Emily Rumsey, APRN, CNM
Georgetown University (MSN)
University of Minnesota (MN)
University of Wisconsin-Madison (BA)
My calling to midwifery was as a little girl. I used to play “birth” with my sisters by stuffing a soccer ball in their shirts and making them push out a Cabbage Patch baby doll. Even in my play, I knew that the mother and baby work together in birth to separate into two beings, and sometimes a third person (the birth attendant) helps that transition happen. I think I always knew I wanted to be that third person when I grew up, it just took me awhile to get there.
In the meantime, I pursued women’s studies and eventually worked for Planned Parenthood, learning along the way that there is more to a woman’s reproductive life story than just the number of babies she bears.
The babies are indeed little wonders, and I love feeling them kick into my hands through their mother’s abdomen and slip into the world while I get to watch. Each birth and each baby write their own story. That story can be fast or slow, loud or silent, simple or terrifying, wet or dry, gorgeous or heartbreaking. That story can take place in the bed, in the bathtub, in the operating room, in the car, in the hallway, or sometimes as just a vision that morphs into a different scene entirely.
I do love the babies, but I came into midwifery for women. I aim to meet them where they are at and help them with whatever they need. Sometimes I get to diagnose their pregnancy at 5 weeks and see them gleam joyfully. Sometimes I tell them they are pregnant and they break into devastated tears. Sometimes I get to be the first one to hear their baby’s heartbeat. Sometimes I witness their loss, which happens in a myriad of ways: early miscarriage, choosing an abortion, or giving birth to a full term stillborn baby.
Sometimes I have to tell them their Pap smear is abnormal, that their blood sugar is too high, that they have chlamydia or HIV. Sometimes we talk about ways to prevent repeat urinary tract or yeast infections. Sometimes I put in their IUDs or write them prescriptions for birth control pills.
Sometimes we spend the whole visit talking about their sex lives and how they can be more fulfilled in their relationships. Sometimes I meet them when they are 12 years old and they are getting their first period. Sometimes I meet them when they are 81 years old and having vaginal bleeding years after menopause. Sometimes I get to care for people who have a uterus but do not consider themselves a woman.
I provide prenatal, postpartum, and well women care in a diverse clinic and attend births at a busy urban hospital. I have worked in various other settings, but my heart is in community medicine.
I am not a midwife just because I like witnessing babies be born. I am a midwife because I get to walk with people from all parts of the world, all stages of life, all socioeconomic brackets, and all facets of sexuality and parenthood. I may only see the person once, or I might take care of her through four pregnancies. I might give her the best or worst news she has ever received. The variety of personalities, cultures, scenarios, and stories is fascinating to absorb.
I was a doula, then a nurse, now a midwife. I love the independence my job title brings, but I am continually humbled by the work of my colleagues. The nurses, doctors, medical assistants, other midwives, and many other staff members of both the clinic and hospital where I work keep the whole care train on the tracks. I continually try to recognize and improve the importance of teamwork.
I trust in both ancient birth knowledge and western medicine, a “high risk hippie” fusion. My clinical and philosophical interests include evidence based guidelines, contraception counseling, continuity of care, normal physiologic birth, gestational diabetes, culturally competent awareness, nutrition, breastfeeding support, interdisciplinary collaboration, basic gynecologic concerns, and sexuality. And of course, catching babies.
The word midwife means “with women,” and I cannot imagine a more rewarding or authentic way to be with women than this work.