By David F. Rooney
If I say the word “midwife” what image springs to life in your mind’s eye? A Medieval crone with a pot of herbs? If that really is what you visualize, you’re deeply out of touch.
Midwives today are university-trained, provincially licenced and ready to bill the Medical Services Plan for their services. In fact, you can think of them as a 21st century response to the cool, bloodless approach physicians are perceived to have and the structure erected around hospital- and technology-centered births.
For Birte Paschen of Mountain Midwifery, Revelstoke’s only midwife, her service is an option that many women desire as it provides them with a choice of home or hospital delivery. It’s also a service that has, in part, a focus on building a relationship between a client and the midwife of her choice.
“It’s more personal than a visit to the doctor,” the German-born midwife said. “When you engage a midwife you’ll get 45-60 minutes worth of pre-natal visits and six weeks of after-birth visits, too. We want to create a bond between the midwife and the family.”
Every step of a client’s birth is explained, for now in the comfortable and familiar surroundings of the client’s home. Mountain Midwifery is so new that Paschen, who has helped 450 women give birth, including four here in Revelstoke, is — for now — operating out of her own home.
The comfort clients feel with Paschen is doubtless heightened by her calm, competent manner and her excellent training. A graduate of the German university system, Paschen has a lifetime of familiarity with midwifery as it is an integral part of the German medical system.
Here in BC, midwifery is, like medicine, regulated by the government and its professionalism governed by a professional body, in this case the College of Midwives of BC. All registered midwives must successfully complete qualifying exams and participate in ongoing education programs. Midwife services are also paid for with your Care Card through the BC Medical Services Plan. There are no fees. There is also the Midwives Association of BC, which raises public awareness about the profession. And there is the expectation that midwives not only have a role to play in modern childbirth but it is one Paschen believes is welcomed by physicians.
Certainly, she values having a good relationship with them. While midwives are, she said, the only health-care professionals allowed to arrange home births, that doesn’t mean every birth is going to happen there. Some may be at the hospital where Paschen has professional privileges and if there is a problem or anything at all abnormal with a particular birth she will quite happily call in a physician.
Like many expectant mothers, Jennifer Nothstein had heard of midwifery and was disappointed there was not a local midwife who could assist with her when she was pregnant with her first child a couple of years ago. Then Paschen moved to town just in time for her second pregnancy.
“Birte was great and her service was really very personal,” Nothstein said as her newborn, Clifford slumbered beside her. “I felt really comfortable and very informed about everything that was happening during my pregnancy. She prompted me to ask questions before… and the after-care was fantastic. Getting discharged from the hospital and knowing someone was going to come to the house and check on us… it made the experience that much more comfortable and reassuring.”
That kind of personalized care appeals to many people and is a major reason why some young women enter the field. Take Grade 12 student Ariel Christman for example.
“I’m not going to jump the gun and say that midwifery is definitely my career choice, but I am leaning that way,” the poised and articulate 17-year-old said in an interview.
“What really sets it apart from gynaecology and obstetrics is the fact that midwifery gives women a choice between at-home or in-hospital delivery. That makes it quite easy for me to visualize myself in the role of a midwife.”
Granted, Christman may not enter the field, but she has researched it extensively and finds the naturalness of it extremely appealing.
That’s something that Nothstein appreciated, too.
As for Paschen, she’s now pregnant with her own first child and will doubtless be seeking the assistance of another midwife when her turn comes to deliver an innocent new life into the world.
You can contact Birte Paschen of Mountain Midwifery at 250-814-4006 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org