Proactive Preparation Tips: Helping You Achieve a Successful Vaginal Birth

Proactive Preparation Tips: Helping You Achieve a Successful Vaginal Birth

Proactive Preparation

Proactive Preparation Tips: Helping You Achieve a Successful Vaginal Birth

If you’ve read much about preparing for birth, you probably have realized that there tends to be two different “extremes” when it comes to how much or how little you do to prepare your body for the marathon of birth. On the one hand, there are those who feel strongly that you need to “trust your body” to do what it was made to do, and that the addition of herbs and other proactive methods give moms a sense that their body is broken and unable to work on it’s own. The other hand tends to view the whole process of labor and birth as an “accident waiting to happen”, and rushes to medicalize every situation (for example, routinely inducing labor at 41 weeks just because it’s a week past your due date).

My personal opinion (and take this as my opinion-as with anything, you must do your own research and make your own decisions about these suggestions!), is that there should be a balance between these two extremes. I feel strongly that a women’s body was designed to grow, nourish, carry and deliver a baby, and that you can have confidence that this a totally normal and natural process (and not a medical emergency!). But just like any other capabilities your body may have, these abilities can be supported, enhanced and enabled to do their job more efficiently, smoothly and successfully. With that mindset, I’m going to share with you some suggestions on how to support and prepare your body in order to provide you with a greater possibility of achieving a low-risk, normal, natural vaginal birth.

Some of the biggest factors that arise that prevent moms from their desired birth outcome include: pain in pregnancy that prevent them from moving well at the end of pregnancy, going so far past your due date that your care provider feels like an induction is necessary, a long early phase of labor that prevents mom from getting adequate rest and results in exhaustion (which often ends in transport from home and/or an epidural to provide needed relaxation), and a long pushing period that sometimes ends in surgical or assisted delivery. While there are varying factors in all of these situations that can all be prevented, there are MANY things you can do to reduce your risk of these situations occurring, if you just know what to be aware of and how to help your body to prepare!

  • Movement, Alignment and Positioning:

One key factor that makes a difference in your pregnancy comfort level, baby’s ability to descend efficiently, and your overall length of pregnancy/labor is the position of your baby in relation to your pelvis. I highly recommend you find a good chiropractor in your area (for those who are local you can find some recommendations when you click on the “Local Resources” tab) who is certified in Webster technique and works with pregnant moms, and get regular adjustments specifically throughout the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. If your pelvis and muscles are out of alignment, they can keep baby from being able to descend into a position that is optimal for triggering the start of labor, and the ability of the baby to navigate the birth canal, which can then cause labor to stall and/or make it more challenging for you during the pushing phase.

For the best explanation of position and how this can affect labor (and what you can do about it!), I highly recommend that you take the time to watch the Parent Class taught by Gail Tully at Spinning Babies. Once you’ve watched it, check out the Spinning Babies website for more tips and suggestions on optimizing your baby’s position. And finally, if you are getting near your due date (or are past your due date and are waiting for baby!), taking time to complete a few rounds of the Miles Circuit exercises has been shown to improve baby’s position and encourage labor to happen.

  • Exercise:

As they say, you don’t decide to run a marathon and then complete it tomorrow! I think it’s wise to go into labor with a similar mindset as one would in preparing for a long-distance athletic event. Regular exercises that help to strengthen your legs, open your pelvis (think deep squats and lunges) and build your stamina can play a role in encouraging baby to come in good time, helping to improve your ability to handle the rigors of labor and provide you with a much better recovery. Even if you’re only able to include ten minutes of purposeful exercise a day, it will give you great benefits. Here’s one to get you started: 10 Minute Pregnancy Workout. Long, brisk walks and swimming are also great exercises to consider including in yoaur routine.

  • Herbal Supplements:
    • Red Raspberry Leaf Tea has amazing health benefits, besides helping to prepare and tone your uterus making contractions more efficient. I have more information on this great tea in my post over here, and you can begin drinking one cup a day during the 2nd trimester, increasing to 3+ cups per day as you near your due date.
    • Birth Preparation Formula: I have personally had great success taking an herbal supplement during the last 5-6 weeks of my pregnancies that is specifically geared towards preparing your uterus and cervix for labor. Yes, I take it in addition to Red Raspberry Leaf tea. If you have a history of preterm birth, you would want to wait to start this until 36 weeks, and on the flip side, if you tend to go way past your due date, you could begin taking it at 34 weeks up until delivery. The moms that I have had take this tend to have shorter labors, earlier deliveries, and minimal postpartum bleeding (myself included!). There are several different brands available, though I tend to think the tincture forms work the best. My all-time favorite is the  Gentle Birth Formula. You will need 4 to 6oz in order to take it daily for 5-6 weeks, and it’s best to not consume the tincture in the late afternoon/evening, as it can cause contractions that may prevent you from sleeping!
    • Evening Primrose Oil or Borage Oil: The high GLA content in either of these oils can help to soften and prepare your cervix for labor, which can assist the body in working more efficiently once labor actually begins. You want a “mega” gel-cap with 1000mg or more per capsule, and this can be taken orally every day for the last trimester, and then also inserted vaginally at bedtime during the last few weeks of pregnancy.
  • Abdominal Support:

Some moms just need some extra support for their abdominal muscles, especially if they have had a few babies, or if their babies tend to be large. The muscles that support the uterus and help it to contract efficiently can become stretched (think of a rubberband that has been completely stretched out, and doesn’t quite return to “normal”), and are unable to “hug” baby enough to get a consistent labor pattern started, or even get baby low enough to obtain a good position to begin with! One way to work with this is to consider regularly providing your uterus with support, in particularly during the last 6-8 weeks of pregnancy. You can purchase a maternity support belt (Belly Bandit has some great, albeit expensive options), but many women find that using a rebozo or long scarf/piece of scarf works great, such as is illustrated in this post here  and another option here. The goal is to pull the uterus slightly up and towards you, mimicking the way your muscles naturally pull, with provides a firm, consistent support (which also relieves pressure from your back!).

