Let’s guard the guardians: Back midwives

Photography:Fresh 48 & Family Photography

By Freya Hill

The first photo I ever took of my daughter was of her in the arms of our midwife. In the photo, my daughter looks straight at the camera, eyes open and body stretched out, all rugged up to leave the hospital, as our midwife Amber smiles at the camera. They look like a happy pair. My daughter being held by the first person to ever touch her. Amber helped us down to the car at the entrance to the hospital, hugged us all and told us she’d come visit us tomorrow. She had been instrumental in the most important hours of my life; a hug didn’t feel enough of an acknowledgement.  

I have known about midwives for as long as I have known about birth. The two are synonymous to me.

When I was not yet three years old, my mother birthed my sister in our home, with a private midwife. Australians, especially in the early 1990s, were not as lucky as we are in New Zealand. The concept of the same midwife as your lead maternity carer (LMC) for the duration of pregnancy, birth and post-natally was not the norm in Australia, but my parents saw the benefits of this model of care and paid for a private midwife. Knowing that my mother birthed at home with the help of her midwife taught me that birth was a natural process, something that could even be done in your own bedroom, and midwives were there to guide and support the process.  

When I became pregnant last year with my first child, I looked for a midwife. I hoped to birth at our local birth centre, and looked at the profiles of the self-employed community LMC midwives who were associated with the centre. I chose Amber and I am so very grateful that I did. Amber knew about our pregnancy for weeks before our families did, and she listened to my thoughts and questions at our monthly appointments.

She was the kind of person that I needed: calm and caring, but firm and sure.

She was not flowery or mumsy, nor a floaty mother-earth figure – I didn’t want those things. She was a calm, intelligent medical professional, who was very good at reading people and situations. 

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