PTVN Days: The Modern Midwife: An Interview With Anne Hirsch
Author: Marybeth Cicirello
When my husband and I first decided to start a family, I knew right away that a natural birth with little or no medical intrusions is what I wanted and what my healthy 38-year (young) body could handle. My belief was that women have given birth since the start of time, that our bodies know what to do by some archaic lineage, and that whether I understood what was happening scientifically or not was totally irrelevant. And it proved to be so. With the loving support of my husband, I wouldn’t settle for just “any” office or ”any” insurance-covered practice, me and my belly and my instincts went on multiple prenatal visits withvarious midwife groups, plus a well-known “midwife” hospital which turned out to be RN’s with class credits in midwifery, before I found the one environment that resonated with me…and there I met Anne.
Hi Anne, I’d like to start by thanking you for being an extraordinary midwife! My husband and I count our blessings and you’re one of them – we love sharing the joy of our experience.
Anne Hirsch: Thank you Marybeth. Our role as midwives is to
assist pregnant women in a way that empowers them and empowers their motherhood – mama to baby. You are the proof of what midwifery can do for a woman, baby, and family.
From a midwife’s point of view, what is midwifery?
AH: I suppose that question might be answered slightly differently by different midwives. I believe that most would say that midwives support women or families in bringing their child into the world in as gentle a way as possible. We also give thoroughly informed consent and ask parents to make choices about what they want during their care.
Our care is holistic. Not only do we make sure nothing is wrong with mama and baby, we also help them to optimize their development physically, emotionally, spiritually as they progress through maternity, labour, birth, breastfeeding and integration into new family life. We also make it a priority to include partners and daddies in the entire process start to finish if mama so desires.
How many years have you been attending births?
AH: This is my 11th year of practice.
I remember you and (student midwife) Leah listening to my daughter’s heartbeat throughout the entire labour and birth, you both seemed to speak a silent language and it was peaceful to me. At what point in your life did you choose the path of midwife? And was there someone or some event or happening that inspired this calling?
AH: Absolutely, yes there was. At 23, a friend invited me to her home birth. It was such a powerful experience I was ecstatic for days. That quiet, respectful home birth showed me I wanted to help women birth in a natural non-intrusive way. That event was my “calling” into the vocation of midwifery, but I would not find my way into training and practice until I was in my late 30′s.
Many people who work 9-5 jobs in America find themselves in desperate need of vacations or breaks! What is it about living as and being a midwife that has your work view balanced?
AH: I like the spaces in my life. Down time at home is a must to be prepared for the long days or nights at a labour and birth. I can garden, go for walks, enjoy my days while awaiting a labor call. I love my work so it is a joy and the unpredictability fits my way of being. I love getting up at night when the moon is out and everything is so quiet. I work in a team of three main midwives at Rainy City Midwifery. This allows each of us to have 7 days completely off call each month.
We have access to information now faster than ever at our fingertips, yet there seems to be a mystery or shroud still surrounding the work of midwives and midwifery. How would you dispel this to a woman who desires a natural birth but is concerned about complications during her labour?
AH: Our job as midwife is to monitor mama and baby during pregnancy so that only women having normal pregnancies and expected to have a normal labour and birth begin at home or in a birth center. We monitor women during labour and if something is outside of normal we move them to the hospital to birth. Our first priority is safety. National statistics show that 90% of healthy women who plan a home or birth center birth succeed in birthing safely at home. It is important that women eat a healthy diet of whole natural proteins, veggies, fruits, grains, etc., in order to grow a strong baby and healthy placenta. This is an important way to make home birth (or birth center birth) safe.
My home labour and birth were quiet and between my husband and myself, you and your student assistant, and the candles I had lit! You’ve witnessed diverse and unique birthing circumstances, women, families and husbands. For a newly pregnant woman who may not have an image of her labour and birth, but may be fearful and intimidated by the process, can you share some highlights of memorable births you’ve attended?
