I’m sitting here in the midwives office waiting and wondering what time the baby in the other room will be born. It’s 8pm on March 8th and there are still several hours left of International Women’s Day. This morning just before 6am, a beautiful baby girl was welcomed into the world with a room full of women and her loving father. She was the firth baby born to the couple and named after her mother’s mother. The mama giggled when she latched on to nurse for the first time. It was beautiful and humbling to be a part of. There we all were–watching the little baby girl as she saw the world for the first time; a world full of strong, brave, confident, and loving women.
I have been attending births with midwives in southwestern Wisconsin for my second coop. These women are Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) and Licensed Midwives (LMs) who practice out of hospital, in birth centers and at planned home births. The births I have been attending take place at a small clinic out in the rolling hills of the driftless region, about a 20-minute drive from my house. The women who come to this clinic for birthing are mainly of the Amish population, but there are some Mennonite women, as well as women from other branches of the Amish Church.
The purpose of the clinic is to serve plain communities in southwestern Wisconsin and to lower the cost of birth, as well as the caesarean section rates within plain communities. A medical doctor started the practice in the 1980s with respect to the Midwifery model of care, and now it has grown from a solo practice to a practice with five midwives and three doctors. It serves many families and provides a comfortable environment for people from plain communities to give birth.
The woman in the other room has been in labor since 7am and is really hoping things will pick up soon. She is quiet and stoic, much like many Amish. Hopefully, things will move along, but you never really know until it is happening. I was at one birth a couple weeks ago where the midwife kept saying to me, “This baby will be born within the hour” and five hours later around 4am she was. Hah! It just goes to show they have a mind of their own. Why are babies born when we want to be asleep? Seriously, what time were you born? My guess would be somewhere between 12am and 6am.
Knowing how long labor can take, I was expecting to be pulling my second all-nighter in a row. I have stayed up through the night many times over during this coop. Until recently I never pulled all-nighters, but now it’s a regular occurrence when someone goes into labor. Being someone who loves sleep, I never thought it was worth it to stay up all night. But now after I started attending births, I’ve begun to look at it differently.
When a baby is born, it doesn’t matter how tired you are. As soon as she begins to crown, everything changes. The energy in the room shifts and it’s immediately all hands on deck-record the time the head was born, then the body, then make sure baby goes straight up to mama’s chest. Pause and catch your breath, and realize that something truly amazing and unique just happened. Cut the umbilical cord and wait for the placenta. Record the time of the afterbirth. Watch for bleeding, and so much more (I have to write a list so I remember). But, thankfully you get a kick of adrenaline and it’s very helpful. It feels kind of like you’re sailing through every moment, like you’re in a flow that just happens to be filled with joy, that is, assuming there are no complications. Time moves differently in those first few moments after a birth.
Midwives say, “Being a midwife is 80% excitement and joy and 20% terror that something will go wrong, because things sometimes go wrong in childbirth and some babies have a harder time with it. What’s important is to be aware and prepared for anything so that everyone can be safe in the end. Even though it’s terrifying, it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life. I now find it incredible that before January I had never experienced birth from this perspective.
This co-op has been the most thrilling and humbling experience of my life. I am full of admiration for every woman who has given birth, and every midwife or supportive partner who has helped throughout the process.
My alarm goes off at 6:00 am. I roll over and hit snooze. This happens just a couple times before I realize I must get a move-on and get ready for my day. Recently I have wanted to have enough will power to start my mornings early, and now I have to.
The beginning of the day is slow. The goal is to get the boys to school. Some wake up without even trying and others ignore me as long as possible. This is nothing that I am surprised by, in my life it seems like adolescent boys never want to get up for school.
Working at Crotched Mountain there is never a day that goes by that I don’t learn something. Like how I could have dealt with a situation better or what that particular student might have needed. This place is a hub of energy staffed with lots of hard- working teachers and staff, trying to facilitate each day in going as smoothly as possible.
As a Para-Educator my job here is to be a part of a student’s day without causing too much of an annoyance. I should be helping them when they need it and creating a space where they can make decisions for themselves that will set them up for success in the long run. At times this can be hard. Could you imagine someone following you around all day? It makes sense that it can be hard because everyone needs privacy. The best days are when it feels like we are doing something together, not when it feels like, wait up so I can follow you closer because its my job and you need someone watching you! The more I’m here the better I get at facilitating the experience to be the former. But of course sometimes the students just want you out of their lives and that’s when it gets tricky.
As the weeks go by I can feel my comfort level going way up. In the beginning I had no idea what I was doing. And a lot of things were vague. I kept being told to “act like I knew what I was doing.” To be completely honest, that advice was extremely helpful to me. As soon as I began acting like I knew what was up, I ended up learning much faster and being able to recognize what I was learning on my own.
Like any job there are ups and downs, there are things you like and things you dislike. To sum up what I know about Crotched Mountain, this place is about supporting individuals with disabilities and their families. Crotched Mountain’s goal is “to work in partnership with families and local communities to achieve the highest degree of educational, physical and social independence possible for every student.” Here at this time I am working toward that.
Being here in the spring has been interesting. It has finally begun to come to life and I am very excited. Life on “the mountain” as many people call it, is made more interesting as the weather changes. There are plenty of local trails on the mountain too (fun fact they are some of the oldest most beautiful wheelchair accessible trails in the country!) Oh and i must mention how amazing it is to witness how much the children grow in your eyes as you get to know them. This place has taught me a lot.
One piece of advice I have for you whether it’s Crotched Mountain or any other place on the globe is: always be aware of your surroundings. You never know what could happen and you always want to be prepared to be as safe as possible. Thats one thing I’ve learned working here.