The Midwife’s Husband, Part One

My husband, Steve, has joked for a while now about writing an article for my blog about being “The Midwife’s Husband.” One day recently I said I thought he ought to do it!

And he sat down with his computer and some four hours later he’d typed out nearly four thousand words!

Four thousand words!

Here’s the first half of those words.

They made me laugh, and they touched my heart.

May they tickle and touch you as well ♥

Steven Osterholzer

A long time go, in a galaxy far, far away, I knew who I was—who I was and how I was viewed by the world. Like Young Skywalker himself, I was Steve Osterholzer: helicopter pilot, public affairs officer, hunter, fisherman, father.

But how could I know that was only part of the picture? Like Luke, I was called to be and do more!

Four years ago, I married Kim Woodard and, soon after, the fullness of my identity and calling was revealed! I am—(cue the Star Wars music)—

The Midwife’s Husband!!!

Four years ago, the incredible adventure of Married Life With Kim began—a journey that’s found us kayaking amongst the icebergs of Alaska, canoeing through hundreds of miles of wilderness, and scaling the lofty heights of Pike’s Peak.

As a career Army officer who’s flown Apache gunships, jumped from airplanes, and visited 23 countries, you might think the Army’s been the greatest adventure of my life. But you’d be wrong. The greatest and most meaningful adventure of my life has been being Kim Woodard Osterholzer’s husband. Kim is simply the most magnificent human being I’ve ever experienced and, witnessing what she does, even if only from a distance, I’ve come to view her work as a homebirth midwife as truly sacred.

All of you know what it’s like to be a midwife from Kim’s perspective. Now, buckle up for a glimpse of what it’s like to be “The Midwife’s Husband!” I really ought to get a license plate that says that.

You Know You’re A Midwife’s Husband when—

Your manly truck’s adorned with a bumper sticker that proclaims, “Midwives Help People Out.”

In the back of that truck where you like to stash your hunting gear, a birthing stool has become a nearly permanent fixture.

You know what a speculum is. You have one in your house. You know how it’s used. Men are not meant to know such things.

A coworker mentions his unborn child has turned breech and you immediately recommend his wife visit a chiropractor proficient in the Webster technique. You go on to make sure she’s getting a daily dose of red raspberry leaf tincture, and you suddenly realize the entire group of men is staring at you.

This week’s movie night selection is entitled, “Orgasmic Birth.”

As you write this blog post, a big blue birthing pool stands drying in your living room.

Though talk with your buddies over beers includes phrases such as “deer rifle calibers,” dinner out with your wife last night opened with a discussion of “placenta smoothies.”

When we were courting, Kim lived in Michigan and I lived in Colorado. Kim had to secure back-up for her largely Amish clientele for each of her visits west, and not one of my visits east was complete until she and Hannah had run off and left me alone in their house to attend a birth. Or two births.

I’d come to guess at how cherished Kim was by her clients through her stories—her service transformed her into a treasured member of their families, especially as she did far more than attend their births. She walked with her clients—her friends—her family through financial trials, through injuries and illnesses, through tragedies, and, sometimes, through death.

Yet, I didn’t fully understand how much she meant to them till the time came for her to move to Colorado. On Kim’s last Saturday in Michigan, the Amish community organized an Open House for both the Amish and the English to come bid her goodbye. I was invited and was amazed at what I saw as we pulled before the building that housed the party—the yard was filled, not only with cars, but with dozens upon dozens of black buggies. What struck me most was the fact that many of the families had traveled more than an hour along snowy roads and through temperatures near zero to show Kim how much she meant to them.

Inside, a mass of white-capped women and men in suspenders greeted Kim with exclamations and hugs and presented her with two massive scrapbooks for her to remember them by. No photos adorned the book, as the Amish don’t take pictures of themselves. Rather, the pages overflowed with handwritten letters, laboriously copied poems, beautiful drawings, and page after page of hand prints—the marks of the many children Kim had ushered into the world.

While the families there clearly adored and cherished Kim, I was another story. They respected that Kim loved me, and they wanted to see her happy, especially after the loss of her first husband seven years before, but I was, in fact, “that man who’s taking her away from us!” Several times I was the recipient of a stern glare over Kim’s shoulder as she received her hugs goodbye. More than once I was told and bluntly, “You should move to Michigan!” I was mindful the women were proficient with farm implements, and I kept a wary eye on my back. The hero I was not.

I drove away from that farm and, the next day, from Michigan, in awe of how beloved Kim was among the families she served.

Being “The Midwife’s Husband” took some getting used to.

