Buckle up gang, this might be confronting!
I did some training to offer financial coaching and budget coaching in 2022 after saying for years that I wanted to build my skillset BECAUSE of the intense lack of financial literacy and the poverty consciousness in the birth world. It isn’t unique to the birth world, but it is way overrepresented amongst midwives, doulas, aspiring birth workers, and also home birth families.
I don’t quite know how to paint a clear picture for you, but there are midwives who operate on donations alone, sometimes getting paid a few hundred dollars for 10 months of care. They are living in inadequate housing. They are not paying their bills, despite being incredible midwives for their entire careers. We hear about families asking midwives to lower their prices, meanwhile they are taking vacations and spending money on arguably much less necessary categories.
I believe the root of this is that midwives are financially illiterate and have absolutely no idea how much they need to be charging so that they can have a sustainable livelihood, let alone be thriving financially.
And I CERTAINLY don’t have it all figured out either. I remember the first time someone handed me a $3000 check to pay me in full in my early days as a midwife. HOLY SHIT. This felt like so much money. But I hadn’t been taught anything. at. all. about entrepreneurship and all that goes into an adult budget. I was operating 1) from poverty consciousness and thinking I was holier than thous if I lived on less and 2) from an idea of what seemed like “good money” in the 90’s and 2000’s when I was growing up. $40k a year sounded pretty baller to me. You can read my embarrassing old article “What’s In a Midwife’s Fee” where you can see me grappling with the “right” to even charge the 3k I was then.
It was written in response to a lot of people in my sphere wondering why midwives charged “so much”, and also my own reconciling with asking for that much money. In it you can see that $3000 was the HIGHEST that I calculated the hourly wage for based on my estimates of time investment. Because I was still in the mindset of “how little can I charge” so as not to inconvenience anyone. And I thought that that amount of money would be enough to reach all of my goals. And don’t get me wrong, it changed my life to start making an income like that, and to be able to earn money doing what I loved. It felt amazing. It did help me get into a house I love, and a good car (with snow tires!). It helped me get my retirement accounts set up, and paid for my office remodel.
But my consciousness has shifted radically in the last 6 years as I have settled more into who I am as a midwife, and all that the work entails. It is even more clear to me after I had a year off, and am now wading back into the (bloody?) midwifery pool.
This shit is bananas. Like, truly. I recently attended my first birth back (it was amazing, of course!) and was reminded again of how hard this work is for midwives, and this time it was with a fresh pair of eyes and this deeper financial wellness focus. I also happen to be teaching on money, mindset and pricing in our Elevate program and so this all has coincided to be a major theme for me right now.
I am sure there is more I have yet to learn or discover, but since getting really real about my true expenses (shoutout to YNAB, which I use in my budget coaching) and my goals for me and my kids, it became clear to me that I HAD to raise my prices if I wanted a chance of reaching those goals. And when you understand everything that goes into your pricing, then you understand what you are giving up or saying no to if you work for less, and that feels a whole lot less acceptable.
So here is my short list of my financial goals and dreams! I want to be maxing out my two retirement accounts AND contributing at least 5k per kid, per year, into their investment accounts, too. I want to be actively saving for a big, memorable family vacation every single year. I want to be setting aside plenty in taxes so they aren’t painful and stressful (this I am already doing so major pat on the back to me, but most midwives are NOT building this into their fees). I want to own my car outright and buy my next one with cash. I want 6 months work of my income as an emergency fund in the bank. I also want to own my home outright and not have a mortgage to pay. I want money saved and ready for the major repairs my home ultimately needs. OR I want to be able to afford a luxury rental so I don’t have to worry about any of the crap, and I can also have a gym and pool and tanning bed in my building 😂. I want plenty of money to cover the food, bodywork, therapy, and childcare that I need so I can do this work and not feel like hot trash (I have mostly made it to this point thank heavens, still looking for an on call masseuse, lol, but most midwives have not). I might want an RV or tricked out camper van that I can take to births so I can go out in my own space and sleep when it isn’t time yet. I want to have plenty of money to retire early (like by 50/55) so I can be helpful with my own grandkids, and I want to leave my kids and grandkids with nest eggs so that they can focus on what brings them joy and also make the world a better place more easily.
So let me be clear.
If being a midwife means I have to live in poverty or below a living wage…..if it means I cannot take care of my body in a way that feels reverent and healthy………if it means I don’t have the money to pay for a new roof when I need one…………if it means that I cannot support my own retirement or build generational wealth to pass on to my children……if it means I cannot generously support the initiatives and actions that others are taking to support a radical change in our world……..then I don’t want to be a midwife.
I was recently turned on to the Refinery29 Money Diaries and they are SO FASCINATING. Basically people keep a diary for a week – what they did, when, what they ate, who they were with, and what the spent money on. It also looks at their monthly recurring bills and digs a little bit into their money story (were they encouraged to go to college? what were they taught about money? that sort of thing). If you are STUCK in your thinking about money, you need to go read some of these right now. I’ll wait. Looking at what other people earn, make and spend will shake up your notions of what is possible and also what is “right” in terms of money. All of us are stuck in our own experience to some degree or another because we taught NOT to talk about money, and so we just think everyone is basically doing.
But that is not true. People are doing all sorts of different and creative things with money. People’s expectations about what is normal or “right” are all over the map. I encourage you to look at the whole map of money possibilities. I also encourage you to really dig into what your true expenses are, and what they would be if you have access to more money. Some people are scared to even think about what they would do if they had more money. Would they automatically become terrible people? Would they blow it? Money is energy and they are afraid they won’t be able to channel it. And they aren’t wrong. That is why many lottery winners go bankrupt. You have to increase your capacity to hold and move money, but to do that, you have to attract more money 🙂
And that is why I don’t feel angry with myself for starting out charging a sliding scale of $2000-3000. I wasn’t ready to ask for or accept more. But now I am. And not that I really even need to justify it, but it is absolutely justified. I have seen how hard we all work, and at what risk. Last fall I raised my fee from $3500 to $4500. And from a purely mathematical standpoint after spending more time with my financial numbers, the minimum that I can charge now is actually $6500 to offer the midwifery care that I want to do. I plan to increase that $500 each year the next few years until I feel like I am easily and regularly able to be making sizable dents in each of my goals.
What does this bring up for you?