What Does it Mean to be a Midwife in 2018?


What is a Midwife in 2018?

I am always saddened to discover that in 2018 many people do not know or understand what a midwife is or does! The term itself mid….wife means with…women.  I became a midwife over 30 years ago because I wanted to make a difference for women wherever they chose to birth their baby. At that time I was working at a large urban hospital with residents, obstetricians, and one midwife. The difference between the births that the midwife did and everyone else was so moving to me that I chose to follow her path.  Much has changed in the past three decades, but the principals of midwifery have not. Our commitment to support the mother and family unit, to encourage a woman to trust her own instincts and birth in whatever position/location that feels right for her while being surrounded by the people important to her has not. 

Today, there are over 12,000 women and a few men who are midwives in the United States. Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) are the most common type, but there are also Certified Midwives (CMs).  Both CNM’s and CM’s have graduate level midwifery degrees, have passed a national certification exam, and can prescribe medications and treatments. About 95% of the births done by midwives occur in hospitals, but another 5% safely birth at home or in birth centers.

Although midwives are best known for their role in pregnancy and birth, we also provide care for women from puberty through menopause. This can include routine gynecological care, birth control,  and  yearly visits after menopause.  Many women become so attached to their midwife that they follow the same person through all the stages of their life. I always say that once you see a midwife you will  be sold on the difference in your care.

Often I am asked to explain what the difference in birthing with a midwife vs a doctor might  be. Many people think it means they cannot have an epidural or drugs, which is not the case.  During pregnancy, my goal is to assist the mother in feeling healthy on all levels, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. There is so much more to birth than just the size of the baby and the mother’s pelvis. A woman's emotions, needs, past experiences, etc. are all major players in the birth process. I seek to educate her about her body, nutrition, exercise, and to understand her desires for the birth. I am there to support her in birthing in whatever way she feels is right for her. It is her birth, and I while I cannot control the course of labor, I can control that she feel supported during the process.  I believe that the only way to manage labor is to be present with the woman during the entire process. Pushing with a midwife can be different in that we encourage you to push in any position that works for you. We limit interventions to necessary medical problems, and rarely will cut an episiotomy.

Although most birth is normal, we recognize that sometimes there is intervention needed in the form of C/Section. I am grateful to work with a group of five Ob-Gyn’s and four other Certified Nurse-Midwives.  Just as there is always a midwife from our group on call, there is also a obstetrician available if we need them. In this way our patients are always cared for by members of our group that they have met before labor.

Suzanne Arms wrote this in the 70’s and I have strived in my 30 years of practice to practice with this philosophy. 

“Childbirth is an experience in a woman’s life that holds the power to transform her Forever.  Passing through these powerful gates –Each in her own way-Remembering All the generations of mothers Who walk with her She is alone- Yet not alone.”



The strength you find...

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CJ Lewis wrote,  "A strong woman knows she has strength enough for the journey, but a woman of strength knows it is in the journey where she will become strong!"

A good friend, also a midwife, gave me this quote on a plaque. It resonates with me in so many ways.  It is about accepting that yes, life can be hard sometimes. It is about knowing that in the challenges the universe presents we can choose to grow stronger or we can wallow in our own self-doubt and judgments.

For all the pregnant woman I am blessed to be connected to the message is clear. Women have the strength, they were born to birth and mother their children, it is in their genes;  but it is in accepting the challenges along the way that they truly grow strong. Carrying, nurturing, and birthing a baby requires great strength and endurance but even if a woman perceives herself as not strong she will have her baby. However if she embraces the entire journey and accepts that it will have ups and downs, that it may not be a straight line, she will be empowered  and transformed by the birth.

I have raised four children and lost one more. Each birth taught me something different.  Each child in their formative years and on into adulthood has also challenged me. For example, each one of my children was very different with different needs, personalities, and strengths. I learned that when my girls came to me with a problem, they wanted me to “fix it.”  My boys just wanted me to listen. My teenage son stopped me dead in mid sentence when he said to me “I don’t want you to fix it. I just want you to listen.” I recognized that when I allowed my eldest child to decide on her own, she would always go in the right direction. I also found that my eldest son would never choose the way I hoped so, therefore, needed more forceful direction if it was an issue of safety. My second daughter was so difficult at 3 that I read every book on child development. It convinced me her behavior was very normal and she ultimately morphed into the easiest child at 4 and ½ and stayed that way all through school. Finally, I learned that sometimes if you try to push your children too hard, they will just push back harder. You have to let go and allow them to learn their own lessons. When my youngest son was in high school I could not get him to take grades seriously, so I said to him I cannot want this more than you want it for yourself.  He told me that was the most important thing I said to him.

