2021 Year-End Update from Gentle Delivery

2021 Year-End Update from Gentle Delivery

As I think back over this past year, it is with a sense of gratefulness for the ways that God has led, protected and provided. 2021 has included more complications, challenges and adrenaline rushes than I’ve ever had in one year’s time since I began practicing as a midwife 12 years ago! The additional gray hairs accumulated over the months prove this, and I am ending the year feeling like I’ve gained a level of experience that I honestly wouldn’t have minded doing without. However, I’ve also been reminded that this is WHY a midwife takes training seriously, and I’m more committed than ever to doing my best to assist families in safe births, even when at times this requires a different birth location than what we had hoped for, or more invasive assistance than what I prefer to provide.

            Besides being the most intense year complication-wise and the most stressful year when it comes to constant changes & research due to the ever-changing Covid landscape, it was also my busiest year baby-wise! I had the honor of helping to welcome 6 girls and 11 boys by the time the last December babies arrived. Weight ranges were fairly average: smallest was 6#8oz and the biggest was 9#9oz. While a couple of little ones came a week or two early, most typically went on the later side with two babies waiting until 13 days past their due date. Three babies made child #6 for their families, and two boys were the first ones for their families. While there were several long labors and many hours spent with a family before the birth, one little guy was in a big enough hurry that he made his appearance in his home before I did! As usual, birth always has an element of surprise that keeps us all on our toes.

Lynelle, Myself & Lanna

            I was blessed to work with several great assistants this year! These ladies really help to lift my load, and add a lot to our team. After assisting with births throughout the past 6 years, Lynelle is sensing a need to step back for a time, so she won’t be seen as frequently in the next year. Lanna began helping this spring at the height of our busy season, and has been such a blessing! She will continue to assist as her schedule allows, and there’s the potential of another assistant joining the team in the near future. I’ve also been grateful for the continued help of the midwifery community here in central PA: other assistants and midwives have been willing to fill in as needed, and I’m thankful to have had help available whenever I’ve needed an extra set of hands or someone to cover for a trip or emergency. I was especially thankful for RoseMarie’s willingness to cover for me this fall when our family had COVID, and I was thankful for the baby who so beautifully cooperated in waiting to arrive until I was recovered and my family was past quarantine!

Guerrero, Mexico Summer 2021

            On the home front, my little family is growing and doing well! In spite of lots of babies and the craziness this adds to our calendar, we were thankful to get to spend some time camping over the summer, as well as taking a family trip to Mexico to visit missionaries serving with the organization my husband works for. I couldn’t serve as a midwife without the amazing support of my husband Joel, who graciously steps in to care for everyone when mama disappears at a moment’s notice. With children ranging in age from almost 2 to 10, life at home is always exciting and active, and my girls can’t wait until THEY are old enough to “help mama at births”.

            A big thank you to each one of you who have trusted me to support you as you navigated your pregnancies and deliveries—it is something I count a privilege and honor! I love to hear from families, so please feel free to send an update and picture when you have a chance!

Many blessings as you head into the New Year,

Kelsey Martin & Gentle Delivery Midwifery Services

Be sure to check out the blog and Facebook page to stay updated on current news, helpful information, health suggestions, birth stories, and announcement of special events such as playdates!

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Birth Story of our Christmas-time Baby

Birth Story of our Christmas-time Baby

As we enter into the Christmas season again, I have to think about the year we were anticipating our own Christmas baby, and what a delightful time of year it was to cozy up inside with a newborn! Our little Tirzah had quite the dramatic entrance into the world, and it almost makes me laugh every time I recount it…

By the time I was expecting my fifth baby, I knew to expect lots of contractions and discomfort, and this pregnancy was no exception. Thankfully my blood pressure was staying within normal limits, and everything else was proceeding smoothly. But after several nights with contractions and signs that labor could be imminent, I was getting TIRED. Once you loose that much sleep and feel heavy and uncomfortable all the time, you start to wonder how on earth you are going to make it through labor yet! One night I was pretty sure it was the “real deal”, after being up for hours with regular contractions, only to find everything stopped once the birth team was here and the pool was filled! Funny that it took the fifth child to experience that “false run”, but after not calling the midwife soon enough last time, we were trying to not repeat that scenario—only to send everyone home after a couple of hours!

My previous baby had come after an extremely intense labor, and I was trying hard to not allow fear to overcome my anticipation of this birth. Lynelle, my good friend and birth assistant, had told me that I really should try the birth pool this time around, and even offered to take care of all the set up and prep to make that happen. So we had set up the pool in the office, and had everything ready to go, and I was really hopeful that it would make a difference in the intensity, especially at the end.

Everything set up and ready go for round #1!

Fast forward a couple of days: after getting a good night’s sleep, I woke up on Saturday feeling like this baby needed to be encouraged to come. I’ve taken Castor Oil before, but every time I thought about that option it made me want to puke. So I figured there had to be an alternative: enter the Midwives Brew! I had read about this recipe (used often by European Midwives), but had always figured that the small amount of castor oil combined with the other strange ingredients wouldn’t actually be effective. But by this point I was willing to at least TRY it and see! My husband was on board (he was ready to see me up at night nursing a baby instead of up at night with contractions!), but I warned him that I really didn’t think it would work.

Mid-morning, I took my youngest for a little “mommy date”, and we headed to Wegman’s for a few groceries and the ingredients for the brew (see this post to find out what those are!). I had fun picking out a few things that I thought would sound good to eat or drink IF I was in labor later on, and we had a pleasant little outing. Once I returned home it was about lunch time, so while Joel fixed lunch, I blended up the brew, and sipped it down before eating a little lunch. While not the best flavor I’ve ever tasted, it wasn’t nearly as bad as downing large amounts of castor oil in juice!! My stomach felt a little funny, but eating some food and then chewing some gum seemed to settle things.

strange blend of ingredients!

