THE BIRTH OF MINNOW
I just wanted to thank you again for helping us with Minnow’s birth. It was the happiest day of my life and I’ve been on Cloud Nine ever since. It’s hard to remember life before her; now there is such an unbelievable amount of joy. When ever I look into her sweet face I feel such a tremendous surge of emotion building. I’m so in love with this little bug. And I’m so grateful that we were able to experience such an intimate labor and delivery in our home.Read more
Words cannot express the appreciation we have for your help in Nathan’s birth! You were with us the entire way and we felt completely safe with you there. We didn’t realize how important trust in your birth team was until we were in labor. You totally know your craft well and you executed it with great skill.Read more
I first met Louise after having a not-so-pleasant experience at another birth center. I knew right away that she was the perfect person to deliver my baby. First, Louise took time on a Saturday to meet with my husband and me. Second, she was honest and knowledgeable; we knew we could trust her.Read more
On Tue., May 21 at 6:00am I noticed my first contraction. This was one day before my due date. Manageable contractions came rapid-fire after that, about one every five minutes for the next hour and a half. My husband and I were overjoyed. We called Pam to give her a heads up. Pam usually was the recipient of my needlessly panicky phone calls. Like other phone calls to Pam, this was a false alarm. By the time I woke up from a nap, about an hour and a half later, the contractions seemed to disappear, but within two hours they resumed, not so frequently, but they were present. But again, within a few hours they subsided. We called Pam again to let her know it was a false alarm. Things continued this way all day and into Wed. Needless to say I was becoming frustrated. I started to think I was going to have these minor contractions for weeks.
Come Wednesday evening I thought, “This must be it.” I was determined not to go to sleep because every time I did, the contractions would subside. But now, the contractions had come fairly regularly for a few hours. So I called Louise. Although over the phone Louise could tell that this was not “it”, she made a visit to check me out and give a pep talk. I was only three centimeters at this point, which surprised me; I thought I would be farther along. Louise mentioned that active labor usually starts in the middle of the night and that it was very important for me to get some sleep. We all went to bed and sure enough, by 2:30am I could not sleep through the contractions and I could not keep track of their rate and duration because they were so intense. I was never so glad to be in so much pain.
At this time I notified my husband and my mother and they accommodated me with whatever I wanted. Within fifteen minutes the bathroom was lit with candles, I was in the bathtub, my mom was massaging me, and I had cool water to drink. Once everything was settled my husband went back to sleep, knowing, this was “it”.
By 7:00am I was crouched over a therapy ball, and much more uncomfortable. I remember my husband trying to eat a NutriGrain Bar and the smell offending me so much I made him throw it away. When my water broke, there wasn’t a noticeable gush or anything. Even though it was just a trickle, I was sure, and we called Louise.
When Louise arrived she checked me out and I was seven centimeters. Yippee! She and Nancy worked like a finely tuned machine setting up the bedroom. I went back into the bath. Through the night and morning, I had not been able to keep even liquids down, and now my labor was slowing down. Louise offered me the option of having an I.V. for rehydration. Wanting to be strong enough to push and coherent when my baby arrived, I decided to have the I.V. My husband and I had our last few moments together while I had the I.V. in me. Emotions overtook him. It really was a beautiful moment.
The I.V. ran its course and I was feeling refreshed, now it was time to push. We started with me squatting. Louise encouraged me to make some noise, to grunt; this worked well. During this time the baby rotated from sunny side up, also called back labor. I would not have guessed I was having back labor, because it didn’t really hurt between contractions. Although, at some point during the whole process, I bruised my tailbone, which might have had something to do with back labor. Actually, the most painful part of labor was having a bruised tailbone for the next six weeks. I remember having a hard time getting up and not being able to sit on chairs more than I remember the pain in labor.
Squatting was becoming tiring, so we moved to the bed. It was at this time that my mom, my husband, and I felt the head for the first time. It felt squishy, not hard. I never felt an overwhelming urge to push. I could still feel strong contractions and when I did I beared down. I also squeezed my husband to my chest and screamed. I got a little too eager at the end and continued to push when I should have relaxed, and had a small tear. There was a distinct uncomfortable sensation while I was on the bed pushing, still I don’t remember feeling the tear. I thought pushing would be easier than it actually was. Thankfully, I only pushed for forty-five minutes.
I ended up delivering in the supine position, which I never thought I would do. Although it took eleven and a half hours from the time I went into active labor, it only seemed like the blink of an eye. Louise encouraged me to reach down and pick up my baby. After a moment I picked it up and discovered she was a girl. I was holding her in my arms with my husband over my left shoulder. He said something like, “hello my baby girl,” and she turned her head and looked right up at him. It surprised us all. We attribute this to my husband reading to her in the womb using a special microphone.
My husband cut the cord and I started nursing her. Louise did the repair and showed us the placenta. This was very meaningful for my mom, who had not had a chance to see her own placentas in such detail. I was a bit tired at that point. Then I took a shower, and while I was in there, the bedroom was cleaned up. I ate some chili and nursed my daughter again. Then my baby and I fell asleep together.
I am proud of myself for having a natural birth. I have left my daughter the legacy that women can trust and listen to their bodies. I want her to know that women are strong and capable. I had the birth of my dreams.
A SKEPTICAL FATHER’S TALE
The idea of giving birth to our second child at home was not my idea, nor was it my preference. Our first birth was in a well-respected hospital, and we walked out with a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Prior to this first birthing experience I had always accepted as fact that my wife would be expected to do whatever was asked by the doctor and hospital staff so as to ensure the healthy delivery of our baby.Read more
However, my wife is a very well educated, intelligent woman – and unlike myself, she rarely takes anything as fact. She read many books and spoke to various individuals to obtain a better understanding of the birthing process. She began to form very strong opinions about the type of birth she wanted. I did support her desire for this, and was amazed, and quite annoyed actually at how difficult it was to obtain agreement from our doctors. I felt a bit of condescension from our doctors on numerous occasions when my wife questioned certain practices and procedures based on her research. I quickly came to understand (interpret) that they were always focused on the worst-case scenario birth, and how best to protect themselves from legal ramifications. This helped to explain why they preferred to take steps to “simplify” the birth – medical intervention, immediately having the patient strapped down and monitored upon arrival at the hospital, the use of episiotomies, taking the baby from the mother after birth for “monitoring”. All of this not really necessary in the case of a normal delivery and healthy baby, except from a legal standpoint.
