6 Awesome Reasons to consider a community Midwife with Chloe French | Salisbury Birth Photographer
Chloe was one of the very first birthy people I was able to make a connection with when I very first decided that I wanted to get into birth photography. She's also my doula mentor, my care provider for women's health, and my friend.
We decided to go Live on Instagram so this whole interview is found there if you would rather watch it than read it! Here's the link: IGTV
Skip the first 3 minutes, we were having tech issues! haha
Me: Let's just jump right into it, I want to respect your time and everyone who is able to watch this live or on the replay. Would you mind just by starting out introducing yourself and Being and Born and telling us a little bit about what you do?
Chloe: Sure! I'm Chloe I'm a Certified Professional Midwife. I'm licensed in DE, MD, and, VA. So I cover the whole Delmarva Penninsula. Basically what I do is provide home birth or community birth services to families in our region. A lot of folks think that midwifery care, there's this assumption that it's not medical, or outside of the system, or you don't have access to medicine. but it's really anything you would do at a birth center so if you're comfortable with a birth center then it's basically just being brought to your home. All your prenatal care happens in the home. There's extensive postpartum care so you have the opportunity to get a lot of support after the baby is born. Prenatal services, the appointments take about an hour or so so you really get to know your provider and it's just much more one-on-one care. The mission of Being and Born is really just to bring home birth and community birth to a wider audience on the Eastern Shore and so far I think we are doing that!
Me: That's awesome. It's definitely something that was needed and it's awesome that we have options now. Thank you for doing this and showing people what you offer and that it's a normal and good thing to do.
Chloe: Yeah, it's just really normal! When you think about it, hospital care, and I'm not against hospital care at all or hospital midwives or OBs, I love them they are important and they are a really important part of our healthcare system. But when you really think about it hospital-based birth is a new thing, it's only been around for 100 or so years. Actually, both my grandparents who were in the '30s were born at home. So it's really less than 100 years that we have been doing hospital birth. For most of human history, it was home birth-related and community birth-related. So now we are in this really unique time where we can mix the best of both worlds. We can take advantage if you want, all of the services that the mainstream medical system that hospital can offer while also getting that one on one community attention and you can customize your birth experience to fit what you need for you and your family.
Me: Yes, that's great! So, have you always wanted to be a midwife? Is that something that you knew from being a little girl that you wanted to do?
Chloe: Kind of yeah I was really weird. There was a show back in the '90s called Dr. Quinn Medicine Women, I don't know if anyone remembers that show but it was about a women doctor on the frontier and I really identified with that. My mother is an herbalist and she took me to a lot of herbal and holistic conferences when I was a kid so I got to know midwives and earthy-birthy people from a young age. I actually when to school for political science and classical music so it's not like I went to college knowing this is what I was going to do but while I was at college I saw a flyer for a doula training and kind of remember that I was interested in birth and midwifery. so, I decided to become a doula, after my first doula birth, I was like 20 or 21 years old and I was like oh yeah this is what I want to do. So I finished my degrees in stuff that had nothing to do with birth and switched completely and I've been focused on birth my entire adult life.
Me: As a follow-up question to that, you mentioned you took the doula training but what brought you to being a midwife, what drove you to continue working to be where you are today?
Chloe: Lots of different things. I remember in midwifery school one of the instructors making the comment that midwives become midwives either for the mothers or for the babies. I kind of felt like both and/neither. I was really drawn to birth work because of justice issues. Through my doula training, I became aware of the ways that women don't receive informed consent, racial and socioeconomic inequalities in our healthcare system, that our maternal health outcomes are worse than any other developed countries, more women are injured or die in childbirth than any other high resource country, our neonatal mortality rates are crappy, and it is even worse when you break it down to racial and socioeconomic lines. When I became aware of that it became obvious that the system we use in this country is not working. So I got really passionate about what countries are working, what are they doing and how can I be a part of creating a change there. I'm in it because of moms and babies. I love moms and babies and families. I love birth and I find it endlessly fascinating. But the thing that made me become a midwife is knowing that we have a real problem, and maybe this is where the political science aspect comes in, where I'm looking at these larger policy issues and where these larger issues that are at play and if nothing else be part of the charge and also advocate for maybe larger societal changes not just within our smaller community. I don't know, that might make me sound crazy but that's what got me fired up!
