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Pearls from the First Year: Emotions Are Healthy

by Guest Blogger Aubre Tompkins, CNM

As clinicians we are often taught to distance ourselves and camouflage our emotions. I have a strong belief that this distance can be too strictly enforced. Clearly, we must remain objective. Clearly, we must maintain good boundaries. However, to truly be “with woman,” we must on some level be with her, sharing the experience. This leads me to Pearl #3…Emotions are healthy and should be shared. Life, like birth, is a mixture of light and dark. Pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum are a swirl of emotions, laughter, and tears, and as midwives we must be able to sit and be present in all the messiness this may entail.

I recently saw a mother for her postpartum visit. In the course of 15 minutes, the mother and I talked about organic personal lubricants, the advantages of several sexual positions for achieving orgasm, how to entertain a two-year-old while nursing a one-month-old, and which natural diaper creams are the best! Additionally, we talked about the struggles of mothering two children, incorporating parenthood into a marriage, attempting to balance time for oneself and time for children, fears of recurring of postpartum depression, and the joy that each child brings to your life. In the midst of all this was a lot of laughter. I have attended births with women who threw literal temper tantrums; older siblings who blew bubbles; births surrounded by laughter, moans, cries and hugs. On more than one occasion I have been drenched in a birth pool, soaked by amniotic fluid, and sprayed with urine. It is crucial to be able to laugh at yourself, sometimes at the process and always with a family if appropriate.

Since my entry into this work, I have also supported women through heartbreaking emotions. I have an initial reaction to the term “bad outcome” because it feels too clinical. However, bad outcomes do happen and are part of the territory. I have sat with a woman as she worked through the loss of her pregnancy. Some women will do everything “right” and still develop a high-risk complication, and I have sat with them as they process this fact. I have caught a baby who was not well, handed him to his parents, and sat with them while explaining the situation. In the midst of all this there were tears. As care providers, we must be able to provide care and sometimes that may mean showing and sharing emotions.

Let’s face it, we as midwives have an interesting calling. It is profound, spiritual, demanding, awe-inspiring, and a little crazy. It is systematic and mentally challenging work, to which we dedicate years of study. It is also a complex, ever-evolving work of art that we spend many years learning. And, in all honesty, it is a messy business. We are invited into the most intimate of times for a woman and her family, and I am not just referring to the birth. We do important work that involves life and death, but this does not mean that it is all dry and clinical. In fact, like life and death, it is often wet, squishy around the edges, downright funny, and achingly sad.

Aubre Tompkins became a certified nurse-midwife in 2010. She has a busy family, with three fantastic children and a great husband. She lives in Denver and works at Colorado's only freestanding birth center, Mountain Midwifery Center. She has been learning to knit for the past 3 years and is almost done with her first scarf. Her blog,With Woman, The First Year…And Beyond, is a chronicle of her experiences from her developing career.

Posted 10/19/2011 12:42:22 PM



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