Learning Empathy…

A big thanks to each of you for your interest in helping to get Gentle Delivery Childbirth Services off to a great start here in State College! During this past month I’ve had a chance to interact with a number of new friends, and I’m enjoying the opportunity to learn more about what this general area offers as far as birth choices. If you haven’t done so, take a minute to check out and like the new Facebook page: www. facebook.com/gentledelivery  I’ve also added another testimonial to the website-feel free to read through that as well!

As many of you know, I practiced midwifery for a couple of years before I married and had children of my own. During that time, I occasionally met a prospective client who wasn’t sure about using someone for care who hadn’t experienced birth herself. In all honesty, being a single midwife allowed me to give much more to my clients, as I didn’t have the same pressing schedule-it didn’t matter if I disappeared for 2-3 days at a birth, as no one was depending on me to be around! Sometimes when I think about those days, it dawns on me how much more freedom I had to spend time learning, talking on the phone, answering questions, making home visits, spending hours with clients, taking classes, teaching, etc.

But the flipside does have some advantages-I now have an increased level of empathy. I don’t think that I wasn’t sympathetic before. But, my ability to feel with another mom the challenges she is going through has dramatically grown. And the realization of how much growing a baby, giving birth and adding a new member to the family changes things. So, for those of you who have been curious (there were many times a client would tell me, “I want to be there when you have a baby yourself! :), here are a four specific ways my perspective has changed:

1. I now know what it means when someone says “nothing works!”. During my first pregnancy, I had severe morning sickness. The kind that lasted and made you throw up and generally wish you weren’t alive anymore. I would lay on the couch feeling terrible, and cry just thinking of EVER having another baby, because if I was this sick with the first one, how would I ever take care of another baby while going through this. Not exactly the best thing to be thinking at that moment-“sufficient unto the day are the evils thereof”, right?! 🙂 Before I went through this, I would freely hand out suggestions on what helps to relieve morning sickness. After, I just listen, and then offer a list of things “that might help, but they may not work for you.” And feel really bad that I can’t just take it all away or give them a cure-all!

2. When a mom is experiencing the last few weeks of her pregnancy, and comes in with that I-can’t-take-another-day-of-being-pregnant attitude, I take her seriously. Until I was pregnant myself, I didn’t realize how awful you could feel, and how desperate you could be to just get the baby out. But you do really feel like this will last forever during those last days, and a shoulder to cry on can mean the world!

3. Giving birth naturally hurts! Not that I didn’t realize that before. And not that it’s not a beautiful experience. But the intensity of the experience amazed me. I still remember right after my first baby was born, the midwife instructed me to move so she could place fresh pads under me. She kinda grinned and said, “hey, you know what to do!”, and it dawned on me that there was no way I could move those two inches off the bed…I was WAY too sore and tired…and I told her “I know what I’m supposed to do, but I was under the impression that I’d still be able to move after I had a baby!” That made her laugh-but it didn’t seem very funny at the time! During the actual births of both of my children, I also remember how easy it was to feel over-stimulated, and I made me realize how much I personally appreciated quiet during labor and delivery…and it gave me a greater desire to try to carefully understand what really made each individual mom I’m working with feel able to relax and concentrate on her birth.

4. Having a baby changes your life! And here I’m not talking about the birth…but the fact that this little person has come here to stay. And he is totally dependent on YOU for everything. I really thought I knew what it was like to be tired…really tired…I mean, seriously, being up for 48 hours at back-to-back births makes you exhausted! But I had no idea what it meant to be up every 2 hours around the clock for days on end. Now, this is another subject for another time…as both of my babies have struggled with nursing/sleeping/tummy issues….but I do remember when one baby was 2 weeks old, wondering if I would ever know what it would be like to sleep solid again. But I understand now what postpartum depression can be a real live thing to deal with, and why a new mom needs lots of understanding, a listening ear, and sometimes just assurance that what her baby is doing is normal…maybe she knew that herself at one time, but it’s hard to remember when your life has just been turned upside down!
Matthias Johann 447 2 (5)
Well, these are just a few things that come to mind when I think of how I look at things differently from this perspective….while it’s been a change, it’s been a good one, and I love my little ones and the experience of carrying them and being able to deliver them at home. But it’s not always easy, and requires alot of work and sacrifice. And when I do a birth now, it means nursing baby comes along, and I don’t get to sleep until I feel caught up…but those days will come again…and quickly, I’m told, by moms further ahead than I am!

In closing, I feel like there were definite advantages to being a single midwife to being a midwife who is married with children. But there are advantages to this stage, too. And I can’t say that I feel like one is way better than the other-it’s just a different perspective, and different time in life. I’d be interested in hearing your perspective in the comments…what do you see as advantages/disadvantages to using a care provider who hasn’t had children herself? or how has your perspective changed since having children yourself?

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