Day in the Life of a Home Birth Midwife

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Photography: Cathy Britton

The work of midwives in all settings is valuable and impacts on the lives of many woman and children worldwide. Midwives teach, care for families, and positively impact upon a mother’s childbirth experiences. But what exactly is an average day for a home-birth midwife?

The truth is that every day is different. There isn’t a midwife that goes to sleep after a work day knowing that her next will be the same. There are schedules, timelines, appointments and check-ups. There is a flow, there is routine, but when a woman goes into labour life becomes organised chaos in which they excel.

Caring for women in the home differs from a clinic or hospital setting. A home-birth midwife must learn about the home and those in it. She must check the setting for the birth, educate the family and ensure that the basics are present and everything is safe.

The first job of a home-birth midwife might be to reassure the expecting mother that her decision is a wise one, that a home-birth is just as safe for a low-risk woman as a hospital, and in many ways can be more natural and relaxed than the pressure of a hospital. And after that, there’s a structured process to follow. Initial meetings, routine checks and preparation talks lead up to birth day.

The joy of being a home-birth midwife is being part of the journey. Over the term of the pregnancy a bond is formed, a trust built, a union created. For a new mother there may be apprehension, nervousness, and fear about the coming birth, especially when removed from the safety net of a hospital. And so a midwife is involved from the start, informing a mother, walking by her side until the day of birth.

At that moment there is kindness, compassion and respectfulness. There’s strength, empathy, and empowerment. And there’s intuition to know when to act, what to say and what to control. Everything joins to create a setting of comfort and safety in which to bring new life into the world. It’s a tribute to, and a continuation of, the ancient art of midwifery.

The best outcome from midwifery is a happy, healthy baby from a happy, healthy mum, and proper care doesn’t stop at the birth. Some mothers tend to focus on the birth, and so a home-birth midwife must then press the importance of what comes next, of the joys, challenges and reality of becoming a parent, and in doing so empower families to grow and blossom.

But it isn’t a job without challenges. There are the obvious: being woken in the middle of the night, dealing with stressed patients, long hours and uncertain times. There are the practical and legal challenges that limit the realistic care abilities of a home-birth midwife, and there are the effects on a midwife’s family personal life. Forever waiting by the phone a midwife needs an accepting family of her own who understand that her women come first. For when that phone call comes, she needs to be free to drop everything, to go and to be with the mother. And for some midwifes, that means sacrificing their own personal experiences for the good their patients.

But it’s a job that many midwives cannot do without, and for some it’s much more than a job. Through their work they help many women see giving birth as a normal life event. Through their reassuring presence they demystify birth, reducing the fear of the moment, and forever change a family.