This was the weekend that one of our little local Victorian towns always holds an event called “A Victorian Christmas”. That event combined with the opening of an exhibit of an Underground Railroad station in one of the museums there had made me want to take the children out for awhile if we were still waiting on a baby over that time. Since Joel had a Bible Study planned at our house for the afternoon, it felt like a great opportunity to take out the older children for some educational distraction and let me get a chance to think about something other than baby waiting! Since all I had been experiencing for two hours was some minor stomach discomfort, I decided to head out around 2:30pm, despite my husband’s slight misgivings. Laughingly I joked with him that if I called him he’d better answer the phone, as it might mean I needed him to come pick me up!

Bellefonte is about 10 min from our house, and we parked and went through the historical museum, only to find out that it did not contain the Underground Railroad Exhibit like I had thought. The curator pointed us up the road about half a block to the right museum, and the children and I headed that direction. Right as we hit the steps (around 3:30pm), I felt a slight “pop” and had a thought that perhaps my water had broken. But I wasn’t sure, and decided since we were RIGHT THERE we might as well go in. I felt a bit of dismay when the museum volunteer cheerily told us that the exhibit was on the top floor…UP THREE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS!! We started up the stairs when I felt my first real contraction, and I immediately thought that we’d better not stay long. The children were oblivious, of course, and thoroughly enjoyed exploring, while I tried to act like nothing was amiss as the contractions quickly started getting stronger and harder. I hurried them through the exhibit and back down the stairs, stopping briefly in the bathroom where I confirmed that indeed my water had broken. As we headed outside, my children excitedly discussed the next place we would go…and  I seriously informed them that we needed to get home NOW. They looked at me puzzled, and I told them I thought baby sister was going to be coming, to which my 6 year old son replied “how do you know? Your water hasn’t broken yet, has it?”. That made me laugh in spite of the situation, and when I told him it HAD, they all got really serious!

The half-block walk back to the car seemed to take forever, as the contractions were definitely picking up in speed and intensity. Once we pulled out and started on the road, I called Joel. The first time he didn’t answer, but then when the phone rang the second time he figured he’d better pick up! I told him that labor had begun, and to please have all the Bible study men out of the house by the time I got home and figure out where the boys were supposed to go…and to pray I could drive home safely! Next I called my friend Lynelle, as I knew that she would need to get a babysitter for her children, and I really wanted her free to get the pool started if things continued. Once I was finished with this phone call I knew I couldn’t make any more calls and drive, as things were just too intense. It was all I could do to stay focused on driving! I kept praying a policeman wouldn’t pull me over, as I had no bandwidth to explain why I was headed home instead of to the hospital!

I reached home, and our friend Daniel had his van running so he could pull out with the boys as soon as I arrived with Matthias. I pulled in the garage around 4:20, and had a massive contraction that made me unable to even get out of the vehicle. I heard Joel on the phone—he had called our midwife to see if I had called her yet (I hadn’t!! She was next, but I couldn’t make another call after I talked with Lynelle!), and she said she’d be on her way. I still remember running inside to the bathroom, trying to focus on relaxing, and coming to grips with the fact that at this rate I would not be having a water birth, then Joel calling through the door “the pool is warm and half way filled if you want to get in!!”  He had so sweetly started filling the pool, turning on the music, and getting things ready the minute I called home! I told him he’d better call Lynelle and Priscilla (our friend who was going to come help with our girls and take pictures), and they’d better hurry, and I still remember the relief of settling into the warm pool.

Just a minute or so old! Pink all over except for her slightly bruised face which was caused by her speedy birth!

Once I got in the water, the intensity and closeness of the contractions subsided, and I had a chance in between to catch up Joel on all that had transpired. Lynelle and Priscilla don’t live far, and arrived within a few minutes, and I still remember us all laughing in between contractions as the craziness of how fast things were happening! It wasn’t long before I felt the pressure of Tirzah’s head descending, and Lynelle was ready to help in anyway she could. Priscilla called our girls in, and they all clustered around the pool, quiet with excitement and anticipation. This time around I didn’t want anyone to touch me (other than squeezing Joel’s hand!), and I have never experienced the awareness during pushing as I did with this birth. It was an incredible experience to actually breathe her out and catch her myself—something I don’t think I could have done without the help of the water! I pulled her up to my chest, she cried right away, and we settled back in the warm water, both amazed at all that had happened. It was 4:42pm, only 20 minutes after I had arrived home!!

Sisters!

My girls were so delighted to help welcome their little sister, and their eyes shown as they stroked her head, and I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to sit back and relax and catch my breath. Being in the warm water seemed to decrease my usual after-birth shakes, and we had a long chance to connect and rest. Rose Marie arrived about 20 min later, and since I hadn’t delivered the placenta yet, daddy and the girls took baby sister to the other room while I transitioned to the birth stool where the placenta came easily. I was feeling good enough (and minimal blood loss!) that I showered quickly, and then cozied up on the couch while our midwife and friends did all the baby checks, and Joel popped a pizza into the oven. Eventually Priscilla went to bring the boys home to meet their sister, and we had a lovely evening rejoicing in our new gift. I had never had a daytime baby, and I couldn’t believe how good I felt and how I was hardly even tired! After everyone had some supper and everything was cleaned up and taken care of, I took our new baby upstairs, and we cuddled up together for the night-so thankful for the amazing experience, and still in a bit of unbelief!

Our Fantastic Birth Team!!
Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Potential Midwife

Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Potential Midwife

Baby Tirzah helping Mommy do office work!

Are you looking into the possibility of working with a midwife, and trying to decide if it’s the right choice for you? If you’re blessed to live in an area with several options, it can be a great idea to take the time to “interview” each one, and see which one feels like the best fit for you and your family. Most midwives (myself included) offer free consultations that can give you a chance to sit down and ask your questions in person, and this can be a great opportunity to explore whether or not you and this care provider will be a “good fit”.

While I think it’s a good idea to look into your options for ANY medical provider, it can be especially important when thinking about a homebirth. Your midwife will be coming into your space, and you want both yourself and your husband to feel completely comfortable with this person, which facilitates clear & open communication, thus providing you with the best care possible. So besides some specific questions (which we’ll get to below!), also think about the intuitive side of how you connect and communicate throughout the interview. Another important component in this interview is dad’s perspective, so whenever possible please have him attend this initial consult, as this can give him the opportunity to ask questions he might have, and help establish a good working relationship from the beginning.

