Midwifery: An Art and a Calling

When you make major decisions for your family, whether it is buying a home, major appliance, or car, or when choosing a school for your children, what do you do to help make that decision? Do you ask friends and family for recommendations, do some online research, or talk to different people to learn about your options and consider what might be best for you?

As a midwife, I am always curious to learn about how women research their options when selecting an Ob/Gyn care provider. What was most important for you when considering your options – was it the provider’s reputation, what you heard about the patient experience he or she offers patients, or what hospital they delivered at? Did you ask a relative, a girlfriend, a co-worker for recommendations or do online research by visiting different provider websites? Did you look into things like the amount of time the provider would spend with you at each appointment, how much teaching and information they offered to prepare you for pregnancy, labor, birth, breastfeeding and parenting? Were they receptive to discussing your ideas for a birth plan?

Pregnancy, birth and parenting are major milestones in the life of a family. It is so much more than just that day of labor so it is important to take time when considering providers and be sure to get as much care as you want and need. Do not dismiss the importance of a receiving care from someone who will encourage you to nurture your own strength. Being a parent is a lifetime of learning and hard work. It starts with pregnancy but it does not end with labor and birth.

Midwives can be an appealing option for women who want a more individualized approach to the care of themselves and their family. At Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, we offer a collaborative practice model which means that every family has both a certified nurse midwife or nurse practitioner and a board certified Ob/Gyn caring for them as a team during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. If you need a doctor, you will absolutely have one, and one who knows about you and your history.

Doctors are trained in a medical model that is based on disease diagnosis and treatment. Ob/Gyns are additionally trained as surgeons who can perform cesareans and can intervene in life-threatening emergencies. They have a valuable and unique expertise in pregnancies and labors that are complicated and are not proceeding normally. Midwives are also experts – highly skilled and master’s degree prepared in many cases- to help women and their families during normal pregnancy, labor and birth.

For midwives, when you choose to receive your care from us, we view it as a gift. By allowing us to participate in this monumental event in your life and nurture you as you grow into parents, you honor us and the historic art that is midwifery. For midwives, every woman, every family, every labor and every birth is unique. It has never happened before and that child will always be one of a kind. We have learned our art by sitting with women in labor, by watching and learning the special sounds and sights that make each woman and each birth new and special. We do this day after day and year after year.

Some of us see midwifery as a calling, cannot imagine doing any other work, and never would. We have come to our profession by a variety of routes but ultimately through nursing and our own choosing. Most of us knew we were midwives before we knew our major in college. We chose midwifery and we did not choose medical school. I know that is true for me. There is a role for both but rarely have I met a midwife who wishes she had become a doctor. We are different and we are proud of that. We are drawn to birth and helping women find their voice, their strength, and their inner wisdom.

Choosing an MD for your care is a very reasonable choice and is currently the prevailing model of care. Please, though, don’t settle for less than what you need from any provider. Listening, empowering, trusting the normal birth process and helping you grow into parenthood is the work of great prenatal care. Ultrasounds don’t do that for you (but they are fun and help you bond with your baby!) Decisions like which test to have during pregnancy, which hospital or birth center to deliver at, whether to be induced or get an epidural – these are all important decisions with repercussions for mothers, partners, and their babies. Take the time to consider what you are truly capable of and make informed decisions with the help of your provider.

At Harvard Vanguard, we encourage women to look at all their options – to consider what they want and need. Our midwives and doctors are are committed to caring for you through this life phase and beyond. We respect you and your right to informed consent before any tests, procedures, or interventions. We are honored when you choose us for your care and will do all we can to help you have an experience you will treasure and look back on with joy every day of your life.

There are plenty of wonderful choices for Ob/Gyn care in the Boston area and there are excellent midwifery practices from which to choose. Be thoughtful when making your choices and don’t be afraid to change course if the path you are on doesn’t meet your needs. I believe there is a “right” provider for every woman. Find that person and get started building a solid foundation for your journey as a parent.

Biddy Fein is Director of Midwifery Services at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates. She graduated from Douglass College of Rutgers University with a degree in sociology and economics in 1970. She went to nursing school at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1974 and at Boston College in 1980. She worked as a labor and delivery nurse for 20 years at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and at Brigham and Women’s Hospital before graduating with the first class from Boston University School of Public Health with a Masters in Public health and a Midwifery certificate in 1994. She has 2 children and 3 grandchildren. She has a busy midwifery practice at Harvard Vanguard’s Kenmore office and is director of the midwifery service that attends births at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Newton Wellesley Hospital, and Lowell General Hospital.

Visit www.harvardvanguard.org for more information about Harvard Vanguard’s OB/GYN and certified nurse midwifery services.

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