by Jennifer Williams, CNM
Right now across the country and the world, student midwives
are learning all about this calling we love so very much. Having been a CNM for
eight years now, I feel I am in the adolescence of my career. During this time
I have learned that there are five rules midwives should carry close and follow
as they practice. These rules are not about signs of placental separation,
steps for resolving shoulder dystocias, or pearls to estimate fetal size. Those
are strategies you will learn in your education program and practice in the
real world. These tips, however, are no less essential for midwifery practice.
Rule 1: Believe
in yourself. As midwives, we believe in the normalcy of birth and that we are
lifeguards or guides, observing normal birth but ready to act if something
abnormal occurs. We believe two things: birth works and our presence may help
it work better if necessary. Know that you have the education, experience and
intuition necessary to step in if problems arise.
Rule 2: Check
your ego at the door. There is simply no room for pride or arrogance at a
birth. Yes, you have education, experience, and intuition, but no one knows
everything. I learned this as a brand new nurse 12 years ago, when I asked a
very seasoned physician a question about tuberculosis and pregnancy. He
answered, “I don’t know.” We work in a network with many bright people. Use
them as resources.
Rule 3: This is
actually the most important rule, but I place it third so it fits within the
context of the first two rules. When it comes to a woman and her growing baby,
she is the expert. Listen to her. Women know things. If I had a dollar for
every woman who tells me she was told, “It can’t be time to push yet, because
you were three centimeters dilated 20 minutes ago” and then pushed out her baby
while her attendants rushed to put on gloves, I’d pay off all of my student
Listen to women. Watch women. Use your eyes and your ears.
Honor what she says and what she feels, because those are the most important
clues you have about how things are going.
Rule 4: Marvel at
the awesomeness of birth. Remember that a woman will remember the birth of her
children for the rest of her life. Even if she doesn’t recall the specifics, she
will absolutely remember how she felt. Are you empowering her? Listening to
her? Helping her feel strong and safe? In a multi-tasking society, I appreciate
how birth requires us to be 100% in the moment. Birth is special, and we are
lucky to do what we do.
Rule 5: Take care
of yourself. We have a front-row seat to the most intense times in women’s
lives. We are midwives. We are “with” women. Not “by” women or “in front” of
women. We tell them we will be with them and we will walk this road with them. Sometimes
the road is difficult and painful, and includes poverty, violence, loss, and
heartbreak. Be with her, help her carry her burdens and then set them aside
when it is time. Find a way to decompress. Eat well. Exercise,
even if you don’t have the time. Know when to recharge. There are lots of
midwives, but to your family there is only one you. Accept support from your
sister midwives and offer them support, so that you will all be able to be
“with woman” for many years to come.
Williams, CNM, graduated from Frontier Nursing University in 2003 and has the
great honor of catching babies with the most talented and highly attractive
group of midwives and physicians in the southwest. She and her patient husband
have four children, who are all brilliant, of course. She is easily amused,
persistently optimistic, and never bored.