For me, becoming a midwife was innate, and it flowed from me. It appeared to be where my purpose and passion got married and had a baby (see what I did there). Everything about it fit and felt right. I had always considered this path to be grown from love and sacrificial by nature. It is. My assumptions were correct. In order to remain dedicated, you must have a love for it, AND there is huge sacrifice involved. Unfortunately, those assumptions were built on preconceptions as opposed to reflection. Time and consideration have uncovered a larger truth about sacrifice and who can claim ownership of it.
I have memories that flash in my head like little movies. Voyage with me to one. I was starting my midwifery program, and my family and I were on vacation at the beach. My husband dragged sand toys, two excited children, and an ice chest out for a full day of fun. I felt a pang of jealousy and disappointment watching them head out the door. I ached with sacrifice. I reminded myself that this was just one day. At least I could see them from the window. My sons built castles and hopped waves while I wrote a paper. I can’t even remember what that paper was about. That night I went to read for a course, and there was a note and a drawing marking my page. It was from my oldest newborn, Caleb (age 10 at the time). He had written it before they left for the beach that day. I thought it was sweet so I kept it all these years in a folder, and I found it the other day and paused (with what? Paused with gratitude? Paused at the sweet memory?).
Now close your eyes with me and picture my crew snuggled in my bed. Years of school had gone by, along with so many missed moments. I was close to graduation and living my dream. I was reading Mama Midwife to my then five young children. I had found the gem of all children’s books. I was depicted as a superhero. A caped Midwife who came and went in order to save the day. It made my heart feel full. My kids liked the idea of having a mom who saw babies being born. That memory has a nice dewy Snapchat filter on it. But it is just a cropped image covered with a haze I put on it.
Another recollection—I am in clinic. I am a certified nurse midwife. I learn my 14-year-old newborn baby has just made first chair by text because I am not home when he gets off the bus to hear it in person. I miss the celebration dinner and his first football game following his accomplishment. To this day, I can tell you what family I was with and the story of that birth, but I cannot tell you what my son’s face looked like when he walked in to tell me he was the best at his passion.
Those are just three memories…three of hundreds. So many missed moments. Tons of bedtime rituals and giggles, I can’t get back. I have experienced lost teeth through photos, was not home to play tooth fairy, or at home in time to see the newly-toothless, thrilled face lift up the pillow for a prize. There are even more memories I was physically present for but too drained to absorb. I sit in that miserable place from time to time with selfish thought. I have sacrificed so much; I have missed a lot. It wasn’t until recently when I was not present at my child’s banquet that I woke from movie memories and reflected on them. I looked through tiny eyes and felt through desiring hearts.
The true heroes are my children. The real sacrifice is given by my family. When midwifery chose me, it chose my whole life and all the people I love. When my children ask me, “Will you come eat lunch with me?” or “Can we go to my friend’s birthday party?”, I always say, ”…As long as I am not at a birth.” I wonder if, during that day at the beach, my children asked where I was. How did my husband answer? With love and support, I am sure. When I read Mama Midwife, were my kids jealous of the families I leave them for? Do they see the cape as cool or as a symbol of what takes me away? Was my son’s heart beating with anticipation to rush in the door and share his news only to be met with a silent, empty home? I can feel his bright colors melt to pastels. It breaks me—and I can only imagine it breaks them.
Many wise midwives before me have tried to explain this to me. I have heard the word balance thrown around and never truly put it in my pocket. In all the joy and blessing and miracles that midwifery gifts to me, there is also sacrifice. It is mine, and it is theirs. Today, I am pushing pause and creating space for my children. Today, I am a MOMMA midwife.