I am a British midwife and mother of three wonderful boys, who were born at home with midwives. One sometimes hears birth workers say that the first birth is long, the second fast and the third is the wild card, or anyone’s guess! The births of our babies followed that pattern and were beautiful in their own, unique way.
My hopes to work with women and babies were laid down early, as a child. As soon as I learned that women could have babies, I wanted to have my own and catch all of the others! I had a strong sense that women were special and powerful, I was glad to be a girl and sad for boys who would never experience pregnancy and childbirth firsthand! I was fascinated every time I saw a pregnant mother and wanted to know her story. This intrigue was there from my earliest memories and I sometimes wonder if it has been passed on from my grandmother, who worked as a midwife in India for 43 years.
I was born in England and grew up in Oxford. After high school, I went to Champneys College, Hertfordshire, where I studied holistic health care, massage and aromatherapy. I enjoyed imparting my knowledge of healthy living and making a difference in women’s lives. I found that women would openly share their thoughts and birth experiences with me during appointments. I enjoyed listening and learning. Several of my clients were midwives and when I expressed an interest in the profession, each one encouraged me and commented that I would make a good midwife and bring valuable skills to mothers and babies. I needed to spend more time working closely with families to be sure about embarking on a career change. I signed up with the London Maternity Nurse Company and worked as a maternity nurse facilitating the transition to parenthood, helping with breastfeeding and caring for the newborn. This involved being on call 24/7, mostly for first-time parents, which gave me valuable insight and experience for my midwifery career. Upon reflection, I can clearly see that a series of events led me to and prepared me for this vocation.
In 1999, I applied to midwifery school, along with hundreds of other applicants, and gained one of twelve places on the Bachelors Degree program in Midwifery at Oxford Brookes University, England. I was full of enthusiasm for this next season in my life. My midwifery experience was based at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, a large teaching hospital and maternity wing with more than 7,500 births per year. Our rotation and clinical placements began within 3 weeks, with hands-on care, ranging from a small group of homebirth community midwives, to a busy delivery suite complete with a dimly lit water birth room. Mats, birth balls and the opportunity to birth as women wished, to large, brightly lit, sterile operating rooms. My training led to broad experience of happy, healthy births, multiple births of twins and triplets, VBACS, breech, medicated, and cesarean births. I was always more comfortable with natural, uninterrupted birth, watchful waiting, making suggestions as needed and using various coping techniques to encourage women in labor. I enjoyed working within a team of skilled midwives, obstetricians and consultants to learn from. We had open access to spend time within all clinical areas including OB/GYN surgery, the special care baby unit (SCBU) and ultrasound. I worked on a high-risk prenatal unit, with frustrated women on bed rest for threatened premature labor, postpartum care with 4 beds in a room, mothers chatting happily with their newborns. Twelve hour shifts that were never long enough, from wanting to stay on to see a beautiful joyous birth through, to talking with shocked teenagers staring at their new baby in disbelief and wonder, to remaining beside grief-stricken parents, their tiny, silk-wrapped, still baby, in the palm of her mother’s hand. I was challenged, emotionally, spiritually and physically. It was a calling that I said yes to, joyfully, and have carried that forward into my care today, when the call to go comes at 2am or any moment in time!
I graduated in July of 2002 with much to celebrate, we were expecting our first baby, who was due two months later. Being around all of those mothers and babies was powerful! We were also going to experience life in Virginia. The opportunity for my husband to move here through his job with British Airways had come up and we welcomed it with open minds and hearts. I had my concerns about leaving a strong midwifery model of care though, where midwives have been around for millennia and my mentor and friends were my midwives, to a dearth of midwives and more medical approach in the U.S. We thought it would be fun to live here for a couple of years but we like it so much that we’re still here, fourteen years later!
The birth of our first son was empowering. Two days of labor and three hours of pushing. Our amazing midwife said “My goodness, you worked hard for him!” The greatest gifts call for everything we have and when we think we have nothing more to give, we find the strength and see the treasure! One of the many special memories we shared during Finn’s first year was when the three of us joined an infant massage training together and I became a certified instructor of infant massage (CEIM), when he was five months old.
The shortage of midwives and options for mothers in our underserved area, spurred me on to gain my license here as a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), in October, 2010.
Being with families during this profound, pivotal time in their lives is a special gift and I have thoroughly enjoyed working in every role, as doula, infant massage instructor, maternity nurse, birth assistant and midwife. I thrive on the ever-changing experiences that midwifery brings and adapting to different families, their lifestyles, cultures, rituals and routines. I learn so much and something new through every experience with the wonderful parents and babies in my care. I am eternally grateful for the gift of being welcomed into the lives of many amazing families and for sharing in their journeys.