100 Things I’ve Learned in 100 Births
So, my 100th birth happened last week, just before midnight on the 12th.
100 births since 2008. 44 doula births. The other 56 births were as a midwifery assistant and student. Those began January 29th, 2014–my late father’s birthday. The birth of a new life, and the birth of my midwifery journey. A significant day for me. Among these are two unplanned home births, in which I discovered I have what it takes to stay calm in unexpected situations.
100 births. Not counting the ones I missed by as little as a minute. I’m not sure how many of those there are, but there aren’t very many.
There is so much I have learned since I attended my very first birth as a doula in 2008. And there is still so much I need to learn. I am delighted, honored, and sobered at the distance I have traveled. Still more so at the distance I have left to cover.
How do I do it? The same way you do your life: One step at a time, one day at a time, to the best of my ability, with the help of others who have gone before, and the ones who walk it with me.
I will not turn away.
100 Things I Have Learned in 100 Births
- Just when you think you know birth, you are proved wrong.
- If it could go wrong, it probably won’t.
- But you should still keep your eyes peeled.
- Women are truly amazing. Every one of them.
- Babies are people too.
- And they deserve the same human dignity and respect as their mothers.
- Affirmations work.
- But they look different for everyone.
- The circumstances of birth don’t matter as much as how the mother is treated.
- Empowered women are formidable creatures.
- Midwifery isn’t for wimps.
- Being on-call is stressful for my family.
- I must be mindful of my priorities in ways many others don’t have to be.
- It does take a village.
- You have to choose your village wisely.
- My village kicks arse. Especially that portion made up by my husband and children.
- My husband and children have given me more grace than I deserve on this journey.
- Pay yourself first.
- You can’t control for what baby decides to do on the way out.
- Sometimes, perineal tears happen in spite of everything you try.
- A birth pool really is the Midwife’s Epidural.
- This job isn’t “fun.”
- Three o’clock in the morning midwife humor is fun, though.
- People will text you at six in the morning to ask why the sky is blue.
- You really have to know your “Why” for doing birth work.
- Your family has to know and believe in your “Why” as much as you do, or it won’t work. It just won’t.
- I want to be known as a praying midwife.
- As a doula, my bag of tools got lighter with every birth.
- Sometimes, my hands, my voice, or my presence were all that was needed.
- I am enough.
- Hard things are worth it.
- There is nearly always a learning curve to breastfeeding, even if you’ve done it before.
- VBAC is incredible.
- The medical reasons for interventions are real, and should be respected.
- The health reasons for natural, physiologic, unhindered birth are real, and should be respected.
- It’s okay to speak the truth in love instead of just saying “Whatever you want, dearie.”
- Healthy mom, healthy baby needs a new definition in this country.
- A healthy baby is not all that matters.
- How we birth matters. A lot. I didn’t realize how much until I began this work.
- Decisions based in fear are never good decisions.
- It’s not consent if you’re afraid to say “No.”
- I am stronger and smarter than I thought I was.
- But I still have a lot to learn.
- The day I lose my sense of awe and sacredness in the birth space, I need to quit.
- The day I think I have arrived, and have nothing more to learn, I need to quit
- Making cesareans more humane is good.
- Reducing the number of unnecessary cesareans is better.
- Formula is a medicine.
- Breast is not best, it’s normal.
- Boobs are not for sex, though they do help it along.
- Boobs are not fully developed until they have lactated.
- Breakfast is always appropriate.
- Humility is central to this work.
- Being teachable is absolutely necessary.
- Thinking outside the box is a skill that should be developed to its fullest.
- Becoming a midwife is hard.
- Like, really hard.
- And expensive.
- As it should be.
- Midwifery is an artisanal skill.
- It should never be allowed to disappear.
- When you hire a midwife, you hire her whole tribe.
- When you hire a midwife, you are choosing to birth local.
- When you hire a midwife, you are choosing to be responsible for your own care.
- Prenatal care is what happens between your appointments.
- Nutrition matters a lot more than we ever thought.
- Midwives have known this forever.
- Birth is made up of strong women doing very vulnerable things.
- Meconium happens.
- And sometimes, it really sucks.
- I have seen the worst, and I still want this.
- Midwifery isn’t a career.
- Midwifery is a calling, deep, strong, and undeniable.
- If I weren’t studying midwifery, I would want to be a hospice nurse.
- The end of life is very much like the beginning of life.
- Sometimes, the thing that shouldn’t work, does.
- You don’t always have to understand why or how something works, as long as it works.
- Pulsatilla is awesome.
- I love seeing a family hear their baby’s heart tones for the first time.
- I love watching men become fathers.
- Gentle loving touch is a big part of what’s missing from modern obstetric care.
- I don’t notice nudity anymore.
- Placentas are not always appropriate topics of conversation in mixed company.
- Circumcision is a rarely justifiable elective surgery. Look it up.
- Methods don’t work, except for a select few women.
- Anyone who says differently is selling something.
- Flexibility is everything.
- Never hesitate to speak out of fear of looking a fool.
- If the zombie apocalypse happens, I’ll still have a job.
- Birth is much safer now because of two things:
- Infection management.
- Hemorrhage management.
- Midwives know both. Really really well.
- Knowing your clients gives you good instincts.
- Your heart knows as much as your head, even if your head is late to the party.
- Sometimes, the only legitimate basis for a hard call is your gut. You have to trust it.
- Finding heart tones takes practice and patience.
- If I know what needs to be done, and how to do it, I should not hesitate.
- Midwifery is who you are, not what you do. You either have it or you don’t.
- I am a midwife.
There is so much more I could add, but I wanted this to be off-the-cuff, and not over-thought. It was important to me that it be in my brain’s real-time, and not artificially cooked up to be more or better than what I actually am. It’s just very random thoughts off the surface of my brain. Some deeper than others, but all true.
What about you? How many births have you had or attended? What have you learned about yourself or about birth through them?
Grace & Peace,