TRURO, N.S. – Alisha Julien-Reid is accustomed to being called out to work before sunrise. As a midwife, she often heads out in the dark to help bring a new life into the world.
“I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into at first, but I’m glad I’m doing this,” she said.
“I first attended a birth as a friend and support person, in Truro in 2005, and that inspired me to look into nursing in labour and delivery.”
Julien-Reid, who is from Millbrook, studied midwifery at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ont. She now works with Aurora Midwifery, which is based in Calgary. She provides care with the Elbow River Healing Lodge and teaches prenatal classes with the Tsuu T'ina Nation.
“The relationship in unique, and women form very close bonds with midwives,” she said. “We’re able to meet in 30- to 45-minute appointments, and there’s continuity of care through pregnancy to the birth. We also provide care up to six weeks post-partum. For the first two weeks after birth we’ll do home visits, and can take care of things like weighing and bloodwork.”
To ensure midwives have some time to themselves, they often work in teams, getting to know one another’s clients and taking turns being on call.
Julien-Reid, who is married and has a seven-year-old daughter, would like to work as a midwife in Nova Scotia, but there are currently few opportunities. According to the Canadian Association of Midwives there are nine in Nova Scotia.
“Nova Scotia has a small number of midwives,” said Julien-Reid. “In Ontario, there are more than 800. There are up to 80 grads a year, and everyone is guaranteed work.
“Some people are slow to understand the value of the model, both in cost and care.”
She was encouraged by the June 2017 announcement of $6 million over five years in national funding for midwifery services in indigenous communities. This is the first time funding has been provided on a federal level.
Julien-Reid, a member of the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives (NACM), serves on its government relations committee, and believes midwifery is a good career choice. It may mean disrupted sleep, but she’s providing a valuable service and she often gets to celebrate birth with families.
Midwifery in Nova Scotia was regulated in 2009 and there are currently nine midwives.
They work with South Shore Community Midwives, in Lunenburg; IWK Community Midwives, in Dartmouth; and Highland Community Midwives, in Antigonish.