In honor of the publishing of my book, Birthright, I am offering the Introduction as a post. I am honored to be the messenger.
Why Every Woman Needs a Midwife
I never knew I needed a midwife. It sounded like something out of Gone With the Wind. Empowered birth had never crossed my mind, much less, a midwife.
I thought Birth was supposed to happen in the hospital until I witnessed a homebirth
The turning point in my experience as a woman on the planet was witnessing the homebirth and midwife delivery of my nephew. Until then, I thought, as I’d been trained to think, that birth should happen in the hospital. Seeing the birth of Makena at home with friends and loved ones, the midwife masterfully slipping the cord from around his neck, not one, not two, but three times, suctioning his nose and mouth and then coaxing him to breathe, I was forever changed. It was one of the most deeply spiritual experiences of my life. How I wish that birth were something that we all experienced! I knew from that moment forward, any child of mine deserved that kind of reverent birth. The expectation of the midwife is nothing other than a holy, sacred, beautiful birth.
I still didn’t know I needed a midwife. I didn’t know until I found myself on the brink of a miscarriage. I called the only midwife I knew – the one who had delivered my nephew. She talked me through the miscarriage. Wow. Later she asked when my last “well woman” exam had been. I told her that it had been a while. She said that I really should come in for one, so I did. What I experienced at my exam was totally unexpected.
Best Gynecological Exam Ever
I loved it. I loved my gynecological exam. My midwife spent a whole hour with me, something that a doctor had never done. There was no exam table; there were no stirrups. It was so natural and unweird. You’re on a bed – the same bed in her birthing center that women can choose as a venue for giving birth if home won’t do. The midwife just has you slide to the edge of the bed, put the soles of your feet together, and she then kneels on the floor to complete the exam. She asked me when my last eye exam was. She made sure that I flossed my teeth because they’ve found a link between the bacteria that thrive beneath the gum line and eventual heart disease. She asked me how much I exercise, and what my diet was like. She told me to do Kegel exercises daily so that I will not only have great sex, but also I’ll have good bladder control as an older woman. She asked how my emotional life was. In a nutshell, I felt like I had really just had a well-woman exam, from one woman to another.
My Midwife taught me to breastfeed
Within moments of giving birth, my midwife taught me how to breastfeed my newborn by shoving way more of my nipple in the baby’s mouth than I thought possible, and voila, he was a champion piglet. She taught me how to avoid mastitis, or a breast infection, by nursing in all different positions, which ensures the emptying of all of the milk ducts. She taught me to not give up on breastfeeding in those first few challenging days by telling me that my baby was on a mission from God to bring in my milk, and that it could take a few days. I stuck with it and nursed whenever my son cried. I had an abundance of milk until we weaned two years later.
My midwife’s the one who told me to make sure to stay horizontal in bed for two to four weeks after the birth of my child so that my uterus would heal correctly, and so I probably won’t ever need to have a hysterectomy.
Midwives teach you how to be whole, healthy, and happy
She’s the one who taught me about elderberry syrup, a natural antiviral you can use to treat flu or take prophylactically to avoid a virus if the people around you have one.
She taught me how to snort salt water when I think I’m getting a sinus infection.
And on top of all the things about which she’s raised my awareness, she made my pregnancy and birth so easy, so predictable, so magical, so mine.
Thank you, Marimikel Penn, Debra Day, Ilyssa Foster, and Aleah Penn. There’s nothing like having true wise women around when you need them.
They enlightened me in so many ways. Every woman who gives birth – at home or in the hospital – should have access to all of the information I was so lovingly given during my pregnancy. So here’s this book. If you don’t have access to a midwife (geographically, financially, or even legally in some states) this book is my gift to you. In it, I’ve tried to compile all of the information that I learned from my midwives, which is an almost impossible undertaking, considering I can’t translate their wisdom and friendship into words. I have, however, done my best.
May our children be born with reverence, gentleness, and love –
Betsy Dewey November 2008 – June 2011
(An excerpt from Birthright) Click here to purchase the book.