Can a midwife and an OB/GYN truly collaborate together?

Can a midwife and an OG/GYN truly collaborate together? Yes, they can. They can even be married to one another. Like us. We were Dr. Erik and Anya Wait. Or as one doctor at an Indiana hospital used to call us, “The Dr.’s Wait.” I don’t know why he called us that. Obviously I didn’t get the MD, but it was sweet. Because that doctor truly did recognize our mutual collaboration. And there’s no way Erik would have gone for “The Midwives Wait.”

27 + years ago I met this guy below … he was the chief OB resident at the time, at the University of Missouri Hospital and Clinics in Columbia, Missouri. I was the pre-med student/health unit coordinator/phlebotomist/morgue assistant there. Yes, you read that right, morgue assistant.

a midwife and an OB/GYN
Erik Wait, MD … and me, Anya (obnoxious student midwife)

I had taken on those jobs to escape my past job at a local birthing center, where I discovered (shocker!) that midwives are just people and we shouldn’t put people on pedestals. My impressions of birth crushed, I went head on full throttle into the world of high intervention OB care. Erik and I became a pretty good pair — a disgruntled former midwife lover, and an OB/GYN resident. Little did he/we know …

Erik finished his residency the summer of 1995, and we moved to rural Arkansas. It was in the process of our move to Arkansas that I discovered I had enough experience to apply to a home birth midwifery apprenticeship, and I immediately managed to find a willing midwifery preceptor. So I jumped on it! A (soon to be) midwife and a just out of residency OB/GYN were about to learn how to collaborate together!

My “jumping on it” leads to lots of other amazing stories so you’re just gonna have to wait for that. Because who goes from pre-med (with family practice MD goals) to home birth midwife? Apparently I do.

During my entire career as a midwife — including the student years, Erik never doubted me. Even when he thought what I was doing was ridiculous. Which was probably often at first. Erik was my number one cheerleader, answered every desperate page and phone call for advice with joy in his voice, and began to ask ME professional advice on occasion — the “on occasion” eventually became all the time.

Erik came from a highly interventive OB residency. It was one that I opted out of for my initial birth care with my first child due to their (then) 39% cesarean rate, so he had a lot of reprocessing to do. People have this idea that Erik was always “midwife-lite” but a lot of those skills came from some real serious, painful, tough conversations we would have. Over and over and over again. With every induction he did, I questioned it. Every cesarean that happened, I questioned it. Every forceps delivery, all the questions! There were times, I am sure, I was a total asshole. Let’s just say in those initial years, we fought. A lot. At one point I knew every single case he had done since the end of his residency. It was in 1998, that I was the one who entered all his practice data into spreadsheets for his oral ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) boards. You can imaging the grilling I gave him.

During the time I was entering all that data for his oral boards, I was also pregnant with our second (my third) baby, Zachary. And guess what? I wanted to have him at home. With a midwife.

And ya know what happened? After a near divorce argument (or 5), I got my wish. On March 2, 1999 I gave birth to Zachary Curtis Wait in our garden tub, at home, with only my OB/GYN husband present. We actually had to lie to everyone about planning it that way. He was afraid he would lose his job if people knew. Fortunately Zack came super fast — he came in 30 minutes. Literally.

We had hired a lovely midwife for our birth. She got a speeding ticket on the way there, and didn’t make it. Fortunately she DID make it in time to ask Erik where my placenta was. An hour after birth and both of us had forgotten about it still being inside me. Yes, a midwife and an OB forgot about their placenta. Obviously there was no bleeding or anything to worry about, and it basically fell out with one tiny little tug. No, we weren’t just “lucky.” Nature often has a funny way of letting you know when things are going south.

Erik was never the same about birth after Zack was born. My wish became part inspiration for his OB practice. Not to convince everyone (or anyone) to have a home birth. I’m honestly pretty sure he never did that. But to offer a different kind of care during labor and birth. Because even in all of his training, he had never seen how amazing a hands off birth could be. Or even that it really existed.

And this is where I write, “to be continued … ” More tomorrow!

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