Interview: 10 Year Anniversary of Gentle Delivery, Part 1

Interview: 10 Year Anniversary of Gentle Delivery, Part 1

dsc_3446

The year 2019 marks ten years since I started my practice as a midwife, after having spent several years studying, training and preparing to serve families in this way. I still remember the excitement of catching my first baby as a graduate midwife in January of 2009, after having moved home from TX (where I completed my academic training & clinical experiences here in Dec. 2008), and I cannot believe how quickly ten years have passed! Since that birth, I have been privileged to catch babies and care for moms & families in four different states, I’ve moved crossed country, married, and have had four babies of my own. All of this has certainly helped to mold, shape and broaden my experiences and skills, and I am so very grateful to each of the families I have been privileged to work with.

In honor of reaching 10 years, I thought it would be fun to see what questions some of you might have, and I was delighted by the questions that were thrown out on the Gentle Delivery Facebook Page. Here is Part One of a series in which I’ll start answering these questions…and I would love to hear yours, so if you haven’t left a question yet, feel free to do so below in the comments!

  • How and why did you get started in the field?

The “how” is the fault of my mother, who pursued homebirth after two negative hospital experiences, back when birthing at home was not such a popular idea. After her first birth at home with midwives, she went on to use them for care with the rest of my siblings (there are 7 of us!), and I grew up with the idea that having babies at home is a normal experience, and much preferred over the standard hospital setting! The midwives became close family friends, and were certainly heroes one would aspire to be like, in the eyes of a 7 to 14 year old girl growing up watching these women serve, care for and love on our family.

img_20190131_094356109

My 11# 8 oz cousin!

The “why” part is two-fold: one, I had a dream of serving God on the mission field somewhere, and thought that having a skill to offer would be an amazing way to connect with and become friends with women, while hoping to make a difference in an area where women were at high risk during pregnancy & birth. I was interested in pursuing midwifery with this dream/idea in mind, and several friends and relatives knew of this interest. My dear aunt then invited me to be present at the birth of her son, and I still treasure the memories of the time I spent with her and my uncle while we waited on my cousin to make his appearance. This not-so-little cousin of mine still tops the record as the largest baby I’ve ever witnessed being born, and it required a great amount of skill on the part of the attending midwife to not only deliver him, but also to help him breathe and recover from his rocky transition. While this was not your typical smooth, low-complication normal birth, I learned a tremendous lesson through this experience: a skilled midwife can make a difference between life & death, and that this is a serious responsibility to consider. After this birth, the thought that kept playing in my head was that I never wanted to be in a situation surrounding birth and wish I had learned what to do to help. It also helped to solidify that this was something I wanted to pursue, but it also gave me the reality check I needed as I began.

In light of the fact that my original dream was to work with women in another country without access to good maternity care, I do find it a bit humorous how God has taken me down a completely different path as I serve women in a very prosperous, beautiful little university town in Central Pennsylvania!

  • What changed in your approach / practice as a midwife from before you had children to after you experienced birth first-hand?

This is a good question! I find that I have a totally different perspective on the intensity of labor…there were times I seriously wondered if I could actually do it when I was in labor myself, and experiencing that has certainly helped me to understand what moms are going through. I also don’t look down on anyone for getting an epidural after experiencing labor myself! Before I had children, it was like “why would you do that?!? Don’t you know the side effects??” but once I was in labor I totally understood why that option would be considered! I’ve also found myself trying to be more sensitive to each mom’s individual preferences, spoken or unspoken, as I found out in my own labor that just because someone thinks they are helping, it’s not always the case. I think it’s helped to soften my opinions, too, as I’ve realized on a different level how many things are actually outside of our control. For instance, while not specifically about birth, I always thought that any mom could nurse if she tried hard enough. Well, I learned the hard way that trying hard isn’t always enough, and nursing has been a complete battle for me, which has taught me that each mom must figure out what actually is right for her and her baby, and that might look different than what you anticipated. So maybe the simplest answer to this question is that it’s helped me to grow in empathy!