  • Eating Dates!

The benefit of consuming dates during the last weeks of pregnancy has only recently been discovered. The suggested protocol is to eat 4-6 dates daily beginning around 36 weeks until you deliver. To find out more, you can check out the details of a recent study at Evidence Based Birth and see what Mama Natural has to say here.

With the exception of eating dates (this is newer option I’ve discovered!), I have personally tried all of the above suggestions for my own five pregnancies and births, and have seen many women successfully use these recommendations throughout my midwifery practice over the past 11+ years. I wish I would have known about many of these earlier in my practice, as I think it would have prevented more transfers and unnecessarily lengthy labors. Another side benefit to following these suggestions is that your body is that much more prepared and ready should an induction actually be medically indicated. While I rarely have reason to need to get labor started, when there is this need and the body is ready for labor, then there are many more options available that have a high likelihood of actually working (in case you’re wondering, one method many midwives use is the Midwife’s Brew, but you should never attempt this without discussing the details, risk vs. benefit, etc. with your care provider!). And if you end up needing a hospitalized induction, the above suggestions will also increase the chances that you end up with a successful induction and normal vaginal birth.

Understanding Gestational Diabetes (and your testing options)

Understanding Gestational Diabetes (and your testing options)

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I recently worked on updating the information I give to clients on Gestational Diabetese screening during pregnancy. Compared to 12 years ago when I was first delving into midwifery studies, there is so much more helpful information out there about this subject! For this month’s blog post, I decided to share my updated “informed consent” handout (this is something that each client recieives in order to help them make a truly informed choice regarding their screening options), as well as some links that may be helpful for those who are wanting to research this topic further.

Informed Consent Regarding Glucose Testing and Screening for

Gestational Diabetes

What is Gestational Diabetes?

John Hopkins Medicine describes Gestational Diabetes as follows: Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM)  is a condition in which a hormone made by the placenta prevents the body from using insulin effectively. Glucose builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed by the cells.

Unlike type 1 diabetes, gestational diabetes is not caused by a lack of insulin, but by other hormones produced during pregnancy that can make insulin less effective, a condition referred to as insulin resistance. Gestational diabetic symptoms disappear following delivery. Approximately 3 to 8 percent of all pregnant women in the United States are diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

Although the cause of GDM is not known, there are some theories as to why the condition occurs: The placenta supplies a growing fetus with nutrients and water, and also produces a variety of hormones to maintain the pregnancy. Some of these hormones (estrogen, cortisol, and human placental lactogen) can have a blocking effect on insulin. This is called contra-insulin effect, which usually begins about 20 to 24 weeks into the pregnancy.

As the placenta grows, more of these hormones are produced, and the risk of insulin resistance becomes greater. Normally, the pancreas is able to make additional insulin to overcome insulin resistance, but when the production of insulin is not enough to overcome the effect of the placental hormones, gestational diabetes results.

For more information on understanding Gestational Diabetes and Insulin Resistance during pregnancy, I highly recommend checking into these websites: EvidenceBasedBirth.com and LilyNicholsRDN.com, and by reading Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols (available through my office lending library).

Risks Associated with GDM for mother and baby:

Ÿ Increased risk of developing Pre-eclampsia

Ÿ Increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes

Ÿ Maternal injury

Ÿ Increased risk of Cesarean section

Ÿ Shoulder dystocia

Ÿ Macrosomia (infant weight over 8lb 13 oz)

Ÿ Neonatal hypoglycemia

Ÿ Neonatal jaundice

Ÿ Stillbirth

Ÿ NICU stay

Ÿ Birth injury

Predisposing Risk Factors can include:

Ÿ Pre-pregnancy BMI >25

Ÿ Family history of diabetes

Ÿ GDM in previous pregnancy

Ÿ Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Ÿ Chronic hypertension

Ÿ Maternal age over 25

Ÿ Ethnicity (African-American, Native American, Hispanic, South & East Asian, Pacific Islander)

ŸPrevious macrosomic infant

Ÿ History of Cardiovascular disease

ŸPoor nutrition

Potential Signs and Symptoms of GDM:

Not all mothers will have any symptoms, but these are indicators of the possible presence of GDM:

Ÿ Polyuria (excessive urinary output)

Ÿ Polydipsia (extreme thirst)

Ÿ Weakness

Ÿ Poor healing/susceptibility to infections

Ÿ Size large for dates

Ÿ Recurrent glucose in urine

Ÿ Recurrent yeast infections

Ÿ Ketones in urine

Ÿ Excessive weight gain

Ÿ Polyhydramnios (excessive amniotic fluid)

Ÿ Polyphagia (excessive hunger)

What are my testing options?

