The excitement of a brand new life coming into the world is unmatched. Preparing for a new child, especially for first-time moms and dads, is full of anticipation, and often times anxiety. We wanted to get the unique perspective of a Pennsylvania midwife, Chrissy Bordeau, on how her experience has impacted her as a mother, and what kind of advice she would give to parents starting out. She has a lot of experience working with families and births ranging from standard births to traumatic starts for the baby and parents. This lived experience has given her insight on how families can lay a very early foundation that sets baby up for an emphasis on physical and mental health for their whole life, and how families can come together and support each other through trauma.
Bordeau explained; "A midwife is a medical professional that specializes in childbirth as well as care of the newborn." She went on to say that while there are many things that make a midwife experience different than a traditional hospital experience, one of the main differences and, in her opinion, benefits is the fact that when working with a midwife the care is much more individualized. "It's not one size fits all, we are more in tune with things that come from the earth and view things like food as medicine. We also recognize that there are situations that require medical intervention and that is why midwives only work with mothers who have low-risk pregnancies".
Starting as a doula in a hospital setting, Bordeau has been experiencing births since before she had children of her own. She eventually enrolled in midwifery school to be able to use a more holistic and hands-on approach with her clients rather than being a piece of the puzzle in a traditional hospital birth. One of her most impactful births was one with a mother who was giving birth to her second child. The mother and father had a very poor experience during their first pregnancy and birth to the point that the mother almost lost her life. They waited five years to have a second child and decided to go with a midwife this time. Bordeau can remember the immense anxiety this couple had, both of them terrified that history would repeat itself. She learned a lot of lessons about being a midwife this day because they centered the birth around keeping the parents reassured and calm. "The atmosphere was calm and serene. The mother felt in control and powerful and the sweet father was watching the baby emerge, so nervous and anxious," said Bordeau.
"The mother kept saying repeatedly…” I did it, I did it!” I will never forget kissing her forehead and telling her how proud I was of her, “I knew you could do it, your body is not broken, what happened to you was NOT your fault! You are powerful, you are strong. You changed and fixed what was done to you. You should be so proud of yourself.” With that comment she sobbed more as if a release of all the heavy trauma was now leaving her allowing her to be free. It still chokes me up."
While the power and beauty of births that Bordeau has been a part of are a testimony to how amazing the female body is, it is her experience interacting with families that tie into her work with helping with outreach at the PA Parent and Family Alliance. These early moments that Bordeau prepares mothers for and then gets to witness are the baby's first interaction with the outside world. "The parents are the first exposure to the infant of the outside world. If the newborn is not nurtured and cared for properly this then sends a message that can make an imprint for the rest of its life that the world is not safe, people are not safe. That is when we see attachment disorders and other psychological issues that are quite difficult to alter." said Bordeau.
When asked how parents can create a strong bond Bordeau couldn't emphasize skin to skin contact enough. "This can be done with all members of the family. There are
multiple studies showing that this action not only helps a baby maintain and regulate their body
temperature, but it provides a feeling of safety and security to the infant. Newborns are smarter
than we give them credit for. They are socially intelligent and need/crave that interaction for
their social and emotional development to be at its optimum. You can play very simple games
with your newborns. They are great imitators," said Bordeau.
She knows how stressful and important it is for parents to take care of themselves during the beginning of their child's life. As mentioned previously midwives view food as medicine. She mentioned how important it is for mothers to feed their body the nutrients and love it needs while they are still pregnant, and this will translate into the postpartum period. She also mentioned how important it is for mothers to practice self-care during this time and focus on figuring out how they are able to relax both their bodies and their minds, which will be an essential tool for when the baby's sleep "schedule" completely interrupts theirs.
The biggest piece of advice she has for parents is to start out with a united front. Feeling unified and like you are on the same team can carry throughout your parenting experience. It is imperative that the partner makes the pregnant mother feel loved and safe so that the baby doesn't feel stress. If they have this feeling of safety it is much easier to bring the child into an environment that is already fostering love and stability.
Bordeau, a mother herself, has an obvious personal connection to the mothers she is working with. When asked what her experience as a midwife has taught her about being a mom she said; "I think it has reaffirmed my belief that this can be a lot of fun. It is the hardest job you will ever
have, but the rewards far exceed the work you put in. Motherhood can be the most rewarding,
gratifying and grounding experience of your life. It makes you not sweat the small stuff, not take
your self too seriously, but most of all, realize what is most important in life…not stuff but