Fast-forward to baby number two. Although not a fan of the first experience, I still felt comfort knowing that the “team of specialists” was waiting to run in if needed. My transformation came after being introduced to Louise and Pam and their calming, incredibly knowledgeable demeanor. They inspire confidence. Their approach during the months up until the birth of our second daughter was one of patience and education, not to mention a high degree of professionalism. We were not “granted” a small window of time with them, or frowned at when questions were asked, as was the case with our previous team of OB-GYNs.
By the time my wife went into labor, I had complete faith in the ability of Louise, Pam, and their assistant, Nicole. Not that I wasn’t nervous, but it was a wonderful experience. The mood was joyful, the music was playing, and my newborn daughter entered the world from our bedroom, and afterwards, never left our side.
All I can offer to those who still are uncomfortable with the concept is that should something go wrong, Louise and Pam advised us that they would ensure prompt communication with the hospital, facilitate a quick transfer, and complete as much of pre-surgery preparation as possible – something that would need to take place even for a hospital emergency. In other words, the time from the realization that there is a problem up until surgery would be used wisely.
I am eternally grateful to everyone at Midwifery Care Associates for their care and skill, and think this is a wonderful option every couple should consider.
FINDING MY FEMALE SPIRIT
There are moments in our lives that we’d like to relive over and over. One of the moments that I can feel in my gut washes over me every day when I look into the blue-gray history of my daughter’s eyes. My second daughter and third child, Anna Elizabeth, was born at home, attended by midwives, on November 2, 2004. It was the most empowering experience of my life.Read more
When I went into the hospital with my “five-minutes-apart-for-an-hour” contractions with my first child, I was more frightened than I think I let myself realize. The fact that I had to keep telling the nurses that I was twenty years old didn’t help, either. I had a certain idealistic naiveté that my partner Dan and I would huff and whoo, and Lamaze our way through the whole event. Well, at nearly 20 hours in, and only one centimeter dilated, I finally accepted the narcotic they were offering so that I could sleep, and it slowed my contractions considerably. I was also feeling rather defeated since my nurse wasn’t around much, and when she was, she was patronizing and brusque. When I told her I didn’t want the sleeping drugs because of my desire to “go natural” she told me how she’d had four children naturally, and then she proceeded to tell me all about how I’d need my strength, so I should take the drugs in order to sleep. After I woke up, my contractions were so slow and far apart, they sent me home, in tears.
Upon my return to the hospital later that night, they checked me, told me they would “let” me stay this time (since I was three centimeters open), and proceed to inject the same sleeping narcotic into my IV. When I woke up this time, I was four centimeters, where I remained for several hours. Finally, the doctor came in and suggested breaking my water, to which I agreed. I waited in bed, and then the doctor came in and checked me again, and said he thought I should have pitocin. I was so tired (now nearly 40 hours in labor) that I relented. They hung the pitocin, and shortly thereafter, I begged and sobbed for the anesthesiologist. An hour after my pitocin and my epidural, I was ready to push. I couldn’t feel my contractions, so I wound up pushing willy-nilly, and at one point my nurse (the same one I didn’t like – my luck) walked away when I felt like pushing. My partner called to her and she said, “Oh, just go ahead and push!” So, here’s my poor fiancé trying to brace both of my feet, and I’m pushing my guts out. I remember looking up into my fiancé, Dan’s, face and saying, “My butthole hurts.” I remember a certain pathetic nuance about it. As it turns out, I should have listened to my intuition, and told the doctor, or done something, because as I was pushing so hard while no one but Dan was there, I had torn rectal muscle because the back of my daughter’s head was angled toward the floor (she was sunny-side up). With each push, I was slamming her toward my rectum. Finally, the doctor came, and during one of my last pushes, he asked me about an episiotomy, which I did not want, so he tried to stretch the bit of perineum that was holding my baby back. I shrieked, so he cut me. My now-husband, Dan, told me that moment would live in his nightmares; all of a sudden he saw scissors flashing while hearing me howl, and there was nothing he could do.
My second birth was similar to my first. When the doctor heard that I had arrived at the hospital after contracting for twelve hours and heard that I was only three centimeters, she immediately wanted to start me on pitocin. I had to barter with her and have her break my water instead. I “got stuck” at four centimeters again, and finally gave in after the nurse looked at my monitor print out and said that my contractions were really not that bad. Meanwhile, I was in tears from the pain. I wound up with pitocin and an epidural again. This time, I had a horrible itching reaction to the epidural, and I was absolutely miserable. I distinctly remember thinking that I felt way too inactive, too disconnected from myself, my baby, and my birthing experience. When it was time to push, I just couldn’t get down in there, couldn’t give it everything. I was terrified that my scar tissue would rip, that I would push out feces on the table again, and I just wasn’t doing much to get my baby out. Finally I moved him some, but his chin got stuck in the same way my daughter’s head did. So the doctor had me stop pushing; she put her finger in my rectum to pop his head up, and she pulled him out by his head. Then he was whisked away to have his meconium sucked from his throat. It’s no wonder he passed meconium in the water – I was so stressed, how could he not be? I was left feeling defeated again, and somehow, as if I’d failed again. I felt as if I were less of a woman.
