Meet my friend, Patrice Bobier, CPM, veteran homebirth midwife of Northern Michigan. Patrice has attended the births of more than 1,600 babies in just a little less than forty-years!
Though Patrice herself may not remember it, I first met her at a Michigan Midwives Association Conference twenty-eight years ago when I was eighteen years old. Fourteen years after that, Patrice conducted the skills assessment portion of my certification process with NARM. “Oh, it’ll be fun!” She said. “Bring a dish to pass, and we’ll have a potluck – you, me, and the models!”
Fun? What? But somehow Patrice made it fun, though I had an overpowering test anxiety, a blazing headache, and, fifteen minutes before my assessment began, a pediatrician whose wife was in my preceptor’s care called to report she was bleeding! Thankfully, the assessment proceeded smoothly, the luncheon was lovely, the “bleeding” wife turned out to be passing bloody show, and I made it to the birth of the family’s baby the next day.
Even from my first encounter with her, Patrice struck me as one of the most humble, genuine souls on earth with a wonderful flair for story-telling, which she uses with faithfulness for the betterment of all. And, my, has she stories to tell! Truly, a whole book ought to be written about her! Many a time I’ve sat spellbound at her feet as she’s spun her tales.
Join us now as Patrice provides us a snapshot of her amazing life and work.
I first became interested in midwifery in the early 70s, after reading The Whole Earth Catalogue and Our Bodies, Our Selves, with their stories of women who were having home births. I didn’t know about nurse midwives, only self-taught midwives attending home births. In 1977, neighbors who had had their first baby on The Farm with Ina May and her midwife team, planned a home birth for their second baby, and invited me over. That first home born “baby” has now had three home births herself. My husband keeps telling their 20 year old, who made me a Granny Midwife, “Please don’t make her a Great Granny Midwife yet!”
I am now 65 years old – ten plus years post-menopausal, and on Medicare, LOL. I have had my own practice, Full Circle Midwifery Service, Inc., since 1982. Birth #1600 – one thousand six hundred births I have personally attended – was in September of this year. It is such a privilege to share this special time with women and their families. It’s humbling to be present, trusted, shared with, during this intimate experience. It’s not to be taken lightly or for granted.
I love this work, even though being on call 24/7 for most of my adult life has meant disruption for my family and me too many times to recount. I am still growing and changing, and hopefully getting better at midwifery. I feel like I am better with all aspects of midwifery practice: the hands-on skills, tests, evaluations, paperwork, integrating midwifery work with my personal life, follow-through, as well as the intuition, listening, sharing, being-with-women. Being a midwife has made me a better person overall.
My practice has changed a lot over the years. My first ten plus years were without a cell phone, and my pager worked out of the sheriff’s department. Remember pay phones? I had their locations memorized all over six counties. Midwives now are expected to be more professional, be better businesswomen, more educated, and to cooperate with state agencies on a regular basis. The care is much more comprehensive than when I began. We do lab work. We refer for medical testing, if needed or desired. We consult with colleagues on a regular basis, and do case reviews. We understand and practice Informed Choice and Shared Decision Making. Now we are certified in Neonatal Resuscitation, and screen newborns for metabolic disorders, congenital heart defects, and hearing loss.
My practice offers a free one hour private consultation to meet, answer questions, and provide information. The second visit takes one and a half hours, and from that point forward, half hour prenatals are scheduled. We teach birth classes. A home visit is scheduled at about 37 weeks. Clients have a midwife with them when active labor is established, and the midwives stay a minimum of two hours after the birth. We do postpartum visits at 24 hours, plus or minus, at three days, around two weeks, and at six weeks. We are available via phone, text, email, and in person. I think a huge part of midwifery care is listening to what women are experiencing, and providing reassurance that usually all seems well – during the pregnancy, the labor and birth, and after the baby is born.
Education and certification are important to most midwives. I was certified by the Michigan Midwives Association in 1983. I took the first national midwifery exam offered by the North American Registry of Midwives in 1994, and became a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) in 1997. We are required to attend Peer Reviews, continued trainings and classes, and to re-certify every three years with a minimum of thirty CEUs. I recently applied for the Midwifery Bridge Certificate, as my midwifery training was before the days of any accredited schools, and solely through apprenticeship.
I participate in the national collection of statistics about planned home births. Two comprehensive studies have been done on the data, and more studies are underway. I also keep my own practice statistics, with a thirty-year plus cesarean rate of 3% and a transfer rate 7-8% for both mothers and babies.
Story-telling is part of what midwives do when we are together, and when we are with clients – anonymously and de-identified, of course. I have had late-to-care clients who have decided even after their due dates that they want a home birth. We make it work. I have attended VBACs since 1983, including a home birth for a woman who had six previous cesareans. I have attended many births of babies whose births I attended, men and women. I have one client couple who were both born into my hands before their families knew each other – they grew up, got married, and are now planning their second home birth. I have personally attended as many as eleven births for the same woman, and have two different clients who have had seventeen babies total. I attended a birth in a gas station bathroom once – a woman I didn’t know. I was there getting gas! It was the fourth birth that day – amazing! The ambulance arrived right before the baby and provided sterile instruments, as I was out of them. I have attended births in every room of the house, plus outside, never in a car that I can remember, once in an ambulance (we turned around and went back home). I’ve assisted with a twenty-minute labor (missed it), and sixty hour labors. I’ve attended the births of a 3# 12 oz baby, and three babies over 12#. It’s been joyous – it’s been devastatingly sad.
Full Circle Midwifery midwives attend about fifty births a year, and travel about an hour’s radius of my home office. There’s now another CPM in the practice – Dorothy Vandezande. Barb Olsen has assisted since the 1990s. Laurie Zoyiopoulos and Jen Holshoe, both CPMs who trained with me, help with some of the births. We usually work in teams of three at a birth. It’s so important that women have qualified midwives available when they need us for prenatal care, questions, the birth, and postpartum. We usually have a student or two working toward their CPM, but don’t, currently. Interested? Contact me! I have trained three women who are now CPMs, plus another woman is part way through the process. Dorothy, Laurie, and I are preceptors for the North American Registry of Midwives. It’s important to train more qualified midwives, as more families are choosing midwifery care and home birth. There are many parts of Michigan lacking maternity care providers all together.
I’m involved in my state midwifery organization, and participate in some national midwifery work. I’ve also been involved in the effort to license midwives in Michigan for the past eight years. It’s time. Thirty other states license midwives, most based on the CPM credential. Licensure tends to increase the number of families choosing midwifery care and home birth, and increase the number of midwives in a state. Licensure also makes it easier to interact with other medical professionals when they are needed, which, in my opinion, leads to safer maternity care.
I’m not ready to retire yet, though I do take more time off.
Maybe I will get to welcome a third generation. Who would have thought of that?
by Patrice Bobier
Photos provided by Patrice.
Thank you so much for the gift of your time!
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Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife and Author
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