Midwife != Equal Home Birth

Sue and I have raised a few eyebrows by deciding to go with a midwife for delivering the baby, rather than a traditional obstetrician. Not that people are all that surprised — Sue being nature girl and all — but they’ve been a little concerned, mostly because of misconceptions about what a midwife is and what it means for giving birth.

So why the surprise? It seems that a lot of folks think that having a midwife means that you’re giving birth at home. And naturally they were a little anxious about her being so far away from the hospital.

But having a midwife doesn’t mean that you have to have the baby on your couch. In fact, from what I’ve seen and read, that option would be the exception to the rule.

A midwife is usually a registered nurse who has taken additional training in obstetrics. They are usually associated with an OB/GYN (some states mandate that) and they help “catch” the baby at a hospital, just like a doctor would. In our case, there are four doctors and six-midwives in the practice we’re going to. While by default a midwife will deliver the baby, if a doctor is needed, there’s always one on call and since we’re at a hospital, all the traditional medical technology is readily available.

So why go with a midwife? It’s mostly a question of approaches.

Midwives advocate a more mother-centric approach to delivery — it’s not about the woman lying on her back with her feet in stir-ups, although if that’s what she wants, she can do that. Women can walk around, take a shower, float in a bath, work with a “birthing ball” (a large inflatable ball that they can sit on), sit in a rocking chair or do whatever else makes them most comfortable. Since Sue very much wants to be in charge of her pregnancy — and outright refuses to be forced to stay in one spot unless she absolutely has to — we went with a midwife.

Can you have a baby at home with a mid-wife? Yes, though the laws vary from state to state. Would we ever choose that? Definitely not for the first, but for the others … I don’t know. I think it would depend on the mid-wife, how Sue’s pregnancy was progressing, and how close we were to the hospital. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with it, but I doubt I’d ever be as comfortable with it as I would be at the hospital (of course, that said, I’m not the one giving birth…)