I recently transitioned into the most monumental new phase of my life yet…motherhood. It’s been an amazing journey so far and I look back on my pregnancy and delivery with feelings of disbelief, fondness, mushy goodness and empowerment. My experience through pregnancy and particularly, my delivery and first weeks with my newborn could not have gone as well if it weren’t for the incredible team of midwives I had by my side throughout the process.
Midwives in Ontario are primary health care providers for healthy women during pregnancy, labour and for six weeks post-partum. They provide the same medical services for standard pregnancies that family doctors and obstetricians provide, but provide additional support during labour and post-partum, such as being with you to deliver your baby and doing home visits to monitor you and your baby in the days following birth (non-standard pregnancies may involve multiple babies–twins, triplets etc.–, cesarian section births, or women with particular health concerns that may affect their pregnancy and thus require specialized care from another health care provider).
When I became pregnant I had no idea what midwives did. My husband, being in the health care profession, knew more about their role and recommended I sign up with them, given my preference for having someone with whom I could develop a relationship and have more time during appointments to discuss any issues or questions. The midwives I had surpassed my expectations and did all of the above and more. I feel that their unique value lay in the balance of care they provide; a specialized knowledge of standard pregnancies, labour and post-partum care for both mom and baby, highly skilled in vaginal deliveries, personalized care pre and post-partum, and a warm, caring and empowering approach that provides just the right kind of social/emotional support for women and their families. The synergy of all of these aspects creates a highly valuable service that I believe is crucial in allowing for physically and emotionally healthy mothers and babies…and healthy and happy mommies and babies lead to a better functioning society in the long run!
My journey looked something like this…
My husband and I signed up at the Midwives Clinic of East York Don Mills. I was assigned to a team of 3 midwives (and a graduating midwifery student intern). Two of the midwives were considered my primary caregivers, to be with me during delivery (along with the student), and the 3rd was a backup. I had one check-up per month until I was about 30 weeks along, after which point my appointments were more frequent. My appointments were approximately 30 minutes long, during which time the midwife would answer any questions I had, listen to the baby’s heartbeat, measure my ever-expanding uterus, follow-up on any blood work and monitor weight gain and sugar levels (in a nutshell). They would also discuss pregnancy, labour and baby-related topics that were relevant to the stage of pregnancy I was in.
I went into labour the day after my due date. I was at home and breathing through my contractions, then paged my midwives according to instruction, when my contractions were 5 minutes apart and very strong. One of my midwives and the student (who was amazing, by the way–I’ll refer to her as one of the midwives) came to my house to assess how far dilated I was. I was 5 centimetres dilated so they instructed me and my husband to go to the hospital and said they would meet us there. When we arrived at the hospital the midwives were already there and had registered us at reception and had also prepared the birthing room for us (they had a hot jacuzzi waiting for me…nice). As I was breathing through my contractions in the birthing room (I was mobile and not hooked up to any machines), my husband asked when the midwives were going to check my dilation once again. They told us that I could just take my time, focus on myself, keep breathing and let them know when I wanted to be checked. They said confidently that they could get a good sense from my body language and pain management approximately how far along I was, so they didn’t need to keep checking me. I felt comfortable and secure in the presence of the midwives, whom I had gotten to know during my pregnancy, which made a big difference in allowing me to focus on myself and do what felt right for me. With my husband by my side, I kept breathing through each contraction, one at a time and got into a ‘zone’. They gave me and my husband the space and time to do what we needed to do in order to make it through each contraction and they offered support when asked. I didn’t even know how much time had passed but after what seemed like several hours, I wanted to know how far dilated I was. They checked me at that point and I was already 8 centimetres along! I made it to 10 a little while later, at which point my primary midwife called the other midwife from my team of 3, to join us at the hospital for the pushing stage of labour. The pushing was extremely challenging and exhausting for me (and lasted almost 3 hours) but the midwives were right there beside me, focused, passionate and committed to getting me through it. They supported me by massaging me, suggesting different positions and techniques and coaching me with strong, positive motivational words. They worked as a team with confidence, skill and so much sincere care for my well-being. I felt completely taken care of and encouraged.
My son was born healthy and I was overcome with emotion and gratitude for the role my team of midwives played in bringing him into this world. I had no interventions during my delivery and recovered quickly. I know without a doubt that my level of comfort, control, and mental and emotional focus to get through the immense challenge of labour was facilitated by my team of midwives.
In the first two weeks following delivery the midwives visited us several times at home to provide guidance in establishing breast-feeding, to monitor the baby’s weight gain and to see how I was feeling physically and emotionally. They also provided us with useful resources to help us take care of all of the baby’s most important needs during the first few weeks. They were also ‘on call’ for me by pager in case I had any urgent questions or concerns. After these first couple of weeks, I then continued to visit them regularly at their clinic until he was six weeks old.
I was sad to say goodbye to the wonderful women who had played such a crucial role in the most remarkable day of my life. However, I left with such a great appreciation for what they bring to this world. They took care of me and my son with heartfelt care and they did it with such a high level of professionalism and expertise. Midwives are truly valuable in this world…they help give babies the right start to life and help mothers stay connected to themselves and their little ones. Thank you so much to my marvelous midwives…and I’ll be back if/when baby #2 is on the way. 🙂