Final thoughts on midwives

After being visited in our house by a midwife for the first week and a bit of our daughter’s life, we had to go to the office for the 2, 4 and 6 week appointments. At 2 weeks (a group appointment), I noticed the midwife examining the eyes of the other babies. She didn’t check my daughter’s, so I figured the other babies were older and she would check mine next time. At 4 weeks, the midwife asked me if my daughter had been tested for her red-eye reflex. I said no, so she left the office for a minute, came back and said that they couldn’t find the instrument used for the test and had ordered a new one. My daughter would be tested next time, it was no big deal. At 6 weeks, the final appointment, I asked for her eyes to be examined. The midwife mentioned that they still hadn’t found the instrument and believed it belonged to one of the midwives who just left the practice – she probably took it with her. They still hadn’t received a new one, but she was “sure she’s fine, there’s very little chance she could have been born with cataracts”. Right. But you still do the test on every baby. There must be a reason, no?

So now that my relationship with the midwife has come to a close, it’s time to think back on the whole experience. Would I recommend midwifery to a friend? The answer is maybe. But as nice as my midwives were, I don’t think I would recommend them specifically to a friend. Here is why.

I was followed by 4 different midwives, plus a fifth during holidays. I think it’s pretty standard for midwives, but it seems like mine couldn’t get their records straight. From one appointment to the next, they wouldn’t remember if they had talked to me about certain things, done this or that test, etc. It didn’t matter too much for me because I was not a first-time mom, I have plenty of resources, when I wasn’t sure of something I wasn’t afraid to research it or ask about it, and I remembered things that had or had not been done and I made sure the midwives didn’t forget anything. But for anyone who is less well organized or more anxious, it could definitely be an issue. I certainly preferred being followed by only one practitioner the first time around. But then again, another clinic might do things better.

On the other hand, there are things I really enjoyed from midwifery. The fact that the person helping me during labor would be someone I had already met was certainly a perk (my new doctor works in a group of 7, any of which can be at the birth). The fact that she would come to my house if need be and we could always have the baby here (with her help) if I didn’t make it to the hospital. The fact that she would give me postpartum care in my home (at least when they had time to come), which allowed us to leave the hospital early. That in itself made a huge difference as we were able to rest much, much better at home than in a hospital (where nurses come in and out all the time to take your vitals and various people get paged at various hours). Indeed, I think that choosing midwifery was worth it for me mainly because of the possibility of early discharge. Of course, I wouldn’t have wanted early discharge with a first child (I was much less confident back then), which would have defeated the purpose.

The other really nice thing I got from the midwife is my records on the last visit. I always wished my doctor had given me that kind of a summary of the pregnancy and birth. This time, I know what happened when without having to trust only my memory. That is really, really nice. I also think the midwives did a better job explaining the whys of different tests and asking for informed consent instead of just having me take them because it’s the norm. The truth is, it didn’t change much because I still opted for a pretty standard course of action. But it was nice to get a bit more info.

So my experience was certainly not only negative, and I don’t regret it. Given my options, I would do it again, although I may try a different clinic to see if they’re better at keeping records. The midwives were nice and I really trusted the one who was there for my labor. But I don’t think midwifery would be a good option for a first-time mom who is insecure and needs to feel like someone is taking charge of her pregnancy. There were several times when I was asked a question and I just wanted to answer: “Aren’t you the specialist? Shouldn’t you tell me what to do?” They trusted me to know what to do more than I trusted myself. But in the end, it worked out really well and I had another uncomplicated delivery and a healthy child.

As for my daughter’s red-eye reflex, well, we are planning on asking our doctor to check it when we go in for her first vaccines at 2 months. Hopefully she’ll have the right instrument!

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