I absolutely loved loved loved my experience with midwives for my prenatal care and the birth of my daughter! As a birth photographer with doula training, I have seen a lot of births with my own two eyes. The good and the bad. I have seen mothers being fear mongered into decisions against their wishes, interventions they didn’t want etc etc. When it came time to have my own baby, I knew the type of birth I wanted, and I knew my best shot at actually getting that type of birth would be with a midwife.
I reached out to the midwife who caught Olive and asked if she’d be willing to answer a few questions for a blog post! She said YES! I am so thankful to be able to share more about this amazing woman and how her experiences have shaped her life. Please take the time to read!
Brief description of your educational and professional background?
My original undergraduate degree is a BFA in Acting/Musical Theatre from NYU. In my early twenties I went back to school for nursing in NYC, and then worked as a labor and delivery nurse first in Manhattan, and then in Philadelphia where I attended the University of Pennsylvania for my Master’s degree in Midwifery and Women’s Health. I also have a minor in Global Health and have traveled to Guatemala and the Dominican Republic to work with childbearing families. For the last four years I’ve been working as a midwife at Neighborhood Family Practice, a small midwife practice in Cleveland, Ohio, where births are attended at Fairview Hospital. We provide traditional care, and birthing center style care in the low risk in hospital birthing unit at Fairview. We also provide co-care to couples choosing homebirth with direct entry midwives in our region.
What led you to midwifery?
I was teaching mother/baby music and movement classes in NYC in a space called Realbirth that offered childbirth education to New York families. I loved watching young families bloom, and people become parents. I wanted to play a bigger role in that process. I took advantage of the NYC childbirth community and studied to become a Prenatal Yoga Instructor, doula and childbirth educator while I waited to start nursing school. During nursing school I attended births as a doula, and soon after graduation I started working as a birth assistant for a homebirth practice. Those midwives are still my closest friends and mentors today.
What does being a midwife mean to you?
Being a midwife means I get to partner with a birthing person and their family. Their needs, wants, cultural beliefs, hopes and dreams are what matter the most. My goal is to help them have a birth that is in alignment with their priorities. I do that with shared decision making, and loving support. And above all, my role as a midwife is to maintain a circle of safety for the birthing family. I help my clients to make decisions that are informed by evidence, and during their birth it’s my job to worry about the safe passage of their newborn, so they can focus on the important work of birthing.
In what ways do you seek to improve childbirth for women?
Childbirth is in crisis in this country. We spend more on healthcare than any other nation, yet we have some of the worst outcomes for mothers and babies in the developed world. I talk to families every week who have had traumatic birth experiences, and to women who felt that their provider didn’t listen to them, or worse, treated them with disrespect, and disregard. In our practice we have a saying that “one encounter can change the world”. I try to make all of my clients feel heard, valued, and cared for. And if you know me, you know I’m not afraid to speak up and fight for what I believe in.
What have been some of the most rewarding aspects of working in midwifery?
So much is rewarding. The professional relationships (midwives make the best colleagues and friends- we know how to party!) The families, and the relationships. And most importantly, witnessing the transformative power of birth. I never take for granted what a gift it is to be welcomed into the birthing space of a family, and trusted to provide their care.
What challenges have you encountered in this field of work, and how have you managed these challenges?
Work-life balance is a real challenge. But honestly the biggest challenge for me is not being able to do it all. I have lots of ambitions (I’d like to get my PhD eventually), but I can’t do it all at once. I have a family who needs me (three small kids and fourth on the way, and a job that is all-consuming.) Like all working mothers I have to give myself credit for each small step forward. And sometimes that means just doing the basics, and doing them well. And there are every day challenges, like our families who have unstable housing, no support, and need basic necessities to care for their babies. It breaks my heart when a woman asks to go back to work at three weeks postpartum so she can pay her rent. These things are hard, but they also keep me grounded in my personal life, and give me a sense of purpose.
How many couples have you looked after over the years?
I have no idea! From my nursing days, doula-ing, educating, yoga-ing, midwife-ing and everything in between, I’ve been blessed to care for hundreds and hundreds of couples and families. There are so many who I still hold close in my heart. I am so grateful for the lessons each family taught me along the way.
And last one, your personal advice on how pregnant ladies can find a midwife?
So many of the midwives are on social media groups-find them and message them! You’d be surprised that most of us are happy to talk to you about our practice. Do your research. Read books, figure out what you want, and then ask tons and tons of questions. If someone makes you feel like you’re wasting your time with questions- move on. Does it matter to you if you’ve met the person who will attend your birth? You’d be surprised to know that the majority of births in this country (Cleveland being no exception) are being attended by someone the birthing person has never met before. How long do you get for visits? What are your options and choices? You can also visit midwife.org to find midwives in your area who are listed in the American College of Nurse Midwives, our national professional organization. And talk to other people who birthed with a midwife. When you ask enough questions you’ll find the midwife and practice that resonates with you. In the words of one of my favorite midwives: trust your gut, trust your gut, trust your gut. Pregnancy and birth care is so important- don’t settle for anything that feels less than great and in total alignment with your needs and desires.
Thank you SO much, Emily for sharing your gift with the world and me personally 🙂 Hopefully you’ll be there for whenever my next baby is on the way!