greet my midwifery partner, Jan, and I as “Here comes Jam and Toasty!” no longer gets this newsletter so will be unlikely to read this. People DO say the darndest things. Can help a baby be born with a toddler on her lap, can do a prenatal in the middle of a group of small children and/ or household pets. Will allow a kindergartener to give you a new hair-do and be able to explain all the equipment in the prenatal bag to small children. Always must have a retractable measuring tape dedicated to the amusement of 2 year-olds.
7. Be physically fit, able to kneel on hard surfaces, bend for hours doing back massage, able to support or lift women larger than you are during labor, able to contort into impossible positions in small places to catch a baby. Imperative to have a great chiropractor and massage therapist!
8. Be conscious of clothing choices every time you leave your home. Be aware you may be sleeping in these clothes for the next two nights. You might need to go straight to a birth in the clothes you are wearing to your best friend’s wedding, or go to your best friend’s wedding in the clothes you just wore to a birth. Hint: flowered skirts do not show blood as easily as blue jeans and are more appropriate at social functions. Wear clothes that don’t wrinkle too much, keep extra clothes in your car, and remember, a washcloth works pretty well for cleaning your teeth if you forgot to carry a toothbrush in your car.
9. Drink some form of caffeine. This works so much better than Braille driving to get home after a long birth. I used to tell people I could never be a midwife where there weren’t any bumps on the lines in the road to help me get home, but then I discovered coffee! I really don’t know how Mormon midwives do it.☺
Previously Published in Birthstream Newsletter 2013 and in Childbirth Professionals International