There are many posts out there that cover long lists of questions, but I want to get you started by giving you a few basic questions, which might bring up more as you go along. It’s a good idea, too, to do your own research before you meet with a perspective midwife. For instance, does she have a Facebook page or website? Are there reviews you can read by previous clients? Is there information listed about the types of services she offers, or things that set her apart from other options in your area? What type of credentialing/training does she have? Do the philosophies expressed on her website correspond with what you are looking for? Do what you can to find out as much as possible before meeting up, as this will enable you to get the most information out of your time together, and may raise specific questions that you might have missed otherwise. It will also keep you from wasting time that you could be spending looking into other options!

So let’s get started:

  1. What kind of training did you go through to become a midwife?

Some midwives have attended midwifery school, others have been trained strictly through apprenticeships. Some midwives have credentials that indicate a certain level of training, and require a stated number of continuing education hours to be maintained. There are midwives who have gone through rigorous school programs and have delivered few babies outside of the hospital, and others who have done minimal studies and have only delivered babies at home. This question is not meant to dictate which type of training and educational experience is best, but rather to help you think through whether the training this midwife has received is adequate for your own comfort and safety concerns and desired birth location.

  1. How would you describe your style during labor & delivery? Hands-on or hands-off?

Depending on your preferences, this may help you determine if you can work together well. If you know you want someone very involved, or you want to be left alone as much as possible, the midwife’s answer may shed some light on how her style could affect your labor. Some midwives are very good at adapting to their client’s wishes, and some have their own set way they want to see things happen.

  1. What do you provide or include in your services, and what will be my responsibility?

Depending upon your state, local regulations and/or your community options, a midwife’s care package may include the ability to obtain lab work and/or ultrasounds or refer you to providers for these items, or you may be responsible to figure these things out for yourself. Some midwives include a “birth kit” as part of their package, while others ask clients to purchase this separately. A birth pool is included in some midwives care bundle, while others provide options for rental. Some midwives are able to give your baby vitamin K or provide mom with RhoGam if needed, while others need you to get these items from your pediatrician if you want them. Most midwives are able to file the needed paperwork to obtain a birth certificate and social security number, while there are a few who need you to do this legwork. Asking clear questions and getting an idea of what is and isn’t included will hopefully eliminate unmet expectations and surprise expenses as you continue through your pregnancy!

4. What tests & procedures do you routinely offer, and am I given the freedom to decline when I prefer?

It’s great when your midwife is willing to discuss the pros and cons of different tests and procedures, and allows you to make a true informed choice on each of these. Depending on the political environment, local standards of care, protocols, etc the midwife may have more or less freedom in these areas, or she may have personal preferences as to certain tests.

  1. What are some of your recommended resources for pregnancy and for birth preparation?         

This question may give you some insight into the birth philosophies the midwife has, as well as indicate how in-touch she may be with more up-to-date resources and educational material. Some books and resources are old classics, but there is also a wealth of more recent publications that can help you to be prepared. Are her health suggestions in line with your perspective and preferences? Does she require certain books to be read or DVD’s to be watched? Does she provide some resources for clients, or are you expected to purchase certain materials? Does she encourage a parenting style or lifestyle that you may be uncomfortable with, or that you find helpful?

  1. What is her client load typically, and what happens if two mamas are in labor at the same time?

While this doesn’t happen often, it does occasionally, and it’s a good thing to discuss. This question will reveal what sort of back-up plan the midwife does or doesn’t have, and will give you some indication with how well she works with the midwifery community around her. It also helps you to think about the “what-if’s”, since birth can’t always be controlled like we wish!

  1. What do you see as your role during labor, and would you encourage me to hire a doula?

It’s great if a prospective midwife can be honest about the support she can provide. Some midwives operate with a large team or a small client load that allows them to spend more time coaching and supporting a mom throughout labor. Most midwives are glad to support in whatever way they can once you’re in active labor, but they need to conserve their resources so that they have the energy and alertness they need for the time of birth, which means that if you really want hours of support early on, you’d probably be best served by considering a doula. This question can help you determine what the midwife’s expectations are for when she would come to you, and what sort of support you can expect, and will help you to define the role she would see herself filling at your labor.

  1. What are some of the reasons I would be risked out of care?

This gives you an idea of the midwives range of comfort, and whether she takes a more cautious or more relaxed approach. Each approach has it’s place, but you need an approach that makes you feel most comfortable and safe. It’s also good to remember that each midwife should only operate within a realm that they truly feel is providing safe care, so this is not a “good vs. bad” topic, rather a way to understand and communicate. Is this midwife comfortable with breech delivery? With a mom that goes past 42 weeks? With a baby that decides to come before 37 weeks? Continuing if gestational diabetes develops?

  1. What happens if I need to transfer care for some reason?

Does the midwife typically accompany clients to the hospital, or send them in by themselves? Does she have a doctor she works with, or a preferred hospital? Why or why not?

  1. How do you handle emergencies, and which ones have you encountered the most often?

This question will give you some insight into the midwife’s perspective: does she rely only on herbal remedies? Does she carry medications? Is she trained in NRP? Does she take a proactive approach to prevention? Does she see many emergencies? The answer may vary according to your area, too, as some incidents of complications can depend upon the clientele and area the midwife works in.

I hope this list can help you as you think through what is most important to cover as you interview your potential midwife! If you find it helpful, or if you have other questions you think should be added, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below, and be sure to share this list with others that might be looking into hiring a midwife for their maternity care!

answering questions after a birth…
End of Year Update for 2020!

End of Year Update for 2020!

Some highlights of the year!

Dear friends and clients of Gentle Delivery,                                                

      As 2020 comes to a close, I am reminded of the fact that we really do not know what the next day or year will hold. Last year at this time our family was anticipating the arrival of our fifth child, little knowing how many strange twists and turns the New Year would bring to everyone all over the world. I am grateful to rest in the confidence that nothing takes God by surprise, and that He cares about the details of our lives, which provides strength & courage to press ahead into the future!

