Midwifery is a broad term that means so many things, in so many types of practices around the world. Midwives can have very different training backgrounds and work in very different settings — from women’s homes, to huge hospitals.
But the classic midwifery model of care is all rooted in the same belief that childbirth is a partnership between a woman and her provider, and that watchful waiting can be as important as intervening when complications arise. Sometimes that means helping a woman have a vaginal birth with no pain medication if that is what she wants; other times it means holding a mother’s hand while she undergoes a C-section with an OB-GYN.
In honor of National Midwifery Week, we reached out to the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers (IAPBP) and asked its members to send in some of their favorite images of midwives at work. And the moments they captured are pure magic.
"You can see this midwife's birth supplies in the background, but her tools were down for this moment. Here, her focus was providing physical and emotional support."
"After a last-minute switch in birth plans, from home birth to hospital, due to high blood pressure, this midwife made the catch of her life — her first grandchild!"
"So much joy for this mama as she realized that she was going to be raising three boys. She birthed her baby at home in the presence of two midwives who are truly like family — they have supported her through two of her three deliveries."
"Midwives are the best at providing comfort."
"This midwife is guiding this first-time mother through the last bit of transition. She met her baby less than an hour later."
"This midwife helping this mother breastfeed newborn twins, between the tangle of wires and tiny legs."
"This baby was breach even after hard work trying to get him to turn. She risked out of the birth center where she'd hope to deliver, but still had her midwife as part of her team. She accompanied her into the OR."
"This first-time mom couldn't have been more proud to meet her baby. The hospital midwife knew this moment would mean so much to them, so she made sure they were able to take a good long look into their baby's face."
"This mother was told she wouldn't have anymore children after treatment for breast cancer and surprised everyone with her miracle baby. She told me: '[My midwife] was an amazing support during my miracle baby's arrival...she always knew just what I needed to get through the next step of my labor process.'"
"This mama, on the right, labored hard. She was exhausted and decided it was time for an epidural. Her midwife lovingly guided her through this time and gave her the confidence she needed to bring her baby into the world."
"Here, the midwife is working to encourage the baby to move out of the posterior position while the mom labors through transition."
"I have been blessed to work with many midwives, and I am constantly blown away by their flexibility and willingness to adapt to any changes during birth. This first-time mom expected to deliver in the hospital, but when things moved faster than anticipated her midwifery team determined it was best to set up for an impromptu home birth. They helped safely delivered a sweet baby girl into her momma's hands in the bedroom!"
"My client hired a team of midwives to help with the birth of her third child after having two traumatic C-sections. With their guidance and care, this mother was able to have a natural childbirth."
"This mother had planned on a home birth, but opted to be induced at a hospital because of medical issues that developed during the pregnancy. Her home birth midwife and the hospital midwife, who were both at her bedside during her labor, worked together beautifully to support her."
"Here, this midwife is helping her client get a good first latch. This mother had to be transferred in to the hospital from her home birth because her labor was stalling, but her midwife never left her side. This image was taken after they'd been together through 30 hours of labor."
"This mom, dad and midwife are all laughing because the mom had her baby before she even made it to the birthing center. She had dreamed of this amazing, serene birth — and ended up on a small table in an exam room. At that point, all you can do as a midwife is support your patient."
"This images is of one my favorite midwives. She is helping mom through one of the last transitions. As you can see, she is calm and 100 percent committed to the mom."
"This midwife is timing contractions and taking notes during a home birth."
"After a quick second labor for this mom, her midwife lifts her baby out of the birth tub with her husband and mom looking on."
"This midwife is doing a newborn check-up of a little baby boy. She was so gentle with him that he slept throughout the examination, and because this was a home birth, the check up was done on mom and dad's bed. You can see dad gently stroking baby's head."
"Midwives provide such crucial support throughout labor."
"This photo is from postpartum phase of home birth, and it shows something midwives are very good at — listening! A mother needs to be heard and oftentimes the magic of a midwife is that she takes the time to listen."
"This was an absolutely amazing birth. The mom did an incredible job with the support of her husband, doula and amazing midwife at a birthing center. She even helped pull her own baby out!"
"Such great team work from these midwives providing back pressure support and attempting to rotate the baby's position using Rebozo sifting techniques, all while the doula looks provides emotional comfort and support."
"This is from a very long birth, and the midwife had had an especially busy day. Even though it was after 3 a.m. when this woman delivered her baby, the midwife provided compassionate care in the most calm and soothing manner."
"Checking on baby after delivery!"
"In our small country (I'm Dutch) it's very normal to give birth at home. After a birth, this midwife is downstairs with her assistant to give the new big sister her breakfast, while they do the final paperwork and take a break after all the hard work."
"This mom had a difficult first labor that resulted in an emergency C-section. During her second labor, her midwife played a vital role in easing any fears she had from the previous birth."
"Postpartum visits can be so much more than just a check-up. With this clinic, it's a friendly smile, a big hug and healthy snacks — maybe even a ride to parenting classes."
Captions from photographers have been edited and condensed.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.