One month into my new job as a home birth midwife, and I must admit, I am wholly, unashamedly, unequivocally LOVING it! I’ve attended 4 births so far, 3 of which were in the home and one of which was a transfer (and I’ll have to write more about that later, but let’s just say that it was a HUGE learning experience. Not an emergency transfer, thankfully, and everything turned out well, but no one wants to transfer, even if it’s the right thing to do.) However, it’s been a bit of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants month. Doing shift-work at a hospital all my career has made my life generally a lot more livable–being able to know when the end of your shift will be, and to pass on your women in labor to the oncoming (fresh and perky) midwives and go home and get some rest is a really nice lifestyle, truly. As a home birth midwife, we’re there not necessarily from the very start of a labor (we try to arrive once active labor has started, which is sometimes hard to judge), but we stay until the very end, and women can easily have 2-3 day births. My second week of work we were with one woman for 34 hours. Just a few short days later we were with another woman for 26 hours. These are really long work days, to put it mildly. Thankfully since my midwife partner and I are going to all the births together for the time being while I orientate to home birth, we’re able to spell each other and take some naps on the couch during these marathon births, but even so…it’s a whole new level of work-induced sleep deprivation (although not nearly as bad as being a new mother, since these periods of extreme sleep deprivation are not *every* night, just every now and then). However, when I come home from a 34-hour birth, I’m not always able to fall into bed and pass out for a day. I’m a mother, after all, and the bambino has no concept of being up all night, and even if he did, he wouldn’t care. But I’ve been lucky so far to be able to rest a little bit after these long deliveries, and I’m hoping that my back-up childcare options continue to work out so fortuitously (as well as the back-ups of the back-ups). And there are still women who need to be seen for their prenatal visits in the office the very next day, no matter how much you’d like to cancel the entire day and just sleep.
Last night we were called around 3:00 am to attend a first-time mother in labor. Having just come off a string of such long marathon births, I was wholly prepared to show up and stay with her for another 14 hours or so (at least), but her labor was taking a different turn. The baby arrived promptly after only approximately 3 hours of active labor, and a 20 minute or so push. In fact, when she started pushing and said she could feel the baby starting to come out, I was a bit skeptical, since I was thinking first-time-mom = 1+ hour push at least. But I put my hand in the water (she was pushing in the tub) and lo and behold, she was crowning! (For what it’s worth, my much more experienced midwifery partner was not fooled; when the mom said she could feel the baby coming out, she wisely got a pair of gloves, rather than just smiling and nodding.) It was my very first time delivering a waterbirth, and it was pretty spectacular. Thankfully it was happening so quickly I didn’t have much time to get nervous about it, and the woman could have easily delivered this baby on her own without any assistance at all. The head came out quickly, the shoulders followed immediately (with a surprise nuchal hand), and I lifted the baby up out of the water and placed her on her mother’s chest and voila! We all gazed in wonder at the newest human to join us Earthside while the baby loudly told us exactly how she felt about her new change of scenery. It was beautiful.
And in fact, it’s just so fabulous to get to develop a relationship with your clients, and be able to promise them unequivocally that *yes* you will *will* be at their birth, a luxury I never had with my last job since it was shift work and I could never guarantee to my patients that I would be the midwife working on the night they happened to go into labor. The pace of the office still remains a mystery to me, though. While I’m only booked for 5-6 clients a day, which on paper looks as if it would be a cake walk compared to the 26 patients I was expected to see in a single day at my old job, the visits are so much longer, more in-depth and more intense. And I am once again discovering that I’m very slow, and I’m getting backed-up and making people wait again, which is much less acceptable in private practice than it is in a big public hospital where women are expecting to have to wait for their visit. I still have so much more to learn, but it has been an exhilarating month so far!