Me: No! I think that really something that is really needed. I think in the last, I don't know, 5 or so years things have really come to light about how much is wrong with the way things are being done and the more people like you that are out there the better!
Chloe: Thanks, friend! I just think all of those big numbers, in terms of health statistics, it's easy to get lost in that, the big picture. But each of those numbers is an actual family and an actual living, breathing person. So it's not just, I don't like the way the numbers look, I personally witness, especially as a doula in hospital settings, really aggressive and abusive experiences that have happened to my clients. Even as a doula I try to get in the middle of that but it's hard to stop the train once it leaves the station kind of thing. So every birth I went to just confirmed to me that on a personal level we need to help families and their autonomy. And help mothers and babies have beautiful, gentle birth experiences. And not saying you can't do that at the hospital, I've seen it happen. but you certainly have the most control when you are in your own home.
Me: Right, yeah. So to go along with that, what is your birth philosophy? When you have clients and you're guiding them through this time, what is your philosophy?
Chloe: I was really steeped in this thing called the gentle birth movement, it's kind of controversial and I don't go along with every single thing the founder kind of put out there, though I love Tracy Donegan dearly, I love those ideas that birth is just another process of the body. Just like breathing, having sex, going to the bathroom. It is a physiologic process in our body that can happen pretty much without our help in most cases. So my job as a midwife is to support the healthiest, most physiologic appropriate process, help create an environment where the physiologic process of birth can occur. The image that was proposed to me was like being a lighthouse, rather than being a lifeguard, be a lighthouse and stay steady and strong and help the mom and family navigate all the things that come up in birth. And at the same time, I do hold all of the medications and emergency skills and the ability to get a birth certificate for you. All of those hard skills that go along with assisting at a birth, I have those, but they are sitting in a bag next to me. We can tap into them when we need to but for the most part, I'm there to support the mom and her body supporting what it's perfectly capable of doing on its own, offering support and guidance when needed and only jumping in when it's absolutely needed. Ultimately, the mom and her family own birth, they are the bosses and I am a paid consultant to help them along.
Me: That's awesome, I love that. I haven't heard the lighthouse VS lifeguard thing before, but that's so perfect, I love that so much.
Chloe: You just sit there and shine your little light! But that's how I think of it, I'm not trying to rescue anybody from birth. That's not something you need to be saved from but it's a whole experience that has to be entered into. I'm just there to show the way, offer support, and obviously in an emergency jump in with all the skills and knowledge that I have. But those emergencies are few and far between. So most of the time all you need from your care provider is someone to believe in you absolutely and that's something that I'm definitely there to do.
Me: So awesome. So what does midwifery care look like for your clients both prenatally and postpartum?
Chloe: Prenatal care, this is one, I mean there's a lot that I love about being a midwife, but ok. Typical, correct me if I'm wrong, anybody that's had a hospital birth, I can say with confidence that you usually have long wait times in the waiting room, you see your provider for 10 minutes, 15 minutes if you're lucky, and you don't know who your provider will be. It's usually a group practice with lots of different people and you don't know who's going to be on call for your birth. Then your postpartum care, you're seen in the hospital and then you're not seen again for 6 weeks, right? Was that your experience Olivia?
Me: Pretty much, yeah.
Chloe: Yeah, so when you choose home birth with a home birth midwife you get the same schedule of appointments, so monthly, and then every two weeks, and then every week until baby's born. But you get the same midwife at every one of those appointments. You get to build that continuity of care and create a relationship with the person that is working with you. You get a half-hour to an hour appointment where you can have all your questions answered, you can really get to know your provider and build that sense of trust between the two of you. So when you go into the labor, you know your team, you feel safe. It's a weird analogy but when you think of a cat having kittens if you have a whole bunch of strangers, in a strange environment staring at the cat the labor doesn't work very well. I think most people know that animals go into private to have their young. Similarly, humans benefit from being in a private space with a team that they know and trust. That they feel trust in and feel like they have control. So the prenatal care lays the foundation for that. When you have that prenatal care you still can have prenatal testing that you have with hospital care if you want it, you can still have access to services like ultrasounds. But you can do it all in your own home, for the most part, there's an emphasis on herbs and nutrition, and preventative care to keep people as healthy as possible for the best outcomes, then the birth happens and we hang out for 2,3,4 hours postpartum to make sure everyone is happy and healthy.
