I recently read a disturbing article. Apparently there is a midwife who is currently pregnant and unable to find a midwife to assist her. She has to birth in the hospital, with the type of care she doesn’t actually believe in.
This is troubling to me. If a MIDWIFE can’t even find another midwife who is able to take her on as a client due to lack of funding and lack of space in the practice, then what chances do the rest of us have?
It’s no secret that I don’t trust the medical system and it’s definitely been stated as fact more than once that I WILL HAVE MY NEXT CHILD AT HOME. This is not an “unless” statement. This is not me saying “I will have my next child at home UNLESS I can’t have a midwife.” This is not me saying “I will have my home birth UNLESS someone in a white coat advises against it.” This is not me saying “I will birth my next child 100% MY way, on my own terms and in my own home UNLESS circumstances beyond my control make it impossible for the midwives to attend to me in labor.” This is me saying I WILL HAVE MY CHILD AT HOME. NO “Unless”.
Nothing, and I do mean NOTHING is going to stop me from having my baby the way I want to. I don’t care if some asshole in politics speaks out against home birth and tries to have it criminalized. I don’t care if all the midwives are booked until 2017! I will NOT see an OB. I will NEVER trust my care to “the system” ever again.
So this midwife shortage affects me big time. Because if I got pregnant now, and I can’t find a midwife able to take me on as a client, then I’m not seeing ANYONE.
I’m serious. I will NOT see an OB. I will learn to take my own vitals and I will just shrug my shoulders and say “oh well” and just try to be as healthy as I possibly can. I will continue to call into the practices, waiting for an opening spot, and if I get one at 25 weeks then I get one at 25 weeks. If I don’t get one until 35 weeks then I get one at 35 weeks. If I never get to have a dating ultrasound or an anatomy scan then I guess I just won’t have a due date and the sex will be a surprise.
I’m not saying it won’t suck to not know whether I’m having another boy or a little girl, but hey, it beats the alternative of being bullied into every goddamn medical procedure or exam that’s “standard”, or more likely, having to say “thanks, but no thanks, and stop trying to talk me into compliance” at every OB appointment.
As for the due date, well, I don’t actually care about that anymore either. If I don’t know my due date I can’t be considered “overdue” or “measuring smaller for dates”, can I?
But the lack of prenatal care isn’t the only thing that this shortage of midwives will affect. It also would mean that I’ll have to go it alone if I go into labor, because no way in hell am I going back to the hospital.
This option, to “freebirth” or UC (Unassisted Childbirth) is not ideal. Some women actively choose it, and that’s fine, but truthfully I feel more like I’m being pushed into this choice than actually WANT it. It really just comes down to which of the less desirable options (assuming I can’t get a midwife) I’m willing to pick, and as much as it’s going to upset a lot of people in my life, well, I’m sorry but I’m NOT going to the hospital this time. I’m just not.
Am I perfectly okay with not having prenatal care? No, I’m not. But given the choice between the midwife who respects my right to informed consent and refusal of all blood tests or routine vaginal exams, or having to fight with an OB at every visit when they say “next week we’re doing X exam/test” and I say “actually, no, we’re not”, I want the midwife. I will NOT accept an OB just because there aren’t midwives able to take me on as a client; I’ll just not see anyone.
Am I happy with the thought of possibly not being able to have any ultrasounds if I can’t get the prenatal care I actually want? No, I’m not. I’m one of those women who likes to know the sex of the baby because I feel weird calling it an “it”. It feels too impersonal for me; I bonded with my unborn son and called him by his name and I can’t imagine nine months of not knowing my child in that way. The due date, I don’t really care that much. I could probably figure it out on my own since I’m taking a pregnancy test every month due to not having my period (and planning to skip it altogether by catching that first egg that drops). But yeah, I did love having the chance to see my son on the screen and I will be very disappointed if I can’t do the same thing with my next baby.
Am I happy to labor alone, birth alone, and try to figure out what to do with the afterbirth? Again, no. I really don’t like that idea at all. I’m not against midwives, as long as they are clear that they’re there to assist me ONLY if I ask for it. But if the only way I can have an attendant at my next child’s birth is by going to the hospital and dealing with an OB, then I guess I don’t have a choice but to birth alone.
What I’m trying to say is that the shortage of midwives in our country is incredibly problematic for women like me. It’s not a case of whether home birth is “safe” but instead considering what the alternative (the REAL alternative) is to not having enough midwives. Because when we simply shrug our shoulders and assume that women will simply accept the shortage and go to the hospital anyway, we’re seriously underestimating the desires of those women not to repeat experiences they feel were traumatic. We’re underestimating the lengths that some of these women (myself included) might go to in order to avoid the hospital altogether. And in doing so, we force women who actually WANT maternity care into making choices they wouldn’t make otherwise.
One thing for certain, if things don’t change soon in regards to accessible midwifery care, I might have to learn how to catch my own baby.