The New York Times Magazine last week featured Ina May Gaskin, “the original home-birth evangelist” in an article that left the reader pondering whether there could possibly be a middle ground between home births on Gaskin’s Tennessee Farm and the traditional hospital maternity ward where one-third of all American babies are delivered surgically. “It should be possible both to have a baby in a place that doesn’t have financial and legal incentives to medicalize a low-risk pregnancy and to still have immediate access to top-level care if it’s needed,” writes author Samantha Shapiro.
My own experience with two of my children fell in exactly that middle ground. I stumbled upon my midwives’ practice after a bad experience with a doctor in my former traditional OB/GYN practice. During appointments, the midwife spent as much time with me as I needed, making me seem like the one in a bigger hurry to get out of the office. But it was labor and delivery that really made the difference. Rather than popping in every few hours, as doctors had done with my other labors, the midwife met me at the hospital and stayed with me during the ENTIRE labor! Forget about hiring a doula–the midwife stood by my side, coaching me and massaging my back throughout the labor. Though I had previously delivered with epidurals, my labor without pain medication turned out to be more manageable than the previous two labors where I had been all on my own.
The contrast of my experience with a midwife was so extreme that after the birth of my third child, I wanted to shout from the rooftops that midwifery is the best kept secret in women’s medicine. Using a midwife is far from what many hold as the stereotype. Midwives have extensive training, are licensed, typically work in hospitals, and serve all kinds of women–not just hippies on communes. Countless women around the world have delivered babies under the expert care of midwives. I am so grateful to be among them.