Like my fellow blogger, I’ve recently noticed increased controversy over the title of “Doctor.” Physicians don’t want anyone else using the title. Advanced practice nurses with their doctorate rightfully feel they’ve earned the title. Debates over scope of practice and patient confusion ensue. This is why I like telling people I’m a midwife.

Sure, not everyone knows what a midwife is or what we can and cannot do. Some think that midwives only attend births or care for newborns. Some think we only do home births or are similar to witchdoctors. Thankfully, awareness about midwifery in the United States is growing.

The word midwife means “with woman.” This is a perfect job description because I spend my time working with women. 

The most magical, miraculous, and almost mystical part of my job is being present when a new life enters the world. This moment is even dreamier when that baby is born into my hands. But this is only a small fraction of my work.

I spend most of my time at a woman’s side, listening, talking, comforting, counseling, educating, and supporting. I wipe away tears and sweat and give hugs and reassurance. Sometimes I have to deliver bad, even devastating, news.

I’ve worked with women as young as 11 and as old as 86. I enjoy watching women grow and mature from adolescence to motherhood. I care for women who I adore, women who try my patience, women who make me laugh, and women who worry me so much that I stay up at night thinking about them.

Midwives often sacrifice sleep, family time, and social lives to work crazy hours caring for women. Most midwives pour their hearts and souls into their work. It is very easy to become burned-out in this profession. However, midwives often draw strength and even awe from the women for whom we care. Their stories touch our lives and become part of who we are and how we care for the women who come after them.

Some midwives find their identity lies with “catching” babies; they would be lost without that heady rush.  Others find that the stress of deliveries and sleepless nights imposes too much of their health and lifestyle, so they focus their careers on providing outpatient-based women’s healthcare.

I currently do a little of both. This works for my life at this moment. I love my work, and caring for women is important to me. Whether I’m supporting a mom in labor, “catching babies” at the hospital, or doing well-woman visits or contraceptive counseling in the office, I am a midwife. I am “with woman.”

Robyn Carlisle, MSN, CNM, WHNP, works as a full-scope midwife at University Doctors and Kennedy University Hospital in Sewell, N.J.