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The Call of the Baby Catchers...

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I must admit it. I'm a total wannabe.

No, not wannabe lactivist you goon, I already AM a lactivist. I'm sort of a wanna be LC, but not really.

So what am I talking about?

I wanna be a midwife. Oh, how I wanna be a midwife. I'm absolutely fascinated by them. I've read most books that I can get my hands on that really delve into their every day life (Peggy Vincent's Baby Catcher is my absolute favorite) and I spend a great deal of my free time hosting the Childbirth Choices board over at Baby Center where I can dig up research, brainstorm with other readers and have great conversation about childbirth with a collection of moms, nurses, childbirth educators and doulas.

Basically, I'm a childbirth nut. (You might be surprised to know that I've way more obsessed with childbirth than I am with breastfeeding...)

Last night I had the chance to go and sit in on a meeting of a few midwives and their apprentices. They asked me to come to speak about milk banking. How could their clients become donors, when might their clients NEED donor milk, how the whole setup works and so on. It was a lot of fun and I could tell they really enjoyed getting the information. I, on the other hand was fascinated by the conversation before and after my little 'talk.' The stories of the latest deliveries, interesting new clients, new research, questions on how to handle complications. Just absolutely fascinated.

If I was living another life, I think I'd go for it.

Alas, I have two small children, two jobs that I love and not near enough time in my days. Apart from not having the time to pursue midwifery, I must also admit that the idea of that job also terrifies me. While birth nearly always "goes right" there are those instances where it doesn't. The idea of being responsible for two lives and for knowing when and how to react is so daunting to me. I have enormous amounts of respect for the women (and men) that do this.

I also can't even begin to fathom the time commitment. The life of a midwife is unpredictable. You're sitting down to dinner and your phone rings. (Even if it's Christmas dinner.) Your child is about to blow out the candles on their birthday cake and your cell phone goes off. You're on your way out for your first date in months...yep, a mom is in labor. Let's not even talk about the 3am waking and the snowy drives in the middle of the night. I don't know how they do it.

And so, here I sit on the commentator sidelines. Hoping to educate, hoping to spark thought, hoping to lend support. But also staying away from any of the "real" responsibility that comes with that career choice.

So how bout you? Anyone else out there wish they could be an LC or a Midwife or a Doula or some other similar job? Am I the only one that's a wannabe? ;)


  1. Blogger Ashley Chin | 2:49 PM |  

    WOW! I feel exactly the same way (midwife wannabe here - but too scared of the responsibility). Have you read "Listen to Me Good" the autobiography of Margaret Charles Smith? I just received my copy in the mail yesterday and it looks good. Glad you liked "The Baby Catcher" - that's next on my list to read!

  2. Blogger Unknown | 2:49 PM |  

    I understand your fascination with midwifery. While I wasn't overly shot in the posterior with our first midwife (well, one of the partners was really nice but the other I didn't like and she was the one who ended up attending the attempted birth), with our second birth we have the greatest midwife in the world who I love dearly and utterly trust the lives of my wife and unborn child to.

    That said, as with many careers there are a *huge* amount of inconveniences involved, like you said. It's similar to being a cop, a farmer - you're always on duty!

  3. Anonymous Anonymous | 2:56 PM |  

    I wish I could be a midwife, but, like you, I have two small kids and am TERRIFIED at the prospect of being responsible when/if things go wrong. I guess I'll just have to be a childbirth 'fan' and participant for now!

  4. Blogger Desirae | 2:57 PM |  

    I would love to be an LC or a midwife. Ever since I found out I was pregnant, it's all I've wanted to do!

  5. Blogger Heidi | 4:02 PM |  

    I'm in the wannabe camp too. I think I'd make a great doula, and I'm obsessed with breastfeeding. It'd be amazing to help women and babies with the beautiful nursing bond. My pregnancy was such a wonderful, life-changing event it would be weird if I didn't have the daydreams about being involved in the process for a living. But, like you, I have a life that doesn't leave room. I can't imagine starting over again with my education now.

