Midwives have long advocated and supported safe and healthy maternity care. More families are turning to their services as they explore different birth options that they feel will provide them with a safe pregnancy and birth that more closely involves the whole family.
Anne Sommers is a midwife in Murrieta, CA providing local care to families interested in home birth. Anne gave birth to her son and daughter at home with the support of midwives and says that it was the start of her pursuit toward becoming a midwife.
Her education officially began in 1986 with a wide range of educational experiences including training with an obstetrician as well as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine (OMD). Anne says she enjoys continually learning about healthcare and the best way to provide comfortable and personalized care to families and that her education never stops. “I have been blessed that the right people and many of them, came into my life at the right time to teach me.”
Anne provides family-centered care and takes an holistic approach that emphasizes the mind, body and family while providing emotional support. She is available for her clients 24/7 and also provides herbal and nutritional guidance.
Relationships and Personalized Care
Anne says she is still meeting with clients in person during COVID-19 and is adjusting care based on families’ physical distancing measures. Midwives are used to building bonds with families in a close way with detailed in-person visits and meetings with the whole family in their home, so Anne is doing her best to provide the same care for families interested in home birth during the pandemic. “I’m doing whatever the family feels comfortable with, whether it be wearing a mask or not wearing a mask.”
Many families seek the services of a midwife because they want the opportunity to get to know their care provider better and build a relationship with them. “That’s one of the benefits of this type of care–it’s personalized,” she says. I have the time to get to know my client and their preferences, and fears. We can adjust to the family’s needs.”
Communication is Key
Anne places a particular emphasis on bedside manner as she meets with families. She believes it’s one of the major strengths of midwives. Midwives talk to families about pregnancy, birth and overall health while dispelling fear or worry which is particularly important as families aim to deliver their newborns safely during the pandemic.
“I think there’s also something to be said about the way we communicate with clients–thoroughly and patiently–which is often different or in contrast from what they experience in a hospital setting where the doctor and medical personnel have many patients without as much time.
Families often choose home birth to maintain a sense of privacy and comfort; most midwives see themselves as companions in a supportive role rather than leading the experience. The term midwife means “with woman,” and Anne says her goal is not to interfere if everything is going well but to recognize problems when they occur and take action.
Anne says the reasons that she’s able to provide the personalized care she does is because of the hard work and sacrifices midwives made in the past to provide mothers with the birth options they required. “Midwives paved the way for all of us who are practicing now and it shows that this has always been a natural process and women are strong.”
Past, Present and Future of Midwifery
Communities have cherished the type of care and comfort midwives provide for centuries, but today there are many people who don’t think about home birth as a viable option. Midwives are referenced in ancient text, engravings and artistic depictions dating back to the 1400’s and there are even mentions of midwives in the Old Testament. Research shows home birth is as safe as hospital birth.
Growing numbers of expectant mothers are finding home birth and connecting with midwives in order to birth safely in their homes with their families by their side. “It’s a beautiful and amazing experience when shared by the whole family. Only in the last hundred years or so that families haven’t been as involved in the birth,” Anne says.
Anne also says she doesn’t view birth as a medical event necessarily, but rather a natural personal experience which should involve the family.
Like many other midwives, Anne believes that womens’ rights need to be advocated for during birth and that there’s room for improvement when it comes to the way births are handled in hospitals. “I mean when you look at the number of c-sections, you have to question whether it’s the right decision that often.” We have a very high c-section rate and it’s averaged 30 percent for the last two decades. Maternal mortality is one of the highest in the industrialized nations.
Like many midwives, Anne’s journey into midwifery began with the pregnancy of her son and her own search for home birth. She says that after her daughter was born, she decided to become more politically active in the home birth movement; advocating for mothers through better health care and providing more birthing options.
Anne says that getting the word out about birthing options is important work that can be challenging, but that we might see more people explore home birth in the future after seeing more families put their trust in midwives to support them as they deliver their newborns. “It’s something I’ve been working toward and hoping for a long time, so maybe this will be some kind of turning point where more people will realize what kind of care options they have.”
Midwife Anne Sommers