       After adding baby Tirzah to our family last December, I enjoyed a lengthy maternity leave, and felt so blessed and cared for during those first postpartum weeks. Thanks to many of you for your part in this! It’s true that you learn some things by experience that you couldn’t learn through academic study, and I am more committed than ever to encouraging moms to get adequate rest, adjust expectations, and take the time to really recuperate during those first postpartum weeks. It really is worth it! This baby has been our most contented, too, and while there are many things that probably play into this, one key factor that seemed to make a difference was the addition of infant probiotics into her daily routine from the very beginning. If you have struggled with fussiness in your baby, please take a minute to check out the blog post I wrote where I detailed this information—I really want to see more families benefit from my own challenging experiences!

            As you can imagine, the COVID pandemic has affected midwifery in more ways than one. After the initial quarantine I have been doing prenatal and postpartum care visits for local clients in their homes, as it reduces the exposure for those coming in and out of my home office. I’ve also had more inquiries into homebirth this year than ever before, as many families are concerned about hospital restrictions and germ exposure. Between this added level of interest in midwifery care and my added family responsibilities, I have needed to limit the distance I can travel for births, which has meant turning down requests in outlying areas even for a few clients I’ve worked with before.  

            One fun aspect of care this year has been the large amount of repeat clients I’ve been privileged to serve! It was really special to catch my first “fourth baby” for a family, and have the opportunity to see babies that I have caught in years past welcoming baby siblings. With one more 2020 baby left to go, the current stats for the biggest baby this year was 8#14oz, and the smallest was 5#14oz. The earliest baby came around 2 weeks early, and the latest was almost 2 weeks late, which goes to show that there is much variation in the range of “normal”. Assisting my back-up midwife with the home delivery of twins was another extra-special experience this year! Speaking of my back-up midwife, I am grateful to have the assistance of RoseMarie Spicher to care for clients when I am unavailable, and I’ve been glad to have a working relationship with a community of midwives in the general area who have all needed to pull together to cover for each other at times due to COVID exposure or for other reasons. I’m also excited to be working regularly again with Lynelle, as she plans to attend births as my assistant this next year after taking some time off to welcome her own baby this past summer.       

            Heading into 2021, I’m anticipating meeting many sweet babies, and I’m enjoying making new connections with many families who are choosing midwifery care and homebirth options for the first time. I continue to feel a sense of gratefulness towards each of you for giving me the privilege of working with your family as you journey through this intimate season of life. It truly is a gift to witness the miracle of birth and the wonder of that first cry, and the wonder of that moment never grows old!

            As I close, I also want to thank my family for their support as I do this work, and in particular thank my husband as he quickly and competently cares for our home and children during my random absences. It takes a special family to deal with the unpredictable aspects of having a midwife for a wife and mother, and I’m grateful for all they do behind the scenes to make this option available to the families I serve. It’s a joint effort, and I could not do what I do without Joel’s encouragement and work behind the scenes.

            May God bless you and your family throughout this next year!

           ~Kelsey Martin/Gentle Delivery Midwifery

Be sure to regularly check out this blog and the facebook page to stay updated on current news, helpful information, health suggestions, birth stories, and announcement of special events. I’m really hoping that playdates can resume again sometime in 2021!

2019 Year End Update

2019 Year End Update

img_3054.jpgDear Friends & Clients of Gentle Delivery,

As we come to the end of the year, I have to think about how blessed I have been to work with so many families during 2019 and to experience the special privilege of being involved as you welcome new life into your homes and families. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to participate in these sacred times!

I’m also grateful for the women who have served alongside me as assistants.  Due to a variety of reasons (maternity leave, relocation, etc.) there were a number of faces to the assistant role, and I am thankful for each one! I also enjoyed getting to involve several students who were completing their requirements for certification, and I’m grateful for those of you who allowed these young ladies to participate in your care. A big thank you to Kristina, Marcile, Hannah, and Lynelle, as well as to my back-up midwife, RoseMarie, whose willingness to cover several times made it possible for me to enjoy some quality away-time with my own little family throughout the year.

It’s always fascinating to see how a year plays out and the variety that it can contain. Baby sizes ranged from 6lb 10oz up to almost 9 lb. Families served were expecting everything from baby #2 to baby #7, and I especially enjoyed serving several families for the second and third times-it’s special to be able to work with families for multiple pregnancies, and to see the older babies growing up! As usual, there were fast births (one little lady didn’t wait for me to arrive!) and those who took their time, and smooth pregnancies & births as well as those who experienced numerous complications—we were so thankful to see God answer specific prayers for the health of these moms & babies who are all thriving and doing well now.

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One of our recent playdates!

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to continue connecting with clients during our quarterly playdates throughout this past year. If you haven’t joined us, please consider it! You can watch the Facebook page for updates, or email me to be put on the update list. It’s a great way to stay in touch and meet other moms and homebirth babies who are in similar stages of life!

My own family is doing well, and the children are growing up so quickly, making us want to treasure this time we have while they are young. The biggest event in our lives this year was welcoming Tirzah Raquel into our home on December 14! Once she IMG_0933decided to make her appearance she came quickly, and we were once again thankful for Lynelle’s help as there was no way our midwife could arrive in time. I had really hoped to try using the birth pool this time, and was so grateful for how this helped the intensity! (I’ll post her birth story on the website sometime this next year, so be sure to follow so you get the notification, or watch the Facebook page!) We are thoroughly enjoying time to relax and recover as we adjust to adding a fifth child, and our older children are thoroughly smitten with her. It’s so special to see how much they love having a baby sister to snuggle and love on.

IMG_2695    As 2020 begins, I’ll be taking some time off call to concentrate on my own newborn, and to do some traveling as a family. But I’m already looking forward to the anticipated arrival of babies as we head towards the summer months. In closing, thanks again for your support, and blessings as you head into the New Year!

~ Kelsey Martin for Gentle Delivery Midwifery Services

A Peek into a Local Home Birth!

A Peek into a Local Home Birth!