The American College of Obstetricians (ACOG) recommends universal screening for every mom between 24-28 weeks for pregnancy. Women with a history of GDM or have high-risk factors are encouraged to screen as early as possible in pregnancy, and typically Glucola is used as the glucose load. Due to the preservatives, dyes and other ingredients found in Glucola, other glucose options are offered, such as a dye-free glucose drink, or the option of consuming 28 jelly beans per the article published by American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. If opting for either of these tests, it is recommended to eat an average of 150 grams of carbohydrates daily for three days before testing. The standard testing procedure is as follows:

  • 1 hour Oral Glucose Challenge test: This involves drawing blood for blood sugar testing one hour after consuming a 50g glucose load (non fasting). Blood sugar levels should be under 140mg/dl. If the blood sugar levels are higher than this, then a 3 hour test is recommended to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of GDM.
  • 3 hour Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT): This four-step test is performed after fasting for at least 12 hours, and includes drinking a 100g glucose drink. Blood is drawn fasting, and then again at 1, 2 and 3 hours after drinking the glucola. If two or more levels are out of range, the mother is diagnosed with GDM. Consultation with a physician is recommended, and transfer of care may become necessary should diet changes be insufficient to keep sugar levels within target ranges.

During recent years, more physicians are becoming comfortable with an alternative to the above traditional protocol as described here by Rebecca Dekker at Evidence Based Birth (near the end of the article):

Home blood sugar monitoring: “Another alternative could be for people to monitor their blood sugar levels at home and discuss the results with their care provider. This is another controversial way to screen for GDM. We didn’t find any studies on GDM screening that compared home blood sugar monitoring versus a standard oral glucose drink.

However, we hear of some people using this method. Basically, they are following a similar path that people do when they’ve been actually diagnosed with GDM. Usually, after a GDM diagnosis, mothers monitor their blood sugar levels four times a day, once after fasting (first thing in the morning) and again after each meal (AGOG, 2018).

The ADA and ACOG recommend that fasting blood sugar levels should be <95 mg/dL, and post-meal blood sugar levels should be <140 mg/dL at 1-hour. Other recommendations for healthy blood sugar level targets during pregnancy are even lower. For example, the California Diabetes and Pregnancy Program (CDAPP) Sweet Success recommends fasting/premeal levels at <90 mg/dL and post-meal levels at <130 (Shields and Tsay, 2015).

Monitoring your blood sugar levels at home might be an option for someone who cannot take a glucose test because of the side effects, or prefers not to drink the glucose solution. However, home blood sugar monitoring is demanding and has some drawbacks. Mothers may have to purchase their own testing kits, and they have to remember to set alarms and carry their testing supplies with them throughout the day. Some people would consider it a major downside that blood sugar monitoring requires constant finger sticks, although others may not mind. Since home blood sugar monitoring is usually done after GDM diagnosis, there is no clear-cut standard for screening/diagnosing gestational diabetes based on home blood sugar checks. It’s important to discuss any results with a care provider to determine if testing can be stopped, if home monitoring should be continued, or if consistent high values mean that treatment for GDM is needed. Also, with this method, it is important that mothers follow their normal diet while testing, to get a “real-life” picture of their blood sugar results over time.”

While this testing method has gained acceptance in some medical communities, it is important to note that it has not been officially documented as a standard for diagnosing GDM. However, research is ongoing, and this method does provide you with an accurate day-by-day picture of how your body is responding to your normal diet. For clients who choose to do home glucose testing (whether in addition to or in place of the Glucose Challenge Test), I am happy to provide you with a glucometer, supplies and a chart that you can use to track your glucose readings for two weeks.

What if I have Gestational Diabetes?

Many women are able to control GDM through regular exercise and dietary changes. For clients who test positive for GMD, I will ask you to read Lily Nichol’s books Real Food for Gestational Diabetes and Real Food for Pregnancy, and we will discuss a plan for your care, including necessary diet changes and logging, home glucose monitoring, and exercise routines. If additional insulin is needed to control sugar levels, this will result in a transfer of care, as insulin-dependence significantly raises risk factors making a homebirth not a safe option for mother and baby.

Conclusion: Informed Consent

I highly recommend checking out these websites for more information on Gestational Diabetes Screening:

I also would encourage you, regardless of your choice to screen for GDM, to spend time reading Lily’s Nichol’s books (mentioned above) and implementing her dietary suggestions for pregnancy. Excellent information is available at her website: LilyNicholsRDM.com

As an expectant mom, it is your responsibility to choose first whether to screen for Gestational Diabetes, and if so, which method of screening to utilize. This document is intended to begin the conversation and aid you in researching what is best for your health and the health of your baby, and I welcome your further discussion and questions at any time.

In your Client Information Folder you will find a document entitled “Consent & Waivers for Common Procedures”, on which is listed screening for Gestational Diabetes. Please indicate your choice on this form, after you have spent time reading the risks and benefits of screening and the type of screening.

Did you find this information helpful? I’d love to hear about your experience with GDM and your testing/treatment options! If you’re wanting to research this topic further, here’s some links to other helpful posts, many written by moms sharing how they made a decision regarding GDM screening for their pregnancies (note, many of these posts are personal opinons shared for your consideration, though they may not include documented studies or be supported by general medical literature):

If you have more to add, or resources to share, feel free to comment below! 

