Is the community midwife a unicorn? I’ve been wondering if, because of politics and rules and regs (amongst the reasons), this community figure has become more myth and a thing of the past. I’m definitely sad if this is the case, and for many reasons I mourn her.
Maybe it’s not like this where you live, but where I am…community midwifery seems dead. There isn’t one person (not even me) serving everyone in the community ; I’m more likely to be driving hours to mamas or even crossing the country for births, more often than serving someone right here. In my neighborhood. In 10 years, it’s happened only a handful of times that I have the luxury of walking to a birth!
And it’s not just the convenience. I wouldn’t say I mind the excess driving ( I also wouldn’t say I love it) but the convenience factor is of course less important than serving the right women. It’s also not as important as being available and accessible all the time, which again can be hard when traffic and cities stand between me and some of these mamas. But mostly, I mourn the community midwife for them, and for the way they can be served.
What are women missing when there isn’t a community midwife? So much. She’s missing someone close by, who can stop over with a few minutes notice. She’s missing someone who can come and go more easily (if needed) during her labor. What she’s REALLY missing is the midwife that can provide unbridled, true, home postpartum support. I actually love doing this for families, but the reality for me, too, is that I often just cannot do more than the minimum “care” when someone lives 3 hours away. With someone in the community, it’s so easy and joyful to serve and become part of the postpartum healing time. It’s so easy to pop over and brew some tea, or make a placenta smoothie, and leave. It’s easy to drop by and wash some dishes, and weigh the baby, and check in with the mom. It’s easy to do that full 7 days of postpartum care like Australian midwife Lisa Barrett taught me; it’s not only easy, it’s what’s truly needed in our culture.
New mamas need this “mythical” figure. In the absence of family and friends that understand the postpartum and often partners going back to work quickly, we need the community midwife for new mothers. And as much as I love (and use) phone and Skype to check in daily during this time, there is no substitute for seeing her face. For hearing her sincere words, and watching how she relates to her baby. The community midwife is there, to hold space and witness. Why do we think this ends with the birth?
I wish with my heart this archetype of the community midwife would resurface. Not just for me, although it’s definitely where my heart is. I wish it for the women, and my daughters, and generations to come. I want to see us leave behind the cold, clinical, “profession” of midwifery that makes women come to an office at 2 days postpartum. I want women in their communities to know that they need a midwife locally, and that it will probably enrich their lives and the lives of other community members.
New mothers need to feel special and pampered and honored. Without someone who has supported her close by, it changes things. The postpartum is such a tricky, emotional, overwhelming time for so many women. The last thing they need to feel like is a number, or just another appointment on the midwife’s schedule. But as midwives, we can usually only give them the true time and focus they deserve when we are intertwined with them in life.
Help bring back the community midwife by figuring out the options in your community. The midwives that have provided heart centered support in the past may now not be part of the political picture; this limits options for women and is making the community midwife extinct. Consider that, while fancy offices and clinics and centers LOOK really appealing, they rarely come with home visits and a midwife that will just as easily pick up a vacuum and throw in laundry as she will help you with breastfeeding. If you are learning midwifery, consider offering classes and gatherings to bring your community together. Be honored when the woman on your street wants to hire you as her midwife; and be honored when you get to serve her, bag in hand as you walk to her home.