I’m tickled to share these photos with you this month! While birth photography has gained in popularity in many of the large cities across the US, it’s not a very common thing in our area. So it’s pretty rare for one of my client families to hire a photographer to be present at their birth. Earlier this year, I was privileged to help Maria’s family for a second time as they welcomed their newest addition, and they graciously allowed me to post some of the photos from the birth here. One fun & unusual aspect of this birth is that my assistant for this birth and the photographer are both involved with the local doula agency that Maria administrates. Check out the Doulas of Central PA  if you are looking for local birth & postpartum doula support! And if you’re looking for a birth photographer, check out Denae at Vigilante Photography

The twinkle lights added a festive atmosphere, and I love seeing how moms relax when they get into the water.

 

Kristina has been helping as my birth assistant in between her doula babies, and you can see her here jotting down notes on the labor & delivery chart.

 

First good look at each other!

 

Older siblings watch excitedly, all excited to see baby brother!

 

He’s here!

 

Traditional sling scale to weigh baby…look at big sister’s face of concentration!

 

Newborn exam…always done within sight of mom and any interested family members!

 

Checking out feet reflexes and creases!

Foot prints for the records!

 

Born at Home!

Midwife gets a little chance to snuggle baby before handing him back to mama.

 

Great birth team-thanks, ladies!!

 

Midwifery and Mom Life: 10 Year Anniversary Interview ~ Part 2

Midwifery and Mom Life: 10 Year Anniversary Interview ~ Part 2

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Interview: 10 Year Anniversary of Gentle Delivery ~ Part 2

Thanks again to each of you who contributed questions for this “virtual interview” as Gentle Delivery celebrates 10 years of practice! I’ve enjoyed this opportunity to connect with various readers, and I’ve loved hearing from so many of you. If you missed the first post, you can check it out here.  Here is installment two as I continue working my way through the questions entered:

How do you manage being a midwife and a mom?

Sometimes I’m not sure that I do! But seriously, it comes down to having a very supportive and involved husband. I could not do it without his help & support, and without him having a flexible job. He works from home, and generally speaking is able to set his own schedule. Without these key factors, I don’t think it would be possible. We both feel strongly that our children need to be our priority, especially while they are in their young, formative years, and Joel’s job situation allows us to almost always have one parent present. If I need to run off to a birth or client emergency, than Joel changes his schedule for the day and takes care of the children, which greatly simplifies my life! I honestly do not know how midwives serve year after year with a busy client load combined with stress of needing to figure out babysitting, especially at the last minute. A few months ago, I was called to cover for another midwife who had two moms in labor at once, and the second mom was moving fast. Without having the ability to just load up the car with my gear and run, I would have missed the birth! But since Joel was working from home (his office in our basement), I was able to be out the door in ten minutes, and he took over managing the children. His work-from-home arrangement also allows me to sleep in after a birth, and he will sweetly get children up, feed them breakfast, and care for things while I get some rest.

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Hot breakfast made by Joel and snuggles with the baby after being gone all night at a birth!

There are also some practical ways we have found that help to maintain balance, as well. As much as I am able to, I schedule appointments during my youngest children’s nap times, and I try to keep appointments confined to one day each week. This way I am limiting the amount of scheduled time I need to spend away from my children, especially since I never know how much unscheduled time I will be away at actual labors/births/emergencies. Another practicality is hiring cleaning help during especially busy months. My husband maintains that if I’m enjoying midwifery work and getting paid for it, then I might as well pay to get some of my other work done, instead of getting exhausted and stressed out! Oftentimes after a birth we will purchase supper (or take the family out) as a way to get some quality family time AND as a way to provide me with some extra time to do paperwork and miscellaneous business projects. I also get help with school, which is HUGE! My school-age children are part of a hybrid model co-op, where the parents help to teach classes, but they also have a classroom teacher who covers the “basics” and stays on top of the school details. If I was homeschooling full-time there would be NO WAY to do midwifery on top of it.

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Each of my children have attended births with me as babies…quite the adventures we’ve shared together!

Balancing midwifery and mom life includes another factor when I have a nursing infant myself. Whenever I interview with potential clients who would be due after I have a baby, I make it clear that if you hire me, you’re also getting my baby.  I always have an assistant or specific helper along who can care for my baby whenever I need to focus all energies on the laboring mom (and who needs a baby crying in the background when they are ready to push?!?), but otherwise I keep my tiny ones close so they can nurse and be with mama as much as possible. Some families are not okay with this arrangement, and that is their choice. I would much prefer they know what to expect ahead of time, and decide if they are comfortable with my boundaries, are there are always other options out there for them to consider!

One more key factor has been working with a midwife who is willing to trade call at times, which provides me with occasional time off to take trips and spend some focused time with my family. Without this arrangement, I would be tied to my phone and location almost 24/7 all year round! But this has allowed me to still spend some quality time making memories with my children, while knowing that clients are cared for, which is a tremendous blessing. While I still try my best to make it to my clients births, it’s also a relief to know that I can go “off call” occasionally for special events such as a school program.

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Twice I’ve caught babies just before delivering my own…one time a week before, and another time two days before!

 Is it realistic to consider being trained as a midwife, and starting your own practice as a midwife, with small children? What advice would you give?

This is a good question that deserves considerable thought. I had the opportunity to do my midwifery training when I was single, which was ideal. In my opinion, training to be a midwife was decidedly more of a time and energy commitment than practicing as a midwife. Here’s the reason why: when you are training, you need LOTS of experience. You need to be able to be completely available to your preceptor midwife, and willing to take advantage of every opportunity you can be part of. The only way to get the experience you need to be a good, safe midwife is by spending an incredible amount of time immersing yourself in pregnancy, birth, postpartum and women’s health. There are a number of midwives who did this training while they were balancing a family, but it is HARD, and you need to be prepared that it will take a long time. As a single young woman, I had the flexibility of time & energy which enabled me to finish my studies and obtain my required clinical experience in about two years. But this included spending 18 months at a birth center where we literally immersed ourselves in the world of birth by living, speaking, and breathing everything birth related. Seriously! I don’t remember a day passing that didn’t include a significant discussion about something to do with an ongoing client situation, lab values, birth stories, complications, etc.  This type of immersion would have been impossible had I been trying to spend time with family, and it certainly sped up the training process.

