This is Midwifery. This image is clearly stunning, the joy and power radiate from it. There is one big thing about this image that stands out to me as a midwife. The focal point is the family. The midwife is present, behind them offering support but is not the center of this experience. She has empowered them to be the owners of this moment and they are reveling in it.
What is a midwife?
The history of midwifery is deeply rooted in the community. As long as humans have been gathering in community, women have been helping each other through the journey of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and child rearing. Over time and across all cultures, there has been a building of collective knowledge and experience. This information was passed down from woman to woman through the millennia. As a species, we have collectively practiced this Community Birthing model. It has been supported and grown by the art and science of Midwifery. The knowledge of midwifery has been fine-tuned, honed and passed down from hand-to-hand and mouth-to-mouth to the new generations of midwives. Midwives also adapt to new knowledge and information, incorporating new technologies when appropriate and safe. Midwives will go where the families need them and as hospitals became more common, some midwives adapted their skill sets and credentials to follow them. Now, midwives are at the forefront of the fight to bring birth back to the community when appropriate. And midwives continue to support women who birth in a hospital; whether by choice or necessity. All pregnant people need and deserve midwives, so we must have midwives in all settings. However, we must not forget our roots in supporting birth within the community. Midwives and the practice of midwifery is ancient and full of power, we can and will rise to meet the new challenges that confront us. The Midwifery Model of Care is summed up nicely here. Due to their history and foundation, midwives view pregnancy as a normal event in the framework of the person as a whole. Midwives support, nurture, educate and observe the pregnant person; guiding and intervening when necessary. The vast majority of women of child bearing age who naturally conceive a pregnancy will start and remain low risk throughout their pregnancies and are excellent candidates for midwifery care.
What is an Obstetrician?
Obstetrics is a relatively new specialty in the field of Medicine. It began seriously in the 1800’s, prior to that some physicians had made forays into this realm. Surgical delivery had been practiced in extreme cases for centuries and in the 17th century the Chamberlen family invented forceps to aid in difficult births. Prior to this and even during these times, the emerging field of Medicine viewed pregnancy and birth as women’s work and shied away from it. Eventually, the specialty of obstetrics became more organized and grew. Typically, the field of Medicine views training through the lens of pathology: there is problem and they wish to fix it. This is not a bad thing in most cases, if you are involved in a car accident and are injured this is a problem that needs to be fixed. If a baby is born with a heart defect, it may need surgical intervention to save its life. These are wonderful examples of the power of Modern Medicine. Today, Obstetricians are highly trained and skilled surgeons and are experts at working with high risk pregnancies and births. Their skills are a vital part of a robust health care system and crucial for the pregnant people and babies who develop complications that make them high risk. Not every women will be low risk and for these people Obstetrics can be life-saving. Obstetricians and Midwives should be able to work collaboratively in order to provide the best and most appropriate care for each woman.
Personally, being a midwife is a calling rather than simply a profession. It is technically a profession; I have spent years in training both in a classroom and hands on at the side of the pregnant person, I commit to a high level of continuing education and I regularly confer with my peers. However, it is also a calling; the hours are grueling, time away from my own family and holding this type of space for clients requires more than mere commitment, it requires an intense passion. A passion that fuels you when everything is gone, a passion for supporting the pregnant person through the process. This passion gives rise to compassion, grace and strength in the face of all the triumphs and heartbreaks that occur when walking beside woman on this journey. This is Midwifery!
What is midwifery to you?
Aubre Tompkins is a Certified Nurse Midwife and the Clinical Director of Mountain Midwifery Center in Englewood, CO. She is a passionate supporter and defender of Physiologic Birth, ensuring choice for families and providing care to families in all the shapes and sizes that they come. She is also committed to growing the profession of midwifery both locally and abroad; this passion is fulfilled as both a preceptor to student midwives and as a Board member of Midwife International. On a personal note, Aubre has a fantastic husband and three precocious children that keep her busy at home.
You can also learn more about her birth center atwww.mountainmidwifery.com.