Then when we get into postpartum care afterward you get a 24-48 hour postpartum visit in your home for you and your baby, a 3-6 day appointment in your home, a 2 week and a 6-week visit. And more visits if you need them. So if you're having problems nursing or any questions come up, you call your midwife and your midwife can help you with whatever is going on. And that's true for pretty much all of your care. You have the direct cell phone number to your midwife so you can call me, or any other midwife and they'll be there right away to see you. You're never getting an answering service, you're always getting your care provider. So that was a long answer but that's the difference!
Me: I don't know why but I never really thought of that particular thing. I remember when I was pregnant I would have a question, and my aunt was my midwife so I could have reached out but I didn't want to overstep that boundary, and so I would just not call a lot of the times because I would have to talk to the receptionist and I'd have to make an appointment and I don't want to drive there. So it's this whole thing of like I'd rather just google it and then be scared or just not know the answer.
Chloe: Yeah, so you can always get your midwife. So for me, I have it set up that if it's a nonemergency issue, like a general question, send me a text message anytime and I will get back to you within normal business hours. But if it's something that you need immediate attention to, you don't have to go to google, you can go to your midwife. I'm always there. And if you think it's something that you need eyes on you depending on the situation I'll drive out to see you even if it's not a scheduled appointment, if it's an emergency I'll meet you at the ER, or the hospital to assist you with what's going on.
Me: That's awesome, thank you for sharing that little bonus, I mean it's actually a big bonus for having a home birth midwife. So what is your very favorite thing about what you do?
Chloe: Oh gosh, I love it all! If I could tell a brief story, my favorite thing, I think it was like my 3rd catch when I was in midwifery school. It was a 16-year-old mom, her first baby and she had a really hard labor, it was really long. I worked with her through the whole thing, she had no other care provider just me through the whole labor. And she gave birth, she pushed for a long time. We got through it all and it was at an out-of-hospital birth center in Texas, she caught her baby. I encouraged her to reach her hands down and pull out her own child. And everything was good, we did the postpartum and she had to get up and go to the bathroom. That's one of the things we do after a baby is born is make sure mama can go to the bathroom, make sure she's not woozy, and all that. So I accompanied her to the restroom and was sitting at the edge of the tub while she was trying to pee and I asked her how are you feeling, how do you feel about your birth now? And she just said I know I can do anything now because I just did that. I will never forget it. It's a rite of passage, you go through some sort of threshold when you have a baby, no matter how you have that baby, c-section, epidural, homebirth. But there's something special that happens at a home birth that I've witnessed, it's almost an exultant feeling. You're on your own terms and stepping into that autonomy. Just listening to her how nothing else in the rest of my life will scare me or worry me because I know I got it. And that for me is my favorite part of my job. Seeing people have that rite of passage and experience.
Me: Yes, when you were saying what she said, I literally have goosebumps.
Chloe: It really ... I was like I'm not going to cry, not going to cry! It was like 6 years ago now and there's no way for me to convey exactly how she said it and her whole posture she was just like I can do ANYTHING now because I just did that. Those moments are what I do it for.
Me: So awesome. So we kind of talked about this, but what is one thing that you would change about the standard of maternity care either prenatally or postpartum, or what is the first thing that you are changing!?
Chloe: Do you have all day? hah no, but honestly I've thought about this question since you gave it to me beforehand but the one thing that I think would make the biggest difference right now would be having continuity of care for moms. What that means is seeing the same provider through your entire pregnancy and through your birth and your postpartum. One of the things we know is when we have this doctor here and this midwife there and you're switching back and forth, you miss things. Not everyone looks at the client the same way, I mentioned before that we really need to get to know our providers. That affects the way births unfold. But also from a clinical level, if you're seeing a different person each time it's easy to miss details or not draw the connection between symptoms that came up between one visit and the next visit, it's easy to have gaps in care. That is leading to really crappy outcomes in this country, quite frankly. This is not the opinion of midwives it's been studied and is the recommendation from national and international health organizations. That not just in maternity care that we would all benefit from continuity of care. Having the same provider every time you go in. That radically changes outcomes in healthcare. I wouldn't say it would be an easy change because it would involve making some significant changes to the way we run maternity care but it's doable we just have to give some thought to scheduling, how we manage the practice. If I could wave a magic wand that to me would eliminate so many problems along the way, we just need to decide to do it.
Me: Right! So what is one thing that you would like every woman to know?
