Plucky Perspectives: Midwife Ellie Griffinger

Plucky turned 3 years old this month! To celebrate, I’ll be publishing 3 interviews with workers in very different industries. I like thinking about overlap across jobs, the way we approach our work, our challenges and our high points. Crossing the border to talk about other industries is a great way to reflect on our own paths.

First up, midwifery! Ellie Griffinger has been a Certified Nurse Midwife for four years and runs a private practice in Berkeley, CA. All cards on the table, she was our midwife when my son Aaron was born in 2015 and she remains a positive influence in our lives. She’s delivered over 200 babies and is a proud mama of two sons.

Ellie, left, celebrates with a new mama
Ellie, left, celebrates with a new mama

Jen: Ok Ellie, what’s your favorite part of the job? Or the hardest parts of the job, whichever you want to talk about first…

Ellie: Well, they’re kind of similar. I think my favorite part is watching people become parents but I think that’s also the hardest part because it’s hard to become a parent. Right?

Jen: Yes.

Ellie: Your heart goes out to them. So much of your own issues go into being parents, so it goes so much deeper than just the act of having a baby and becoming a parent. It’s sort of evaluating yourself and what it means to be a parent, how were your parents, etc. I think that’s my favorite part.

Jen: If you had to name the most common difficulty that people have in becoming parents, what is it?

Ellie: I think it’s getting out of their routine. People are having babies later and we’ve all worked really hard to figure out who we are as individuals. That’s really valued in our culture and so suddenly, you have this other little person and it’s not all about you but it’s been about you for twenty plus years.

Jen: Everything you’re saying is so right. It’s perfect. Maybe I’ll just make it Plucky Perspectives with Ellie all month long.

Ellie: That’s a lot of pressure!

I’ll add that there is a light switch that goes on with every single one of my couples. Some of it happens when they first come in for their consult and they’re acknowledging, wow, this is really happening. Some of it’s when you hand them the baby and some of it is at six-week postpartum where you see the dad is super different, or the partner, I should say. He might not have come to all the visits and at the end of six weeks, he’s just completely in tune. That moment is different for everybody, which is cool.

Jen: Does it feel like work?

Ellie: No. It feels like what I was meant to do. Just like raising my own kids, it feels really natural.

Jen: What then are the opposite moments, either the most grating or frustrating or exhausting or boring?

Ellie: It’s something to the effect of messing with Mother Nature. I really believe that [birth] is something that just happens and I believe in giving women that space to believe in themselves, but often we have to intervene and that’s out of my comfort zone. I’m competent to do it. It’s just not my favorite part of the job.

That’s when I really love having a backup of OBs and nurses who see high intervention all the time, just to validate. That’s where the team, I think, is so important to what we do. We are in a really unique place where we get to see women naturally birth all the time, but it doesn’t always happen.

Jen: I’m going totally off script with this one. Because of what your job is, do you see other situations in life that are metaphorically the same job as yours? Know what I mean? Do you see other scenarios where you feel like another human is helping someone birth something even though it’s not birth?

Ellie: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I do that with my boys. Instead of constantly intervening and throwing them off their path, let them see what they’re going to do with that construction paper or with that stick. Instead of assuming they’re going to hit their brother with it, well, maybe they’re not.

Jen: Anything else you don’t like about the work?

Ellie: I don’t like suturing.

Jen: Ack!

Ellie: It’s just a necessary evil. I totally get that. I do like it because I know I can do a good job and it’s important but I don’t like to be between someone’s legs hurting them after a beautiful birth.

And talking about money, ugh! I mean, we all need to get paid for what we do, but again, it just doesn’t feel good.

Jen: I’m going to observe that probably you’re really tired sometimes. Right? Is that a least favorite?

Ellie: Yeah, but there’s a peace that comes with it. There’s nothing better than coming home from a birth so tired because you feel like you’ve really worked hard. It’s almost like a good workout. Like today, I had this birth. I’ve been up since 1am, but I’m on such a high because it was just awesome. It carries you. It’s exhausting but there’s nothing else I’d rather do and there is nothing else more satisfying than putting your head on the pillow after you know someone is holding their baby. I also have a super supportive partner. Tonight, for instance, I’ll be able to go home. He’ll do dinner. He’ll do the boys and I’ll go to bed. You can’t do a career like this without that.


And there you have it! I loved hearing about Ellie’s role (plus the importance of having access to an expert team), her conviction about the work and the admission that midwives, too, need supportive personal lives to help them through work.

Next week we’ll switch gears into law and hear the perspective of a defense paralegal. I can hardly wait!