Boosting Energy During Pregnancy

Boosting Energy During Pregnancy

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If you’re like me, one of the huge challenges of pregnancy (especially early pregnancy!) is the severe lack of energy. Honestly, if you stop and think about it, your body is pouring so much into making a tiny baby that there just isn’t enough energy to do much else! While you might KNOW that your productivity can’t be measured by what you get done visibly, it can be hard when you feel like there isn’t enough of mommy to go around to all the needs at home.

In this post, I want to share a few tips that might help you get through pregnancy while keeping your energy levels up. There are many different factors in the equation, and honestly each one could be the subject of a separate post. For instance, a diet that is low in simple carbs & sugars, and has a good array of healthful fats and proteins can make a big difference for some women. To get more pointers on this, I’d highly recommend reading Lily Nichol’s book Real Food for Pregnancy. Another factor is getting some sunshine and movement (a walk outside can help immensely!). Yet another factor is finding ways to curb morning sickness (this is another topic on my mind for a future post).

While you may find that early on in your pregnancy you may have to forego your prenatal vitamins due to sickness (did you know prenatal vitamins can sometimes make you feel worse those first months?!? My personal philosophy is that if the vitamins keep you from keeping food down, then it’s best to scrap them for awhile!), once you’re able to take pills again, it’s key to find a quality vitamin. Getting adequate levels of minerals, as well as easy-to-absorb forms of folate, B12 and other vitamins can all contribute to boosting your energy levels. Check your labels to make sure that your vitamins contain folate (and NOT the synthetic form called folic acid), and that the B vitamins are methylated in order to promote absorption. This article on Folic acid vs. Folate may help you to better understand the difference, and why it matters.

Whether you can take your prenatal vitamins or not, I’ve found that supplementing with additional B vitamins can be a huge help, especially during the early months when your body is working so hard and fetal development is so rapidly taking place. During one of my pregnancies, I found that B vitamin injections provided me with some relief from morning sickness as well as boosted my energy levels, and when those weren’t available for me for my most recent pregnancy, I spent some time researching other options. I stumbled upon this gem, and found it to be an incredible energy boost: Max Stress B is a fermented, liquid B complex that provides a combination of B vitamins in a form your body can utilize quickly. Another helpful supplement is a B complex lozenge, which you can slip under your tongue before getting out of bed in the morning, and/or take throughout the day. Two brands I have appreciated are Jarrow  and Seeking Health. If you are only looking for B12, I find that these lozenges are great when you need an extra boost and mama doesn’t have time or opportunity for a nap: Jarrow B12. I even keep these on hand and use them when I’m up all night at births!

Low iron (anemia) can also be a reason for low energy, though sometimes this can even be corrected by the above B vitamins, as some types of anemia are actually caused by a B12 and folate deficiency (your midwife or care provider should be able to determine whether this is the cause by looking at your prenatal blood work). If your hemaglobin is actually low, then some suggestions would include supplementing with a plant-based whole-foods iron supplement such as  Garden of Life Iron,  adding daily doses of liquid chlorophyll, and even regularly consuming Blackstrap Molasses , all of which can help to gently increase your iron levels. If you need more iron suggestions and information, check out this article from Mama Natural on anemia during pregnancy.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started, and if you’ve found something that helps you with maintaining good energy levels during pregnancy, I would love to hear about it. And if you try any of these recommendations, let me know how it works for you. I love getting feedback and knowing what works for different people!

Probiotics: A Key for Fussy Babies?

Probiotics: A Key for Fussy Babies?

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Note: I am sharing this post from my own personal experience, in hopes that it might encourage another mom and perhaps give you some ideas as you research options and solutions for colic and fussiness. This is not to be taken as medical advice, but rather an introduction to provide you with a foundation for further investigation and research.  I also want you to keep in mind that this post deals with just ONE aspect of what can cause extra fussiness in an infant…there are often a multitude of factors that can be part of any situation, so I’m just tackling this particular aspect in this post! The products that I mention are ones that I have used myself, and I am not receiving any incentive or gain by recommending these!

As I was preparing to welcome our fifth child at the end of last year, I was resuming my usual research into how to help prevent excessive fussiness in infants. If you’ve followed my blog for long, you know that all of my babies have tended to be fussy and “high maintenance”. Nursing challenges have been part of that, and so have issues with sensitive tummies (I’ve ended up needing to go dairy free at some point in my breastfeeding journey with each of them!), but there’s always been this underlying fussiness that has not tended to improve until they reached 6 months or older. This has presented a number of challenges, as it really takes away from the joy of adding a new baby, if the baby needs constant juggling, bouncing and soothing!

While reading anything I could find on how to help soothe fussy babies, I came across this article that talks about a study that showed b.infantis linked to reducing inflammation in infants.

Shortly after reading the article, I saw a post on a Mommy group that I am part of, where a friend of mine recommended an infant probiotic, noting that it had made a world of difference in the temperament of her baby.  Earlier in the year, I had a client who told me how her  youngest baby has been her happiest ever, and credited a nightly bottle of goats milk kefir as part of what made a difference.

