The midwife mother relationship: Keep it professional!

The relationship a mother has with her midwife can be very satisfying. It can be satisfying both to the mother and to the midwife. This is one of the many things that makes midwifery work such a tremendous pleasure. I value greatly the relationships that I make through my work. But pregnancy and birth happen well, not because of the midwife mother relationship but because the midwife gets out of the way, because her role is to support the power and autonomy of the mother and her baby. We midwives love the relationships we make with the mothers we serve and sometimes our understanding of it becomes confusing.  Our attachments to each other muddle our knowledge that it is not about us. We have egos! But we are professionals. We must maintain professionalism. Professionalism is knowing that it is not about us!

For years I practiced as a solo practitioner. That is what out of hospital midwives often love to do. We are there for mothers 24/7. Then, with age came wrinkles, gray hair and a greater understanding that it's not about me. Being there 24/7 for everyone not only damages my health and potentially my family life, it makes the relationship between mother and midwife inappropriately codependant. I did not come to this realization through rationally thinking it through, I came to it by experiencing shared call and its advantages not only for the midwives, but also for the mothers.

I met Alma at the birth center at 3 in the morning. Alma, planning a VBAC birth for her second baby after not laboring at all during her first birth, was anxious. She was 2 centimeters dilated "I don't think I can do this" she said looking me in the eye. I expressed my confidence in her and helped her let go of the waves as they passed through. We discussed ways to get rest at home before labor became more active. "But you won't be on call in the morning" she said "I can't do it without you. I want you there". " Your body is working beautifully. You are letting it happen, letting go. Your baby is on the way. The right midwife for you will be there for you when you are in active labor, to suppport you. It will be just the way it is supposed to be". And I believed this. It was true. I loved Alma. I even, really would have liked to have been there for her. But I truly believe that her birth was exactly the way it was supposed to be and I was not to be part of it. She came back into the center later that day. She labored perfectly. Her baby emerged whole, healthy, just right and into the hands of both her husband and just the right midwife. And Alma was elated.

I, as a midwife and as a person, am strengthened by letting go of my practice and of my clients, getting my ego out of it and trusting the midwives with whom I work.