In which my ideals conflict with reality

I have this thing. I’ll call it a thing. It’s like my achilles heel. It’s a thing I see at births that drives me a little crazy, that I vow I will absolutely never do.

I know how silly that sounds. It actually sounds like I’m a total birth newbie — if I weren’t, I’d realize that nothing about birth is absolute, and it’s stupid to take such a hard line, especially when I haven’t seen that many births. Birth is not black and white, and midwives — midwives! — value autonomy and individual decision-making over generalizations like “I NEVER do XYZ to clients,” or “I ALWAYS do ABC to clients.”

In fact, when I was pregnant with my last child, and looking for a homebirth midwife, I interviewed someone over the phone who had a blanket policy for all clients — when labor started, the client had to take an enema. This midwife insisted on it, in all circumstances. Immediately a giant red flag went up, and I did not hire that midwife.

So why do I feel so strongly about my thing?

In my idealized version of reality, I’m a midwife who sits on my hands and simply watches a woman birth her baby with no assistance from me. (See my post about knitting during births.) In my idealized version of reality, I’m Ina May Gaskin, with silver Princess Leia hair and no make-up and long patchwork denim skirts.

In reality, sitting on my hands is uncomfortable for me, and I can only assume I will continue feeling that way. I don’t want to do every intervention, but I definitely have a hard time just watching and waiting.

I think my strong feelings come from my own experiences, and that of a close lovely friend who has had 5 babies. The truth is, I have always messed with my body during labor in some way. I’ve taken castor oil, an enema, I’ve had my membranes stripped, I’ve done the breast pump, I’ve had sex solely for the purpose of getting the baby out, I’ve taken black and blue cohosh. I’ve tried it all, everything you can do at home that toes the line of “natural” induction methods. And I regret it.

And so, as I become a midwife, I guess I want to save my clients — from MY bad experiences.

But, the rub is, maybe those same things aren’t bad experiences for others; maybe they will do them and not regret them; maybe they will do them and feel grateful. I always have to remember that these are not my births. I have to remind myself, my births are over, done. And I can’t undo them, or redo them, no matter how many births I attend. Honestly I don’t want to, not consciously. (All that pain… throwing up… no thanks.)

So, among all the things I’m learning — Braxton hicks contractions start at six WEEKS! Engagement is the point when the widest diameter of the presenting part has passed through the inlet of the true pelvis! PROM occurs in 10% of all pregnancies, PPROM occurs in 2% of pregnancies! — I’m learning about myself also, and how I can be the most effective midwife for my clients. For them. Not for me.

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