I also kept running into articles such as this one on babies needing L. reuteri, and others that talked about how different probiotic strains can help with colic such as this one: Can Probiotics Soothe Colicky Babies?  Then there is this article that, while encouraging people to purchase their company’s products, has some good information on why fermented foods and probiotics are essential components of health, and in particular infant health:  Introduce Babies to Probiotics.

I found it interesting to think about how years ago our typical diets contained more fermented foods (think about the sauerkraut and other fermented products that were a necessity in the days before refrigeration), and how antibiotic usage is so much more common these days. We are still figuring out what all the possible long-term effects are caused by frequent antibiotic usage over the course of our lives, and how these effects may come into play on our children. Here’s some interesting data looking at long-term effects of antibiotics on our micro-biome: Long-term impacts of antibiotic exposure on the human intestinal microbiota.

After reading and researching these articles and more, I decided that it was worth trying for my baby, as it obviously couldn’t hurt! There are many different products available on the market, and it can be hard to determine which one is best. I was searching for one that specifically had the strains B. infantis and L. reuteri, and would also be easy to give (with five children I knew that I wouldn’t make it happen faithfully if I had to be mixing and syringe feeding anything!). I ended up trying Humarian Probonix that my friend had recommended, and I started giving baby Tirzah a few drops beginning on the third day after birth. I gradually increased it to the 6 drops recommended, and she’s been getting that daily ever since. Occasionally I will give her another brand/type, but the Probionix drops are by far the most convenient. While there may be many other factors at play, this baby has been my happiest by FAR, has had regular diapers, hardly any skin issues, and has not had nearly as sensitive of a tummy as my other babies. I have to think that regular probiotics have been one element in helping her, so I wanted to share this in case it can help another mom out!

There are plenty of other brands out there, such as Envivo, Love Bug for Tiny Tummies, and Mama Natural has a whole blog post devoted to discussing the pros and cons of these and other probiotics specifically for infants here. By reading about them, comparing ingredients and determining your own needs, you should be able to find something that can work for your baby. And if you’re looking for more info on the benefits of cultured foods for baby, there’s a great article here.

Have you given your baby probiotics? Do you feel like it’s helped? What else have you found beneficial for fussy babies? I’d love to hear about your journey! And if you end up using probiotics for your infant, I’d also be interested to hear what brand you used, and whether you saw it make a difference.

Resources and Info on COVID-19: Links, Practice Changes, Recommendations & More

Resources and Info on COVID-19: Links, Practice Changes, Recommendations & More

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With the COVID-19 crisis in full swing, it can be hard to know where to go for good information. As a midwife wanting to give my clients the best, up-to-date, evidenced based care as possible, I have found it extremely challenging to navigate all the information being thrown around as everyone scrambles to learn what they can about this new virus. Even information from reputable sources can contradict each other, leaving one’s head spinning, and making you unsure of what measures should be taken to protect your clients and your loved ones from any unnecessary exposure, while also caring for the emotional and physical needs of expectant moms! I’m sure you’re probably in a similar boat, so I’m wanting to make available some information sources for you as you try to understand how the current crisis may or may not affect you, your baby, your care, and your birth.

Here are some links that I have found helpful:

Aviva Romm Series on Covid-19 Info

WHO info for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers

National Association of Certified Professional Midwives: Covid-19

WHO Info-graphs

While information is changing on a day-to-day basis, I am currently implementing the following changes to my practice in order to minimize risk for my current clients, and enable safe midwifery care to continue in my community:

  • I am available to answer any questions clients might have via email or phone/text at any time.
  • Pushing prenatal visits further apart to minimize person-to-person contact.
  • Practicing social distancing and limited exposure for myself and my family, and not seeing any clients if myself or one of my family members are sick.
  • I will be performing April prenatal visits in client’s homes to reduce the risk of transmission or exposure. My current client load is light as I am just coming off of maternity leave, so this feels like the best option as I look into ways to make my home office space more practical for office visits due to the stringent recommended disinfectant protocols.
  • I am not taking on new (non-repeat) and/or long distance clients during April. I hope to resume new client consults and prenatals in May, but will base this on information as it becomes available, as well as on how able I am to handle the extra time needed to maintain the possible new protocols, etc. Having to unexpectedly homeschool two children this month, as well as juggling the demands of a nursing infant (and trying to understand what risk there could be to her health) all combine to make my days extra full right now, without adding in the hours of research needed to stay on top of current medical news!
  • If you are just beginning to look into the option of homebirth due to concerns with exposure at the hospital, I would suggest you begin by reading these two links:

I am also asking clients to follow these guidelines:

  • Please reschedule your visit if you or one of your family members are experiencing any of the typical Corona symptoms, including:
    • Fever
    • Coughing
    • Shortness of breath
    • And remember that Covid-19 care is outside of the scope of practice for your midwife to advise you on, so please contact the proper medical authorities if you suspect you may have contracted it!
  • Try to limit your exposure to illness by practicing safe social distancing from ill persons, and practicing good hygiene and hand washing.
  • Due to the unknown severity of respiratory complications for both mom and infant, a home birth will be out of the question if you test positive for COVID-19 over the time you are in labor.
  • Realize that there may be some changes in birth practices as more information and studies become available, so feel free to reach out with any questions, and stay tuned as I continue to research and keep you up to date on current research and practice guidelines/changes. Some of these changes may include restrictions on children attending prenatal appointments, amount of people in attendance at your birth, etc. As time goes by, I hope to have more concrete information to guide our practice protocols for the safety of everyone.