In some ways each experience has made me the strong woman I am. When there were health issues, I learned that the more “experts” you spoke to, the more you could make an informed decision. When there were no clear answers, I learned to let go and trust there was a reason. I have taken these lessons and embraced them to enable me to give the support to pregnant women and new mothers that possibly someone without the same challenges would not be able to give.

I always say birth is not easy because motherhood is not easy!  Birth requires great strength but motherhood asks for 100 times that strength in accepting that our children will teach us the lessons we need to learn; and that it is not always easy but it is incredibly fulfilling. We continue to grow with each stage and through the journey, we are transformed into mother and eventually wise woman.



Mothering the mother


Mothering the Mother

 “The health of every family begins with the mother.

She is the tree from which the healthy fruit must come “

   Juliette De Bairacli levy

From the moment a woman even contemplates wanting a child she begins to enter into her mothering role.  Her heart expands and she begins to look beyond herself.  It is the single most important role and often the most difficult one that women have.  I have been delivering babies for over 30 years and am always in awe of watching a mother see her baby for the first time. She is almost always overwhelmed, scared, excited, and completely in love with her baby.  I never get tired of delivering a baby and seeing the pure love pouring from a new mom as I place her baby in her arms.

When talking to pregnant women, we often focus on the pregnancy and birth and fail to consider the first 6 weeks postpartum. My daughter Kendall, who has 2 children, reminded me of how challenging this time can be.  The mother has just willingly signed up to be awake for days on end, to endure physical pain after childbirth, while simultaneously loving this new person with her entire being and then questioning, is she doing it “right"?  Often, the new mom wants her own mother to come help her. After my first granddaughter was born, my husband told me Kendall would want space to be with her baby. I thought that was wrong, but agreed. The first night home with her baby, Kendall called me crying to please come over because she needed help.  I looked at my husband, said some form of “I told you so” and drove over to her house.

The job of a mother wears so many “hats." They are constantly loving unconditionally, serving as a role model, instilling confidence and compassion, providing discipline and structure,  usually the chief cook and housekeeper,  and of course meeting everyone’s physical and emotional needs. It can be exhausting.  As a mother of four children, I can certainly speak from experience.  One of the key phrases in our house was “Where’s Mom?” For there is a certain comfort, only the mom can provide.

Only since my mother passed last year, did I truly recognize the power of the maternal bond, especially between mothers and daughters. I was blessed to have my mother for 58 years. She nurtured me, supported me, and helped me raise my children.  She was my best friend and listener. In later years I spent a great deal of time caring for her. But when she passed, I realized the void of being “motherless."  She was the person who always accepted me for who I am, loved me unconditionally, and told me I was doing a great job. Now trying to fill her shoes and assume her role as matriarch, I truly know the importance of the Mother!

Individually and as a society I would like to remind all of us to support all new mothers by encouraging them to trust their instincts and their intuition. They will know their baby better than anyone. To help new mothers in the physical , bring them food, offer to clean, take their other children. Remind them of the amazing work they are doing.  And to support all women, as we move through the stages of our life, without criticism or judgement, recognizing the nurturing bond we all share.

With love,


Birth Plans...

Detailed Birth Plans

I often wonder what is it about detailed birth plans that make labor and birth so difficult? In my 30 years as a midwife, I have never seen this document improve the quality of care or the outcome of birth.  In fact, it is always the reverse. It  seems the more detail in the plan, the  less likely someone is to birth without intervention.  

So the question is WHY? As a yoga teacher, I would assume that writing your positive intentions  down on a piece  of paper would be beneficial. After all, I often talk in my prenatal classes about affirmations and writing down positive thoughts, successful outcomes. Smart  intelligent women research birth plans on the internet and in good faith print them to reinforce their wishes to their provider.  Possibly one of the reasons this backfires is because the scripts on the internet microanalyze every facet of labor and birth, giving women scenarios to worry about they never thought to consider. The other issue is that women are encouraged to write birth plans rather than talk to their providers about what their views are on intervention and promoting natural  birth.

When my patients ask me if they need a birth plan, my response is usually, “No, because there is nothing you could want that I  would not normally do."  I tell them that while I cannot control how labor goes, I can control that they be supported throughout the process.  I also want them to share with me their views and visions for their birth. For example, whether they are definitely planning an epidural, whether they are going to wait and see, or whether they think they absolutely do not want an epidural.  This helps me guide them in labor.  If a woman tells me she  is absolutely sure she wants one, then I know to suggest the optimal time to take  it.  If she tells me she would prefer not taking one, then if she is progressing quickly but suddenly feels anxious (usually signifying transition is coming), I know to tell her to wait just 10 more contractions and then reevaluate. However, I also tell them that even if they are absolutely sure they don’t want one, I will encourage it if I believe it is in their best interest.  My suggestion is always to visualize the way they would like labor to go, to see it flowing and easeful, and then to accept there may be  detours along the way. 

