When people ask why I am a midwife, I first have to tell them that I am one of the few fortunate people who knew at an early age, the subject of career.
As a child, I enjoyed going to the human body section of the museum because I wanted to see the pregnant models depicting the fetus at different stages of development. I was fascinated by the changes of the growing fetus. The museum also had interesting, odd facts about birth. I always headed straight for this section and could spend hours there.
By age 14, I was reading all the books I could get my hands on about birth. Mostly, I was reading about Lamaze techniques for giving birth. I was shocked and appalled to read that fathers could not be in the delivery room with their wives unless they had attended classes. This did not make since to my young, romantic mind. After all, he was there when the baby was created. Why couldn't he be there when it was born?
I remember vividly trying get next to or near anyone or anything that was pregnant, women, dogs, cats-it didn't matter. I hoped and prayed they would go in labor and birth right in front of me. I was frustrated time and time again.
By age 18, I thought my calling was to be a childbirth educator. I called Lamaze educators trying to find out how to go about being certified to teach Lamaze. I was told by one person that the 1st thing I should do was become a registered nurse, then become certified to teach Lamaze.
At age 20 and 2 kids later (yes, 2 kids at age 20), I entered nursing school. When I went through the maternity rotation (and also pregnant with my 3rd), I became aware that what I wanted to do with my education was not to teach childbirth but I needed, wanted to be actively involved in labor and birth. I wanted to assist women in childbirth.
About my children: my first 2 were born in a hospital. I can't say I had a bad experience, I didn't. But there were some things I did not like that I could not control. I did not like that my babies were taken to an incubator (still in the same room) to be warmed. I wanted to hold my baby. The yearning for that contact with my newborn was very strong. I kept telling the nurse "give me my baby, I will warm her." Later in life, I would read studies that proved that I was right. The mother's body is the best place to warm the newborn. Tell her that the baby looks cold, and her body temperature will start increasing until the baby is warmed to the right temperature.
I didn't like that, even though I made it clear on admission that I did not want any pain medication, they asked me during transition, the most vulnerable time, "are you sure you don't want something for the pain?" I was working so hard to deal with my labor, this question infuriated me. It felt like it was an attempt to sabotage all my hard work.
During my 3rd pregnancy, I learned that midwives are not just something of the past. I could have a midwife at home for the birth of my baby. I found a midwife who had a birth center and also did home births. We chose to birth in the birth center as a compromise because my husband thought it might be safer than being at home. By the end of the pregnancy, he came to realize the truth that home birth and birth center birth are the same. The difference is who gets in the car to drive.
Back to my career: After I graduated nursing school in 1983, I began working on my plan to become a labor and delivery nurse. At that time, you could not go directly into an internship in labor and delivery from nursing school. The private hospitals wanted you to have general nursing experience, then, somewhere, some how gain 1 year of experience in a labor and delivery unit. I went to work at the old Jefferson Davis Hospital. This hospital had the reputation of doing the most births of any hospital in the nation. After six months working at this hospital, I could get a job in any labor and delivery unit. By 1987, I discovered Certified Nurse Midwives. I discovered that I could apply and possibly attend Baylor College of Medicine's Certificate Midwifery Program.
This was it. My true calling. I overlooked every obstacle which clearly stood in my way (including being a single mother of 3 young children), and I went for it. I graduated Baylor College of Medicine in 1989. I went to work for BCM at Jefferson Davis Hospital and then Lyndon B. Johnson hospital immediately after graduating. I spent 3 years "catching" babies in a hospital setting. It was a baby factory and in that 3 year period I "caught" approximately 500 babies. I was not totally satisfied though. I saw women for prenatal care in clinics, but there was no guarantee I would see the same woman for her next visit much less her birth. The women I assisted to deliver, I had never seen at a prenatal visit. I did not like the disconnect. I wanted to follow a woman all the way through her pregnancy and birth.
After the birth of my 4th child at home, I went to work for Pat Jones, CNM who had a very busy home birth/birth center practice. I took call and did prenatal care for Pat for 5 years. During this time, I "caught" about 300 more babies.
I stopped working for Pat after the birth of my 5th baby, again at home, to be a stay-at-home mom.
When I went back to work 4 years later, I worked in a labor and delivery unit as a Registered Nurse. This was a shock to me. In those 4 short years, it seemed something about birth in this country had gone wrong. I saw increases in interventions like inductions, epidurals, and cesarean sections. I saw the cascade of interventions that led to more interventions, contributing to the increase in cesarean sections. It was unbelievable the number of scheduled inductions and cesarean sections. I had to put blinders on to be able to work in this setting. November of 2006, Pat Jones and I re-connected. She was ready to nearly retire, reducing dramatically the number of births that she attends. She wanted to be able to refer women to someone she believes honors birth as a natural, normal life event, who trusts the woman's ability to give birth on her own, and who believes that babies deserve to be born in a gentle and loving environment and not be separated from their parents. She asked me if I was interested. Yes! I was definitely interested and ready. HomeBirth Experience, Inc, Where Families Begin, was born.