Now that I am an independent midwife, I can make my own decisions about how many clients to take on in a month, what risks I am comfortable with, what my parameters of practice will be (for instance, when I do prenatal appointments, or what seasons I may not be available for first time moms), and when I want to take personal time off to give my family some breathing space. In most apprenticeships, a supervising midwife counts on a student midwife to be available whenever needed, and the student cannot set these types of parameters and still get the training she needs along with keeping a good preceptor/student relationship. So these factors all need to be considered, and I think there needs to be some serious conversation with your husband and family about whether your family is at a good place to make the sacrifices that training would require. I don’t think one will ever regret spending quality time with her children while they are young, but you might regret not spending that time later on!

I would encourage any young mom interested in midwifery to read as much as you can, as learning more about your body and about the birth process is going to be beneficial no matter what. There are excellent books out there that can lay a great foundation of knowledge about how the pregnancy and birth process works. Watch videos & documentaries, read birth stories, connect with other moms and learn about their birth experiences. Look for opportunities to get involved on a small scale. Perhaps you’d be able to provide doula services for a friend, which would give you and your family the opportunity to experience what it is like to live an “on call” lifestyle (ready for mom to leave at any time day or night!), seeing how it works to have mom leave and how to figure out babysitting fast. This would give you a chance to see what this aspect of being involved in birth can be like. I don’t think any birth experience is wasted time, especially if you’re hoping to be a midwife, so slowly looking for opportunities and taking advantage of them as doors open can help as you consider further commitment. Always remember that if God wants to be a midwife, He will make a way for you…but in His timing, and in a way that it will be a blessing to your family. Be patient, pursue the small opportunities as they arise, and see how He directs as time goes on…one older midwife told me once that “women will always be having babies, but you won’t always have young children, so make sure you don’t regret not enjoying them while you have them.” Excellent advice!

I’d also recommend that any aspiring midwife read A Midwife in Amish Country, as Kim does an excellent job of detailing her experience training to become a midwife as a homeschooling mom of young children, relating her experiences and lessons along the way.

How many births do you take on, and why that many?

This really ties in with the whole mom/midwife balance topic, as this is another way we try to walk this line. As a general rule, I cap a month with two due clients. Occasionally I will take on a third, if my family is at a stage where this is more possible, and if I have a slower month before or after. As a mom approaches her due date, her prenatal visits need to take place more frequently, resulting in more mamas needing to be seen each week. Then you factor in a home visit (an additional afternoon besides my usual appointment day), the birth (for anywhere from 3-30 hours), birth paperwork, another visit to their home for a postpartum check, and the frequent contact via phone/text/email that takes place over this time, doing this more than twice a month in additional to caring for other moms is about what I can do and still enjoy my work. Here again, if I didn’t have young children, and all the unexpected things that factor into life as you care for little people, it would be much easier to add more clients due in a month. But I want to enjoy both my own children and the opportunity to do births, and this number seems to be working well for this stage in life!IMG_0031

Thanks for taking the time to read this second installment in this interview series! If you’d like to contribute a question for a future post, feel free to add it in the comments below. As always, thanks for sharing, and feel free to check out Part One if you haven’t read it yet. See you next month!

2018 End-of-year Note

2018 End-of-year Note

Recent & current clients received this letter in December. I’m posting it here to keep readers and followers current with Gentle Delivery as we head into a New Year:

Dear past & present clients of Gentle Delivery,

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Many of my #bornathome babies from 2018!

As the year draws to a close, I want to express my appreciation to each of you for allowing me to work beside you as you have welcomed new members to your family, or are anticipating new arrivals. It is such a privilege to be included in these beautiful times of life, and I am grateful to each of you for your continued trust and friendship.

In 2018 we welcomed many more boys than girls, with the smallest arrival being 7#1oz, and the biggest being 9#12oz. An interesting note is that about 75% of our babies were born in water this year! Lynelle continued to assist me with births this year, until she welcomed her own little boy in September. Since she has been taking a break, I’ve been grateful for the help of several other ladies including Kristina (who has been working with a local doula agency for some time) and Hannah, a midwifery student from the Lewisburg area. My latest birth was assisted by Rose, a long-time friend and soon-to-be licensed CNM!

I also continue to appreciate the help of my back-up midwife, Rose Marie. Having her available to cover when there is a special occasion, or being able to travel knowing that clients have someone local to call in case of emergency is a gift I don’t take for granted!

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Thankful to have such an array of great assistants and back-ups!

Another new feature that I was excited to add this year was connecting with an actual insurance biller who specializes in billing for midwifery care. This will hopefully result in better coverage and faster payment for those wishing to utilize insurance. More info is available at Napier Midwifery Billing.

I’ve enjoyed seeing many of you at the playdates we held every few months! This has been a great way to connect other local homebirth-minded mamas, and will hopefully help to build relationships in the community. I hope to facilitate more of these throughout 2019, so stay tuned for details.

My own family continues to keep me busy, with my oldest two being in 1st & 2nd grade. They attend a small co-op type school each morning, and I’ve enjoyed spending time helping out with some classes there, too. The two preschoolers are trying their best to catch up to their older siblings! We enjoyed several family trips this year, and are trying to treasure this time while our children are little. My husband, Joel, continues to work full time for All-Nations Bible Translation, and he’s been busy this fall finishing up his graduate work online. I am thankful for his support and help in making midwifery work feasible, as without his flexible work schedule and willingness to babysit, there would be no way I could keep up with midwifery responsibilities!

I’m looking forward to meeting a number of new babies already in the new year, and it looks like 2019 will be a busy one! May your new year be blessed, and thanks again for your interest in midwifery and home birth options in Centre County and beyond!

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The Martin Family – Fall 2018

The Birth Story of Baby Darius

The Birth Story of Baby Darius

It’s hard to know where to start with Darius’ birth story, as there were several starts-and-stops along the way during the last week or so of my pregnancy. Joel will shake his head and say something along the lines of “shouldn’t a midwife know when she is in labor?”, but once again I had trouble figuring it out.