Most importantly, I feel that as a society we are not encouraging women to trust their intuition, their bodies, and their ability to birth. I encourage women to prepare for birth through prenatal yoga, meditation, breathing, and childbirth classes.  Katie and I started Spiral Path Yoga to give women the information and support they need to fully enjoy and embrace their pregnancies and transitions to motherhood. Both in and out of the office, I work to support and help as many women as I can experience positive, healthy pregnancies and prepare for birth. If a woman tells me she still feels the need to write a birth plan, I suggest she write down on paper her WISHES, a POSITIVE document of what she would like her labor and birth to be as opposed to writing down all the things she doesn't want. 

Suzanne Arms wrote in the 70’s, “Childbirth is an experience in a woman’s life that holds the power to transform her forever. Passing through these powerful gates –Each in her own way—Remembering all the generations of mothers Who walk with her. She is alone—Yet not alone.”


The IN-Between

The IN-Between

I had a busy call this Monday, helping and supporting 5 women birthing their babies. As busy as I was, I had time to sit with my mothers, to be in their space, and observe the quiet. Sometimes the most meditative moments I have in a week come when I sit with a mother in the throes of labor. Women rock, they moan, they breathe, and then…there is quiet. The space between contractions when women gather their strength and prepare, for the next contraction, for the next phase of their lives.

The IN-BETWEEN… the space in-between contractions, in-between being a pregnant woman and a mother, in-between being a couple and parents; these are important transitions and require contemplative space.

It is incredibly important to respect this time. All too often I see visitors, care providers, support people chattering and talking in a manner that is not supportive to the laboring women. She needs the quiet to draw upon all her reserves, her incredible mama strength. She needs to know that she is the most important and only focus of everyone in the room. Only then can she use her intuition to move in a manner that allows her to birth her baby. 

When I was a young midwife in training, I was told by a preceptor that when you enter a laboring woman’s room, you must leave your own issues, moods, concerns outside so that you can support her energy in a positive manner. I have found this to be true over and over. There are times when a woman is stalled in labor and I have asked a particular “support person or persons” to step out and she will spontaneously become fully dilated and birth her baby.

I love observing a woman as she proceeds with her “labor dance,” rocking and moving, looking completely inward with the quiet only broken by her own sounding, or requests for support or nourishment. I know she gathers her courage, her strength, maybe acknowledges her fear during the in-between one contraction and the next. For me, this time of stillness, of being with women in all their power gives me joy but also insight into my own intuition, my soul knowing and sometimes the strength to continue to the next laboring women and the next…

Happy Mother's Day!

There is no power on earth as strong as a mother’s love. There are countless stories of women finding the strength of 10 to save a child. Every time I assist a woman in birthing her baby,  I am amazed and awed by the sheer strength that women carry within.  I will often tell her support person to watch her face at the moment of birth.  It is one of sheer triumph! I assisted a woman birthing this week  and as often happens for me, was humbled by her tenacity and courage in birthing her baby.   She pushed in every position imaginable to rotate her baby and bring her into “the light”.  She never wavered in her conviction that she could do it and  through the sheer power of her will,  she did it!

I often tell mothers that to birth they must  access the deepest darkest part of the self. They must find the strength that lies deep within, in the parts of the soul that are not polite or quiet but  can wield a sword or throw fire. Anyone who has never before seen a woman in the throes of labor is astounded by the transformation that takes place. To witness a normally polite, controlled  woman rocking and moaning and assertively telling everyone in the room to be quiet or leave is truly awesome.

I believe that birth is hard because motherhood is hard. It comes with sacrifice and the giving of part of your very being. I have been known to say that children “suck your life force,” and they do, but it isn’t a bad thing.  You love them unconditionally with all that you are and all that you have. But the rewards are endless. I would not be the person I am without the gifts of my children. I would not know yoga;  I would not be a teacher without my daughter Katie.  I often work long hours, staying up for 24 hour calls and then caring for my grandchildren for  another 8, and then I find the energy to teach prenatal yoga.  My peers often ask me how I do it all.  My answer is simple. I am a Mother. As a mother, you love unconditionally and through that love, you dig deep down  and you find the strength within to give and spread that love.  So I want to wish all the women who have conceived or  birthed a baby Happy Healthy Mother’s Day!   You are all powerful, strong, amazing women and I bow before you.