  • What is one “bucket list” experience you haven’t had yet but hope to in your midwife career (e.g. delivering triplets, delivering a breech birth, an en cual birth, etc.)?
4972_1163886411070_2868611_n

Newborn exam on a baby that I caught during my first year of practice.

To be honest, I don’t mind the un-eventful and un-exciting ones these days!  All midwives know that at some point they will attend a breech birth (usually a surprise baby that turns between that last appointment and birth, or when the head is mistaken for a butt), and I experienced my first surprise breech two years ago (I was called to cover for another midwife, so it was a REAL surprise!), so that one is off the “bucket list” with plenty of  gray hairs to prove it. I’ve missed several babies that didn’t want to wait for me to arrive (even if I was driving fast…my brother used to say he thought it would be fun to drive for midwives, so he’d have an excuse to drive FAST!), and I had the special privilege of catching twins & assisting with several sets. Two things I would love to witness yet would be an en-caul birth (I still haven’t had a baby born before the membranes have ruptured…though I’ve had plenty that ruptured JUST before birth, providing me with a shower of fluid!), and I’d like to top my current highest repeat client number of three babies for the same mama. One downside to moving across country (and then moving across several counties a few years later!) is that you don’t get to continue care with the mamas you might have started with. Up until recently, two had been the record I had been able to deliver for the same family, and I finally caught my third baby for the same family in 2018. If we can stay put long enough (and I can convince my clients to keep having babies-ha!), maybe that record will be higher eventually…though I’m guessing that not of all my clients want to help accommodate my wishes on that one!

So, after reading these, what are your questions?? Feel free to let me know, and stay tuned for Part Two of this 10 Year Anniversary Interview. Thanks for sharing & adding your comments!

Remembering seven years ago…a thank you to many of you!

Remembering seven years ago…a thank you to many of you!

I had to stop today and remember what happened on this date seven years ago…it’s actually hard to believe it’s been that long! I’m sure the fact that it’s also one of my grandmother’s birthdays helps to remind me of the actual date, but it’s fun to take some time and think about and remember some of the dear people that played such an important role in the midwifery aspect of my life. It was on October 16 in 2007 that I had the great privilege and wonder of “catching” my first baby…

As a student midwife, I had been eagerly anticipating when this time would come. By that point, I had finished almost one year of the academic work required to complete my training, and I had been working, living and training at Family Birth Services, a birth center/training center since the end of May of that year. Living at FBS was like studying midwifery by immersion…that was seriously most of what you did all the time…live, talk, think, dream and study birth, babies and mothers. Since my arrival at the birth center about 5 months before this, I had spent many hours sitting in prenatal appointments, talking with other midwives, attending births in a variety of settings, and trying to take in everything I possibly could.

Family Birth Services was a wonderful setup for aspiring midwives. Besides being staffed by a lovely group of ladies (who didn’t mind questions and discussions going on into the wee hours of the night!), those of us who were students were offered the opportunity to truly get our hands into the work as the birth center offered discounted rates for those families who chose to have a student provide them with care. When I think back to the families I had the joy of working with (many of whom still stay in touch today!), it makes me incredibly grateful for the investment they made in my training. Getting the opportunity to learn how to care for mothers and babies while assuming a major portion of responsibility is one of the best ways to learn! And I’m grateful, too, for the midwives who tirelessly gave of themselves to supervise and ensure that the clients were still receiving safe, quality care while allowing the student to provide as much care as they were capable of.

So, come October, I was feeling mixed emotions about when I would get to play the primary role in my first client’s birth. At this point, I had already had two primary care clients who had already delivered…one who went preterm, and another who ended up delivering while I was gone at a required midwifery training workshop. I should back up here, too, and note that while I had been assisting with other births, each of us students especially savored the relationship we had with our “own” primary care clients-these were the ladies we were providing care to under supervision, and whose births we were the most involved with. Due to the fact that I had some ability to communicate in Spanish, I was give the opportunity to take on my own primary care clients earlier than most students, as there were no other students available at that time who were able to offer Spanish speaking care. My dear Spanish-speaking supervising midwife, Sorani, had her hands full as she not only worked to help me communicate with clients, but also worked to make sure I was covering all the details needed especially since I was so early in my clinical training.