I would also strongly encourage all expectant moms to do what you can to boost your body’s (and your family’s!) natural ability to fight any virus (there are other illnesses out there you don’t want to catch, as well!). I don’t think we need to just sit back and hope we don’t get sick-you can be proactive in assisting your body in being able to resist and fight illness right now. There are some great resources available that help you to consider how healthy eating (low sugar, lots of whole foods) combined with adding some immune-boosting supplements (such as high-quality vitamin C, regular vitamin D, probiotics and others) and regular exercise can help you and your family to stay healthy and strong. Here are some resources to get you started in thinking about the possibilities:

Advice from a Pediatrician

Aviva Romm on Natural Remedies

If you’re interested on hearing additional perspective on the crisis from a well-known, more “naturally minded” pediatrician, then you may appreciate Dr. Sear’s podcast series: Coronavirus Update: Are We Doing it Right? Pt. 1

And finally, some practical ways to help you handle the extra challenges from social distancing right now, tips on reducing anxiety, and helps in understanding more about the virus: COPE Updates on Covid-19

If you have found a source to be especially helpful as you navigate the news surrounding Covid-19, I’d love to hear about it. And if you are in a different area, I’d love to hear how your midwife/care provider is implementing changes to their practices. Blessings to all of you expectant mamas navigating this new territory during this time in your life-I know it’s a challenge, and I am committed to continuing to provide you with personal, safe, gentle midwifery care!

 

“The First Birth”: A Story from 18 Years Ago

“The First Birth”: A Story from 18 Years Ago

Not the baby featured in this story, but another baby born early on in my training!

From the time I was young (8 years old or so!), I had an interest in midwifery. I’m sure it stemmed from the fact that my mother used midwives for her pregnancies and the births of my five younger siblings, which gave me exposure to this “alternative” type of care. This was back in the day when having babies at home was NOT the popular, photographed and blogged about way to have your baby as it has become today! The midwives that cared for my mother seemed like an extension of our family, and as a young girl growing up, they were certainly some of my heroes that I wanted to become like when I “grew up”.

I think I was about 14 when I seriously felt like midwifery was something I wanted to pursue. Still very young and extremely inexperienced…with no idea what all this profession entails! I had read lots of missionary biographies, and a common experience in most of them included helping in some way (either unexpectedly or because they were prepared!) in childbirth in various countries.  So it seemed to my 14-yr-old mind that this was certainly a skill that would be good to know, and I pictured myself helping women in some far-off jungle or desert clinic someday. As I got older, I continued to feel a major pull towards midwifery that wouldn’t go away.

By the time I was 16, I was convinced this is what I needed to start pursuing. My parents wisely recommend that I begin by doing some reading, and they told me that they thought I should probably try to attend a few births before diving in head-first in a midwifery study program. Their reasoning was that perhaps this was just a passing whim, and why sink all sorts of time, energy and money into something only to find out that I would faint at the sight of blood, or have some other sort of aversion to what all comes with the birth territory. This is no joke. I personally know people who were SURE midwifery was what they wanted to do, but when they faced the nitty gritty, it didn’t take long to realize that it wasn’t their calling after all!

So, the next question was how on earth was I going to get any birth experience in, seeing as I was so young and inexperienced?!? I figured I would have to wait years for the opportunity, though I was reminded that if God wanted it to happen, He could figure out a way. That’s what makes my first birth experience so special-it was completely unexpected!

The summer that I was to turn 17 found me helping several families out on a weekly basis, going in to care for children, clean, cook, or do whatever was needed as a mother’s helper. One family was expecting their fourth child that summer, and they were excitedly planning their first homebirth in our state. Seeing as they had several young children, and that I had been spending a lot of time with them over a number of months, they asked if I would be on call to come and help babysit when the mom went into labor. This was the plan, with a backup plan being set where the children could go to a neighbor family’s home if the mom decided she could relax better without children in the house.

So one hot (Kansas is REALLY hot in July!) day, I got a call that the mom was in early labor, and that they would be glad if I could come care for the children so she could concentrate on resting and relaxing. I went over and made supper, took care of some household things, and entertained the children so mom and dad could focus together. An hour or so after supper, the mom decided that she would prefer the children leave the house, which left me thinking that I should probably go since my job was done. But the mom looked at me and said “I want the children to go, but you are to stay. I don’t want you going anywhere.” I sure wasn’t going to argue with that! She then went on to tell me that she wanted me to rub her back “just so” while her husband finished setting up the birth supplies and called the midwives, which I was more than happy to do. All of a sudden things kicked right in, and I vividly remember both parents bemoaning the fact that they hadn’t studied better on how to catch a baby if the midwife didn’t make it! I was blissfully ignorant, as I was only aware of my own mother’s very long labors, and figured we still had a very long night ahead of us. Little did I know!

I continued my “job” applying back counter-pressure as dad set up birth supplies, sweated nervously as he watched the signs of his wife progressing rapidly, read his childbirth class manual, and gave his wife emotional support. Thankfully, the midwives arrived just as mom started feeling more pressure, and all the last details were quickly set up and ready to go. About half an hour after the midwives arrived, a beautiful, howling, red little boy made his safe and smooth appearance, and I was in awe. I had no idea birth could be this beautiful, and I was so very, very grateful for the amazing opportunity. I was flying pretty high for days after this experience, and as you can imagine, I was totally convinced that this was what I wanted to do.