For example, as a career military officer, knowing precisely how long each tactical operation takes is deeply engrained in me. I learned birth attendance is precisely the opposite. The first time Kim went out the door to attend a birth in Colorado I naively asked, “When will you be back?” The lift of her eyebrow and shake of her head was her only response.

Racing back from Castlerock through a nighttime snowstorm taught me Kim’s tendency to cap each agreement to attend social engagements with, “unless I have a birth,” has teeth. And the lesson was reinforced just a few weeks ago when we went to a long-planned dinner date with friends at their home. We walked in, handed them a bottle of wine and their Christmas gifts, took off our coats, Kim’s phone rang, we put our coats back on, dashed out the door, tore out of our from our friend’s driveway, and then my son came to pick me up at some house near the corner of Woodmen and Austin Bluffs.

And I’ve learned to keep gas in our vehicles at all times, to allow with a good attitude each blip and bleep of Kim’s phone to interrupt all conversations and activities, and to plan weekend outings according to anticipated cell phone coverage.

But the adjustments I’ve had to make are minor compared to the adjustments required for those who want Kim to be their midwife. Kim blocks off the whole of each summer for our wilderness adventures (she’s as skilled with a paddle as she is with a suturing kit! But the paddle sounds WAY more fun, doesn’t it?), so she’s got former clients who plan the conceptions of their next babies with an eye on when she’ll be home!

Kim controls sex lives!!!

As a man, you just know that blows my mind.

When I was first introduced to Kim by a mutual friend six years ago, I had no clue what homebirth entailed. I was kind of like Kim’s first husband, Brent, a remarkable man who’s earned my respect and admiration through the tales told of him by Kim, her kids, and their family and friends. Brent succumbed to cancer eleven years ago so I never got to meet him, but I’m looking forward to giving him a huge man hug in heaven, then settling ourselves down with a beer to swap funny stories about Kim (trust me, those stories are aplenty).

While I wasn’t quite as ignorant about homebirth as Brent was initially—he thought midwives were surrogate mothers—I was pretty close. I pictured homebirth midwives as pot-smoking witch-hippies lugging bags of mysterious potions around from house to house. The level of my ignorance was staggering.

Fast forward to the present. I’m now the recipient of a thorough education in the practicality and safety of homebirth with midwives—the pros and cons, the risks and benefits, the myriad whys and wherefores.

With that in mind, do I do my best to support Kim as a midwife simply because I’m her husband? Do I do it solely because of my fierce desire to bless her? Do I do it because as her mate I’m supposed to be her biggest cheerleader, waving my big blue foam finger as she races out the door?

The answer is yes.

And the answer is no.

As I’ve listened to Kim tell her stories, as I’ve paged through her journals, as I’ve poured over those colorful hand prints, and as I’ve read the wonderful letters her clients have written to her through the years, I’ve learned some other things, too.

Being a midwife is similar to being an Apache pilot. That may sound strange, but it’s true. One may suppose flying gunships in combat as far removed from delivering babies as can possibly be, but the truth is, there are strong parallels. Both require remaining calm under immense pressure. Both require many years of demanding education. Both require courage and great technical skill. Both require making decisions which can literally mean life or death—where, if you make a mistake, a human being—be it a man alive for 60 years or a baby girl alive for 60 seconds—can die in your hands.

Midwifery is a calling.

Midwifery is a life dedicated to the service of others.

Midwives are heroes.

Her business trademark, “Born For This: Giving Birth to a Happy, Healthy Family” says it all. In her early teens, Kim read a book about homebirth and instantly knew that God was calling her to be a midwife. God designed her in the womb to be a midwife, built her to be a midwife. Like Joan of Arc who, likewise, heard God speak to her, Kim truly “is not afraid!” She was “Born For This!”

I have tremendous respect for those who dedicate their lives to serving others. For those who serve as God’s hands and feet, spending every ounce of strength in determination to bring beauty and love to this world.

And it’s because of their knowledge, their skill, their deep wells of endless patience, and their unbelievable commitment of heart to the families they serve that midwives have garnered my utmost respect.

Midwives are heroes to me.

So, why do I support Kim in the amazing work she does?

I do it for the same reasons I spent twenty-six years serving our nation.

I do it for love. For love of comrades and love of families. For love of country and for my newfound love of birth.

Steven Osterholzer

Books by Kim:

Homebirth: Safe & Sacred

Homebirth: Commonly Asked Questions

A Midwife in Amish Country: Celebrating God’s Gift of Life

Nourish + Thrive: Happy, Healthy Childbearing

One Little Life at a Time: Recommendations + Record Keeping for Aspiring Homebirth Midwives

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