Midwives are Hippies (And Other Misconceptions)

midwives

Midwives.

Floral crowns, essential oils and birth circles, right?

When I had my first baby, I automatically went to an obstetrician. I thought, “Well, you get pregnant, you go to an OB!” So I did. That choice impacted my birth and ended up leaving me with a less-than-stellar experience. That’s not to say OBs are bad, I’ve worked with some pretty amazing ones. The one I chose, however, was not so. Being the researcher I am, when I got home I immediately looked up birthing options.

Then I stumbled on The Business of Being Born.

For those who haven’t seen it (I highly recommend it), it is a documentary by Ricki Lake that features interviews and information surrounding the birth culture in our country. It was eye-opening for me, to say the least. I spent the better part of it crying and beginning the healing process of a birth that was finally affirmed as traumatic for me.

Then they started talking about midwives.

There are many misconceptions surrounding midwifery. When I chose a midwife for my second birth, people thought I was nuts. When I then went on to tell them it was a HOME BIRTH midwife… well, I’d just gone off the deep end. Debunking myths surrounding birth is one of my favorite things so I was happy to respond with what I had learned.

Aren’t midwives all hippies?
No, I can affirmatively say that not all midwives are hippies. Now, they may have some “crunchy” tendencies such as using diet or herbs before pharmaceuticals but when you’re pregnant and your choices are limited that’s an excellent thing.

So, to use a midwife I have to have a home birth, right?
Not at all! We’re lucky in Kansas City to have a whole range of birthing options which includes Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) who work and have privileges inside some of our wonderful local hospitals. Research Medical Center and St Joseph’s Medical Center both have practicing midwives and New Birth Company is a birth center which also has midwives on staff (they just opened another location, too). There are other area hospitals that have options as well, and North Kansas City Hospital just hired the only CNM in the Northland! If midwifery care is what you want but not in your own home, you’re covered.

What’s the difference between an OB and a Midwife?
In all honesty, it’s mostly surgical knowledge and method of practice. If you have to have a cesarean birth, an OB is who will perform it. Outside of that, the knowledge base is fairly similar. Both are highly skilled in delivery, neonatal resuscitation, monitoring fetal heart tones, and even difficult deliveries including shoulder dystocias. Midwives have the training to use dopplers, internal monitors, draw blood for testing and even use Pitocin or Cytotec! Midwives are fully and completely qualified to attend births and highly skilled even in emergent situations.

The practice difference comes down to the Midwifery Model of Care. Midwifery is personalized and takes into account your history, not just the nationwide averages. Midwives spend time getting to know each of their patients and their birth wishes. They lean towards a low-to-no-intervention birth and are generally very patient when your birthing time comes. That isn’t to say, however, that all midwives practice that way or that there aren’t also OBs who use the Midwifery Model. When it comes down to OB vs Midwife, it’s about the care provider as an individual and how you click with them, not their title.

Do midwives do anything besides catch babies?
Absolutely! They have the skills to do all of your well woman check ups as well, including pap smears. Home birth midwives will generally do your baby’s first check as well about 24 hours after birth.

What happens if I choose a homebirth or birth center and there’s an emergency?
You transfer or your midwife handles it. That depends on the emergency we’re dealing with. The black and white of it is that sometimes emergencies happen during birth. The further truth is that it could happen absolutely anywhere. Midwives come equipped with oxygen tanks and other life-saving measures as well as the skills to use them and the watchful eye to spot potential problems before they become an emergency. Are there true emergencies that occur in home births and birth centers? Absolutely. There are also true emergencies that happen in hospitals. Your birth place won’t necessarily dictate your birth outcome so it’s important for you to research actual facts about the safety of where you’re birthing and know the protocols should something arise.

I weighed the facts, my life experiences, my low-risk pregnancies and my comfort level with my midwife and chose to dive into a home birth with my second. It was, without a doubt, the best choice for me and my family. I was calm, safe, and supported. My birth was smooth and empowering. For me, the right choice was a midwife.

We’re so lucky in Kansas City to have the options we do, and we have absolutely amazing midwives to choose from, no matter if you choose hospital, birth center or home for your birth place. Here’s to more amazing, supported births!

Mallory Shannon is a birth and postpartum doula in the Kansas City Metro area, wife and mother of two. She had every intent to leave until she and her husband moved their family downtown and fell in love with the city and the culture. Self-professed coffee addict and foodie, she enjoys all that the Kansas City food and coffee scene has to offer. When she isn't chasing down her one- and three-year-old, you'll find her hitting the Farmer's market, teaching and providing Kansas City's family centered birth and postpartum doula care. You can follow Northland Doula at www.northlanddoula.com, www.facebook.com/northlanddoula or on Instagram @northlanddoula.