What is really hard to believe is that this baby will turn 18 this summer…I cannot believe that time has flown, and this many years have passed. After this first birth, I attended random births that I was invited to (word started getting around that I was interested, and some very sweet, very brave women invited me to share in their experiences, for which I will always be grateful!), and eventually began midwifery school when God opened the doors. It’s now been over 10 years since I graduated and started my own practice, and I continue to be thankful for those who initially helped me to start down this path by allowing me to be present at such personal, private life events.  As I continue to reflect back on memories and celebrate 10 years of practice, I want to especially thank each of you moms and midwives who took this very young girl under their wing and gave her experiences that will last a lifetime!

I’m so privileged to be involved in this work of ushering life into the world!

Preparing Well for Postpartum Recovery

Preparing Well for Postpartum Recovery

The longer that I am a mom and midwife, the more I have come to realize how important it is to adequately rest and recover after giving birth. But this does not “just happen”…it takes some serious thought and planning!! Why is it that we spend hours and hours preparing for pregnancy and birth, yet no time or focus is given to what happens AFTER the baby arrives? With this in mind, I’m hoping that these questions and comments will help families to come up with a plan on how to cultivate an intentionally restful and healing postpartum period. I’d encourage you as a couple to sit down and talk about these questions, and figure out what you could do to be better prepared emotionally, mentally and physically for the initial 6 weeks after giving birth.

If you want to read more about some of my own favorite items to have nearby during the initial days postpartum, check out the link here

Reading and Preparation:

Let’s start with some book suggestions. We spend lots of time reading books about pregnancy and birth, right?!? So why not read about how to care for oneself postpartum? Here are some titles to get you started. I’ll note that I don’t endorse everything these authors share, but I do appreciate the way they help me to think through our thoughts and expectations surrounding postpartum adjustments and recovery.

Some Facts to Consider:

As you talk about your expectations for postpartum, it’s good to think about some facts, especially for the dads who wonder if it’s really necessary for mom to spend so much time resting! I love to show the new parents the placenta after the birth, which is generally the size of a small dinner plate. Picture a wound of the same size on the inside of mom’s uterus. Seriously! That’s the wound that needs to heal, and even though the uterus continues to contract and get smaller over those first days/weeks, there is a still a significant amount of healing that needs to happen inside. Add to this any amount of blood loss, any stitches/tears, the length of labor, swelling, and the amount of work it takes to push a baby out, and you can quickly see why it’s important for mom to take care of herself! All of a sudden the reasoning behind “not lifting anything heavier than your baby” makes complete sense, doesn’t it? Along the same note, almost anyone recovering from any type of surgery is usually given a two week minimum recovery time…new moms need AT LEAST that long!

As the postpartum days progress, mom’s body is going through a lot of changes, which include a drop in hormones from the expulsion of the placenta and baby, and a surge of more hormones as her body transitions into producing milk. Keep this in mind those first days…mood swings and emotional roller coasters are NORMAL. But it sure helps if you are expecting that as part of those initial days. And it’s good for husbands to know that this is a normal part of adjustment. Mom needs rest, understanding, and sometimes NO MORE VISITORS!

Another thing to remember is that you won’t be getting a lot of sleep those first few weeks. It’s good for baby to eat every 2-3 hours to establish good nursing habits and milk supply, but it does not contribute to a restful mom. Keeping life low key, and expectations to a minimum can really make a difference in allowing this time to be as stress-free as possible. Along the same lines, nourishing foods and lots of liquids are also hugely important in helping to establish a plentiful and healthful milk supply.

Lastly, try to view the postpartum period as a 6 week MINIMUM. I understand you may not be able to take that much “time off” of your normal home duties. But the longer you can rest and care for yourself in the initial weeks, I can promise you the better off your long-term postpartum experience will be. These initial 6 weeks your baby needs you as much as he needed you when he was inside, and this means an unpredictable schedule, lots of nursing, skin-to-skin time, and lots of cuddles. A slow re-entry into normal life will be beneficial to everyone, and lowering your personal expectations of this time can be a life saver!

Initial days postpartum:

  • Consider staying in bed for several days, getting up only to use the restroom, and perhaps joining the family for one meal a day. This can be beneficial for several reasons: visitors don’t stay as long if you’re in bed, you can sleep when baby does, and it reminds everyone that you are recovering!!
  • Prepare your room or a special corner ahead of time to make it a pleasant place for recovery. You’ll relax better if you find your space enjoyable and refreshing. Think about getting some special reading material or audio books together ahead of time to enjoy while you spend hours nursing your new baby. And don’t forget to have some comfortable clothes to wear that promote easy nursing access and yet allow you to rest well!
  • Limit visitors, and the amount of time that they stay. This can be dad’s job: remember that even if your wife loves people, new moms find extra company more draining than they initial expect. Short 10 or 15 min visits are sufficient, and this allows mom to not be separated from baby too long (since many visitors want to hold the new baby the entire time they are present).
  • Have nourishing snacks, foods and drinks gathered ahead of time: a new nursing mom is ALWAYS hungry and thirsty that first week!
  • Remember that your body is going through some major changes and may need some help: have some ibuprofen, nipple cream, icepacks, heat packs, hemorrhoid balm and magnesium available in case you need them.
  • Consider some ways to have meals taken care of: freeze some ahead of time, or ask a friend to organize a meal train or signup list where friends can bring food. It can be nice for the entire family to have meals provided for the first days/weeks as the whole family adjusts to the new baby.
  • If you have older children, it’s a good idea to think about how to implement the “no lifting” rule…sometimes it can be helpful to invest in a step stool that the older sibling can use to climb up beside mom so that she isn’t tempted to lift him or her up.