To give some background (especially if you’ve read my previous birth stories), we had used our dear friend Rose as our midwife with our girls, and she ended up being the first one on the scene after Matthias was born (she was home on a school break THAT weekend, and our midwife was on her way from Lancaster, but Matthias came in a hurry-read his birth story here). We love her, but due to a variety of reasons (especially the fact that Joel has no desire to ever catch one of his own babies again) we decided that this time we needed to use a midwife who lives closer to us. In the past two years I have been blessed to meet and work with Rose Marie Spicher, a midwife who lives half an hour away, and who worked for years in TX (where I did my midwifery training). She provided the “mothering” care I needed throughout my pregnancy, and it gave Joel a sense of relief to know she wasn’t too far away. With me being on maternity leave the month of May, and the fact that everyone else was expecting in May as well (I have NEVER received so many inquiries for one particular month!), I was just hoping that she wouldn’t be tied up whenever our baby decided to come!

So fast-forward through all the months of sickness, fatigue, finding out that we were expecting a baby brother (the children are still certain this was a direct result of their prayers, as I was convinced it had to be a girl given how sick I was!), and everything else until the beginning of May. By early May I was reaching that totally-done-being-pregnant stage where I wasn’t sleeping at night, having lots of cramps  & contractions, felt extremely emotional all the time, and we were wondering just when this little fellow would decide to make his appearance. Between 34-36 weeks I was experiencing enough cramps and contractions to know I needed to take it easy, and once we hit 36 weeks I had a couple of times where I thought perhaps we were getting started-I distinctly remember one night when I couldn’t sleep because of contractions, so Joel & I slipped outside to take a walk in the moonlight. It would have been so romantic if I hadn’t been so uncomfortable! But everything always fizzled away, and left me feeling tired and discouraged.

At this point we were preparing for a visit from my parents, who live in Kansas. My sister had her first baby the month before, and my mom wanted to come out to help her over the time my brother-in-law was graduating and they were preparing to move. So she flew into northern PA, spent a few days with my sister, and was then joined by my dad. The plan was that they would drive down to see us before they headed back to Kansas, and of course we hoped that baby would arrive before they left, though we knew it was entirely possible that he would wait until they were home again. However, with all the early labor signs I had been experiencing, I’ll admit that I was getting my hopes up! Mom & Dad planned to arrive on Mother’s Day, and the night before I was trying to encourage things along, and ended up with a night of contractions with no baby to show for it. Everything was regular enough that I actually called my midwife to give her a heads up, but then it all petered out.

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Mother’s Day 2017

I really had to work through the disappointment of knowing that perhaps my folks wouldn’t get to meet their grandson on this trip. We didn’t know when we would be seeing them next, and I hadn’t realized just how much I had my heart set on them getting to be here to see MY baby while he was new and tiny. It took some talking, praying, crying and processing with Joel to get to the point of being okay with the fact that perhaps this time with mom & dad was to be spent enjoying their company and not stressing over whether baby was here or not. So for the next few days, my parents helped to take my mind off of waiting for baby, and we enjoyed some lovely family time at the park, taking walks, picnics, a backyard barbeque, and some time for Joel & I to be together while our children were cared for.

The last night of their visit, they took our two oldest children back to stay the night with them in their cabin. In the interest of full disclosure, I had taken some castor oil in the afternoon, knowing full well that there was a good possibility nothing would come of it, and yet hoping that perhaps it would give my body the nudge it seemed to be waiting for. I was NOT going to get my hopes up, though, and I tried to just go to bed to get some sleep. I think it was around midnight or 1am when I woke up with a contraction, and yet I tried to sleep, as it sure wasn’t the first time that random contractions had woken me up at night! After an hour or so of not really sleeping, I figured I might as well get up to see if moving around made them go away or get stronger.

Joel sweetly got up with me, and fixed me sourdough toast with strawberry jam-his mom had given me jam and sourdough bread the week before, and it was becoming a regular midnight tradition to eat a piece when I couldn’t sleep! After another hour or so, Joel commented that these contractions seemed to be pretty regular and close together. I did NOT want to give another false alarm to anyone, and didn’t feel sure that this was anything more than what had happened on previous nights. Looking back, they were coming close together (every 2-4 minutes!), but they weren’t very intense, and they didn’t last long, so I wasn’t convinced they were doing anything. With my previous babies, my water had always broken either before labor began or at the start of active labor, so I kept waiting for that to be the clue that this was the “real thing”.

At 4:00am, Joel really felt like we should call Rose Marie, as he said he thought this seemed more serious, and he did NOT want to wait until it was too late! So I  called Rose Marie, and I told her I still wasn’t sure this was “it”, yet Joel would feel better if she came, but she didn’t need to rush. The contractions were starting to get a bit more of an “edge” to them that took my breath away, but I still felt like I could make myself talk through them, though I preferred not to. Another sign I should have paid attention to!

Within 15 min of calling Rose Marie, all of a sudden things kicked in with a vengeance. Up till now I had still been puttering around, but hadn’t gotten birth stuff out yet, as I had gotten it all out and then had to put it all away a few nights before. I wanted to make sure I was in REAL labor before getting everything set up again, and figured I could do it in between contractions as a distraction. Well, that’s not how things happened. Labor went from being “not sure this is it” to “we’re in seriously active labor” in a few minutes! Joel called Rose Marie back and told her to step on it, and then he promptly called Lynelle (my birth assistant who was planning to assist Rose Marie with our birth-she lives less than five minutes away) and told her to come. I think it was around 4:30am when Joel called Lynelle, and boy did she know how to get over to our place in a hurry! Joel said he has never in his life been so happy to see Lynelle walk into a room, and it was just in time.