When I became pregnant with my third child, I knew that it was my last shot at having a natural birth, as my husband and I had decided three was the magic number. I changed doctors and hospitals; I began seeing a group that also incorporated midwives. My mother had also recently encouraged me to seek out yoga as a stress reliever. Once I became pregnant, my instructor referred me to a yogini who was experienced with prenatal yoga. My new instructor lent me a book, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin. A little hokey, a little hippie, but packed with information. It just made so much sense – if I felt fear, the adrenaline would cause my sphincter, i.e., my cervix, to close up. I had always believed in the emotional-physical connection, so why didn’t I ever apply it to labor and birth? This book changed my life in the same way Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom did. I took it to my next appointment, and asked my midwife if we could “do this.” She told me that she couldn’t give me a homebirth experience in a hospital, but she knew some midwives who assisted homebirths.
It was a number of weeks before I contacted Midwifery Care Associates. I procrastinated a bit, plus I had to make my husband read Gaskin’s book, in order for him to understand why having a homebirth wasn’t just what I wanted, it was what I needed. One day, at work, I looked up Louise Aucott on the internet, and found her number and her email. Always more comfortable with the written word, I emailed her. Within an hour, she’d written back, and there was even something comforting in her email. She tried doggedly to track me down that weekend, as we played phone tag at several numbers. She left me long and kind messages – speaking to me as if she already knew me. She mentioned how she would love to take me on, and even how she was going out to work in the garden, among other things, and that she’d try me later. So finally at twenty weeks we went for a consultation. We met Pam Rosser, the other half of Midwifery Care Associates, and she, too was kind and loving. But when we found out the size of the deposit we’d need to give them by 32 weeks, I left with a slow step and a throat that ached to sob. I knew that many couples could afford that much money in twelve weeks, but not a couple who’d had a first baby at twenty and had finally just bought their first home. I thought I’d be forced back to the hospital.
Well, Louise and Pam were so wonderful. I think they may have realized how deep my need for them and for a homebirth was. They allowed me to work out a payment plan with them, and they accepted me onboard with open arms. A major difference was that they treated us as real people. They respected us and our situation. I was absolutely elated.
Everything about using midwives was different from my experience with the medical group from my first two pregnancies. Pam and Louise, as well as their student, Nicole, spent so much more time with me, and they truly exuded an energy, a sort of kindness that put me at ease. They always asked if I had questions, which was much different than my grabbing at the doctors’ coattails as they bustled out the door. At every visit, I heard at least one wonderful thing, such as, “Look at that beautiful belly!” or “Aren’t you just looking gorgeous!” or my favorite: “You are going to be so great at this!” It was as if both Pam and Louise knew exactly what I needed to hear.
That intuition carried over to the labor experience, where Louise was again able to say exactly what I needed to hear – repeatedly. This coupled with the love of my amazing husband and the support of my mom, allowed my body to do what it needed to. Honestly, how many doctors come up to you while you float in the birthing pool, give you a hug and kiss and say, “I am so proud of you; I want you to know you are doing an awesome job.” All of these wonderful things provided a completely relaxed environment for me. Everyone was sort of quiet and respectful of the space Dan and I needed. They reminded me to stay relaxed and there was always someone nearby to rub my back. My mom rubbed my feet, while Dan stroked my hair. Once I was in the pool, my mom and Louise chatted quietly, and I took strength in the fact that my midwife was there for me, for the whole time, not coming and going like a nurse or doctor in the hospital. I was able to be relaxed because everyone else was. I labored in the pool with scented candles burning and Enya on the stereo. I never got exhausted because I ate and drank whenever I wanted.
When it was time to push, I did so. With only pushing through three contractions, Anna was born. With my last one, I leaped up to my feet. Louise’s reaction was to say, “Whoa – ok Amy, make room for your baby!” I’m sure it was hard for her to catch Anna in that position, but she respected my primal reaction – she trusted me to trust my body.
When I think back, I never remember it hurting in the way it did with my other two. I never had that feeling of, “Oh Dear Lord, I can’t do it anymore.” I remember that during transition, the contractions were really hard to ride and the pressure was intense. I remember wanting to sob, more because I was tired and the emotions were just so evocative. But I told myself that this pain was for a purpose, and soon I would meet Anna. Also, the fact that my husband told me that I, “looked so beautiful doing this” really helped me. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better birth experience.
Louise and Pam went above and beyond; Louise even met with my mom during my home visit to ease her fears about the homebirth. They facilitated an experience that allowed me to love my husband in a deeper way. The experience helped forge new paths in my relationship with my mother. They helped me believe in me, which is a gift almost as precious as the child who comes from the experience. Having my birth with Louise, surrounded by nothing but powerful love from powerful people, left me with a glow. It’s a golden glow that I can shine back to the family I’ve helped create, a family who needs this strong female spirit.
THE HOSPITAL BIRTH OF LORELEI
Here goes– (written days after the birth): “It was a dark and stormy night.”Read more
Finally I get up and hop in the shower around 11:30. My contractions suddenly pick up and are strong enough that I begin moaning through them. As I am enjoying the hot water, I realize I should wake up Kurt. “Kurt, I think I need some help”, I said dripping wet. He mumbles something about timing them and tries to go back to sleep. I sit there staring at him, the shower still running. “Kurt, get up, I’m serious, they’re like 3 minutes apart”. He calls Louise. She advises us to get on our way to the hospital, and stay calm. He then calls our doula, Augustine, and asks her to come over. Then my mom got a call to come watch Maddy. Within 20 minutes, everyone shows up simutaneously. By now I am dressed and moaning while pacing throughout the house. My doula warms up a lavender compress for me to hold against my belly ( I had front labor.thank God!). When I saw my mom walk into the kitchen (where we were), I broke down crying “I have to leave my baby (Maddy, 2yo), I feel so awful”.
