Self-care in Midwifery

Hi friends! Welcome back to the blog, it’s been a minute but we are back and ready to start more conversations! 

Today’s post is on the complex balance that we as students and midwives, and really all birth workers, have to hold between self-sacrificing and sacrificing for self.

Self-care requires sacrifice, and it seems that in midwifery, this sacrifice is even larger and more difficult to make because of the nature of our work, which often requires self-sacrificial acts. We can go about our day.. until we can’t because a baby decides it’s ready to join us or a mom is having an issue and needs our help. As exciting as it is to go to a birth, this often requires dropping what we are doing in the moment, important or not, and running out or having a phone conversation. This is a part of the job we all know and love, however, it doesn’t discount the fact that it takes time and sacrifice to make it work sometimes. It also takes a significant amount of our mental and emotional focus to fulfill our client’s needs and wants and to be responsible birth workers. 

There are many more examples of different ways that our work is more than just a “job”. I think that we all know that and can think of ways that we could be drained if we aren’t careful. We are so blessed to be able to care for these moms but we also need to acknowledge that it takes a lot to be able to care for them well!

Here’s the thing though, whether or not we burn out from this type of work is our choice! 

You can choose to either care for yourself or to let it go and focus on other things (which is easy to do, I’m sure we’ve all burnt out at least once). It’s so hard to find that balance and it’s not the same for everyone! It takes practice, learning whether or not certain things work for you, and finding what it is that you need most in order to be happy and healthy. Finding this balance can be hard and frustrating, but please don’t be hard on yourself for it. Just as midwifery takes time, midwife-ing yourself also takes time and patience. Both you and your clients deserve a happy midwife (or student midwife). 🙂

There is a common saying that “you can’t pour from an empty cup.”…  How do you plan to fill up that cup, friends? This is not often talked about in school, among our community circles, or in Facebook groups. When it is, it’s acknowledged as a fact that we give a lot and need to refill but are there any practical ways that we are talking about following through with self-care? Have we found ways to do this within the birth worker lifestyle of appointments, being on call, etc.? It is becoming more and more of a hot topic and so I think it’s time to offer up some possible solutions. Additionally, we may have a few suggestions and different ideas on sustainability in midwifery and midwifery practices but again, we need to refill personally, too. 

It’s hard to pay attention to the things that our bodies, spirits, and minds need sometimes. I think that in midwifery, we need self-care even more than the typical person because of the demands of our job. We also need to be on top of it in order to keep from burning out, which is an all too often occurrence in the birth worker and healthcare professions.

Here are a few suggestions on how to start a self-care practice that works for you:

Consider creating a support group with friends or midwives you know to be able to hold each other accountable and encourage each other. This could be in person or over text or Zoom calls.

If you are on call 24/7, 365 days/year it can be hard to find that space to just be. Consider taking a month off call yearly by not accepting clients due during that period. You can continue with appointments, take a vacation, and simply just use that time to focus on yourself. Focus on rest, relaxation, and learning more about yourself and what makes you feel “filled up”.

In the everyday life of a midwife or student, there are small things that you can do in order to maintain self-care. Things that give energy are nature/fresh air, movement, hydrating, sleep/rest, exercise, creating, journaling, music, sunlight, decluttering, and future planning. Try out the ones that sound the best to you and try to do at least one thing every day that falls into these categories. Here are some suggestions:

Nature/Fresh air -Take a hike, go for a swim, watch the sunset, or have a meal outdoors.

Movement -Dance, hiking, swimming, biking, walking, or yoga/stretching.

Sleep/Rest – take a siesta, find 10 minutes in your day to lay down and rest (you can set a timer if you need to), and get to bed early if you need it. 

Exercise -Many of those mentioned above include exercising! You can also go to the gym or go for a run.

Creating -If there is a certain craft that you enjoy, challenge yourself to enjoy doing it for at least 10 minutes each day. Take up lessons in pottery, music, or another craft if you are able.

Journaling -There are so many different kinds of journaling out there, just take a look at Pinterest to get inspired! If you really love writing, you could also try out writing a book.

Music -Play it when you do chores at your house, in your office, in the car, etc. Plan on going to a concert, a restaurant, or a festival to experience it live.

Sunlight -Of course, we know how important sunlight is for our health! Try to get out in the sun as much as you possibly can. Either just lay out or enjoy an outdoor activity.

Decluttering -This is fairly easy.. declutter anything that needs it! Your office, your car, your file cabinet, your room, etc. Decluttering often brings happiness and clarity.

Future Planning -You can sit back and think about your future, the future of your business, and what you would like to see in the next year, 5 years, and 10 years. Then write it down, create steps to get there, and you will feel like anything is possible!

See? Doesn’t self-care look a lot like midwifery?! 🙂 We have to hold ourselves accountable to caring for ourselves. Try writing a chart of what you want to do for self-care daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly, and hold yourself to it! This takes more dedication and discipline than you may think. If you want, you can also share your self-care goals with a family member, fellow midwife, or friend and have them hold you accountable to your goals. Whatever you do, don’t turn self-care into a chore. Take the time to be intentional and actually do the things that you have written down for yourself. Find what works and stick to that!

At the ISMC we are all about sustainability and we want to see every birth worker succeed. Let us know in the comments if you have some other ideas for sustainable practices or questions and comments on the subject!

Be a good midwife (or student midwife!) for others and yourself. Care and support are things that both you and your clients deserve from you!

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