Our Moment of Truth: Interview with VBAC Mom Brigid Maher
The American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) recently launched a campaign to promote a better understanding of the role that certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) can play in all aspects of women’s health. That’s right: all aspects, from puberty to the childbearing years to menopause and beyond. CNMs are well-trained to care for women’s health needs during all of these different life stages!
The campaign itself is called Our Moment of Truth™. And the mission of this campaign isn’t just about promoting midwifery care–it’s also about “improving women’s health and maternity care
in the United States by re-introducing midwives and midwifery care as important options that should be the norm for women’s health care services.“
I had the opportunity to listen in on a briefing sponsored by ACNM just before they launched this campaign. One of the people who spoke during this briefing was Brigid Maher, a film and media professor, filmmaker, and mother of two who had hired certified-nurse midwives during the VBAC birth of her second child.
Today, Brigid talks with us about her experiences with midwifery care and the hopes she has for highlighting collaborative models of care between nurse-midwives and OB/GYNS. Many thanks to her for taking the time to respond to my questions!
1. Can you describe a bit about your personal birth experiences and the roles that certified nurse midwives played (or didn’t play) in your births?
The midwives managed my prenatal care for my second child from the very beginning. With my first child, I ended up gaining about 55 pounds. At about 6 months into the pregnancy, I had already gained about 35 pounds. I was seeing a fairly large OB/GYN practice and was following the protocol of seeing a different doctor for each appointment. I asked the doctor if it was a problem that I was gaining so much weight so fast and the response was, “you may want to slow down on the cookies.” The catch is that that was the first time a provider talked to me about my weight gain. The nurse midwives gave me an overview from the very beginning and also provided nutritional guidelines that worked, a little too well actually as they could tell when I cheated. My father became very ill and almost died when I was 6 months pregnant with my second child. I was veering off course with exercise and nutrition. The midwives steered me back on course and provided support and, at moments, tough love. The role that they played was to closely manage my care and educate me about my choices and possible implications of my choices and encourage me to take good care of myself.
2. When you were pregnant with your first (or even second) child, what were some of the your biggest misconceptions about midwifery care?
With my first pregnancy, I never considered a midwife because I associated midwives with home births, which wasn’t for me. I chose a midwife for my second pregnancy, because from my research, midwives had a higher success rate with Vaginal Birth After Cesareans (VBACs) in the hospital. I was excited to discover how seamlessly it integrated into the OB/GYN services at the hospital.
3. In the web briefing where I first heard you speak, you described a moment where your midwife left to catch another baby in the hospital while you were still in labor. During this time, an OB/GYN came in the room to take over your care for a bit. You described the transition as “seamless collaborative care.” In your view, what did it look like to see “seamless collaborative care” between a midwife and a doctor?
If I choose a midwife, I don’t necessarily want a doctor to “manage” the midwife. But, I do want a doctor there in case something goes wrong. In my case, my midwife had to go catch another baby and the doctor stepped into my room to let me know she was available and there to help if I needed anything. She wasn’t checking in or monitoring, she was simply there to provide the same support that the midwife had – seamlessly.
4. You are currently working on a documentary following the collaborative work of nurse midwives and physicians. How do you hope that this film will help to dispel misconceptions about midwives and what they can (and do!) bring to birth in the hospital?
The main preconceptions I hope to dispel is the false notion that midwives only deliver home births or somehow work in opposition to doctors. The majority of Certified Nurse-Midwives work within the hospital system. My documentary will examine some of the different collaborative care models in how nurse midwives work with doctors within the hospital system.
5. If you had only thirty seconds to tell someone why midwives are an exceedingly important component of women’s health care, what would you say to them?
Midwives manage all aspects of your pregnancy and educate you to make informed, research-based choices about prenatal care. I would also recommend the American College of Nurse-Midwives’ new resource available to help women better understand the care that midwives provide – Our Moment of Truth™: A New Understanding of Midwifery Care (www.ourmomentoftruth.com).
(And don’t forget to check out Brigid’s upcoming documentary, The Mama Sherpas!)
Just out of curiosity: what is one of the biggest myths that YOU once believed about midwives? I’ll start: until (embarrassingly) recently, I thought that midwives could only care for prenatal, labor, and postpartum care!