by Tosi Marceline, LM, CPM
Arriving in our very best party clothes is always surprising to the families when we come to a birth. But if they notice, it may give the birth a special feel, as they realize we came from a wedding, or a party to assist them. We sometimes have the foresight to put an extra set of clothes in our car, but not always. Even when we do, we don’t always have time to change!
We have gone to births at all times of day and from all sorts of places. I remember being out shopping in Sacramento with my young daughter and got a call on my pager (yes, it was more than 20 years ago) and had to find a phone booth to call Amy Morgan, my midwife partner, to let her know the birth was happening fast. She left her children with a friend at the public swimming pool, throwing on her dress over the wet bathing suit and arrived just in time to put on an apron and help catch the baby!
So early in my life as a midwife, I found wearing an apron was practical for many reasons. For a start, it protects your clothes somewhat. We have all had skirts get soaking wet with "birth fluid", but more often we find our clothes as clean as when we arrived which is helpful when you have a day of appointments after the birth and no time to change. But more important for you...it is washed, ironed, and cleaner than whatever the midwife is wearing that day!
Our aprons are modest too, and cover us up to our necklines, so that our décolletage is not revealed as we lean over a birth tub to listen to the baby’s heartbeat!
Our deep apron pockets can carry much of what we need to have immediately on hand if the birth is very quick or in a small space. At one birth, the mother escaped her crowd of relatives by hiding in the toilet room (you know what I mean, the room that has only a toilet in it!) Well, with one midwife sitting on the toilet with the laboring woman on her lap, like a birth stool, and me on the floor in front of her with her husband kneeling beside me, there wasn’t a lot of room for much equipment and the pockets in my apron came in handy. This mother was able to push her baby out quickly in a safe and private space...with next birth, she invited fewer people!
Our first aprons were fashioned after Japanese Kappogi Aprons which had elbow length sleeves, as we did not do water births in the 1980’s. Several of our clients traded their sewing skills for part of their birth fee in order to make two aprons for each midwife.