This is a question that I often find myself contemplating. What is the worth of a midwife? I wish to be able to give my knowledge and support to every person who would want it. The reality is that that is not really possible. This is a fine line we walk as midwives. We wish to serve all but realistically we simply cannot. Here are some of my thoughts on the issue of why it is important to be “paid” in some way. I spend hours, days, weeks, months, years serving at the feet of my clients. I do so, willingly and with respect, but that does not make it easy. I do not expect to live a life of luxury, in fact, my life is pretty minimalist but I do expect and dare I say deserve to be able to provide the necessities for myself and my family.
· Balance: work-life balance is a serious issue. In order for me to be the best midwife possible, both clinically and emotionally, I need a balance. Quality time off to spend with my own family, to practice self-care and to simply relax and have fun. I am no good to anyone if I run myself into the ground by working too much.
· Energy exchange: providing quality midwifery care is energy intensive. Being open, available and supportive while at the same time monitoring the health of each client requires focus, time and strict attention to many details. This energy output deserves to be reciprocated in some way; this does not have to be monetary however, in our current society this is how the exchange of energy is most often handled. Believe me, I see the value in a barter/trade system for goods and services but in the current culture I can’t make my car payment (and I need a car to be able to get to my clients) within that framework.
· Time spent studying: I spent years of my life dedicated to learning my craft and I continue to spend a good amount of time staying current and continuing to learn. To go to midwifery school, I had to take out student loans and those need to be paid. Now, is there a big problem with our current educational system that saddles people like me with huge debt? Absolutely! Do I still have these payments to make? Yes.
· Time away from my own family: to me, this one of the biggest ironies of midwifery. Midwives strive to support families in all that we do, we fight for people to be able to have the best choices and care available. We are focused on helping to foster strong, healthy families and yet we’re often doing so at the expense of time away from our own children and family. If I am going to be away from my own family and children, I need to be bringing something back with me, like; food for the table, helping to provide the roof over our heads, clothes for my family, the ability to have some fun as a family every so often, etc.
· Marginalization of women: this is a big one for me. Historically speaking, women have been marginalized in our culture. While we are in a much better place now than we were, say 100 years ago, we are still marginalized. Our work is often undervalued and under paid. Midwifery is a classic example of traditional “women’s work” that is undervalued and overlooked. As a midwife, I am also a woman and I need to be able to provide for my own family. Again, in our current system, that is done through the exchange of money. Are my clients also in this marginalized group? Yes. And is there a huge problem in our current health care system in regards to access? Absolutely! We as women need to stand up and demand better. We as women need to stop “taking it” and subvert the dominant paradigm. Through my work, I hope to be working towards this goal by empowering and fostering strength in my clients and their families. The other side of the coin is the reality that I must also function in our current currency driven society.
OK, there are some of my current thoughts on the topic of “giving it away”. What are your thoughts?….
Image credit Jennifer Mason Photography