She held me and assured me everything would be just fine and this was all perfect timing. (sidenote: My parents were leaving by 7am to go to Mexico that morning. I was nervous about them missingtheir flight, etc My grandmother had also come with my mother.).
”They’re one minute apart.”
Kurt, my doula and I hop into our station wagon. Us girls in the back while Kurt drove through the rain. Contractions were now pretty strong, this was definately active labor. I was on my knees leaning over the back seat while my doula held my compress and rubbed my back. At one point I heard her whisper to Kurt “they’re one minute apart” with a nervous giggle. I soon felt the car accelerate. Then suddenly, I had to go to the bathroom.NOW. We almost pulled over, then remembered there was a truck stop ahead. My doula helped me take a potty break, then we were back on the road. I remember saying “this is a good labor, this is so bearable!”. I was amazed at how good the breaks felt and at how well I was able to handle each wave of intense pain and energy. It was much different than having an induced labor, like I had with Madelyn. Not once did I doubt myself, my support and my baby.
”You don’t need a wheelchair, do you ma’am.”
We finally arrive at the hospital (at 1:30am). A security guard met us out in the emergency drive up (we had walked from the parking lot as I requested). He saw we wanted to just walk right on up to labor and delivery and commented on how calm we all were. He simply rolled the wheelchair back to it’s place. We get to our room where Louise was awaiting our arrival. It was so refreshing to see her happy face.she almost had a glow to her.
”You need to sign this.”
We had to sign countless waivers: No circumcision, no vaccines, no vitamin K, no eye drops, etc The nurse looked over our birth plan (also known as “Kurt’s cliff notes”). I sat there watching her, waiting for a big sigh and some annoying questions and comments. She smiles and looks over asking “you say here that you don’t want Chux pads, you’d like cotton instead.I’ll get on that right now”. I was amazed! She was the best nurse in the world, but unfortunately she ended her shift in an hour. Kurt asked her to “give us a cool nurse, pick out someone who will understand our concerns”. I signed waivers in between contractions. When the contractions came on, I dropped down on all fours and moaned through them (this was totally instinctual). After all of the signing, I was helped into the shower and then my gowns (I didn’t think I’d want them, but once we got there, I wanted them on). Before I got checked by Louise (as I requested), my doula reminded me that I may not have dilated due to dealing with the hospital she was right, I was only 4cm. That was ok. Labor quickly intensified once I relaxed, so we walked the halls.
Kurt on one side of me, my doula or Louise on the other. The ward was full of loud moans-it was great! Most of the women there were delivering naturally. I felt like I was part of a secret society. We were all going to “do it” and that day. It was exciting. I soon realized I couldn’t handle the walking anymore so Louise grabbed a birthing ball for us. Oh, it was heavenly! I rocked on that thing for about an hour.it was now about 3am.
“I’m starting to push a little.”
We asked to use the jacuzzi tub. We shuffle to the room only to find the cleaning lady in there wiping it down! Louise did a good job of calming me down and reminding me that I’ll be in the tub very soon. So we go back to the room and wait. This is when I realize I am in transition. On the way back to the tub minutes later, I felt very woozy and numb. Things looked soft around the edges and voices seemed muffled.
Once in the tub, I whispered “this water feels so good” during my minute breaks, and moaned “I can’t do this anymore, it’s to big to come out” during contractions. A few times I cried a little. My doula reminded me to moan low and deep while saying “open” and “baby come out”. During one contraction I heard our doula whisper to Kurt that I was in transition. I wondered how dilated I was but soon realized I had to be at least 8cm. After a while Louise came into the dark room and quietly rocked in a chair in the corner. I knew we were close. Suddenly I found myself pushing a little during a contraction then I got really hot. I wanted out of the tub.
”Somebody help meee!”
Back on the birthing ball, I am now completely naked and hanging onto Kurt and my doula as I rock and moan. Soon I am roaring in agony and feel I should be on all fours again. I am helped onto the broken down bed where I have some gravity to help me. Almost immediately I feel like bearing down. Milk is dripping from my breasts as the oxytocin races through my body. The pressure on my sacrum is so intense I almost threw up. I’m now screaming things like “punch me in my faceNOW” and my good old standby “it’s too big to come out”. Our doula is talking gently to me, but I can’t hear her. I start to feel my hips spread apart during the contractions. I am angry at how long my resting periods are, I just wanted it out. Louise just kept assuring me that “everything is as it should be” and “It’s almost over, you are doing so well, Dana”. Finally I get a huge contraction and I bear down so hard I swore I’d tear. I had 3 long pushes. The head is crowning”ring of fire”, I thought. I hear our doula say “gentle, Dana, gentle” as I started to bear down again.so I stopped and panted until the next one. Louise kept quietly reminded me to listen to my body. Next one comes and with a long push I feel the baby’s ears pass out of me. I remember thinking that it took a long time for the head to come out yet it didn’t hurt as bad as it was at that moment when the shoulders were about to emerge. I now am awarded along resting period with this little head hanging out of me. I felt like the Mother ocean, washing my precious pearl onto the land. Pushing in waves Finally a good contraction came and the baby’s little body squeezed out.what relief.
Louise passed this tiny, warm, and very slimy baby up from under my legs as I got up onto my knees. I pulled the baby up to my chest as Louise wrapped towels around the front of us to keep the baby warm. We then both rubbed her a little bit. As we requested, she was not suctioned. I rolled her onto her belly and rubbed her back to help her cough up whatever little fluid was not squeezed out of her already. She gave a few big cries.Kurt was very relieved. I was helped onto my backside on the bed, and began helping her latch on. We still didn’t know the sex.so when she settled down a bit, I took a gander. “It’s a girl”, I sighed”Yay.”. I really wanted another girl as muchas everyone wanted a boy.I was very happy. She just stared at us like all newborns do.with those huge dark eyes. We then named her Lorelei. She stayed there on my chest for over an hour, poop and all. I instinctively did not want her off my chest and out of my arms (which everyone respected).but we both started to stink! The nurse helped me wipe her off (we refused the customary bath- it takes off the vernix caseosa that is there to protect the baby’s skin in utero and after birth.you simply rub it into their skin).