  6. Blogger evil cake lady | 4:49 PM |  

    I became a birth doula three years ago with the intent of eventually becoming a (homebirth) midwife...but I'm still a doula.

    You gotta love birth to be on call pretty much all the time, because there is no reasonable amount of money to compensate for exactly what you described--can't leave town, can't be away from your phone, middle of the night, coming home from one birth and getting called away to the next, 12 hours at one birth, 24 at another, 6 at another....you gotta love the work.

    I don't know how mothers are able to do this kind of work and still find time for their own family. I just don't know how they do it, but more power to them for finding a way.

  7. Blogger cooler*doula | 5:48 PM |  

    God - I LOVE my midwives. I suspect that part of the reason I'm on board for another baby is so I can hang out with them for 9 months, or so.

    I am pursuing Postpartum Doula certification, and it's hard with a small person to take care of. I'm taking the long view here - when he's 10 or 11 - I'll be really ready to help moms out.

    By the way, LC wannabes... Do you know you require (depending on the path) 900 to 6,000 hours for certification... My friend was interested. And then rethought that. My midwife sin't even sure she can swing those numbers, and she's seeing the mamas all the time.

  8. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 6:52 PM |  

    cooler*doula...the hours are for an IBCLC certification. You can still be a CLC (certified lactation counselor) with no where near those numbers. There's also the option of becoming a LLL leader, though that's also fairly time consuming.

    But yeah, most IBCLCs seem to also be nurses...easiest way to get the clinical hours.

    Re: the having another baby. I'm always trying to recruit friends to have home births so that I have an excuse to see my midwife again. I think the one big downside of using a midwife is that you get attached and then poof, they're gone.

  9. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:40 PM |  

    i've contemplated becoming an LC, but that was before i really fell in love with photography. i'd love to do birth photography someday though, after my kids are older. :)

    i have soooo much respect for midwives, especially the one who attended my homebirth. she was so awesome and did everything perfectly even when presented with a very big surprise (my little guy turned footling breech!), plus his arm was up over his head and the cord was around his neck three times. despite all of that, i had a wonderful, amazing homebirth. i couldn't have done it without her. she might have been freaking out on the inside, but she stayed calm as a cucumber on the outside and did everything she needed to for a healthy baby and healthy mama. :)

  10. Blogger Carrie Willard | 6:19 AM |  

    yes I'm a midwife wannabe. I would lovelovelove to do it, but I think it's really hard to do with young kids, and the litigation issues would scare the panties off of me.

    I LOVED the Baby Catcher!!

  11. Blogger Paula | 9:37 AM |  

    I am a total midwife wannabee! Its something Im leaving as a later in life kinda career...when the child has moved out and im looking for something to fill the void etc. LC seems like something I could do sooner...and maybe even part time? Im definitely checking out The Baby Catcher now! Birth is AMAZING! my birth story is posted at my blog if anyone is interested. Id love to read yours...paula444four@yahoo.com. Peace out.

  12. Blogger * | 10:11 AM |  

    I understand your feelings about this.

    I was also very obsessed with the whole pregnancy/birth stage. I did a lot of research when I was pregnant the first time, took a Bradley class. I was insured by an HMO so I didn't think a CNM was an option. I found out VERY late in the pregnancy that it was, and switched around 32 weeks to a CNM practice.

    I was in labor for 30+ hours, had a posterior baby. I found it odd that the CNM didn't see to realize that the baby was posterior (though the midwife student seemed to pick up on it right away).

    I ended up with an emergency c-section when the fetal heartrate stayed down.

    I thought later about wanting to be a double, which led to the idea of being a midwife. And then I think I was thinking more about an OB. I thought how great that would be because I could be one of those non-intervenionalists, but have the knowledge of an OB in case something happened. (I think I was thinking OB because I have always wanted to be a doctor and up until college thought I would be an OB or cardiologist.)