Chloe: That you are in control, you are the boss. We have a system, across many areas of life, but certainly, the medical system, that we are biased thinking that doctors, nurses, and midwives have more authority and are the experts. But people are the experts of their own bodies. When you're pregnant, you're also an expert of your baby, no one is closer to your child than you are. So I want all parents to know that you are in the driver's seat. That you get to make the decisions. Ask questions and seek out information until you feel comfortable with what's being asked of you or just say no. I'm not saying don't listen to your doctors and care providers, they have dedicated their lives to being experts in this particular field but you are the expert of you as an individual. You are the boss of your own life experience and you know what's best for you and to feel secure in that. Nobody is allowed to not allow you, something as simple as not being allowed to eat and drink in labor, they can have a policy that says you can't eat and drink in labor, ask your questions, figure out why they have that policy and if you're not satisfied with those answers then eat and drink in labor. It's your body and you are the boss. Even something that small, you can make your own choices.
Me: I find it really interesting because so far everyone that I've asked that question has had a different answer but with the same theme of basically you are in control, you can figure out what you want to do and trust yourself.
Chloe: Yeah 100%
Me: I just think it's really interesting that people from different aspects of care are all having the same message.
Chloe: I think we are all seeing it from different angles. It has to do with how we structured maternal care and you feel like a cog in the machine, like just a number. But you have to remember that for you, this is the one and only time that you will give birth to this baby. So stand strong in that.
Me: A fun question, if you were stranded on a deserted island what 5 things would you have to have with you?
Chloe: I forgot about this question! I would need to have music, so Spotify. My bible. Water and probably vegan potstickers. Wait I'll get rid of Spotify and just have my 2 dogs with me.
Me: I'll let you take 6 things!
Chloe: Right, the dogs count as one thing.
Me: Bonus question! If you had to describe yourself, or yourself as a midwife, however, you want to take it, what would those words be?
Chloe: hmmm... Passionate, supportive, and goofy! That would pretty much be me. I'm passionate about my work, I can be supportive to a fault I have to remind myself I can say no sometimes. And goofy because, I'm just really awkward, you have no idea.
Me: I love it! I think this question is really important to ask because it could be the difference between someone being like that is my midwife and I want her or just not knowing. I think to throw that question in there!
Chloe: I love that!
Me: Is there anything else that you want to add to this?
Chloe: Just that birth photography is amazing and I'm so excited for all the families that are going to use your services, you're just such a gifted photographer. Thank you for offering your services to the world!
Me: Aw, thank you! I did NOT tell her to say that!
Chloe: No she didn't but I mean it. A few different reasons why 1) you're really talented and the world needs more art. 2) we get pictures of our weddings but having a baby is in some ways even more important than the wedding so it's important to document that. Even if you don't want photos of the baby actually coming out of you, just the process of going into labor and the moments after. 3) we need to see birth in order to understand and trust it. We've taken birth and put it in a box far far away, it's no longer a part of our daily life. So you documenting that it changes the culture and I really believe it changes lives! It can make people more confident because they have seen it!
Me: Thank you for saying that. I've felt everything you just said but you are just so good with words. I'm going to take this clip and play it. Why should you have birth photography? Here's Chloe telling you why!
Chloe: But seriously! I go through Instagram and I follow a lot of birth photographers. First of all, I remember when there were only one or two on the internet. It's just amazing that people get to see it and when you read the comments and people say oh I didn't know that's what that looked like, or could you explain what is happening in this picture, or I didn't know you could give birth in an upright position I didn't know you didn't have to be on your back. Because if you don't see it you don't know and we don't see it anymore. So thank you for letting us see this very human, almost universal experience.
Me: Thank you, it's a gift, I feel very honored that I can help in that way.
Chloe: Also, I love going to births with you!
Me: Thanks! I can't wait for the next one! How can people connect with you?
Chloe: The best way is probably my website beingandborn.com That's for my midwifery practice so you can see what I do, read more about my philosophy and services. You can also find me on Instagram @beingandborn. And Facebook as well, @beingandborn. I try to post fun things I find on the internet there, answer questions that come up, and just be available!
Me: Awesome! Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this with me!
Chloe: Thank you! It was a great idea, so much fun!
I know this was a long one but it's really worth it to get to know Chloe a little better and see all the awesome things she's doing for our community!
"The moment a child is born, a mother is born also."