Dear Honest Midwife,

I had a disappointing experience with my midwife recently. I planned a home birth for my first baby. I went into labor on my due date and 48 hours later had to transfer to the hospital. I was totally exhausted and I was still not fully dilated. I got an epidural and my midwife went home to get some sleep, which was fine because the plan was for me to sleep too. When it was time for me to start pushing we called her and she didn’t pick up her phone. I pushed for three hours and the baby wasn’t coming down, so I had to have a c-section. My midwife never showed up again. I sent her a text with a picture of the baby and she replied “congratulations” but never called me or visited me in the hospital or once I got home. We never seemed to connect by phone (we played phone tag a bit) and now I feel like she just dropped me. I think she’s disappointed in me for having a c-section. I’m super disappointed too but I feel like I tried as hard as I could and it just didn’t work out. Is it normal for midwives to just forget about their clients who end up with a c-section? I feel like I lost my dream birth and also a friend. 


Dear Jana,

I’m so sorry about the way your midwife has failed to stay connected with you! I am sure that hurts right now when you need support the most.

midwife magic

I hope that I can help you understand that you should not take this personally. After an incredibly long labor like you had, going to the hospital was the only sane option. There was no other choice at that point. The epidural was an excellent choice for you to get some relief and some sleep, and probably gave you your best possible shot at a vaginal birth. Pushing for three hours without progress was likely more than an adequate amount of time for your hospital providers to see that a vaginal birth was very unlikely to occur safely. You did everything you could and you had the best outcome possible for your situation. There was nothing more you could have done.

I don’t know your midwife's personality, but she likely feels that she failed you. Midwives are supposed to have a special kind of magic that helps women have beautiful birth experiences. Maybe they think of it as a divine calling or some kind of mystical connection to ancient wisdom of women throughout the ages. We are supposed to have a special intuition to guide women through birth and lead them on a sacred path to a blissful, orgasmic birth experience. We have read all the books, we’ve sat in circles and sung songs, we’ve been bestowed with gifts that extoll our specialness. We have to believe that we have that. We are special. And if you stick with us, you can have that special experience we know you want. 

But the truth is, it’s all nonsense. We aren’t magical. Not even a little bit. We aren’t wise or intuitive in a supernatural way. We are just undertrained quasi-professionals who are hoping that we know just enough to make sure no one dies before we can get them to a hospital. We don’t want to be found out, and we don’t want to admit it to ourselves, but we don’t have any special powers or secret knowledge. We have superstitions and unscientific beliefs, and most importantly we have the fact that birth naturally goes OK most of the time. 

So when a midwife spends 48 hours trying to make magic happen and it doesn’t, and she has to admit defeat and take someone to the hospital, and she’s exhausted herself, and she realizes that she really has nothing to offer her client at this point, that can be hard on her self-esteem. She may have dropped you because you are a reminder that she wasn’t magical enough. 

This is not to excuse how she has treated you, but to help you understand that this is not really about you. You worked very hard and had to deal with a lot of difficult realities you weren’t planning on. You made the best decisions possible in your situation, and thanks to those decisions you and your baby are safe. Your midwife is disappointed in herself, not in you.


Honest Midwife