by Guest Blogger Aubre Tompkins, CNM
As clinicians we are often taught to distance ourselves and camouflage our
emotions. I have a strong belief that this distance can be too strictly
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 experience. This leads me to Pearl #3…Emotions are healthy and should be shared. Life, like
birth, is a mixture of light and dark. Pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum
are a swirl of emotions, laughter, and tears, and as midwives we must be able
to sit and be present in all the messiness this may entail.
I recently saw a mother for her postpartum visit. In the
course of 15 minutes, the mother and I talked about organic personal
lubricants, the advantages of several sexual positions for achieving orgasm,
how to entertain a two-year-old while nursing a one-month-old, and which
natural diaper creams are the best! Additionally, we talked about the struggles
of mothering two children, incorporating parenthood into a marriage, attempting
to balance time for oneself and time for children, fears of recurring of
postpartum depression, and the joy that each child brings to your life. In the
midst of all this was a lot of laughter. I have attended births with women who
threw literal temper tantrums; older siblings who blew 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 a family if appropriate.
Since my entry into this work, I have also supported women through
heartbreaking emotions. I have an initial reaction to the term “bad outcome” because
it feels too 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. In the midst of all this there were tears. As care
providers, we must be able to provide care and sometimes that may mean showing
and sharing emotions.
Let’s face it, we as
midwives 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 into the most intimate of times for a woman and
her family, and I am not just referring to the birth. We do important work that
involves life and death, but 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.
Aubre Tompkins became a certified nurse-midwife in 2010. She has a busy family, with three fantastic children and a great husband. She lives in Denver and works at Colorado's only freestanding birth center, Mountain Midwifery Center. She has been learning to knit for the past 3 years and is almost done with her first scarf. Her blog,With Woman, The First Year…And Beyond, is a chronicle of her experiences from her developing career.