Let’s face it, as midwives we have an interesting calling. It is profound, spiritual, demanding, awe inspiring and a little crazy. It is systematic and mentally challenging work, to which we dedicate years of study. It is also a complex, ever evolving work of art that we spend many years learning. And, in all honesty it is a messy business. We are invited to the most intimate of times for families, and I am not just referring to the birth. It is important work and involves life and death, however, this does not mean that it is all dry and clinical. In fact, like life and death, it is often wet, squishy around the edges, downright funny and achingly sad. The processes of pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum are a swirl of emotions, laughter and tears. This third pearl of practice discusses what it means to be involved in these life events.
As an example, in a postpartum visit, we may talk about organic personal lubricants, how to entertain a two-year-old while nursing a one month old, the advantages of several sexual positions for achieving orgasm and which natural diaper creams are the best! Additionally, we may talk about the struggles of mothering two children, incorporating parenthood into a marriage, attempting to balance time for oneself and time for children, concerns of a recurrence of postpartum depression, and the joy that each child brings to your life. I have attended births with folks who throw temper tantrums, older siblings who blow bubbles; births surrounded by laughter, moans, cries and hugs. On more than one occasion I have been drenched in a birth pool, soaked by amniotic fluid and sprayed with urine. It is crucial to be able to laugh at yourself, sometimes at the process and always with the family if appropriate.
Since my entry into this work, I have also supported women through heartbreaking emotions. I have an initial negative reaction to the term “bad outcome” as it feels too cold and clinical. However, bad outcomes do happen and are part of the territory. I have sat with a woman as she worked through the loss of her pregnancy. Some women will do everything “right” and still develop a high risk complication and I have sat with them as they process this fact. I have caught a baby who was not well, handed him to his parents and sat with them while explaining the situation. I have listened to women as they work through postpartum depression and supported them through the healing process. In the midst of all of this there were tears. As care providers, we must be able to remain calm and give information. However, we must also remain compassionate and that may mean showing and sharing emotions.
Many times as clinicians we are taught to distance ourselves and to camouflage our emotions. I have a strong belief that this distance can be too strongly enforced. Clearly, we must remain objective. Clearly, we must maintain good boundaries. However, to truly be “with woman”, we must on some level be with her, sharing the experiences. This leads me to Pearl #3; Emotions are Healthy and should be shared. Life, like birth, is a mixture of light and dark, laughter and sadness, and as midwives we must be able to sit and be present in all the messiness this will entail.
How do you share emotions in your birth work?
Do you like this Pearl of Practice? If so, please also read about the first two pearls here.
Image credit Crowned Photography
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