AH: Each birth is so unique and each one is so beautiful because it fits the woman and family who are bringing a new life into the world.
Your birth was a perfect example of a woman and husband who knew they wanted a quiet birth with little intrusion. It was so gratifying to see you laboring quietly in your room – and me coming in to check on you intermittently, knowing that you wanted space to focus and listen on your own. Then as things intensified in transition having you call us to stay in the room with you, at first just quietly watching and then more involved to encourage you through pushing and birth. I was so touched to be able to be with you in this way because it was clear to me that this is what you needed.
I’ve been at other births with lots of people around. I remember one mama who had her husband, two teen children, a friend and her teenager and another friend all around the tub. When the baby arrived everyone cheered! That was just as amazing because that is what that mama and family needed.
Another birth, that is especially precious in its own way, was the birth of a baby to a couple who practiced Islam. The woman gave birth with her mother holding her in a standing squat. Daddy was sitting on the floor beside me as I caught the baby. I handed the baby girl to her daddy while she was still attached to the umbilical cord and he began to quietly chant the verses from the Koran. The little girl opened her eyes and looked into her father’s eyes as he sang. In Islam the first words the baby is supposed to hear are these verses of the Koran. What a privilege to witness such a peaceful, loving entrance into the world. It was a moment that allowed a family to welcome their child in their tradition fully and completely.
I don’t know if all midwives do this, but you brought and warmed a hearty soup meal for me the night I gave birth, and the dynamic level of health care that you supported us with created a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It seems a midwife temporarily becomes part of a client’s family during labour and birth, so what is your view on women choosing the right midwife for their once-in-a-lifetime experience?
AH: Of course you will want an experienced, well-trained woman. There are many in Washington. It is important that you have a good rapport with your midwife. Midwives will do a free interview so that you can find someone you feel at ease and confident with. This woman will assist you in such an intimate part of your life: maternity care, birth experience and first six weeks as a family. Take your time and trust your instincts.
You are active in the world community of midwifery and women’s health. Recently you were involved with the visit of Midwife Mary Koroma from Sierra Leone, West Africa. Can you talk about this special event and how people might get involved?
AH: In this instance my connection to the event was my commitment to making a difference for mamas and babies of African descent. The statistics in Sierra Leone for maternal death during birth are some of the worst in the world. AAPDEP – the All African People’s Development and Empowerment Project – a membership organization of African people from all around the world (those in Africa and those dispersed around the world during the slave trade and since) is about self-determination not charity. I support this organization by raising awareness and money to right the current conditions that are the legacy of historic wrongs done against Africa and her people.
This also includes work in the United States where African-American women still experience more than two times the rate of mortality, sickness and loss of their babies than Caucasian women. It is my stand that we can not be complacent about the fact that African-American babies are low birth weight and preterm much more often than other babies. As midwives we must do our part to change these statistics. So what can people do? Support programs working for change:
Donate to AAPDEP’s tour: Africa’s Future in African Hands
Donate to the JJ Way [JJ Way] – a system of midwifery care that has been proven to reduce and eliminate preterm and low birth weight babies in women of color in the USA.
Donate to scholarship funds for women of color in the USA to be trained as midwives, so that all communities can have a woman of their culture available to them as a midwife should they so choose. The Midwives Association of Washington has such a scholarship fund.
Is there anything you’d like to add before we end today?
AH: Thank you for spreading the word about midwifery! Every mama wants a healthy baby and every woman deserves the opportunity to birth in her way on her terms.
Anne Hirsch has spanned a decade of midwifery care and prenatal yoga practice for women in Florida and currently practices at Hearth and Home Midwifery in Seattle, WA. To contact Anne, please email email@example.com. Visit her on Facebook too!
Posted on May 17, 2012, in heartyup, PTVN and tagged Anne Hirsch, Healthy Mama, Hearth and Home Midwifery, Northwest Midwife, Seattle Midwife, Yogi Midwife. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on PTVN Days: The Modern Midwife: An Interview With Anne Hirsch.