Four Hillsdale women pursuing careers in midwifery set out this semester to amend misconceptions about midwifery, and stand with women in the Hillsdale community through the newly approved Midwifery Education Club.
At their kick-off meeting Tuesday, sophomore and president Sophia Berryhill stated the club’s mission: to raise awareness about midwifery as both a career option and a birthing option, and to support pregnant women in the broader Hillsdale community through outreach and fundraising.
The club centers itself strongly around the word “midwife” itself, meaning “with woman.” Every event the club organizes will center around the best way to serve women in the community, according to Berryhill.
Club members can look forward to upcoming events like partnerships with and fundraisers for Alpha Omega Care Center and the Early Pregnancy Loss Association, as well as panels of professional midwives, nurse midwives, and OBGYNs, and even documentaries about birthing options and midwifery.
“We wanted to partner with that career aspect, but also educate people about midwifery as a birth option because so many people at Hillsdale want to have families someday,” Berryhill said. “When you do that, we want women to recognize that they do have a choice.”
Berryhill emphasized that people often overlook both the professionalism of midwifery and the variety of birthing options midwives present. A woman can choose between a hospital birth, a hospital birth overseen by a nurse midwife, a birthing center birth with a certified midwife, or, as long as she has no health complications, a home birth with a certified midwife.
Secretary of the Midwifery Education Club, sophomore Molly Buccola, said that women often don’t take advantage of midwifery services either because they don’t know about them or don’t trust them.
“Oftentimes when I tell people I am getting a degree in biochemistry and am becoming a midwife they are like, ‘Why do you need a science?’” Buccola said. “There are a lot of archaic notions of midwifery that permeate campus. People don’t realize that midwifery is a legitimate medical service. We are licenced medical providers for normal births. That takes a lot of pharmacology, clinical skills, physiognomy, biology.”
Bucolla, Berryhill, and junior Phoebe Fink, club vice president, all stressed that midwives can oversee a birth in the mother’s home or at a small birth clinic, where beds, couches, nitrous oxide — a laughing gas more gentle than epidurals — jaccusies, and other holistic pain relief options make the process more natural, calming, and mother centered than at a hospital.
Midwifery has long been a career aspiration for Fink, but she said hearing about her sister-in-law’s birth story affirmed her aspirations.
“My sister-in-law had a baby with a midwife. She was on her hands and knees on the floor laboring and the midwife said, ‘it is time to deliver this baby, do you want to get on the bed or stay here,’” Fink said. “She stayed on the floor because it was more comfortable for her in that moment whereas most doctors make you stay in bed so they can see what is going on, but that actually makes it harder to use all the muscles you need to push.”
A midwife, Fink said, is more concerned about the natural process of birth which will happen whether the mother is in a hospital or not.
It was talking with Fink and others that first inspired Berryhill to pursue midwifery. She entered Hillsdale prepared to major in biochemistry and continue on to medical school to become a doctor. However, she began exploring alternative career choice options, and eventually decided to become a nurse midwife.
“I want to be a midwife because I want to serve women with my career, and midwifery is something that I know I can do that best,” Berryhill said. “I want to be there for women in one of the most impactful and life-changing experiences of her life and connect through compassion, empathy, and commitment to make her birth the best and most rewarding experiences of her life. I cannot see myself doing anything else.”
Bucolla gave similar reasons for pursuing a career in midwifery, but emphasized that most importantly, to serve a mother through midwifery is to guide her towards the most natural birthing experience and show her what, as a midwife, she already believes about birth.
“I am really excited to give women the opportunity to know what a midwife is and to educate them on the idea that they could have non-invasive, healthy, powerful birth experience where they are in control, they have a birth plan, and they have a midwife who is their friend and has empathy,” Buccola said. “A lot of women think their only option is a hospital where you have 10 different nurses. I think it is so important for women to have powerful, healthy, relational experiences in birthing.”