Author: Natalie Grammer
As part of our tribute to midwives for National Midwifery Week, I had a chat with Maud van de Wiele, who is part of the exceptional midwifery team at Midcoast Hospital in Brunswick. In the birth suite, I was endeared to Maud as she brings a light quality to the room. She has a compassionate way of observing and encouraging. She brings a gentle humor, when appropriate. Her reverence for the work being done is evident. I was excited to ask her some questions and get to know her better.
WHAT LED YOU TO MIDWIFERY? HOW DID YOU BECOME A MIDWIFE?
A long and windy road. There were 5 kiddos in my family and in the 60s-early 70's in NYC I guess nobody was having natural childbirth and my mom wanted to. Sadly, I don't know where she came to that but her docs said she was foolish; of course she would not and she kept saying "yes..... I am". Finally they said, 'Ok, if that's what you're going to do then can we have a few nurses watch?' And she said sure. She said it was basically an auditorium full of people. And so it went; 3 singles and a set of twins. All breastfed publicly daily in Riverside park; I grew up in New York City. It always intrigued me. I went to Hunter college right out of high school and took Women's Studies and Philosophy and got a bit caught up in the reproductive rights movement. Fast forward some years I became a nurse and thought I would work in psych/addiction but landed an internship in OB/GYN/maternity. I fell in love with birth and have never stopped loving it. After years of being a L&D nurse and seeing things that didn't sit right with me, and working in a small community hospital where no one was in house and I kept catching babies that came in their own time, I decided to pursue Midwifery. We had midwives and loved talking with them and one in particular Susan Harris who went to Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing. She was so cool and so wonderful.
Why did I do it and why I do it now have likely evolved. I do it now because I can think of no greater privilege in supporting and empowering women and families then being a part of such a treasured and personal journey. I'm sure there is a selfish component; it is I think as close as we get short of death to being a part of whatever great spirit or God you believe in.
What is unique about the Midcoast practice and makes you stand out in the area?
Oh, I don't think I stand out; I think WE stand out because of how hard we work to stay connected as a group so the women we care for feel like their care is seamless, supportive, personal and as close and much like a home birth as they might hope for in a hospital setting. That they are heard and respected and loved. We have a good connection with our OB/GYNS and they also support what we do; I think we earn that and the respect is mutual. Our families feel that. We also have a tremendous Centering program that we all participate heavily in with the help of our amazing coordinator which we are fortunate to have as a result of the administrations support.
What is one fact about you that may surprise someone?
Hmmmm.....I asked a student we had with us for 6 months and she said she couldn't believe that I was a wild and crazy youth from New York City. Seems like another lifetime but maybe why I so appreciate and love all the time spent with Moms and families and waiting quietly for birth.
When about to go on-call, do you have any rituals or special ways to prepare?
I try and have a quiet night the night before with my son. I take good food with me (usually) and I spend some time in meditation the morning before when I'm being diligent. It helps me be present.
What is the busiest day you've had at midcoast?
In our hospital? I think 3 babies. But busy days are hard to quantify. I can be busy with one woman for a long long time or have several come in for various different reason.
There's a lot of focus on the mother through pregnancy and in anticipation of birth; what is your favorite way to encourage a partner to prepare?
We place a lot of emphasis on that particularly in Centering. It's a great way for dads to prepare and feel deeply connected to the process. They frequently tell us AND show us. We also have a daddy boot camp program at the hospital. But we talk to them about all the ways they are such an integral part of the birth and sometimes they help catch the babies. We love that!!
YES, THANK YOU (AND TO THE PARENTS) FOR SHARING THAT REMARKABLE PHOTO!
MIDCOAST IS FAMOUS FOR THEIR POSTPARTUM MILKSHAKES, WHAT DO YOU DO FOR SELF-CARE OR AS A SPECIAL MEAL AFTER LEAVING THE HOSPITAL?
OMG, that depends on the day! I try not to stay up anymore if it's been nutty or I haven't slept. Sometimes I walk on the beach. Sometimes I run. Always I connect with my own kiddos. Big and small.
When I'm not at the office or hospital you can usually find me....
with my boys, near the ocean, in my (now weedy) new gardens, running, working on my new old house, and I have a very, very special group of friends, predominantly women, whom I cherish. There seems to be a lot of good food preparation in there!
This is a woman after my own heart! If you are in the Midcoast area and want to learn more about the midwifery practice there, please visit their website and make an appointment to meet them. Also, you can read our interview here with one of their other lovely midwives, Suzanne, from last year's National Midwifery Week spotlight.