"What does the term 'With Woman' mean to you? I've been thinking about this phrase quite a bit, and I'm curious what others may think. I know the etymologists definition of midwife is "With Woman", but I'm more interested in what that means to each of us individually. Any suggestions?"
This was a question that was posed on a forum I subscribe to, and I found it interesting. Midwife is defined as "with woman", and that definition has played a role in how midwifes view themselves nowadays. I thought I'd just respond to this by relaying a few experiences I've had.
I think one of the neatest experiences I've had in being "with woman", was when I was working with a hospital based midwife. She stayed with the mother the whole time. As the mother was having a natural birth, both of our attention was undeniably on the mother. We watched her movements, tried to understand her needs, and spoke with her where she was at emotionally and physically at that time. I have never before experienced such an intense feeling of teamwork. Not only did we focus on the moms emotional needs, but there was a keen awareness of the need to focus on how the baby was doing also. There was no tension over whether there were too many interventions or not, because we were all on the same page. There was a sense of trust. And while there were some issues that were worrisome, there was no feeling of fear or adrenaline rush. We simply did what we needed to do. I think a lot of this was due to the fact that the focus was on the woman.
The other time I think of, was when I was laboring with a woman who had intended on going natural She had become exhausted by the time she got to eight centimeters. A decision was made at that time to get an epidural. She wanted to just have a light one so that she could feel a little bit more when she was pushing. Well, it came down to pushing time, and she pushed and pushed but that little baby just did not want to make his way down. So, me being the natural minded nurse I am, decided that having her push on her back the way I was taught she should, was ridiculous. I knew she was able to move a little bit more and we had lots of help, so we had her role over on her hands and knees and with support she pushed more.
She eventually was able to push her baby out, but the thing that was most memorable for me, was how I loved working with her to decide how she might be able to push better. I loved supporting her in her desire to push the baby out, and in her desire to try different positions (we even had her squatting on the bed with some support). I loved being able to make sure that her new baby was still ok by holding on the monitor while she pushed instead of having it strapped to her. To me, supporting her in this way was one of the things I love the most about my job.
Being "with woman" is a very intense, emotional and physical job. It takes a lot of brain work, and emotional work to do. It is so much easier to not do it, really. I think if you can find a caretaker that takes this view on as part of their job description, you've found a gem.
Birth is a Journey: Does it have to be life changing?
One woman might have to climb on an overfilled boat, risking her life and nearly dying as she escapes over the ocean to come to this land. This experience could certainly be life altering. It may very well color the rest of her life, positively or negatively. (I overcame this amazing struggle and here I am triumphant! OR Holy crap, that was SO hard I don’t know if I can go on! By the way, neither response is “right”. No one would judge the woman with the 2nd response.)
One woman may buy an airplane ticket, sit on a comfortable 747 and fly to America with a nice smooth flight and landing. She is happy to be in America. Those welcoming her are glad she is here safe and sound. She may only travel by plane 2-4 times in her life, so it is pretty memorable. But the journey itself probably wouldn’t be life changing; it would simply be a journey.
One woman may learn to fly an ultra-light plane to lead a flock of geese into America teaching them to migrate. This experience could certainly be empowering and life altering.