I believe that every single birth is sacred in its own way, and the second episode of Call the Midwife really drove that point home. So often, it’s not exactly how the events happen, but it’s the love and support that a mother and her family feel during a birth that make the event so sacred and beautiful.
The truth is, sometimes during a birth, things don’t go as planned. Even if a woman has a completely uncomplicated vaginal birth, it certainly does not mean it went according to “plan!” I have also been present at births where the mother desired a natural, unmedicated birth, but maybe ended up getting an epidural, or having a caesarean section. This wasn’t what the woman had planned, and it’s okay for her to be upset about that. She can even grieve that the process of birthing didn’t go the way she imagined it would. It doesn’t ever mean that she isn’t grateful to have a healthy baby, or that she doesn’t love her baby! It can just be, well, sad that labor and birth didn’t happen the way she hoped. However, I have seen how important the support of a midwife can be to women who have a birth experience different than they expected. I have been in operating rooms with women who had planned on having natural births, and doing things like allowing the father to announce the sex of the baby, placing the baby skin-to-skin with mom as soon as possible or even just holding her hand and supporting her through her birth, can make all the difference. It’s our job as the midwife to make each and every birth sacred for our moms, regardless of how the baby makes his or her entrance into the world. Chummy the midwife is a perfect example of how to do this. When attending her first solo birth, Chummy realized through her assessment that the baby was in breech presentation (coming out buttocks first). Even though this was a complication, and Chummy had never even seen a breech birth, she kept the mother and her support person calm, and used the knowledge from her education to help that woman birth a healthy baby. The birthing process wasn’t exactly what the mother (or Chummy!) anticipated, but the attitude and support from the midwife made a huge difference in how that mother felt about these unexpected changes.
When I tell people that I’m a midwife, they may assume that I only do home birth like the midwives on the show, or that I’m anti-technology, or even anti-physician. Well, of course I wish that all low-risk women would see midwives! I think the midwifery model of care is amazing, and that all women can benefit from it. But this doesn’t discount the very important role of the physician, which I believe this episode portrayed beautifully. One woman on the show had an abnormal pelvis because of Rickets, and it was the availability of a cesarean section that made it possible for this woman to be a mother; who would dare say that simply because she did not labor and push this baby out, that her birth was not sacred? I, for one, am just so grateful that I am allowed to spend this powerful and transformational time with women. I vow to do everything I can to make sure that each and every birth I attend remains sacred.
Andrea Altomaro (MS, RN, CNM) has been nurse-midwife for the past three years and is currently working for the Henry Ford Health System. Before becoming a midwife, she worked as a nurse in the emergency department and also in labor and delivery.
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