My husband is awesome! Having a family can make being called to a birth a dicey situation if the midwife doesn’t have great babysitters and great family support. When I get called to a delivery or to be with a client having a complication, he is always right there, ready to take over childcare, cooking, cleaning, homework and anything else that comes up. Now don’t get me wrong, he does his share of all these things already, but he happily sends me off when I am needed elsewhere. He knows that being a midwife is important and that birth matters to the family I am attending. He sometimes even packs me a little lunch to hand me as I’m walking out the door, and he is always making sure I have what I need (keys, cell phone, little pouches and larger packs for supplies), which is an excellent quality in a midwife’s life partner, I must say.
Over the course of my midwifery career I have missed Easters, Thanksgivings, Christmas Eves, my mother’s birthday, my husband’s birthday, our anniversary, and many other occasions while attending to birthing women. It’s just part of what we do. This last holiday season I was at a very long labor with a special mom and as we waited for her little one to make his arrival I kept thinking about all the things I had put off until the last minute. Cleaning the house, getting Christmas Eve dinner ready (fish of course..). Presents I hadn’t wrapped yet. Even the presents I hadn’t bought yet. When baby finally made his appearance the afternoon of Christmas Eve, not only were we thrilled for the family, but we were thrilled to get home for the holidays. It was my youngest daughters first Christmas and I was really hoping that I wasn’t going to miss it.
I cannot say enough how imperative it is to have a supportive and flexible partner when you are a homebirth midwife. When you make the decision to walk this path, you need to be sure that your partner is on board and can step in to cover you when you get called. Whether you have children, pets, or other responsibilities, the realities of being on call mean that at some point, you will not be able to fulfill your responsibilities or promises elsewhere. Your partner needs to be “on-call” too, and to have a thick skin so he or she doesn’t take your absence personally. Busy midwives are gone a lot. And not everything fits into a 9-5 schedule.
I also have amazing kids. My oldest is soon to be 15 years old, and has always kicked in to do her part. She babysits the younger ones when I see clients, she helps her Dad when I’m not around, and all while maintaining her grades and staying on the honor roll. Her participation in the family is invaluable and she has a wonderful sense of personal autonomy that I wish all teenagers could tap into. I can only hope that the younger ones will also grow up to follow in her footsteps.
If you are on the path to midwifery, be sure to have The Talk with your partner. They need to understand the commitment you make to your clients, to be there on the day they need you, whenever that is. Middle of the night. Middle of dinner. Middle of lovemaking. It happens.
On Christmas Eve I returned home around 9PM. When I arrived I was greeted by my family, who were so happy to have Mom back after 3 days away from home. There was shrimp and scallops over pasta already made for me. The dining room table was clean. The living room was clean and ready for Christmas morning. The tree, which had been brought in but still stood bare when I left, was all decorated and ready for Santa. They had done it all without my even asking, and it was the very best present ever! That night my oldest helped me wrap all the presents and I finally got to sleep in my own bed. Best thing was, I got to catch a baby and help an amazingly strong mother bring her baby into the world, and I didn’t even miss my Kaya’s First Christmas.