Kurt and I then changed her and made arrangements to go home that afternoon- which we did, thanks to Louise (thanks Louise). Our baby never left our room, nor was she handled by any personnel at any time. We were wheeled out that sunny, warm day a nursing couple for the world to see. A proud beginning to a loving lifetime.
Louise was extremely respectful about our privacy as we bonded with our newborn. She was very gentle and spoke in a low voice during the labor and delivery. I found that to be so soothing. Whenever I or my husband became scared, Louise was right there saying just the right things to get me through. We didn’t have to even vocalise anything, she’d just see our faces and come to offer support. I didn’t feel pressured to do anything at anytime. She was a wonderful advocate throughout the whole process and honored our requests to the fullest. Though Pam was not at the birth, she was wonderful during our visits. I felt comfortable with them both.
OUR THREE BIRTHS WITH MIDWIFERY CARE
I first became a Midwifery Care patient in 2000 while expecting my first child. I was intrigued by the opportunity to birth at home and by the evidence-based practice Louise and Pam ran. I also chose Midwifery Care because I go to great lengths to find accessible and knowledgeable medical care professionals. I was impressed by Pam, Louise, & Linda, too.
I arrived at Capital Health Systems-Mercer at 8pm, eight centimeters dilated. I’d stayed home until the last possible moment, believing I’d be shortening my labor by letting it progress in the comfort and privacy of my home. My contractions were 4 minutes apart and I found the idea of being wheeled on a stretcher either out of my house or into the hospital undesirable. I thought if I stayed home longer, I’d be unable to walk.
I was terrified to birth Kathleen. Pam talked me through transition and the early pushing. It took 3 tough hours to push Kathleen out. Looking back on it, it was very surreal doing something so personal in a bright hospital room. I don’t think that helped at all. Neither did the fact that I didn’t sleep a wink in the hospital due to various procedural interruptions.
After Kathleen came out, the staff at the hospital wanted to take some blood from her heel to make sure she didn’t have strep. I was Group B Strep positive and they had gotten 1 bag of antibiotic into me instead of the 2 their protocol called for. There were a total of four attempts to stick various needles into my 3-hour-old baby to draw blood. These were unsuccessful. I watched her scream and scream. I could have lunged at the people trying to draw the blood and beat them senseless. I had surges of adrenaline that made me feel like a lioness protecting her cub. Next ‘they’ said they needed to puncture an artery to get the needed blood. I said I was leaving with Kathleen. They said I couldn’t since it was against doctor’s orders, insurance wouldn’t pay, etc. I finally got permission from the on-call pediatrician at the hospital who had done her Apgar. God bless that stranger for releasing me from what seemed horrific. Therefore I spent less than 24 hrs in the hospital and bled all the way home.
In 2001 I returned to Midwifery Care, having decided to birth my son at home. My husband, Kevin, came in to ask Pam and Louise some questions about the safety of birthing at home. I was well versed in home birth statistics and procedures. I educated Kevin and our families as well. I had no hesitation or reservations what-so-ever about my upcoming home birth. I was sure it would go much more smoothly at home. Having accomplished Kathleen’s birth, I knew I could make the second work better at home.
I was right. I was a week overdue with Tommy as with Kathleen. I persuaded him to come out by drinking 4 ounces of castor oil in a tasty ‘dreamsicle’ smoothie as directed by the midwives. After 3 hours of hard labor, out came Tommy! I kept busy all day while in easy, early labor. The midwives came at 5pm and broke my water – I was 5 centimeters dilated. I labored mostly alone in my bed and shower. I pushed him out at 10 pm. Pam and Louise cleaned up, ran a load of laundry, and brought Kevin and I food in bed. They left at midnight as Kevin and I lay in bed by candle light with our new baby. A far cry from being subject to impersonal and disruptive procedures which often do not facilitate a healthy mom or baby, ironically. They facilitate a hospital making one-size-fits-all care for nurses to dole out to keep from getting sued. I felt so lucky and so blessed to have such a loving and healthy birth. I wished everyone could know about this option.
I became pregnant in 2004 one month after removing the IUD I’d asked to have put in after Tommy’s birth. Kevin and I get pregnant VERY easily. Again I returned to Midwifery Care Assoc. Birthing at home was a ‘no-brainer’ at this point. I had no desire to be exposed to germs and unhealthy policies at the hospital. I felt sure leaving the house would only slow a natural process leading to more discomfort and possibly a less healthy outcome. I looked forward to a private, personal, and healthy birth.
Ruth Ann was a week late, as usual. We planned to use castor oil again, however, my water broke naturally at 5 am the morning we planned to coax her out. I decided to take the castor oil at 9:30 am anyway. My contractions at that time were strong and 10 min apart, but I wanted to be sure labor progressed effectively. Once labor starts I do everything in my power to help it along and remove any obstacle. I cared for Kathleen and Tommy and worked around the house until noon when Louise and decided she should come over with another midwife named Liz who would be her assistant. Kathleen had gone to preschool and Tommy went to a friend’s to play. I had arranged for them to be gone until noon the next day. Kevin planned to take the next week off to care for us all.
As Louise and Liz set up supplies in my bedroom, I was having very strong contractions 2 min apart. These contractions hurt but I was fine in between. Around 12:30 pm I felt nauseous and sweaty and tired. I was sitting on the floor next to my bed, so I just rested my head on the bed. After a few more contractions, this feeling passed and I was conversational again between contractions. They were strong, so I decided to climb onto the bed to sit. The next contraction was strong as well and half way through I started screaming because I felt some sort of movement inside me. Louise, Liz and Kevin jumped to their feet (I think). My eyes were closed and as always, I was scared. Louise told me, much to my surprise that she saw the baby’s head!! I’d said earlier that I was afraid of the burning feeling when the baby actually comes out, so Liz got my crock pot and prepared hot washcloths! This helped as they pressed them on my opening for the next 2-3 pushes.
