A midwife is a wonderful, warm, mothering woman who is wise in the ways of natural childbirth. Most midwives attend homebirths (births in the privacy of your own home) or in a small, free-standing birth center. A free-standing birth center has no hospital affiliation. These midwives may be referred to as LM (Licensed Midwife or CM or CPM (Certified Professional Midwife). Some nurses, who have had midwifery training also attend homebirths and are allowed to attend hospital births as well. They are also known or referred to as CNMs or Certified Nurse Midwives. Other kinds of practitioners who attend homebirths are naturopaths. For the sake of this blog, however, when I refer to a midwife, I mean the LM or CPM kind.
Requirements for becoming a midwife vary from state to state. However, to become certified there is a national board, NARM, that tests and examines potential midwives. The board also expects a certain number of births to be attended, some as an assistant and some as a primary midwife. So finding an apprenticeship and beginning to attend births is important. It is similar, I guess, to a residency for an MD.
Midwives work hard. The last birth I attended we arrived around 10 am and left at 2 am. The birth team, generally myself and the two midwives in the practice, stay for the whole experience once we get there. And when we arrive, it looks as though we are moving in. A lot of equipment is brought, some of it is for emergencies and some of it is to help the mother feel comfortable. The biggest, and probably most important, thing that gets hauled around is the water birth tub. And I am sure that the moms are grateful. There is something about the water that women find very soothing. It is warm, they can finally move around, and it is a gentle environment for the baby to be born into. Go to http://www.waterbirth.org for more information on waterbirth.