Monika is such a special person! I reached out to her when I was beginning my birth photography journey. I reached out to her since she's a midwife and she replied something like "that's awesome, by the way, I'm pregnant and want a birth photographer." It was like a literal dream come true! And then she referred me to one of her clients right away. So she's a keeper in my book!
When I decided to do this blog series I hoped Monika would agree to be featured! Here's our conversation. I learned so much from her and about her.
Me: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Monika: Yeah, so I am a CPM and a LDEM. I was born and raised on the Eastern Shore and I've spent most of my life here. I'm licensed in MD and DE. I'm a mother of almost two kids. And I love working in the birth world. I've worked all over the world. The 2 months in the Philippines, 3 months in Mexico, and in Alaska! I spend 2 months working in a birthing house for the Amish in PA and then 13 months working with Karen Webster. I've been in the birth world for 12 years and attended well over 100 births!
Me: Wow that's amazing, did you always want to be a midwife?
Monika: No, actually I never thought about being a midwife until I was almost 21. I was a fiber artist and taught music but wasn't sure where I wanted to focus my attention. My mom, who was an L&D nurse and wanted to be a midwife, was pregnant with kid number 8 and looking into different options for herself because she wanted a VBAC. She came across this school in the Phillippines for midwives and it really clicked, I thought I really wanted to do that! I remember when I was 7 or 8 watching one of my mom's friends' homebirth video and thinking "I am never having kids!" So I never thought that this is what I wanted. But I went to the school in the Phillippines that was attached to the birth center and I fell in love with birth. Watching these people working so hard to bring their babies into the world. When I came back I mostly did doula work because there weren't many midwives on the Shore. Then, I went to Mexico and deeply fell in love with midwifery. I decided I needed to go to school and pursue this no matter what it takes. Then I went to the academic intensive school in Alaska.
Me: Wow I can only imagine how it must be learning in another country like the Philippines and then coming back here!
Monika: Yes, every midwife practices differently. Each country practices differently. I'm so honored to work with these native midwives and learn the cultural practices and their herbal medicine that is unique to their culture.
Me: So what is your birth philosophy?
Monika: My birth philosophy has changed so much over the years. Birth is a normal process, our bodies work and it's amazing. I believe it's a spiritual and emotional event as much as a physical event. My job is to hold space for you during that time. I think the term "baby catcher" is funny because midwifery is so much more than catching babies. There is so much more starting prenatally that goes into midwifery care. There's a saying that I love, "A good midwife has skilled hands and knows how to sit on them."
Me: Oh yeah! That's so good, it seems like that's what's missing in the hospital setting. No one wants to sit on their hands.
Monika: Yeah the cascade of interventions. I trust birth, I trust the client. I'm hands-off. They know their body and their baby's normal. But I can confidently step in and take over when I need to.
Me: What does home birth midwifery care look like, prenatally and postpartum?
Monika: I currently do in-home visits and in-office visits. And it's a normal schedule just like with an OB. I always schedule an hour to see you. The visit may not take that long but we have time to talk about your fears and worries leading up to the birth. We will discuss things that you are normally just told to do. All testing and screenings, it's your body and your care. I inform you so you can make decisions for yourself and your body.
Postpartum care includes a visit at 24 hours, 1 week, between 2-3 weeks, and 6 weeks. During that time I am checking with you and making sure the baby has transitioned well but mostly I'm checking on the parent. Making sure they are being taken care of, eating enough, supported emotionally, resting, gaining pelvic floor strength. Postpartum is so important to me because I struggled so much. Not because I didn't have support but I wasn't expecting the transition to be as difficult as it was. So I try to help prepare parents that the postpartum period can be as hard as birth. Taking care of your body is important but can be pushed to the side when you have your precious little baby there that needs you to take care of it. So I will make sure your vitals are good, you're healing properly, and that your transition is as smooth as possible. I also encourage having a supportive postpartum team, a pelvic floor specialist, lactation consultant, whatever you need. These are resources to support you and help you heal even when nothing is going "wrong".
Me: So what is your favorite thing about what you do?
Monika: Oh this one was hard! I love how clients become like family. We are together for over 9 months when you include postpartum. I get accustomed to seeing them and checking on them and seeing their other children if they have any. I love that partnership that I get to build with families. I love watching parents becoming parents for the first time. Whether it's their first or third child. It's incredible and I love watching that transformation take place. I love after birth when my client looks at me like "I did it!" just that empowerment they feel from going through this experience. They got to be in control of their care and that can take over other parts of their life as they become aware of what they are capable of!
Me: Yes, the I did it moment does it for me too! What is one thing you would change about the maternal standard of care, prenatally or postpartum?
Monika: The level of access that birthing people have access to in this nation. It's often dependant on what insurance will cover. I wish people could choose whoever they wanted regardless of income, color, gender identity. They would have access to whoever they want. If we could address that I think that the maternal and infant mortality and standard of care would change dramatically.
Me: What is one thing that you want every woman to know?
Monika: You are stronger than you ever thought possible. You are more knowledgeable than you ever thought about your body. Make sure you trust your provider because they are partnering with you and it's your and your baby's life. Build that trusting relationship with your provider.
Me: This is a bonus question! What 3 words would you use to describe yourself or you as a midwife?
Monika: Oh man, that's hard! Ok, I think people have said that I'm compassionate, That I am knowledgeable, and that I'm a calming presence.
Me: Such important qualities in a midwife! If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 5 things would you HAVE to have with you?
Monika: I'm assuming this is besides family and like survivor items! I would need books, lots of books either audio or regular. Some good sweatpants and comfy clothes. Really good music and a dance floor, handicrafts, and my journal. I would say cheese but I think that would be considered a survival item!
Me: Oh I could totally survive on your deserted island! Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Monika: Oh good, we can be stranded together. I would like to add that if anyone is considering homebirth I am always happy to talk and answer questions. I never, ever want finances to be the reason why you didn't have a home birth if that's what you wanted.
Me: That's awesome, where can people connect with you?
Monika: I'm on instagram @altheamidwifery
My website is http://altheamidwifery.com/
And I'm on linkedin
"The moment a child is born, a mother is born also"