If you're like I was, the first thing you think when you see those beautiful (or scary) two little positive lines on your pregnancy test is "Gotta call and get a midwife!" And I did. In fact, the Winnipeg Midwifery intake line knew that I was pregnant with my first baby before my husband did! (He was away on a business trip, to be fair).
And yet at around 4 months along, I still got the devastating call that I would not have a midwife. Midwives in Winnipeg are gaining popularity, but there are nowhere near enough of them to meet the demand. Between 50-75% of birthers who apply for a midwife will unfortunately be turned down, and I was one of them.
Having always pictured a homebirth with a wonderful Winnipeg midwife, it hadn't even occured to me that I might have to change up my plans and prepare for a hospital birth with a Winnipeg OB instead. I took a week to mourn my plans, and then it was time to snap into action.
So what's up next for you, if you've received the same disappointing news I did? Follow along for some tips from someone who has both been there, and has worked in the Winnipeg birth world for over ten years now.
First things first-- a "Sorry, there's no midwife for you" call is not the end of the line. Let the person on the phone know that you'd like to stay on the wait list. I have known birthers who have gotten calls back days later as something has changed-- or even months later! One of my clients even got a last minute call and changed care from hospital to Winnipeg midwives at 37 weeks!
As pregnancies progress, sometimes people choose or are required to switch from midwifery care to OB care. Midwives also come back from leaves, vacations change, etc. All of these mean that sometimes there are openings that they didn't predict-- and maybe you will be the lucky person who gets a "Welcome to midwifery!" call.
There are so many options in Winnipeg for medical providers that are not Winnipeg midwives. Your first big decision will be where you would like to birth. St Boniface Hospital or Women's Hospital at HSC are the two birthing hospitals in Winnipeg. Both have wonderful staff and fully equipped ORs for cesareans and NICUs for babies that need a bit of extra help. The new Women's Hospital will be open as of December 1st (or so they say), which will be very exciting, but don't discount St Boniface either- some of my favourite nurses work there, and it's a lovely environment.
Once you've decided on location, it's time to choose a provider. This may be an Obstetrician, or could be a family doctor instead. There are many wonderful options for both, but it's important to find one that fits best with the birth you want. Do you want someone who has a small call group? Maybe someone known for being very hands off during the birth? A provider who will take the time to talk to you more during appointments? Talk to those around you and gather opinions, and then don't be afraid to "interview" the provider you chose and switch if you're not feeling like it's a good fit.
In this case, I'm referring to "The Birth Hub Winnipeg"-- a Facebook group entirely dedicated to the birth environment in Winnipeg. From "Is this normal" to "What to do I pack?" or tips for relaxation, fellow members are all their to lend support and help birthing in Winnipeg seem a lot less overwhelming-- even if you didn't get the Winnipeg Midwife you were hoping for. Our members come from such a wide variety of experiences, and love to share what we can to demystify giving birth in Winnipeg a bit!
Now, I may argue that this would be point one, but wherever you put it- I think it is so so important! One of the amazing things about having a midwife is their commitment to informed choice. They're able to provide research and talk through your options with you-- even when you didn't realize some of these things WERE options. If you don't get a Winnipeg midwife, having a doula by your side can be an amazing source of information to navigate your pregnancy and birth choices. While a doula will not make any choices or recommendations for you, she can help you to ask the right questions, and provide information about the things you're interested in. You can check out my doula information here, and click through to send me a message so we can chat.
On your birthing day, going into the hospital with a doula can make you feel so much more wrapped in that cocoon of safety! With my first birth, I was so worried about stepping into the hospital and feeling overwhelmed-- feeling like no one there was 'on my side'. While I lucked out with amazing nurses, it was having that constant presence of my doula that reminded me of how strong I was, that everything was moving along like normal. She helped me feel confident to ask questions when I needed, or give me the words to ask the right questions when I was feeling overwhelmed but not sure how to express that. My doula was the perfect bridge between the homebirth I'd expected and the hospital birth that I ended up with, and I love to be that person for others now.
Sometimes it's easy questions like "Where do I park? When do I go in? What will happen after I go in?" and sometimes it's "How can I get this baby to move? What can I try to handle this pain? Am I doing ok?" Your doula is there to help you navigate all of it.
With a Winnipeg Midwife, you usually are presented with so many options and choices that you often didn't know you had! When you're working with an OB or a family doctor you still have most of these same options-- but you may have to find out about them yourself. Working with a doula is a huge step towards this, but sitting down and doing reading and researching your own is important too. I recommend finding book choices that are supportive and not fear based, and making notes of questions you have. You can ask these in The Birth Hub, to your doula, and to your care provider. A couple books I love are "Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn" by Penny Simkin and "The Birth Partner" also by Penny Simkin. From here, you can start finding topics that interest you and you think may make a difference to your birth experience and that you'd like to learn more about.
Another resource I love is Evidence Based Birth. Run by a nurse and filled with... well... evidence based information, this site looks at many of the common procedures and standards you'll encounter during birth, and give you the real stats surrounding them. Many of her articles are great to print off and start a conversation with your care provider.
While birthing with an OB may not have been your first choice- this can still be a beautiful environment. Take time to think about the things that will make your birth more enjoyable, and set them up! For some people this means making sure that their hospital room is dimmed lighting, white noise or music playing. Some birthers love to have small dabs of scent on their wrists to mask the hospital smells. You may want to encourage your birth team not to offer pain medication until you ask for it, or to preserve your ability to walk the halls, use the shower etc. Putting up a few encouraging quotes or pictures on the walls can be reassuring when things get intense.
Bottom line, is that there are many things you can do to still have a calming, supportive and beautiful birth environment.
Birth can be unpredictable. But it can still be beautiful, even when it looks different than you expected!
Reach out today to chat about how having a doula can improve your birth experience.
Doula, Photographer, lover of all things birth and motherhood. I'm a mama to three energetic tiny humans, lover of Netflix, chocolate, chinese food and I'm slowly creating a coffee addiction. I'm an introvert who loves cup-filling conversations with great people. Check out my About Page to learn more, or drop me a line and let's go for coffee!