You are so excited! You are pregnant and you know you want an experience different from all the stories you've heard growing up. You want a midwife. That is awesome. Knowing what kind of care provider you feel most comfortable with is undeniably the best thing going into birth for the first or fourth time.
And you find a midwife! It may be a group or a single home birth midwife, but it's likely a woman and you spend hour after hour of prenatal visits asking questions, forming bonds, having your needs met and considered and you are positive you will have the birth you desire.
And then you are there in labor, at home, or at a birth center or hospital and you are with your partner and you find that labor is a little different than you had imagined. You need stuff: hands on you and lots of water, maybe food and encouragement and changing positions and you have been up for so so long and you are tired and your partner is worried and where is this baby anyway? And where is your midwife? Isn't she suppose to be here with you doing all.the.things? Is she with someone else? You sort feel abandoned or a little betrayed? Jealous even, of the mom she may be with who is having her baby while you breath hard through yet one more contraction.
Here's the thing. A midwife is not a doula. She is not a magical fairy who will give you all the things while still making sure she is alert enough to take your vitals and make sure your placenta is normal and healthy and not retained so you hemorrhage postpartum. She cannot stay with you for 36 hours and do that well.
She is a not doula. A doula is the one who will listen to all your fears and maybe I'm in labor calls and why am I not in labor complaints. She will guide you through your birth story. She will hold your hand and wipe your brow and remember to make you go to the bathroom and drink enough water and sleep and sift your belly and make you twist and turn until you look at her with tears in your eyes and she will tell you it's almost time and that your baby will come soon.
She will drop everything at any hour to come to you. She will spend days with you.
She will hold your leg, wipe your bottom, fan you without ceasing. She will look after your husband so that he does not pass out from either fatigue or fear. She will reassure him that you are ok and help him feel as if he is helping you.
She will hold your face in her hands and be there. You will know that her whole spirit is with you in that moment.
Your midwife will make sure your newborn has developed properly, that all the reflexes and heart rates and things are in their place. That your baby is breathing. That you are stabilized and ready to spend your postpartum weeks snuggling your baby and healing without complication. She will do follow up exams and make sure your vagina looks just as lovely as it always did. She will make sure any tests are done on your baby and get you the proper referrals.
Your midwife and your doula are a team. They communicate with each other and you to make sure you have your dream birth. You can have one without the other, but why would you want to?