Over the many years that I’ve been travelling, I must’ve met thousands of new people. When you meet this many people, you get very used to doing the whole introduction, get to know each other kinda thing.
One of the first questions people ask is what you do for a living.
I am a midwife, and I proud of it, but it is safe to say that I have received some pretty interesting responses and reactions over the years. I guess midwifery isn’t the most well known or well received profession. So, I thought it’d be interesting to list 16 actual things people have said to me upon learning that I am a baby catcher.
1. “A midwife… what is that?”
I have heard this one more than once! People I have met from countries with much more obstetric centred maternity care (I am looking at you America!) often have no concept of what a midwife is.
A midwife is a provider of care to women and their babies during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. Some midwives work independently or in teams, and others work in hospitals as part of a system that includes numerous different health professionals – including obstetricians.
Midwives aren’t superior to obstetricians and obstetricians aren’t superior to midwives – they simply have different roles. Midwives are trained to be the sole care providers for women that are classified as ‘normal risk’ (basically, fit and healthy women with no major health problems that do not encounter any abnormalities during pregnancy) and to be the first to pick up on any deviations from normal – referring to the right people when things aren’t going as perfectly as possible.
2. “I’m sorry, but homebirth isn’t safe and you are crazy to support it.”
This was said to me by an American woman that I met in London, and it was literally her first response after I told her what I did for work!
I think midwives and homebirth are demonised a lot by obstetricians in the US, which means that many people have negative thoughts about them without actually having any firsthand experience.
In fact, it has been proven (repeatedly) through scientific research that for many women, homebirth is just as safe as hospital birth! This is of course provided that a trained midwife is present (a doula and a midwife are not the same thing), that the woman is healthy and has had a normal risk pregnancy, and that you live within a certain distance from a tertiary hospital.
Also, freebirth and homebirth are NOT the same thing. Freebirth is a term used to describe women who choose to birth out of hospital with no trained midwife present, and a homebirth describes a planned event with all the right people and resources present.
3. “Oh amazing! I loved the midwives during my birth, of course it was a pretty horrible labour, it took 94 hours!”
People love to share their horror stories! However, as a midwife, when we hear certain stories we can almost guarantee that they didn’t happen exactly as they are told. When I say this I do not intend to diminish anyones feelings about their birth, but some stuff just doesn’t add up!
Length of labour is one of the biggest fallacies. People like to say that their labour began from the very first contraction, but really, labour doesn’t start until you are contracting painfully, strongly and regularly, with a cervical dilatation of 4-6cm depending on the literature and research you refer to. So even though people may have been uncomfortable for 94 hours, this doesn’t mean that their labour lasted that long.
To be blunt, if you were in active labour for 94 hours, there is a very high chance that your baby would be stillborn, and you’d very likely develop severe problems – such as an obstetric fistula. So, if your baby came out alive and you aren’t incontinent of urines and/or faeces, it is unlikely that you were in true active labour for 94 hours.
4. “So you assist the doctors like a L&D nurse?”
To be blunt – no.
A labour and delivery nurse is an obstetric assistant, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! But this is not what a midwife does.
In Australia, unless you choose to have a private obstetrician (which is prohibitively expensive) you will likely see a collection of midwives and obstetricians within a public (free) hospital setting. In such a system, if you are ‘normal risk’ midwives will likely be your main care providers. Our system is more about a collaborative effort between different specialties than it is completely obstetric led.
If your labour progresses without any issues, you might never see a doctor, purely because if everything is normal, a doctor just simply isn’t needed.
5. “Does that mean that your husband has more than one wife?”
This made me burst out laughing! This person must’ve seen one too many episodes of Big Love!
6. “Oh cool, my sister is a nurse!”
Awesome – nurses are amazing! But remember that midwives and nurses are not the same thing, and many midwives are not registered as nurses and midwives – they are simply midwives.
7. “You must love babies!”
I do, but that isn’t why I became a midwife.
I became a midwife to work closely with women. To empower, to educate, to encourage and to keep them as safe as possible during pregnancy and birth.
Do I love the 3am baby cuddles? Absolutely! But I think you’d be hard pressed to find a midwife that entered the field simply because they love babies.
8. “You must be all into the incense and stuff then?”
Ugh, such a cliche!
If I’m a midwife I must be into incense, burning sage to ward off bad spirits and singing ‘Kumbaya’ right?
Yeah, not exactly.
9. “Wait. You mean you actually do the delivery? I thought that was the doctors job!”
Nope, we catch the babies, and if everything is going smoothly, believe me when I say that you are better off having a midwife bring your baby into the world. Docs are much more likely to perform unnecessary instrumental births or perform episiotomies than midwives – and honestly, I can’t blame them for that.
Doctors are trained to act, to fix, to help – so they are constantly looking for ways to treat – it is just who they are, and if the shit ends up hitting the fan, you absolutely want them there! But if everything is going well, you definitely want your midwife.
10. “Woah that’s hardcore! But aren’t you freaked out by all the blood and guts and shit?”
Not even a little bit!
11. “Fuck you! I’m in medical school and all you fucking midwives think you know better than us doctors!”
This may sound far-fetched, but this was said to me by a Dutch guy I met in a bar in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa.
Something tells me that once upon a time he’d been told off by a midwife or possibly made to look a bit daft by one – he certainly used some colourful language to describe us!
12. “But you look quite normal?”
Ugh, would anybody say this to a nurse?
13. “You must be an anti-vaxxer.”
Nope, not even a little bit! I wholeheartedly believe in science, and science has shown time and time again that vaccines are safe, they are effective and they can save so many lives from preventable disease.
14. “Midwives are fucking breastfeeding nazis. They told my wife she was a bad mother and that she wasn’t allowed to bottle feed.”
Any midwife who calls someone a bad mother should retire immediately!
Is breastfeeding best? Science says that breastfeeding does have benefits for both mum and bubs, but I am sure that most midwives would think that actually, fed is best.
I don’t mind if you want to bottle feed or breast feed, I will support you either way, as long as the bubba gets fed, I am a happy midwife.
15. “You’d have easy access to drugs…”
Ugh, just ugh.
16. “It must be pretty cool to bring new life into the world.”
You know what? It absolutely is! I go to work never knowing what will happen, who I will meet or what I will do. It is constantly changing, never boring and an absolutely awesome profession.
Plus, working in this field has given me so much freedom to travel, and I can’t ask for more than that.