By this point my contractions were one on top of another, and I felt like I didn’t have any time to collect myself, catch my breath or get a break in between. Joel kept encouraging me to breathe through them (he didn’t want me pushing!), and I was leaning over the birth ball squeezing his hands for all I was worth, just praying that God would make it stop so I could catch my breath. Lynelle quickly realized things were serious, and started pulling all the birth supplies together. All of a sudden I told them there was no way I could keep from pushing any longer. It had been taking everything I had to blow through contractions, and I was done. I distinctly remember saying “you all are just going to have to catch this baby ‘cause I can’t keep him in any longer!” Lynelle calmly replied that everything was okay, and with the next contraction my water broke. Now I can laugh about it-that was the clue I had been waiting for all along to tell me if I was actually in labor! With the next contraction Lynelle could see his head, and she did an awesome job of coaching me through as I tried to breathe him out. Right at the point his head was delivering, Rose Marie walked in the room! Lynelle started to move out of the way, but Rose Marie just smiled and said it looked like she was doing a great job, so she might as well continue. Rose Marie guided Lynelle through the rest of her “first catch”, and the official birth time was 4:56am.

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Those first moments after birth…

I can still remember the absolute relief that comes from being finished, and laying down with my baby on my chest. He cried just enough for us to know he was great, and then he snuggled on my chest, and we all exclaimed over his head full of strawberry blonde hair-that was a surprise! We had a really special next hour or so as we reflected over the crazy labor, the special-ness of the unplanned “first catch” for Lynelle, Rose Marie’s perfect timing, and Joel’s relief that he didn’t have to do this birth alone. We had invited another family friend to be present at the birth, and sadly she didn’t make it time, but her sweet & joyous spirit added to the atmosphere in the room as Joel fixed breakfast and baby Darius had his first meal. Thanks for coming, Mary!

And then it was SO amazing to call my parents and tell them that their grandson had arrived! Having them able to bring our oldest two over first thing that morning was so special. They were able to watch the newborn exam, meet our midwives, and see the children as they delighted in meeting their new sibling. It was the “icing on the cake” to have them around, and able to snuggle their newest grandbaby that morning, before they had to leave that afternoon to catch their flight home.

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Yoanna & Matthias and Grandma & Grandpa meeting baby Darius. Yoanna was delighted to help Lynelle give him his first bath!

We had struggled with finding the right name for our little guy, and settled on Darius Rafael just a few weeks before his birth. Darius means “Upholder of Good” and Rafael means “God is Healer”.  It is our prayer that our little son will grow into a man who does good, and is used to provide God’s healing to others. He checked out at 8# 10 oz, and measured 20 in long. Matthias was absolutely delighted to have a baby brother, and they continue to have a special relationship as brothers.

Here’s a few more snapshots of Darius’ “birth” day…enjoy this glimpse into our little family’s life, and feel free to check out the birth stories of our girls, Talitha & Yoanna.

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Big sister Talitha was pretty excited to wake up and find that baby brother had “come out!”

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Rose Marie checking baby out

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Our amazing birth team-thanks so much for everything!!

Looking Back & Looking Forward!

Looking Back & Looking Forward!

As we head into 2018, I want to say thanks to each of the families we served last year. It is always an honor to be asked to care for each mom & baby, and it’s a special privilege to be present when the miracle of birth occurs. It was definitely a year full of variety, with many random & unusual situations and circumstances. Babies ranged from 6 lbs to over 10 lbs, arrived anywhere from over two weeks early to just past two weeks late (!), most came during the night (yay for cooperating with my own sleeping baby!), many were fast labors, and all the moms were amazing! Being a midwife you end up walking with families experiencing great joy as well as heartache when families have to say goodbye before they meet their little ones. There are also the situations that tax your skill and abilities, and the challenges that leave you researching and looking for answers. I am grateful for the opportunity to expand my experience an education, but I’ll also be honest and admit that I’m hoping for less of these experiences in 2018!

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Some of our sweet babies in their “born at home” onesies!

I continue to be grateful for the help of my backup midwife, Rose Marie (who took such good care of clients when I was out of town, and then later on maternity leave), and that of my assistant, Lynelle. Besides being a great assistant, Lynelle also expanded her experience when she ended up catching her first baby (my son!) just as Rose Marie arrived. That was a special surprise for her! Having a team of ladies to depend on, call when needed, and work with definitely helps to make the work of midwifery much more sustainable long-term.

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Fun birth memories with Rose Marie and Lynelle!

As we head into a new year, and anticipate the first babies of 2018 due soon, here’s a few updates:

  • We have some new resources in the library! Two NEW books were published in 2017 that are excellent reads for pregnant moms. The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hall is just what the title describes. And my new favorite pregnancy book is Mama Natural’s Complete Guide to Pregnancy & Birth. It’s a week-by-week guide that covers all the details from growth & development of baby to what you should be eating, thinking about and considering-all from a natural perspective! So far my clients have enjoyed it so much that I now own 3 copies so moms can keep it longer! We also have a copy of the “Why Not Home?” Documentary, which is available for those of you who may want that perspective as you contemplate home birth.
  • A *NEW* birth kit item: upgraded camera! While we can’t promise you professional photos (we are midwives, not photographers!), we have been delighted to add better photos for families who find that aspect important to them. A number of our families are delighted to have some better-quality photos before, during and after birth, especially if hiring a birth photographer is desired but out of reach financially. We occasionally add a third member to our team if photos are something you really want, and a number of our clients have been delighted with the result. Be sure to ask about this at your next visit.
  • New Playdates! We hosted our first mommy meet-up/playdate in the fall of 2017, and it was SUCH fun to see the families and clients that have become friends-we miss you! It was popular enough that we plan to do it again, so if you want to be alerted specifically about the next date, be sure to let me know!

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    Fun with moms and babies at our first playdate!

  • New, upgraded phone for the midwife. 🙂 I know, it’s about time! But if you don’t have my new number and are a former client (current clients all have the new # by this time!) be sure to drop me an email and ask for it!
  • And finally…a new student! Charity is just beginning to “test the waters” to see if unnamed (1) midwifery is her calling, so she’s hoping to attend births in January (as long as babies give her enough time to get here!). We’ll see where things go, but we’re excited to have Charity join our team this month!

And as always, please let me know if you have any topics or suggestions of things you’d like to see covered in future blog posts. I hope to make the website more educational for clients, and would love to have it become a helpful resource for all expectant families! Be sure to follow Gentle Delivery on facebook and instagram, as well, as you never know what news or info may pop up over there!

Blessings in 2018…until next time!

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