Given the fact that my two previous clients had not turned out the way I was hoping, I was beginning to wonder what might possibly happen with my third client. Sorani patiently encouraged me to trust the Lord with the timing and outcome, and relax while we waited for this baby who was taking her own good time to come. I still remember getting the call on my phone in the wee hours of the morning, and thinking that here was my time to put into practice the things I had been learning! Things seemed to be progressing well, and since this birth was planned to take place at the birth center, my client decided to come on in.

I’ll never forget the thrill that went through me when, just about 2 hours later, I helped this beautiful little girl enter the world during a lovely picture-perfect birth. While the difficult births would take place later, this first one was beautiful…totally breathtaking to me as a new midwife, and thrilling as I realized again how much I was drawn to the birthing process and how fulfilling this work was-even at 4 in the morning! 🙂 I’m sure Sorani (who was supervising) and Peggy (the other student assisting) won’t forget how they had to pull me down to earth and remind me that I really should eat something before my blood sugar crashed due to the high I was on! 🙂 We had a special celebration with hugs and ice cream in the kitchen early that morning, and I was reassured that this was indeed the work that I thoroughly enjoyed doing.

While there have been lots of other experiences in the years since, this birth still stays clear in my mind. And on this day when I remember this particular birthdate, I also want to thank all of those who invested in my training…the families who allowed me to be a part of their birth experiences, the midwives who allowed me to be part of their practices, those who spent hours teaching/instructing/coaching me, the other students who I trained alongside of, and the Lord who opened the doors and allowed me to be involved in the beautiful & intense work of assisting new lives into the world. Thank you!

189798_1003306276667_5593_n

Baby L just a few hours after birth…dressed and ready to go home!

New Arrival!!

A big welcome to little Andrew who was born late last night!

Andrew

Time for the newborn exam.

 

Andrew

He's a cute, cuddly little one-can't hardly resist a kiss....

 

Andrew

An extra treat-the first birth for Heidi and I to do together since graduating from our midwifery studies! We trained together at FBS in TX, and never expected to work together in KS someday, but God put it all together!!

 

Andrew

Just a couple of hours old!

A story of God’s hand at work….

With the change of month into September, I was thinking about past years and where I was at this time.  One memory that stood out to me happened a year ago this month….

As a student at Family Birth Services in Dallas, TX, I had the special priviledge of working with many families who gave me the opportunity to practice and improve my midwifery skills. One such family had a sweet daughter just a couple of months after I arrived at FBS, and a year later they were anticipating the arrival of another baby. With the second pregnancy, they chose me to be their midwife, which was made extra special because of assisting with the previous birth.

Early on in the pregnancy, during one of the prenatal visits, we found that the baby’s heart rate was much lower than what it was supposed to be. Being concerned, we immediately went for a sonogram, and the prognosis did not look good. Knowing there was not much we could do, the decision was made to wait and see what happened, and in the mean time this family took their situation to their church and family for prayer.

To make a long story short, after several weeks of monitoring the baby’s condition, things slowly improved, and by the time it came close for this little one’s delivery, the sonographer could not find anything wrong! What an answer to prayer! In the back of our minds, however, there was still a question of whether or not the baby would be normal, due to the amount of time that had lapsed with the decreased HR.

After a very quick birth, which we midwives flew to get to, a precious little girl was born.  Her color was great from the beginning, and she appeared perfect during the newborn exam. Today she is still healthy and beautiful, and a testimony of how God answers prayer and heals….

When I went for the two day home visit, big sister was excited about showing off the baby!

When I went for the two day home visit, big sister was excited about showing off the baby!