Bread, Butter and Birthday Cakes

One of the most satisfying aspects of being a midwife is being in the position to make a positive difference in someone’s life. Every midwife I know has a stack of thank you letters and baby photos from women and families whose lives they have touched. I look at my stack from time to time to remember why I am a midwife. “We see heartbreak all the time” said Chummy to Trixie as she teared up when recounting the tragic circumstances witnessed during her visit to the women’s prison. That is when midwives most need to remember why they do what they do. Every prenatal visit and every birth is an opportunity to build trust, respect and empower the women we work with. But with heartbreak, circumstances are so often beyond our realm of influence. It is hard to bear sometimes.

Sister Julianne is wise to know that she can’t save everyone but that she was in a position to make a difference to one woman. Although not as dramatic as saving a young woman from losing her baby, last year I did find myself in a position to make a difference during a scary and heartbreaking time in a woman’s life.

A patient of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of her pregnancy. As I stared at the pathology report, I tried to imagine what this would mean to this 29 year old woman, her husband, her unborn baby and her two other children. I also felt profoundly that I was put in her path at this time for a reason. I am a breast cancer survivor. From breaking the news to her, to helping her make sense of the decisions and options for management, I was able to midwife her through her treatment with reassurance and authority with phone calls, visits, cards and meals. With me standing in front of her she could see ahead to survival.

A year later a grueling course of chemotherapy and surgery is behind her. I just had lunch with her and her one year old healthy baby girl this week and can tell you she is surviving well and her prognosis is good. I could not do what I did for everyone but was in the position to do it for this one woman. The everyday difference we make in women’s lives is the bread and butter of midwifery but sometimes reaching out to one woman can be the candle on the birthday cake.

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