At the end of the year it is common for birth professionals to put their statistics up to show birth outcomes for the year. This practice has never felt like a fit for my own work but I kept track this year, officially, for the first time and I can see why it’s appealing. Sometimes statistics can make you look like an all-star! But if I released mine to you it would only give you a partial picture of my year. Or it might lead you to believe something entirely different about my year in birth work. And at the end of the day the stories are not mine to tell. They belong to the women who are represented in those statistics.
2016 was for me what I’d like to call a “mighty learning year.” I was tested both personally and professionally. Everything I know about birth was questioned this year and several times I contemplated turning away from this work. Did it fit for my family? Am I strong enough support for people? Am I even good at what I do?
I attended more unmedicated births this year than ever before. I attended more home births this year than ever before. I saw more family-centered care in hospital birth than I ever have before and some great nurse midwifery along with obstetrical care. I supported more families postpartum! I saw a very low rate of cesarean birth and breastfeeding rates were phenomenal. These are all things that I thought surely made birth “better” when I started doing this work. Seeing this you would think I just had a cake year. So, why would I tell you it was so challenging? Why would it be a year of mighty learning?
Because I saw more complications during births than ever before. I saw more things that took an emotional toll on me than ever before. There were so many firsts for me this year that just tested my knowledge and capacity as a birthworker and as a human. These things can never be reflected in outcomes or statistics. And my family life was marked by complications this year which left my husband recovering in hospital and home for almost 5 months while I held all the ends together of ALL. THE. THINGS. And am I right that 2016 seemed to have it’s own surly personality? It had a unique energy to it, huh?
In short, I was left feeling like I wasn’t enough support in all areas of my life this year. As Bilbo says, “like butter scraped over too much bread.” And this feeling made me seriously contemplate stepping away from birth work. It made me want to crawl into a whole and stay there with my you’re-not-enough feelings.
Then one morning while I was folding laundry, I opened my file book where I have logged all this information to reflect on the year. I mentally ran down the list of happenings at each birth but I found that the pictures my mind was pulling to the forefront of these births were the visions of strength and victorious, badass women and families I had seen. I have seen women carry on through some incredibly difficult situations this year. And when I think of it that way, the annual statistics are just…humbling. And have nothing to do with me. I had one of those instantaneous “Aha!” moments; oh yeah, this is why I do this work. To just be of service for these parents while the good and the not-so-good unfold.
Ladies, mamas & papas, clients- you were nothing short of heroic this year. Your triumphs and complications were an honor to witness. I am so,so thankful for all the learning that took place on my end. It’s hard to remember when you’re in the stretch that the pain of the stretch is always because you are growing, becoming stronger and more flexible. For my forgetting; I am sorry. Carrying your stories with me is not something I take lightly because I value this work immensely and some years the stories (and accomplishments) are heavier than others. Please know I felt the feelings you did and remember the things that could never be reflected in statistics. You are more than that to me.
You are my heroes.