This is a photo of me at a birth during the pandemic. It was a very long and taxing 10 months of caring for this young client. The birth itself wasn't difficult, but the many psychosocial and emotional events which transpired while caring for this family was overwhelming. I had reached my limit and had almost tapped out. It was this very moment that I discovered that I needed to put some serious boundaries in place. Boundaries regarding the demographics of clients that I accepted for care, travel limitations, etc. It was either that or quit home birth midwifery altogether.
As midwives, we want our clients to be happy, healthy and feel good. But the reality is, everyone has their own challenges in life and as a midwife, you create safe spaces for women to share, process and sit in their feelings. Well, when you provide this for multiple people at once, it can cause emotional fatigue and a wearing on your own mental capacity. But when you're a new midwife, full of energy and compassion, you have no idea that this is reality is on the horizon.
I always talk about how catching babies is only a small fraction of the role of a midwife. Navigating the psychosocial, emotional and business aspects of care can be extremely difficult, and sometimes downright ugly. As an empath, I was heavily emotionally invested in the care of my clients, which often came back to bite me in the ass. I would feel so personally attacked when some discordance between a client and I occurred. I would literally be unable to sleep and feel so defeated if a birth plan changed due to a client risking out of home birth care, or if my suggestions were not received well by a client. I hate to admit it, but my ego would be bruised quite often. And I'm not speaking that with the intent of being self-inflated, but we all have an ego and mine took a beating.
In my years of midwifery, I remember times where I have gone above and beyond to take care of clients. Many have appreciated it, and some have been completely and painfully ungrateful. It is the events of the latter that have left bruises on my little midwife heart. After being emotionally drained, I started protecting my emotional space. I stopped allowing everyone's issues to become my own. I listen with an open heart and mind, but I do not allow myself to feel it deep within my soul every single time.
I realized that I had to stop trying to be everything for everyone. Ego makes you think that you have the answers to everyone's problems or can handle everyone's issues. Well, you can't and shouldn't. But when you're passionate about your role, job or calling, you innately strive to fix everyone's problems. In my opinion, this "savior" approach can be dangerous to families and unhealthy for birth workers. Because guess what? You don't know everything and never will.
Protecting Your Passion: Navigating Both Client and Provider's Needs with a Gentle Approach.
Refer to the Experts: Yes, I'm knowledgeable about breastfeeding, newborn health, perinatal mental health, etc. But instead of trying to adopt those roles, I refer to the experts! There are many professionals who are committed to their fields and are amazing at what they do! Tap into your network, build your referral community!
Active Listening: Create safe, comfortable environments in which clients feel free to share. Listen without interrupting, judging or thinking of how you're going to respond. Use reframing techniques to help clients identify their issues. Help clients create small actionable plans, provide tools and resources when applicable and hold them accountable. Don't take on tasks for the client. They are ultimately responsible for making changes in their own lives. Just being a listening ear goes a long way for people.
Birth Workers: Identify your own strengths and weaknesses. Learn what part of birth work you love and don't love. Create a tools/resource list for the areas you would rather refer out.
When the fun phase of your passion for birth work fades, it's all about being honest with yourself, while making the necessary shifts needed to protect your peace and passion. Burn out comes through like a freight train. By the time you realize it, your performance has suffered, you're already fatigued, depressed, feeling trapped and overwhelmed. Embrace the need for change. It doesn't mean you are a failure or you're giving up. Your happiness matters, especially in the sacred birthing space.
Need listening ear? Schedule your "Come to Soul" Coaching Session today!