By Donna Tabas, C.N.M., M.S.
August 05, 2014
My path to becoming a midwife was not direct, but it ultimately has been a journey that led me to fulfill my life’s calling. At six years old during art class, given the assignment to sculpt a clay figure, mine became one of a mother cradling her infant in her arms! A tell-tale sign of what was to unfold in my future.
At the start of my journey, midwifery was far from my mind. From nursing school to working as a nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the very different kinds of births of both of my babies, and then working with midwives in an out-of-hospital birth center, my path to becoming a midwife has been an unplanned but ultimately joyful and fulfilling journey.
The Birth of a Boy
By the time I was pregnant with my first son, I had already been working as a Registered Nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Columbia’s Babies Hospital, (now renamed the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York Presbyterian Hospital) for several years and was well-versed in the medical perspective on childbirth. I had cared for the tiniest and most fragile of infants, working tirelessly to keep those little souls alive. My perspective was deeply entrenched in the medical model of care.
Knowing that I would be receiving the “best care possible” and would be in the perfect place should the unthinkable happen and anything go wrong with my birth, I chose my place of work, a high risk tertiary care center, to bring my son into this world. The pregnancy, itself, had been uneventful. The same could not be said for the birth.
Laboring within the medical model of care and receiving many invasive procedures led to a cascade of interventions that necessitated a Cesarean birth and resulted in the birth of my critically ill son who was admitted into the very same NICU in which I worked. Despite my body being wounded and scarred, and my psyche aching for an experience I was not able to have, in the years to follow, the birth of my first beautiful son led me down my perfect path, and I therefore cherish it.
A Pivotal Transformation
During my second pregnancy, in addition to wanting a healthy baby, I wanted to avoid having unnecessary surgery, and I wanted to experience fully every sensation of normal labor and birth, and push my own baby out into the world myself. I began to research the opportunities to birth vaginally after a previous Cesarean Section (known by the acronym, VBAC). At that time, VBAC deliveries were not the norm, but I was determined to birth my baby normally, as I knew it would be safer for both my baby and me than a planned, repeat Cesarean section. I did my homework and researched everything that was known about natural birth and having a safe VBAC. This searching led me to discover the world of midwifery, and how the midwifery model can facilitate a beautiful, natural, and safe normal birth, even after having a previous Cesarean Section. The pregnancy was again uneventful, but the normal, empowering, unrestrictedly joyful birth was a dream come true, and a transformational moment in my life. I cherish that birth as well.
I then realized that I wanted every woman to have the opportunity to experience this amazing and empowering life event in the same raw, unbridled way that I had. This was my calling. I was meant to help women bring their children into this world in the most natural, safe and joyful way, and reduce the incidence of unnecessary Cesarean sections.
Helping Women to Have Safe, Beautiful Births
Of course the number one goal of midwifery is to have the safest outcome for both mother and baby. I tell the women I work with that “Natural facilitates Safety, but Safety always trumps Natural.” There are some clinical scenarios that necessitate various levels of medical intervention, and sometimes even a Cesarean Birth to achieve healthy outcomes.
However, in my practice, the kind of care I give my ladies increases their chances of having a normal birth without unnecessary medical interventions that can lead to surgery. I have found I can do this by giving excellent, non-rushed prenatal care, not interfering with the natural physiological birthing process unless there is a problem, and keeping birth normal or returning a birth to a normal course by correcting babies’ positions that are facing the wrong way, encouraging the mother to move so that their babies can travel down their mother’ pelvises in a normal fashion and not get “stuck,” ("if you can’t move the mother, you can’t move the baby!").
I help to transform her fear of labor, pain, and birth to a more wonderful mindset of lack of fear, relaxation, surrendering, the healthy power of her own body, and sometimes even pleasure. I have found that with using the midwifery model of care, the women I care for have much fewer Cesarean Sections, the women have less of a need of pain medication and epidurals, have healthier, more normal births and are happier, more satisfied mothers who refer to their births as “transformational.”
My Sons “Birthed Me” into the Midwife I Am
Every day when I see my Cesarean scar in the mirror, I have a moment sadness from the physical deformity and the recollection of a traumatic birth, but instantly I begin to cherish it because I realize that it was my own birth experiences of my two wonderful sons that led me to my inevitable path to midwifery. I am thankful for both my sons’ births because they helped me find my calling, my purpose on this earth, and my ability to help other women in the Bergen, Hudson, and Rockland County areas avoid unnecessary surgery and have wonderfully joyful birthing experiences. My sons “birthed me” into the midwife that I always meant to be.
Please contact me further if you would like to learn more about personalized pregnancy and birthing care that can make your birthing experience a joyous, empowering, transformative and pleasurable experience.