Male Doulas, Pt. 4

Wow! I really had no idea we'd make it this far. I hope you all are enjoying reading these as much as I am putting them together.

 

Next is Louis Maltais, student midwife in Montreal, Canada. This post was edited, with permission, as English was not his first language.

 

-Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I am a student midwife at the half of my third semester of the program. I study in UQTR (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières) which is the only university in Quebec thats offers this program. I started to study when I was 27 years old. Before, I was a gymnast-acrobat-dancer and I worked in some companies for different shows. I also did a one year course in massage therapy. After a few experiences with pregnant women, I knew that I wanted to learn more about pregnancy and midwifery.

-What led you to become a birth-worker?

It’s hard in few words to explain all the feelings and the thoughts that led me to want to become a midwife. I really like to work with the limits of the body, with the intensity, with the natural medicine and with the essential things in life like love, health, emotions, birth and death. Since I began working with midwives I love this job more and more.

 

-What do you like to be called?

In french, which is my first language, we call a man midwife a 'sage-femme' (midwife) or a 'homme sage-femme' (man midwife) and I really appreciate to be called like that. For me I don’t think that it’s necessary to say man in front of midwife, but it doesn't really bother me. But a lot of people think that we call me 'sage-homme' (kind of midman). Sometimes, I say nothing but I often prefer that they call me midwife even though I am a man. I explain them that 'wife' is attribuated to the pregnant woman [not the provider] and people are positively surprised, and usually understand why we don’t have to change the name of this occupation.

 

-People don't hesitate at the thought of a male OB/GYN, but often scoff at the idea of a male birth-worker. Why do you think that is?

The job of an OB/GYN is very different of a midwife. First, they are specialists with complicated pregnancies, while midwives work with low risk pregnancies. A sepcial part of the job of midwives is to support the physiology of the labour and the delivery. Now, we all know sides that less interventions during a labour increase the chances of the woman to have a physiological delivery, which is the most secure way to give birth. I think that it’s necessary to be comfortable to do nothing but support [the woman] in all the normals steps of a labour including pain and all the difficult emotions. For this reason, socially, we are more comfortable imagining a woman to feel confident with a woman in labour because she has to be very empathic with her. Even if one needs more 'feminine' qualities to be a midwife, I think that men can also be empathic and good supporters with a woman in normal labour. In fact, general practitioners also work with low-risk pregnant women, and some of them practice the midwifery model of care. So I prefer to be compared to a general practitioner who chose to only work with pregnant women. An OB/GYN has to do interventions in front of abnormal factors during a pregnancy, and it’s "less important" in these situations to support women. [An OB's] goal is to keep them alive, and we can thank them because we can save women that a midwife probably couldn’t. In this kind of job, we can easily imagine a man because we know that they can be comfortable when they have something to do.

 

-Are dads uncomfortable with hiring a male birth-worker? / Do men ever feel insecure about having another man support their wife or girlfriend?

Most of dads are comfortable with a male midwife, but they have different reactions. Some are very surprised, most are open and curious, some are suspicious. Some men of different religions don’t want another man seeing their wife intimately.

-Do you have a hard time finding clients comfortable with a male birth-worker?
In Quebec, midwives only work for public services, so people don’t really choose their midwife, but they can refuse a man, exactly like with doctors. Most of the time, women and men are very enthusiastic to meet me.
-Do you feel that you can offer something different from a female birth-worker?I feel that I can offer something different from a female midwife which means that sometimes it will be easier and sometims harder, and most of the time it will be similar. I also think that being a man show to the women that it’s them, the women, who give births, and not the midwives. In all the ways, everyone will learn from each other. The most important thing that really helps me to learn how to be a good midwife is the openmindness of the women. They are generous, confident and very powerful!
-Do you provide hands on help with breastfeeding?It’s a very important part of the job to help with breastfeeding, so yes I give a hand in that. For the moment, I don't give much advice to the women because I’m still studying, but I feel very comfortable with this part.

Find out more or contact Louis here: maltais_louis@hotmail.com

If you could ask a male doula any question, what would it be?