Ruth Ann shot out and I looked Kevin in the eyes and said what I always say, “Is it really out?” He was teary eyed and clearly moved. He had even kept a journal for the last hour of the birth. This is big stuff for my man, he has gotten a lot emotionally out of the home birth experiences we’ve had. He’s a devoted father and very close with our kids. Having such a private experience of the wonder of birth may have played a big role in fostering that closeness.
Louise and Liz cleaned up and again brought food to the bed where I recuperated. Louise showed me the amniotic sac, umbilical cord, and placenta with explanation about where in the body it was situated and the relative health of each part. I’ve had questions in the past about my cord due to a family history of what may have been cord problems. No one knows for sure. The evening I gave birth to Ruth Ann at home, Kevin and I hung out in our bedroom, talked on the phone with loved ones, ordered excellent take out, opened a top-shelf bottle of champagne, visited with each other in a truly loving way, and watched a movie with baby in arms.
My final thought on my home birth experiences is that I am really blessed to have had the opportunity. First, the amount of money we paid for all the prenatal, birth, and post natal care received is amazingly low considering the amount of time Pam and Louise spend on patients compared with the average obstetrician or midwife in a large practice. Second, I wonder what movie star or dignitary I’d have to be to go to a hospital and receive the following as part of my care: choices about what medical procedures I receive, complete privacy, unlimited phone use, my favorite foods, no interruptions from staff, all the comforts of home (cozy sheets, soaps, pillow top king sized bed, a lovely bedroom view, down comforter, champagne, favorite movie). What payment would a hospital get for outfitting me with all this when a heated blanket costs $40 and the average hospital stay costs $10K, I believe?
I think people are ‘hoodwinked’ into thinking the average care is free to them since “insurance covers everything”. Well, one can be sure the $1000 or so paid out of pocket for homebirth – at least in our case – is only a fraction of what the average employer takes off an employees’ salary in lieu of benefits. Therefore, I’m grateful to have had someone along the way casually mention Pam & Louise’s practice and glad I checked it out. There initial experiences with our kids were priceless to us as parents in fostering closeness, not to mention excellent health.
Abigail T. O’K., PhD.
THE BIRTH OF ISABELLA
Even before I became pregnant with our first baby, I knew that I wanted to birth at home if at all possible, simply because I knew I’d be far more comfortable and at ease in my own home than in a hospital. But the more research I did on the issue, the more statistics I read about rates of C-sections in hospitals, and the more birth stories of all kinds I heard, the more I became convinced that a home birth was not only what would suit me best, but was what would be safest both for me and the baby.Read more
The same day I found out I was pregnant, I contacted the Midwifery Care office. They offer a free appointment to all prospective patients just to meet and ask questions and decide whether their practice is right, and so we set up an appointment. From the moment we met Louise and Pam, the two primary midwives of the practice, we knew that they were absolutely what we were looking for. They were both simply lovely people, and combined expert medical knowledge with a birth philosophy that exactly matched our own. When Nathan and I left their office after our first meeting, I knew that I couldn’t have felt more confident about putting ourselves and our baby in their care. My confidence only increased throughout my pregnancy. They made each checkup appointment feel like visiting friends and were always happy to spend as much time as it took to answer whatever questions we might have. I found it was easy to be excited rather than anxious about the labor and birth; I was actually looking forward to it.
I had read about Maggie Smith’s hypno-birthing CD’s on a UK home birthing website, and purchased the one designed for home birth preparation. I listened to it a few times a week from the beginning of the third trimester on, and then every day during the last few weeks of pregnancy. I had a pretty low success rate of managing to stay awake throughout the entire thing, but I still felt that it helped tremendously in preparing me mentally for the whole process of the labor and birth. Also, during the last couple of months, Nathan and I enrolled in a Bradley method childbirth class, which we both really liked. The Bradley preparation focused on labor as a team effort and spent a great deal of time on what the husband could do to help, and that approach made me feel much more comfortable and confident about the prospect of the birth. I knew I wouldn’t have to be doing it all on my own, that Nathan would be right there helping me get through. And Nathan was fantastic about preparing and practicing for labor–he would help me with the physical exercises we’d been given to do and we also spent time every night practicing relaxation, which is another key component of the Bradley method. I would lie on our bed and he would help me progressively relax every muscle, starting from my feet and working up, so that by the time labor rolled around I was really “programmed” to relax completely at his touch. Lastly, I read a website about getting your baby “lined up” for birth, and followed all the suggestions for encouraging the baby to be anterior rather than posterior–not slumping back with my feet up, etc. During the last couple of weeks I also did lots and lots of squats, which I think helped a lot in bringing the baby’s head down into my pelvis–by the time I went into labor, the head was already at the zero station.
So… on to the labor itself. Like many first time moms, probably, I was sure I was going to go early–especially since around 2 weeks before our due date I started having strong Braxton Hicks contractions and lots of period-type pains. And also like a lot of first time-moms, I found that my baby was going to come when it was good and ready and not before! By the time 5 days after our due date had gone by, I was starting to feel like my pregnancy was going to go on forever–I was convinced my baby would be the first child in history to be turning school-age while still in the womb! But 6 days past the due date, I woke up with a feeling that today would be the day–I’m not sure why, but something in me just knew. I even had a feeling that labor would start around 2 pm. And sure enough, right around 2, I had my first
contraction–just a painless Braxton-Hicks type contraction, but it still felt quite strong. The contractions kept coming all afternoon at fairly regular intervals, but they were still painless and weren’t at all bothersome. I was still feeling like this was “it”, and at the same time trying not to get my hopes up in case it wasn’t, but that afternoon a friend called to chat for a bit, and she said she was could tell I was going into labor just by listening to my voice–she said I sounded like an athlete about to run a marathon. Anyway, by around 7 pm that night, I was beginning to think she was right! The contractions were coming about every 10 minutes and were starting to get stronger and a bit painful. They were also accompanied by some emergency runs to the bathroom, which also made me think that this was the real thing and not a false alarm.