    I still think about it but with two little kids, I don't think the dedication required for that extended period of schooling would work for us.

  13. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 10:56 AM |  

    See, I'm so glad I'm not the only one. I always feel like such a little star-struck kid going "duh...you're so cool..."

    But the reality is that I'm just fascinated by the profession. Until about half way through my first pregnancy I had absolutely NO idea that there were still midwives in the U.S. that served anyone other than the Amish. I was just floored to find out that it was an option.

    What's exciting is that it's really starting to grow here in Ohio. When I was pregnant with my second, I could only get the names of about 6 midwives in Ohio. Now I know at least twice that many plus most of them have multiple apprentices. I think in another 10-15 years we're going to have a LOT more options here.

    Plus I've since talked to several other people that I know that have said they'd consider a home birth for their own child now that they've seen the experience we had. Amazing how much impact one person can have. (and by that I don't necessarily mean me, I'm thinking of one particular poster from the CBC board at Baby Center that sparked the thought of home birth for me.)

  14. Blogger Shelly | 4:26 PM |  

    Wow I could have written this exact same post!! Like you said, if only in another life...
    I was thinking of becoming a doula though. I'd still have the same time issues as a midwife and still aid mothers in childbirth but without the scary responsibility.

  15. Anonymous Anonymous | 11:30 PM |  

    As an unassisted childbirth advocate I believe more in childbirth education and doulas for labor support.
    The idea that midwives, or anyone else but mom and dad for that matter, are responsible for someone else's birth (or think they are) is very out of place. I am responsible for my child and thus its birth.
    The best midwives are those who trust the mother and her body, give her all autonomy unless asked and educate their clients so they can be empowered. Otherwise they are dangerous.
    How is that for an activist :-)

  16. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 7:10 AM |  


    I have no problem at all with UC and I fully support a mom's right to make that choice for herself.

    I stop at the point of advocating it as a good option for others though and there are a few reasons.

    1.) Advocating for assisted home birth with a trained midwife is a no brainer. Plenty of studies have been done proving that it's as safe (or safer in terms of morbidity) than hospital birth.

    2.) There are no studies (and really never will be) on the outcome of planned unassisted birth. That makes it impossible to base outcomes on anything other than anecdotes and anecdotes are just that...they are not "proof."

    3.) I firmly belive that no one should be pushed or pursuaded into UC. I think UC is something that you have to either feel called to or decide on your own to pursue.

    While birth nearly always goes right and while instinct CAN help a mom that runs into problems with a birth, the reality remains that there are some situations that can arise that will have much better outcomes with a trained care giver there.

    I can fully get behind the idea of having your child on your own with a midwife on call or in the other room, but unless a mom choose to go the route of true UC on her own and is willing to accept the very minute "what-ifs" then I just can't "advocate" for it.

  17. Anonymous Anonymous | 2:47 PM |  

    Hi Jennifer,

    I certainly would never push a UC on anyone. It is indeed very personal! And I agree with your points in general... but... :-)

    I guess with advocate for UC, I meant that as a childbirth educator and doula to be, my main focus would be for a woman to have an empowered, and especially, an autonomous birth. The mom to be is responsible, not I. Whether I am a doula or whether I would be a midwive or an OB.

    I think the mentality of holding people we call professionals responsible for our births is flawed. The atmosphere must be such that a woman is educated or educates herself during her pregnancy (with unbiased info ala Henci Goer), has an opportunity to make the decisions she wants to make and that those are respected.

    If she agrees to a professional to do anything at the birth, the mom to be is responsible for agreeing to that. There would be a lot less suing the doctor for malpratice, a lot less fear for being sued which in itself will reflect dramatically on the birth atmosphere in general; there would be no insane insurance coverage etc. since the doctor would not do anything without true informed consent.

    I think something is wrong with the whole atmosphere around birth in general. Idealistic maybe, but I think that this is what the UC world is putting in the faces of professionals.

    I don't know, maybe I feel this way because I am not from the US and am appalled by the medical atmosphere, and go overboard. To me, when it comes to birth, a physiological process my body is made to do, to put the responsibility for my life and that of my child in someone else's hands is the world upside down. It causes problems.

    My main concern with many midwives is that even they are often invasive and even they intervene in the process. Most midwives are not sitting and waiting in the background for the what if's. In many cases, they are too involved in the process. In many case they do not believe a woman can do this without her guidance and coaching.

    It is often also not the focus of midwives to enable the mom to take control and be autonomous. There is the assumption that the midwife is responsible. That is what I am so strongly against, because this is what puts birth in such a dire position.

    UC is not for everyone, I agree. UC is an option for those moms who educate themselves about all the what if's etc. I don't think anyone should enter UC unprepared. I just think the UC world needs to be listened to and midwifery the way it is practiced most often needs a revision :-) I consider even someone as Ina May Gaskin as an 'interventive' midwife. She is very hands on.

    Oh, and I think it should be forbidden by law for men to be OB's. I mean what on earth... Sorry guys. Birth should be a 'woman thing'. With dads of course.

    Ok, well, not sure if your comment section is a discussion forum, lol. I apologize if I ruffle any feathers!


  18. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 5:29 PM |  


    No offense taken here, I enjoy the conversation. ;) (I host the Childbirth Choices debate board over at BabyCenter...we have half a dozen regulars there that are UCers.)

    To put it in perspective (if you are new to the site) I had a planned Bradley birth turned epidural birth in the hospital and then a home birth with an extremely low-intervention midwife for my second birth. My first birth was "ok", my second birth was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

    I think that there are good midwives and bad midwives and I think a good midwife works with her client in the way that makes the client most comfortable. Some moms WANT a midwife to "lead" other moms want a midwife to partner and still others simply want a midwife there to call on if they need them. A GOOD midwife is prepared to fill any of those needs.

    My own midwife blended into the background. She gave us an air of confidence in knowing that if we needed her and her skills, she was available, but if we didn't, hey that was great too.

    The only things she actively did were to check me when she arrived (I asked because I wasn't sure I was in labor...I was having super easy contractions and thought I migh not even be in labor, but I was 8-9cm dialated.) She also gave me perineal support (I asked her to) and she broke my water during pushing (again, because I asked her to) and she caught the baby. (She asked me if I wanted to and I said no.)

    I don't see having a midwife as "giving up responsibility" and perhaps I worded the post poorly in that manner. I accept full responsibility for anything that could go wrong in my home birth. I was aware that while the risks were very low, there were certain situations that were slightly more risky at home. That was fine with me and fine with my husband.

    However, I am not a midwife, I am not trained as a midwife and there ARE situations that I would not know how to handle. That's not a matter of not accepting responsbility, it's a matter of identifying my own lack of knowledge and choosing to parter with someone else to provide that knowledge. Had I had a tough SD, a baby that needed recussitation, PP hemmorage that wasn't letting up while nursing, etc... then I don't know ALL the options. (I know the most common, but not all the "tricks" and I certainly don't know all the herbal treatments.)

    Thus, for me, the most responsbile choice was to partner with someone that I could trust to give me complete information and to then allow me to make the final choice of what happened.

    So again, I'm with you on the fact that women shoudl be allowed to have the choice, but I don't in any way agree that choosing to have a birth attendent (and having them involved in whatever amount the mother wants) equates to giving up responsibility for the birth.

    I also don't agree that men shouldn't be allowed to be OBs or midwives. ;) I have met a few male OBs that I WOULD trust to partner with me on a birth and I've met a few female midwives that I wouldn't let come near me.

    While the odds may be against them, I'd never dream of saying "no, you can't do this." Just doesn't sit right with me.

  19. Blogger Unknown | 8:24 PM |  

    Doula wannabe. :) Like you, though, couldn't handle the lifestyle or the responsibility. :)

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