pregnancy, birth & lactation services… at home
Big changes are coming into my life this year- I’m beginning to believe that life is nothing but one long flow of change- and these changes will really alter the way we live our lives (I’ll let you in on these specifics when they are more tangible and not simply on the horizon). But whenever a change comes to us,, whenever the current ‘life plan’ I’m working with is altered, I take a moment to reassess.
My youngest child is now almost 4 years old. I, like all parents, am thinking about my children’s childhood- what kind of life am I building around them? My children are my highest calling and deepest passion and the way I parent them is one of the fundamental aspects of my own identity. Having lost two babies prior to birthing my son 6.5 years ago, I am keenly aware of the passage of time and that the days I have with my babies (yes, I call my first grader and almost-preschooler ‘babies’) are fleeing faster than I’d like. Is it possible that I don’t have real babies anymore? No diapering? No toddler beds on the premises at all? How did it happen that my sweet baby boy is almost too big to pick up and carry? (Note to self- get picture of me carrying said baby boy before it’s too late- *sniff*). My time with my kids- although full of the normal life stuff like stepping on banana pieces I’ve asked them to pick up six times and refereeing conflict about who gets to play with the sparkle-hair pretty pony- really is precious. I am so blessed to get to be with my children. I taught my son how to read and add. My daughter wrote out the letter ‘A’ yesterday and asked me to name it for her. These little moments can’t be won back once they are gone…
The other side of that coin is that the available years to pursue callings and giftings other than my children are also fleeing. I wish I knew at 16 that I want to be a midwife when I grow up- I would have pursued it right out of high school and would have been practicing even before meeting my husband! However, it took my own births, my own losses, my own breastfeeding struggles, and my own parenting victories to realize that there’s no other work I could possibly do on this planet. It may be the hormones, but I literally feel like I am GLOWING when at a birth. Birth fits me.
So, how can I pursue birthwork- give my all to that call when I’m already fully, joyfully dedicated to being ‘at home’ with my kiddos- AND homeschooling them? Is this the struggle for women of our time? How do we manage to be completely ourselves? How do we manage to be fully who we are called to be when it seems as if our callings push up against one another?
A few years ago, I attended the MANA Region 5 Midwifery Conference in Maryland. I was fortunate enough to attend a session with Diane Goslin (very accomplished midwife with over 30 years experience) who led a session called “Seasons in the Midwife’s Life”. In it, she advocated that women with young children take time to raise their own families before committing themselves full-time to midwifery. Diane explained that there are many women who begin their midwifery journey slowly, taking breaks as necessary to have children, attend to family obligations and that they come in and out of training until the day arrives that they can fully practice. She shared that there are seasons in a woman’s life- a time for every purpose under heaven, as it were. Diane explained to us the very high toll midwives often pay for the demanding nature of the work- being on call 24/7, being called away from the important events of our loved ones lives, never being able to be fully present anywhere because of keeping attention on one’s phone in case a client calls… I am sure that not ALL midwives have stories like this- I am sure that there are midwives who haven’t felt that tension between wanting to be in two places at once. But the challenge for me is not being a woman who has regrets about what I had to give up to practice my call- either of them.
A couple of weeks ago, I was wistfully thinking of how much I long to be at births. For many reasons, my practice currently focuses on education, bereavement support and lactation care. I half jokingly told Facebook that I am jealous of midwives. Many friends agreed with me, expressing their own frustrated desires to pursue midwifery. But one commenter, a very thoughtful midwife I respect greatly posted this (shared with permission):
When I look around at the midwives in my circle, I see broken marriages, disappointed, often resentful kids, immune disorders, weight issues, car accidents from driving exhausted. Midwives pay the price in guilt. Families pay the price in loneliness. Missing birthdays, Christmas morning, no family vacations from being on call…It.is.hard. The gravity of the responsibility of this job (and esp in this state) weighs on midwives. Attending the funeral of a baby means not only comforting the family, but continually questioning whether you could have/should have done something differently, because it was *your* responsibility. Politics inside and outside of midwifery, investigations, criminal charges, bad transfers. This is what we see as midwifery.
This midwife later shared with me that there are many joys to midwifery as well (glowing at birth is surely one of them, right?) and she worried that perhaps she was too negative. However, her words echoed Diane’s words from years ago.
Midwifery is hard. Midwifery takes time and dedication. Midwifery demands the *first fruits* of one’s life.
So, I am in a position where to be fully myself, to be who I am meant to be, I have to make some hard choices. I think I can have it all- happy, functional, loving family AND excellent midwifery practice- but I can’t have it all at the same time.
Parenting takes time- I am dedicated to give the first fruits of my day, my week, my life to my family (what? Is it the 1950s again? Eh, so be it- it’s true in my life). Seriously, my family ethic, my calling (not yours, not Sally’s down the street, not the awesome midwife who has young kids and is doing AMAZING balancing it all), my calling to my family demands that I be fully present here and now until my kiddos are more independent and are starting to make their own way in the world. Then, I will begin to pursue midwifery practice. When my children are about to successfully launch into their own lives, when Christmas mornings with matching PJs have happily flown by, when braces are removed from teeth and children are able to drive themselves to practices and really like not having mom around all the time, that will be when I have fulfilled my call to be fully present for them.
Does this mean that I can in no way express my call to be with women? No! I just have to relegate ‘the call’ to it’s proper place. I am able to be with women in many fulfilling and important ways right now- I teach doulas and parents, I counsel women who are having difficulty breastfeeding, I companion families who are grieving the loss of their precious children. I am ‘with women’ now as I will be when I am a midwife. But everything in its proper time and season. As the wise midwife from above said later, “… the granny midwives were “granny” age. Grown children, many and varied experiences equals wise women, exactly the kind who should be attending families.”
Yeah, I’ll be in great company someday.