There have always been women drawn to birth since the beginning of time.
Traditionally, across all cultures, women supported women in pregnancy and childbirth. Friends supported each other with each child and accompanied each other along the journey to motherhood. Over time, one woman in a community may become especially experienced in accompanying women in birth. This woman is the midwife.
Midwife comes from the old English word meaning "with woman." The midwife is "with woman" as she grows, changes, questions, yearns, and labors her baby into being. The relationship between mother and midwife is one of companionship, trust, and friendship. There is an intimacy present as the two get to know each other personally and to value and trust the experience of the other.
There are a number of different credentials and types of midwives in the United States. In our practice, we are Certified Professional Midwives. (Actually, Susan is a Certified Professional Midwife. At the time of writing (11/16/17), Chloe is in the final steps of earning her certification as a CPM.)
Certified Professional Midwives are direct-entry midwives - meaning they focused the entirety of their education on pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum care, breastfeeding, and infant care. CPMs are exclusively trained in out-of-hospital birth. They are the premier out of hospital care providers. CPMs complete 3+ years of hands on clinical training in addition to extensive academic studies. All of their training is taken from the perspective of "Okay, the hospital is not here. How do we support this mother in her normal, natural birth? How do we avoid disturbing her process? How do we prevent a complication? How do we handle an emergency? How do we proceed safely and calmly in the unlikely event of a transfer?"
Midwives combine an encyclopedic knowledge of twists and turns on the mother's birthing path, with deep compassion, calm presence, a kind and reassuring touch, and the wisdom of knowing when to stay out of the way and when to lean in close and gently guide the process. Midwives know that women are the ultimate experts of their own bodies and births. Everyone else is just a support person, a cheerleader, and a knowledgeable friend.
Here are a few videos from I Am A Midwife that show real live midwives talking about their work: