Global Midwifery

Time to Diversify?

I wanted to share a thought that has been brewing in my head.  But to begin with, let me share the story of a young woman whose name I don’t remember.

At the invitation of a teacher in the pregnant teen program, I visited this young woman at her school.  As her teacher introduced her, she told me she was 14 weeks pregnant.  I instinctively replied, congratulations.  The young lady looked very confused, then smiled and said thank you.  As she went to sit, the teacher pulled me aside to inform me this young lady was in a very bad situation and really needed to consider all her options.  She told me this three times, “she really needed to consider ALL her options.”  It was such a creepy feeling to know this teacher was telling me this girl needed an abortion, and I didn’t understand why she had asked me to come talk to her if she never expected her to get to birth.

I left that meeting in shock.  It was the first time I realized how teens are treated differently during pregnancy.  I think I was the first person to congratulate this woman on her upcoming baby, she didn’t even know how to respond to it. I didn’t understand how the teacher could be so insensitive to this girl as to basically insist the only correct option was an abortion.

Fast forward about 8 years and now I am in midwifery school.  One of the first lectures was about prenatal care.  The professor shocked me, “always ask the mother how she feels about this pregnancy before you congratulate her, she may not feel it is worthy of celebration.”  Wait a minute…all the women I work with, the “midwife” type clients, are happy to be pregnant.  You mean people who don’t want to be pregnant choose midwifery care?

I wish I was enlightened enough for this alone to have made me understand.  But I am happy to say that where it stopped, today’s clinical day picked up.  I can affirm the statement, not all women who choose midwifery care are happy to be pregnant.

You see, midwifery care isn’t just about natural birth and realizing your full potential as a pregnant woman.  For some women it is about affordable care, or a clinic that is accessible to them.  For some women it is about feeling they are less likely to be scolded for drinking, drugs or cigarettes.  And for other women it is about being accepted as a person with real issues and real questions.

I am lucky to have worked with some single women and teens who wished pregnancy hadn’t happened when it did.  It has helped to prepare me for the women I am likely to serve when I graduate.  But, and this is a big but, my doula and childbirth education classes alone would never have given me experience with the diverse clientèle that visits a midwifery office.

And as for that young girl I congratulated, I can now see that my assuming congratulations was as wrong as her teacher assuming an abortion.  Neither of us took the time to find out what support the young mother wanted or felt she needed.  Hopefully, I will never make that mistake again.

Jennifer Vanderlaan (Author)