How Midwives Are Changing Maternity Care
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I saw an OB/GYN like most women. Every month at my appointment, I’d have to wait half an hour past schedule to even be called back. The nurse would check my vitals, and then I was back to waiting again - 20 more minutes. Finally the doctor would come in and hurry me through the visit, seemingly annoyed by my questions and clearly short on time. At 24 weeks, I asked, very innocently, about water birth. My doctor’s response was brash and condescending, telling me that water birth was unsafe and that waterborne babies could drown during delivery. This seemed - unlikely. Illogical even. But I scheduled my 28 week appointment for my glucose test and left, irritated.
Over the next four weeks, I would absorb as much information as I could about natural birth and midwifery care, reading articles, studies, and watching "The Business of Being Born". I began to consider that I might be a good candidate for home birth. I struggled to get my reluctant husband on board, but succeeded. We hired a midwife, and I never showed up to my 28-week doctor’s appointment. I haven’t seen an OB/GYN since.
When I saw my midwife, Vicki, for the first time, I had a completely different experience. Our visit took place in a window-lit room adjacent to her home. As we sat on couches and chatted, lavender essential oils filled the air creating a calm and peaceful state. We chatted for a solid hour at every visit. My questions were not only welcomed, they were encouraged! Midwives believe that women should make informed, empowered choices about their care during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. “Standard procedures” became simple decisions we could make without fear of judgment. She was a partner and a guide, bearing witness to our journey into parenthood, but never attempting to control or manipulate it.
Around 3 pm on September 1, 2009, six days before my due date, regular contractions started. I labored quietly in a large garden tub in my master bathroom, then by candle light in the bedroom. Vicki checked on me periodically, but mostly left me alone to do what we both trusted my body could do. From the living room, I could occasionally hear the soft voices of my best friend, Katherine, Vicki, and her assistant, Scottie – a student midwife, as they made casual conversation and patiently awaited my baby. At 11:43 pm, my daughter was born, in the very spot where we subsequently slept together night after night. We were surrounded by people who supported, trusted, and respected me. I have since had three additional pregnancies, cared for by two more amazing midwives, and can honestly say I would never go back to obstetrical care without a medical emergency that warranted it.
Woman Centered Care: A Glimpse Inside
My fourth pregnancy, in 2016, was supported by Austin midwife GB Khalsa. Though it ended in a non-emergent hospital transfer when labor began spontaneously at 34 weeks, GB was with me every step of the way. She was a kind and maternal presence unlike any I've ever known. My friend and fellow photographer, Nikki, is now visiting with her every two weeks in preparation for her second home birth in February. This morning, I had the honor of documenting her family as they visited with GB in her quiet and relaxed home office in south Austin.