Dear Gayle Riedmann CNM,
I don’t remember you, and most likely you do not remember me, but we have met. Twenty-Six years ago on this day in 1988, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, you were the midwife to my twenty-year-old mother. Even though we do not remember each other, my mother will never forget you. She never forgot your name and she never forgot how you two had gotten to know each other in the months prior to my birth in her prenatal visits. I’m sure she was scared and undoubtedly nervous about giving birth to her first child the day I was born, and I am sure that she leaned on you for strength and compassion. My then 18-year-old father had departed only 3 days prior to my birth for basic training for the Army, but whenever she has spoken about her first birth experience; it has always been described as empowering and joyous. As a young girl, her experience of childbirth always contrasted with what I saw in the media and heard from other women. “I didn’t use any pain medication,” she told me, “I had a midwife,” she always boasted with pride, and “the pain completely melted away when you were in my arms.” In the two births that followed mine, my mother never used any pain medication of any kind. She trusted the process of her body to give birth, and always shared her wonderful birth experience with me.
Gayle, you should know that the effect that you have had on my life extended far beyond the day I was born. When I became pregnant with my first son in 2012, my mother’s birth story resonated in my heart. I knew that I did not want to go to the hospital to give birth. I wanted a midwife, and I did not want any unnecessary interventions. I searched and found the Birth and Women’s Center in Topeka, Kansas, close to where I attended college. My husband and I welcomed our son into the world with joy, in a peaceful environment, surrounded by a gentle and caring midwife,a childbirth educator who I came to trust, and an attentive and respectful nurse. Earlier this year, I delivered my second son at the New Birth Company in Overland Park, Kansas, again attended by a loving and caring midwife and nurse. My husband held my hand as my son was born in the birth pool, with the late morning light reflecting in the water.
You see, you were there in spirit. The legacy of my mother’s birth was interwoven into my birth experiences. You told my mother she could do it, and she did it. Then my mother told me she did it, and therefore I believed I could do it, and when I have a daughter, I will tell her I did it and I pray that she will believe that she can do it, too. I am proof that what happens on the day you are born does matter for the rest of your life.There was something about birth that transformed me so dramatically that I could not stay away from it. I have completed childbirth education training, and am now aspiring to become a midwife myself. Thank you for your work in the birth world and for permanently touching my mother’s life. You will always be a part of her story, therefore you will always be a part of mine.
“Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life.” -Ina May Gaskin
Ever so grateful,