Community must demand midwifery for itself

Dear Editor,

I read with interest the letter regarding midwifery services being lacking in Terrace, and I could not agree more. I do have some pertinent comments, based on my 38 year history attending births as a childbirth educator, doula, midwife assistant, twice accidental midwife, and most recently as a grandmother.

These births range from very “rustic” home births, one under-water birth, cozy labour suite deliveries, a frightening clinical forceps extraction in a sterile delivery room, once or thrice hitting the hospital and mom giving birth before being checked in, emergency cesareans (necessary and not) and everything in between. Personally, I experienced two small-town cesareans, a straightforward big-city VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and an uneventful homebirth, very pricey in 1984. (Note to you home birth hopefuls: guess who gets to clean up after? You probably do.)

I think there are several reasons we don’t have midwives in Terrace (yet). The demand has not been high, and the consumers have not been verbally responsive to our North Health Authority about their needs.

Midwifery practice is a demanding lifestyle, no different from an on-call physician’s. It is especially hard if you do not have a midwife partner to spell you off, and some really supportive doctor back-up. It’s a world of sleep deprivation, and never being able to plan your family activities and recreational life. It doesn’t pay a well as a doctor. The support network is smaller and often far flung. It can feel like working in isolation.

If you join a midwifery practice (like a doctor’s clinic), you can schedule parts of your life … somewhat. But that comes at a cost to the families you serve, who then cannot count on it be YOU who attends your birth. Just like mothers today in Terrace will never know until it’s time to push who will actually catch their baby.

Typically intervention rates are lesser for low-risk women using midwives. But all that depends on the hospital’s culture and protocols around birthing. That’s a whole other conversation.

The fusion of midwifery and medical labour-delivery requires a mutual attunement and a shared vision for what is truly best across the birthing continuum. That must rise up from the grass roots. It must be simultaneously fostered from Northern Health’s highest offices through to local hospital department heads and clinics, all the way to meet the woman in HER place.

I recently attended the birth of my 15th grand baby, and I will say the care at Mills Memorial Hospital was exceptional. The primary nurse was as much a midwife as any I have known, as was the lady obstetrician who checked in, and our family doctor/OB who caught our latest wonder. Birth is what you make it, and these folks got it. It was pretty special.

Women who desire midwifery services need to organize. It is their job make it happen. It is their job to knock on the doors of the medical community to initiate the process. That’s what we grandmothers did in the late 70’s and 80’s… so we could get fathers in the delivery room, have awake cesareans, VBACs, bet proper breastfeeding support and rooming-in with our newborns. We organized. We brought our concerns forward. And, we were- eventually – heard.

Thank you Andrea Eastman for bringing the conversation into the light. Now grab that torch, and move on your vision! GO!

Marianne Brorup Weston

Thornhill, B.C.

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