My son was born in August 2013.
Pregnancy is scary… labour is scary… caring for a newborn is scary. Like most mums I know, I’m constantly wondering “is this normal?” or “am I doing this right?”
Imagine if you had someone to reassure you, offer you advice and tell you “it’s not easy, but you are doing an amazing job.” Someone who doesn’t pass judgement on your parenting methods or abilities. Someone to offer you tips and tricks that will keep you sane when you haven’t slept, showered or eaten. Well I was lucky enough to have that someone — my midwife.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I decided to choose a midwife instead of an obstetrician but I met my midwives, Rhea Wilson and Sarah Cross, when I was only six weeks pregnant and was with them until six weeks after my son was born.
Like many pregnant women I know, I may have been a little paranoid, crazy, uncertain (the list goes on) and I don’t know how many times I called or paged them with questions or concerns while they talked me off the ledge… especially when I had to have an emergency root canal in my second trimester. Unlike doctors, midwives are available to their clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And unlike most medical offices where you are in the waiting room longer then the exam room, at my appointments I could sit and chat with them for an hour if I wanted to, armed with my list of questions.
I got to see both sides of pregnancy care when at 32 weeks I was transferred to a high risk OB at McMaster Children’s hospital because of a heart condition I suffered triggered by the pregnancy. Everyone at Mac was amazing but the high risk clinic is busy, the doctors are in high demand and it just didn’t feel the same as when I got to ‘hang out’ with Rhea and Sarah.
In the end I had a great birth at Mac and got to keep my midwives in a supportive role. Jack was born one week early, after about six hours of active labour. I really wanted a natural birth and decided to do hypnobirthing where you focus on breathing, meditation and relaxation. My husband will say how calm and beautiful my labour was but I’m not sure that’s how I would describe it. At one point I remember thinking “gah why did I decide to do this?!”
My midwife, Sarah, was at my side for my entire labour, encouraging me. I’m pretty sure I squeezed her hand more than my husband’s. And when Jack’s heart rate dropped near the end, she coached me to push him out in only six minutes. I truly mean it when I say I couldn’t have done it without her.
There aren’t many occupations that involves the kind of relationship like the one between a midwife and her client. And it really is a relationship. I spent 40 weeks getting to know these two women during a special and important part of my life. It was hard to say good bye at the end of it all.
Of all the mums I’ve met and shared birth stories with in the last few months I’m surprised at how many decided to have midwives. There’s a funny saying that once you pee on the stick the first call you make is not to your husband, but to the midwives because there’s so few of them it’s really hard to be cared for by one.
Many people are surprised when I tell them that my midwives were covered by our healthcare. That you don’t have to have a home birth or do it drug free. There are almost 700 midwives in Ontario, they have privileges at most hospitals and since midwifery became a regulated health profession in 1994, 150,000 babies have been born under their care. Basically they are baby experts and can do everything a doctor can as long as you have a healthy and normal pregnancy and delivery. They even visit you at home for checkups postpartum.
But based on my experience I think it’s fair to say they aren’t properly compensated for the work they do. One pay equity expert says while other healthcare professionals have received pay increases there’s a pay gap for midwives of about $94,000 based on their value. Despite this my midwives say, like I’m sure most of them would, they catch babies and help other women because they love it and it’s rewarding. But any woman who has been looked after by a midwife will agree that they should be justly rewarded for the work they do.
Even though I’m no longer a client, we still keep in touch over Facebook. So when Rhea told me this week that they are continuing to fight these pay gaps by announcing Wednesday that the Association of Ontario Midwives is filing an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario regarding pay equity I wanted to show my support by sharing my story.