OBGYNs are so three seasons ago. Midwives are the pregnant lady's "status symbol" of the moment — the birthing choice of models like Gisele Bündchen, Christy Turlington, and Karolina Kurkova. Who would've thought that midwifery would be so in vogue? When you hear "midwife" you don't think Birkin bag. You think Birkenstocks.
Reading trend pieces can be difficult because of all the eye-rolling. It's irksome when people place so much emphasis on style over substance. The New York Times ran a piece in its "Fashion & Style" section about how midwives are the new "must have" for a certain set of pregnant ladies, likening the practice to "juice cleanses or Tom's shoes."
Maybe the Times is correct in crediting supermodels with this sea change. If Gisele can sway women into buying a certain kind of bra, perhaps what she does with her vagina is just as aspirational as what she does with her tits. Personally, I don't look to supermodels for my womanly cues. Instead, I blame Ricki Lake.
After discovering I was pregnant last year I watched her documentary The Business of Being Born. I felt like I'd be an ignorant tool of the patriarchy if I didn't take control over my body and refuse an epidural. I didn't want to seem uneducated, so I immediately signed on with a desirable midwifery team to help me achieve a drug-free birth. I've always been of the opinion that drugs are fun. Ironically, for the most painful experience of my life I chose to abstain from the kind of medical intervention I'd previously sought out so enthusiastically. It was honestly the first time that I had encountered the kind of social influence I'd really only ever seen depicted on TV shows. And I succumbed! I didn't choose midwifery because it was trendy. I did it because I felt peer pressured.
The Times says that midwives are no longer being just for hippies, which is kind of true, much to my chagrin. I thought my midwives would just be cool with my body doing its thing. I was shocked — usually to tears — that every single time I saw one particular midwife, she would admonish me about my weight gain, despite all of my blood work and vitals suggesting perfect health. It was pure criticism, without any constructive commentary. She would never give me recommendations — books, diets, etc. — for healthy eating. She would just look at me with narrowed eyes while we played out the same script:
"Do you get much exercise?"
"Well, I live in a fourth-floor walk up."
"That's not exercise."
"Well, I'm always winded by the third floor, so…"
And then she would cock her head sideways while giving me a tight, unhappy smile. And I would cry. I eventually started scheduling all of my appointments on the days she wasn't working.
But there are still some very hippie-ish elements, which were always good for a laugh. One of my midwives was a much older woman. She was very no-bullshit. She had to give me an internal pretty late in my pregnancy.
When she took the speculum out there were globs of white discharge all over it. She waved the instrument at me and said, "Look at that," like she was Cliff Huxtible talking about a hoagie.
And then she held it up to her face, sniffed it, and nodded. (The explanation of the normalcy of the discharge was completely drowned out by the laugh track in my head.) No male doctor would ever do that and I loved her for it.
The best thing about midwives, though, is the level of care during and after the birth. They are a tag team, so they are with you the entire time. When my water broke, I was admitted into labor and delivery immediately because my midwife was with me, even though triage was packed with miserable women who were obviously much more progressed than I.
I ended up getting a C-section, but my midwife was there the whole time, and stayed with me in the recovery room to teach me how to breastfeed. They visited me once a day during my stay to see how the breastfeeding was going, to give me pointers, and to recommend homeopathic cures for nipple pain and the bruising around my incision. They hung out in my room, held my baby, told me how beautiful she was, and taught me different methods on how to soothe her. And they gave me a hug. That was something I didn't even know I needed, but I definitely did. It was much more personal than a doctor/patient relationship, which fitting because a pregnancy is a personal experience, not an illness.
So maybe choosing a midwife is the "in" thing to do now. Whatever a woman's reasons, it's her choice to make. I just think it's great that there is finally a trend for vaginas that doesn't involve making them more attractive for men.
The Midwife as Status Symbol [NY Times]