Do You Know What You Have?

I’ve made a major decision…I’m done. Forget my soapboxes. I’m tired of the drama, politics, and never making headway. You want an epidural? I’ll ask for it for you. A c-section? No problem! I’ll find the doc with the 75% section rate to do it for you! This midwife stuff was fun while it lasted!

That was my status update on my business facebook page this morning. It took a few minutes for people to realize that it was a joke in honor of April Fool’s Day. But my tongue-in-cheek post got me thinking - how many midwives do I know that have said something like this at one point or another? Nearly every one. The standard joke is, “I’m quitting and going to be a Walmart greeter!” Somehow, despite it all, they keep going, and don’t actually quit.

Midwives are some of the most undervalued people I know.

We are undervalued by our own selves. A good midwife is humble, loving, giving, a servant to those she is privileged to assist with their births. That humility can backfire a little. I have had friends begging me for years to raise my prices. I think one friend turned a cartwheel when I told her my fee went up by an entire $100. (Insert wry smile here.) We want to give, to make midwifery care accessible, yet it can sometimes appear as if we don’t think our services are worth charging enough for. We undervalue our time, allowing the world to dictate our days, and not making time for ourselves. We go and go and go until we sometimes collapse from sheer exhaustion. And even then, when the phone rings at 2am, we go again, occasionally with a private sigh, but always with a public smile.

We are undervalued by the people we serve. This is a difficult one to discuss, but it’s honest. If you understood the heart behind a midwife, and realized the hard, hard work that she puts into her care, you would never rescind on your bills. If you knew how much she cared for you, you would be honest in your communication, never leading her on, or causing her to believe things that aren’t true. You would never use her for your own good, or abuse the trust between you. You wouldn’t gossip about her to others, but would be bold enough to discuss issues with her directly. A good midwife appreciates that more than anything. On the other hand, if you had a true issue that couldn’t be resolved, or a genuine concern about the quality of care you received, you would talk about it in an honest manner with her governing body, which is usually her midwife peers. For the sake of future midwifery care, this is vital.

We are undervalued by the people that think we are in a fun little hobby. Those are the ones that don’t understand what a midwife actually does, nor the training and time that has gone into making her the care provider she is. I do not stand over an open fire, stirring a big pot of a mysterious bubbling brew. (Another wry smile.) I know how to check blood pressure, do a physical exam, and other basic medical skills. My hands are trained to know how your baby is lying in your womb, and approximately how big he will be at birth. My ears are so sensitive, I can hear your baby’s heartbeat during the early months of your pregnancy without using an electronic monitoring source. I have been well-trained in the science of midwifery, while time and instinct have taught me the soul of it. My work is not a hobby, but a heart-filled profession. It is my calling. I cannot walk away. I have wondered sometimes where my next rent money will come from, but I have never abandoned my calling to serve.

We are undervalued, saddest of all, by those in our own profession. The things that make us sensitive, caring people can also swing the opposite direction and make us sensitive, self-centered people. We can lack loyalty, getting desperate in our need to be validated or have work. Narcissism can be a very real thing in this and other similar professions.

Do you know what you have? If you appreciate your midwife, tell her so. Never let her walk away without a hug and a thank you. We face the enemy daily, and that comes in many forms. I personally know several midwives that are experiencing undeserved unkindness and persecution by fellow midwives, the medical profession, consumers, and even entire legal systems. Support your midwife, be kind and generous in your relationship with her, and love her well!

To be honest, sometimes working in a book shop sounds more appealing than the struggles I face as a midwife. But the rewards of happy parents and healthy babies does offset the difficult days! I will never quit! ~ Jennifer Stewart, Midwife

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