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Birth Work is Ministry Work....but we have to be paid

Let’s start with defining the word ”ministry” because, for many, when they hear this word, they automatically attach religion to it. While for myself and many birth workers, their faith plays a huge part in why they have chosen this path, the word does not apply to only those who are believers. One of the definitions of ministry from the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “a person or thing through which something is accomplished.” To minister means to serve or to provide a service to someone.

Most birth workers will tell you they were called to birth work. That means different things to different people. For me, I know that the Lord called me to this work. I am called to serve families through the childbearing years. I am called to minister to families through acts of love, compassion, and mercy, no matter their spiritual beliefs.

The downside of using the words like “ministry” or “calling” is that some people hear those words and assume that this means we are providing our service for free or at a significantly reduced price. Many birth workers provide pro-Bono or reduced services regularly, but we can only do that when we are getting paid by the majority of our clients. I would love to serve as a midwife and never charge for those services, but the reality of this work is that other birth workers and I cannot do it all for free. For those who truly cannot afford our services, we can prayerfully consider if they are the family that we are to serve and do so without monetary compensation.

Many birth workers are dealing with the issue that there is the assumption that we are just supposed to do this work without expecting anything in return. My question to you is why? Is the person working at the local internet company not called to the work they are doing? Or what about the veterinarian? Are they not called to serve families by taking care of the fur babies?

We don’t expect them to do the work for free. I can prove otherwise, considering I just paid an exorbitant amount of money to our vet just yesterday. I cannot imagine asking them to do all they did yesterday to help Thor and not compensate them for their time, knowledge, and education.

But the real hit on the head for me was the other day when talking with a colleague about this topic; she said, “people never expect their pastor to do all they do for free.” WAIT! WHAT? People who literally spend their lives working for God, spreading the Good News are paid by the people they serve to do the ministry they were called to do. No one expects them to do their work, support their families, and pour their heart and soul into others while not getting compensated.

So why do we expect this of birth workers? We will always choose to take on families for free or at reduced rates. When you pay the full agreed-upon fee in a timely manner, you are not just supporting your midwife, her business, and her family. You are also supporting the other families in her practice that, for whatever reason, cannot at this time afford to receive the care they deserve. Many families today don’t qualify for Medicaid, but at the same time, cannot afford midwifery care for whatever reason. Honestly, it isn’t my job to choose which reasons are acceptable. My job is to sit with families to see and hear them where they are. I then have the opportunity to decide if we are the right fit for each other and if so, I get to prayerfully consider the right decision for myself, my family, and my current clients.

So why do I post this? This is definitely not an admonition to my clients, because thus far I have been blessed with wonderful clients who have been faithful. I am so thankful for that, because it does allow me to serve those who I may not have been able to serve. I post this as a reminder to everyone that all people deserve to be compensated fairly for the services they provide as well as a reminder that when you support your midwife, doula, lactation consultant, are helping families who may otherwise not be able to afford the same level of care that you have been blessed to receive. All families who are low risk and desire to birth with a birth worker deserve to have the opportunity to do so.

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