Submitted by Marjolein Mensink
Being a midwife was my childhood dream. Although I obviously didn’t really know what it meant when I was little, I was very certain about it. Sometimes I also thought shortly about being a hairdresser, flight attendant or even a veterinarian, but all these professions could never win over midwifery. When I was only seventeen years young, I got the chance to start my midwifery education. The Dutch education takes four years and in 2005 I graduated and felt really ready to go for it. Looking back, I think technically I was ready, but the comparison that a lot of people make with driving a car couldn’t be more true: you learn by doing and experiencing. The first few years I worked in independent midwifery practices, or as we call it in the Netherlands, the primary care practices. In 2008 I switched to the hospital. This was actually a coincidence, since I was asked to replace a sick colleague. Working in a medical setting never attracted me, but I thought it was worth a try. It turns out I loved it! It’s so nice to be part of a team instead of working alone most of the time. Also my idea that working in the hospital would mean having only superficial contact with the expectant mothers turned out to be totally wrong. A hospital birth often implies more interventions and sometimes that’s hard. But I am convinced that it’s more mother- and babyfriendly if these interventions are performed by someone who still trusts the natural process and works with her heart rather than someone who fully sets his hope on medication or advanced technical tools. Another great advantage of working in the hospital is that you can move on with the client in her process, even when something isn’t defined as physiological anymore, where as a primary caregiver you have to transfer.
Over the past eight years I have learned so much. My midwifery skills grew, along with my midwifery heart. I realize now that doing ‘nothing’ is often as effective or even better than wanting to do something, even though doing nothing is hard since I work in a hospital now. I think the quality and great advantage of being a hospital midwife is to guard the natural process in a medicalized environment. Some interventions are necessary, but it’s important to not intervene too much. This can be challenging, not only because other professionals expect the use of protocols and medical tools, but also I notice that pregnant women and their partners are changing over time and becoming more expectantly and reliant of us as caregivers. I do my best to reinforce the women I meet and try to convince them to trust their bodies and babies. The Netherlands is well known for our obstetric care system, but unfortunately the system has been changing rapidly over the past decade. Numbers of interventions are growing, especially those for inductions and cesarean sections. Also the use of pain medication during birth is exploding. There is a counter-movement going on luckily and the group that does want to go back to more natural births is getting a stronger voice. But as always, there are a lot of politics and money involved, so it is very hard to get this voice heard. The media choose an unfortunate way of framing that scares the big mass. The messages a layman gets through the newspapers, magazines, internet and television are: ‘Home birth is dangerous’, ‘Too many babies die (because of our system)’ and ‘Being pregnant or giving birth is risky.’
Besides my main job as a midwife I studied journalism and am now writing for several media that are mainly directed on pregnancy and childbirth. Writing to me is an amazing way to explore midwifery in a new and different way. Also, being a journalist helps me get a clearer view of what is happening in the media with the earlier mentioned framing. Sadly, seeing it is one thing, changing it is a whole other thingIn November 2011 another childhood dream came true. I gave birth to my beautiful, sweet and wise son Ben. Ben taught me things about myself that I didn’t see and know before. That it’s okay to be vulnerable, to admit that motherhood can be tough sometimes and also that it’s okay to therefore accept help from friends and family. Ben further opened my heart and being his mother makes me so proud. Seeing my partner Jacco as a father is amazing and heart filling. Last October another little man entered our lives, our second son Adam was born. All the clichés are true: there is enough space in your heart for another child as well.
Having experienced two births myself made me realize even more than before that trust and confidence are so important in childbirth. I honestly think that entering the birthing process with a relaxed body and mind and without fear might be 50% of the whole ‘job’. I wish for all other women to be able to gain this trust, confidence and relaxation when they are pregnant. Not only for themselves, but especially for their babies.
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