Nathan and I phoned the midwives to let them know that things seemed to be happening. Louise was on call that night. She agreed that this was probably “it,” advised me to try to get some sleep while things were still fairly low-key, and said to call her when the contractions changed–as she put it, shifted into a new gear, either more frequent or more intense. Nathan and I made a quick trip to the library to rent a video to watch later on (I picked a travel video guide to Great Britain, figuring it would not require too much concentration and that the scenery would be relaxing to watch), and while we were there I started to feel more pressure in my pelvis and was more uncomfortable standing up. When we got home, I went to bed and put on my hypno-birthing CD. I didn’t exactly fall asleep, but I managed to doze for a few hours. Then I got Nathan, and we did our progressive relaxation exercise; that helped a good deal,and I managed to doze for another couple of hours.
At around 1:30, the contractions suddenly got much more intense so that I couldn’t sleep anymore. I had read that I’d know when active labor had begun because I wouldn’t be able to talk through contractions, which had scared me a bit because that sounded like quite a lot of pain. But it wasn’t like what I had imagined at all. The contractions were intense, and there was pain with them, certainly, but it wasn’t the pain that kept me from wanting to talk. It was more like I just had to focus inward with every contraction and concentrate on what my body was doing. The pain was definitely manageable, and in between contractions I felt absolutely fine.
I got up, and thought I’d try getting in a warm bath, so Nathan filled up the tub and helped me in. I had expected to really like laboring in water, so I was quite surprised to find I didn’t like it at all! When the water was warm enough to relax my muscles, I felt overheated and uncomfortable, and when it was cooler I just felt wet and in labor instead of only in labor, which wasn’t much help. We called Louise again to let her know that things seemed to be shifting gears and she asked whether we wanted her to come over. We were coping fine on our own, so she said to phone back when the contractions were closer together. I got out of the tub and put on the new nightgown and robe set I’d bought specially for the birth. It sounds silly, but that actually made me feel better than anything else. It was just a cheap cotton floral nightgown and robe from WalMart–I think I paid something like $12 for it–but somehow being in fresh, brand new clothes really helped–like getting dressed up for prom or a date.
I had read that you should try to eat during early labor if possible, since you’ll need the energy later on, so Nathan fixed me a snack and I ate in our living room while he carried on with getting the birthing supplies set out. Then I got up to help and we got the bedroom set up–the sheets changed, the “good” blankets put away, the diapers and baby clothes set out. We were laughing and talking and I was amazed that this was labor–we were totally relaxed, just having fun and enjoying the time together. It felt really good to squat down with every contraction, and every so often we’d time a few to see whether they were getting any closer. We took some pictures of the two of us sitting on our couch, which I love looking at now–they’re my last images of myself pregnant and Nathan and I before we became parents. We also said prayers together. Then we watched some of our travel video, and by the time we were about halfway through, the contractions were coming about 3 mins. apart, so we called Louise again and she said she’d come over along with Sarah, their student midwife.
Louise and Sarah arrived with all their gear, and were so lovely, even though I’d routed them out of bed in the middle of the night. I felt almost like I was having friends over for a visit. Soon after they arrived, Sarah checked me, which, as it turned out, was my only internal exam. I was a little nervous about finding out how far along I was–so far I felt fine, but I was afraid I’d be discouraged if I wasn’t very far along. But as it turned out, I was already at 5 cm., and actually went to almost 6 with a contraction that hit while Sarah was checking me. I was very, very encouraged by that. The pain still felt completely manageable, and I was completely relaxed and happy and calm. And that’s actually how it stayed throughout the whole rest of labor. The hypno-birthing CD had talked a lot about welcoming each contraction as bringing you one step closer to meeting your baby, and I think it helped me a lot in that regard. Nathan commented after the birth that he was amazed that from start to finish of the labor I never once mentioned the pain or even groaned–but I honestly never even thought about doing either at the time. Even though the contractions hurt, I found I was happy and excited when each one struck. Both Nathan and Louise and Sarah were also huge help to me in getting through the contractions as the pain gradually got more intense. Nathan kept telling me what a great job I was doing, and I remember him saying over and over, “You’re doing so great–you’re making this look easy!”
Throughout the night, we all four sat in our living room chatting, and when a contraction came I would hop onto my birthing ball, which I’d found to be the most comfortable place to deal with the contractions. Nathan would rub my back or massage my shoulders through the pain, and from time to time Sarah would listen to the baby’s heartbeat to make sure everything was going all right for the little one. Then we’d go back to chatting. I can truly say that my labor was great fun. When Sarah looked at her watch and said it was 6 am, I couldn’t believe it–the night had just flown by for me.
The contractions started to get quite painful around dawn, and Louise, who had originally said we could probably hope for a lunch-time baby said we might actually get one by breakfast time. The contractions were getting pretty painful at this point, and I was a little worried about how I’d cope if they went on for several hours this way. But then I started burping, and realized, thanks to what we’d learned in our Bradley classes, that this must be transition. I didn’t have any of the other dreaded transition symptoms we’d learned about, although I did start to feel a bit fuzzy-headed, I suppose because of the endorphins my body was releasing. I’d been trying to hold off on moving to the bed for as long as I could, but I finally felt tired enough that I really wanted to lie down for awhile–and as it turned out, it was a good thing we moved to the bed when we did. Almost as soon as I lay down, a contraction hit, and as it struck my body suddenly started pushing. And with the push, my water broke. Second stage labor had begun!
