Midwifery became a part of my life in 2002 when I was a chiropractic student and started my extra training and education to specialize in maternity and pediatric care. An extra year’s worth of study on the weekends in addition to chiropractic school (a full-time graduate school akin to medical school) began with a maternity care module. This class discussed the physiological process of birth, problems that arise during pregnancy, birth, postpartum and the cascade of interventions that can be used with or without problems present and the consequences of those interventions. Of course it also included all of the ways that chiropractic can help during this time of a woman’s life and I was certified in the Webster technique. I remember walking away feeling completely traumatized. I had to face the reality that I was a young woman, newly married, and entering into the childbearing phase of my life….and I had NO CLUE about pregnancy and childbirth. Or at least I didn’t until I took that class. I realized that I would have easily walked through the doors and signed up for a medicalized cascade of interventions having no idea that they were not only unnecessary (most of the time) but could also potentially caused significant problems. I had no idea that pregnancy and birth experience could affect you on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. It can impact the immediate as well as the long-term health of your baby. It can also shape you as a parent.
Eventually, I went on to have two children in two different states and was fortunate to find midwives both times that were holistic and traditionally minded. My home births were wonderful experiences though they were far from what I expected. My labors fit no curves or textbook definitions and I am certain that had I been under traditional obstetric care, interventions would have been recommended and encouraged, if not expected. However, me and my babies were healthy, there were no needs to intervene and the results were beautiful and uncomplicated births. My midwives’ knowledge and experience allowed them to observe, monitor and support my normal, though atypical, births without needing to make them conform into what they thought they should look like.
Four years later, I had been providing specialized maternity chiropractic care for 7 years, working closely with midwives and doulas, and occasionally attending births as a chiropractor to help when labors would stall or babies weren’t in the best positions. A patient of mine called in early labor reported that she had just fallen off her birth ball and landed on her pelvis which now caused excruciating pain and a dysfunctional labor pattern. My schedule was pretty flexible that day, so I made some rearrangements and headed over to see if I could help. I observed a couple of contractions, discovered that her baby had come out of the pelvis and rotated backwards (posterior). I adjusted her, did some positional changes with her, and then let her rest a few minutes. I felt that baby had moved into a better position and recommended she stand up and start moving around so that contractions could pick up and let her baby move down again. She stood up, her water broke and she felt like she was going to push, and her midwife and midwife’s assistant were 40 minutes away. Fortunately, she wasn’t quite ready to push but was definitely moving into transition. Her doula and I supported her and prepared ourselves for if the baby came before the midwife arrived. Her midwife arrived five minutes before the baby was born. I left this birth knowing three things: I was quite comfortable being in the position of possibly having to catch this baby (which surprised me). By being available to assist with births, I was potentially putting myself in this scenario which is not in the scope of my chiropractic license and therefore putting that license in jeopardy. It was time to look into midwifery school.
After discussing all of this with my husband, he encouraged me to go for it. Three years of balancing my family, my chiropractic practice, classes and apprenticeship with four different midwives plus an overseas mission, I received my midwifery license. Being a chiropractor and having a strong belief in the innate wisdom of the body helps shape me as a midwife, as do my own birth and midwifery experiences, my education both in chiropractic and midwifery school, and my apprenticeships with very different midwifery practices and overseas experience. Primarily, I believe birth is normal and for the majority of women can unfold in a natural process without problems. I believe that a woman’s body and her baby know what their process needs to be for a successful birth and trying to force changes in that experience usually leads to more trauma and complications even if it does speed it up a couple of hours. I am grateful to have lots of holistic tools to support and encourage a positive and healthy experience without forcing it into something else. I am grateful to have the training and medical tools to handle the more common but basic complications that arise in pregnancy and birth from time to time. I am grateful for medical back up when their expertise is truly needed. Lastly, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to assist women during this time. There are few things that give me more pleasure than seeing a woman grow into her strength, confidence and power in being a woman and mother.