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5 Essential Rules for Midwives

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 loans.

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.

Jennifer 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.

Posted 10/13/2011 9:40:09 AM



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