The baby was moving down along my spine at this point, and the pain was definitely the most intense I’d felt yet. When another contraction hit, I asked Nathan to push on my back, and so he started to apply counter-pressure. What he’d forgotten was that he was standing on the shower curtain we’d laid down by the bed to protect the carpet. I had my eyes closed, but I heard him slide backwards, lose his balance, and say, “Yikes–I’m standing on plastic!” I burst out laughing and then apparently (although I don’t remember this part) said, “Oooh, don’t make me laugh!” Everyone thought it was pretty funny that he’d made me crack up even in the middle of a pushing contraction! The pain was pretty intense, and again I was a little worried about how I’d handle it if the pushing phase went on for too long–I’d heard of many second stage labors lasting 3 or 4 hours. But with the second or third contraction, Louise and Sarah told me they could see dark hair, and with one more contraction after that, Louise pulled my hand down and put it on the baby’s head–a feeling I’ll never, ever forget. So I knew I was close, and that really helped me get through the pain.
My body did all the work for me–I wasn’t consciously pushing at all. Each time a contraction hit, it was a bit like my body was taken over by an alien force, leaving me with no control whatever of what was going on. That was a little scary, too, but Louise and Sarah and Nathan kept cheering me on, and I remember Louise holding my hand and telling me over and over to “say yes to it,” when a contraction came, which really helped. I had Nathan in sort of a headlock, too, poor guy–hanging onto him for dear life, which was somehow very reassuring, as well. 30 minutes passed in a blur, and then the baby’s head was out–that part hurt a lot, but it was over very quickly. With the next contraction our daughter was born, after about 7 hours of active labor.
Nathan and I were laughing and crying all at the same time–and our daughter was screaming! She must have read the apgar guidelines that said “vigorous crying” was needed for a perfect 10! Nathan cut the cord and I held her skin to skin on my chest for awhile before Sarah and Louise did a quick examination, wrapped her in a blanket, and gave her back to me.
Our little girl had come out “waving,” with one hand up to her face, so I had a small tear that needed a couple of stitches. I held the baby while Sarah stitched me up, and then Nathan held her while Louise and Sarah helped me shower. An hour after the birth, we were all three tucked in bed sharing the good news with our parents on the phone and eating breakfast. I was amazed at how well I felt–a bit tired, but otherwise fine. And Louise and Sarah had cleaned up everything–you would never have known that a baby had been born in the room.
It’s now been a bit over four months since Isabella Rose was born, and not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about how wonderful our maternity care and birth experience with Midwifery Care was. Laboring at home was simply fantastic–the comfort of familiar surroundings definitely contributed to how relaxed I was throughout. And besides being gorgeous and perfect and an utter joy and delight, Isabella has been and is absolutely the most peaceful, happy little girl imaginable.
While I would love to credit her wonderful gene pool, I truly think that her being born at home had a lot to do with what a calm, easy-going baby she has been. From the moment she was born, she was never out of her mom and dad’s care and spent her first days in the world in the quiet and security of our own home. Nathan and I found, too, that having a home birth really helped prepare us to work as a team in caring for our baby girl and made our adjustment to being new parents really very smooth. I hope our birth story will encourage other first time moms who are thinking about a home birth–I am truly convinced that unless there’s a true need for medical intervention, home is absolutely the ideal place to deliver. When we decide to start trying for Isabella’s little brother or sister, we will definitely plan on another birth at home!
Ah, where to begin!?
Joshua was born 4/5/06 – 7lbs. 2oz. – 21 inches. Well, on 04/03, I was having pretty regular contractions. They were just about six minutes apart, but not really strong enough for me to be convinced that it was “the real thing.” I took a hot bath and headed off to bed – only to be woken up at about 4 am with contractions so hard that I could barely stand them.Read more
After speaking with Louise on the phone for about ten minutes, she decided that this was definitely labor. She said that she was going to put a team together and that I should expect a call within the next few minutes from Pam. Seconds later, Pam called and we chatted for a little while. She told me that she and Nicole would be heading over to my house soon. Nicole got here right away, which was so nice because my husband was at work and I was here all alone. We talked for a little while and then she set up my room for the birth. Pam arrived shortly after. Things were progressing, but not quickly, so they both went off to lunch while I walked around and tried to keep things going.
The next few hours were spent just hanging out. At around 8 PM Pam broke my water – and that’s when the contractions became really intense! Nicole and I watched Gilmore Girls and I ate cake and pretzels while i labored I waddled around the room trying any position I could to get through the contractions. That kept up until after midnight. Finally, I *swore* I had to poop and I ran into the bathroom. After sitting on the toilet for about five minutes I realized that poop was NOT what was about to come out of me! Pam and Nicole followed me into the bathroom and I just dropped on my hands and knees on a bath mat. They threw some chuck pads under me.. and VOILA! Joshua Ryan appeared eleven minutes later! He came out perfect and screaming and was immediately passed to me through my legs like a tiny football. It was amazing. Chris and I were immediately in tears!
Pam and Nicole cleaned up the mess, started the laundry, gave Joshua his vitamin K, and weighed him. After that, Joshua latched onto my breast like a pro and hasn’t stopped since! Pam and Nicole and went on their way shortly afterwards. Chris and i were left to enjoy the newest member of our family in peace. We snuggled up in our bed with Peanut and cuddled with him until the sun came up.
He is so amazing and beautiful. When I look at him all I do is wonder how we survived these last moths without him.
As far as I go, I am feeling great physically. I only tore a tiny bit and needed one little stitch. I feel like i could run a marathon. I can honestly say that choosing a home birth was the best possible decision that we could have made for our family – and choosing Louise, Pam, and Nicole to be our midwifes was the icing on the cake.
It was simple, beautiful, and felt so very safe.
Oh well, I am off to cuddle some more with my boys! Thank you midwifery care!