First Two Weeks:

  • An old midwife’s adage is “5 days in the bed, 5 days on the bed and 5 days around the bed”. While many moms balk at this amount of recovery time, it’s not a bad idea to consider! Mom will continue to bleed for around 2 weeks, and the longer she rests oftentimes the shorter the time she bleeds.
  • Continue to follow the “no lifting anything heavier than baby” rule until at least 2 weeks to maximize the uterine healing that needs to happen.
  • Keep stressful visitors to a minimum-this may mean telling well-intending friends and family that they need to wait to come see mom and baby, especially if that entails a lengthy visit of several days. Sometimes it’s hard for people to remember that mom is recovering and needs to spend time with baby, so this is NOT the time to be socializing and holding a newborn for hours on end.
  • Consider getting some household help these first weeks (longer if possible!). This would preferably be someone who can come and keep up housework, prepare food as needed, entertain older children if present, and take care of household duties so that mom can rest mentally as well as physically. As you consider this possibility, keep in mind that this works best if it is someone that mom feels completely comfortable with-sometimes this is a family member, but sometimes it is someone totally unrelated, and even hired for this express purpose. Talk honestly about what type of person would work best in your family situation. After my fourth child was born, we were blessed to have a girl who was willing to come spend 2 days a week with us during the first three weeks. This was sufficient time to catch up laundry, clean the house, and keep after work that wasn’t getting done, as my husband had a flexible work schedule the other days of the week. I found it much easier to rest when I knew the house wasn’t falling apart while I rested!
  • As you feel your energy increasing, start slow…remember that the sooner you jump in to “normal life”, the sooner everyone else will expect you to stay that way!
  • If people offer to help, take them up on it! An offer to babysit can mean an extra nap for mom, and many friends are more than willing to run get your groceries if they know you need something. Don’t turn any offers of help down!

Weeks 3-6:

  • This is when it can get hard to remember to rest. Even though you feel much better by now, remember that you need to go slow, and say no to anything extra in life, even if you FEEL energetic. Your baby still needs lots of time to nurse, and your body is still going through significant changes. One day you feel on top of the world, and the next you are in the dumps…all of this is part of your body learning to regulate it’s hormones again! There are supplements you can take to help with this-check with your midwife if you experience lots of these swings.
  • Start slow with exercise. It’s best to wait the full 6 weeks before engaging in anything specific to rehab, but I do encourage moms to get out in the fresh air and start taking slow walks if they are having minimal or no bleeding by week 2 or 3. Put baby in a stroller or in a carrier, and stroll. Don’t push yourself, just give yourself the chance to get some sunshine and fresh air.
  • Make sure you are taking your prenatal vitamins and consider adding some extra Vitamin D and Evening Primrose Oil to help with hormonal balance.
  • Try figuring out a way to get just a little bit of time to yourself each day…perhaps your husband can take care of the children while you slip out for a short walk, or perhaps you can meet up with a friend for coffee (and let her hold the baby!), or even get a chance for a short nap by yourself. These things can help with managing the mental load, and can be a big step in preventing postpartum depression.
  • Find a friend you can talk with and share with as you go through the many adjustments during these weeks. It’s always reassuring to be reminded that this stage of life doesn’t last forever, and you will sleep again someday!
  • Continue to get help with basic household duties as you can, and don’t turn down the offer of food!
  • Consider trying to get some intentional time as a couple: the unique stress of this period, combined with mom’s unpredictable hormones, interrupted sleep, and all the other factors can add some significant stress on your marriage. Getting away for an hour (with baby in tow) to concentrate on your relationship can really help you to navigate this time and grow stronger in your relationship.
  • Eat nourishing, healthy foods, and don’t worry about weight loss while your body is establishing milk supply!

 

In closing, I’d love to hear what you would add to this list? What was most helpful to you when you were anticipating the arrival of your little one? What helped you recover? Please share your tips and input!

Miscarriage Questions: 10 Year Anniversary Interview Part 3

Miscarriage Questions: 10 Year Anniversary Interview Part 3

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Interview Pt 3: Miscarriage

This month I’m continuing to answer questions that were submitted by readers for Gentle Delivery’s 10th anniversary “ask the midwife” series (feel free to check out Part One and Part Two if you haven’t read them yet!) There were several questions asking about miscarriage and how that affects future care, and I’ve decided to make that the focus for this month. Sadly, miscarriage is a reality for many moms, and I’ve had more moms than usual experience miscarriage throughout this past year. Hopefully some of these suggestions and this information can be a blessing to those of you walking through this valley, or those of you wondering what happens next…

What is your approach when a client has a miscarriage? What do you say or do to help her through the process, and if she gets pregnant again later, does your prenatal care for her and the baby look different in any way?

This is one of the “flipsides” of midwifery practice…it’s not always dealing with excitement and new babies. Oftentimes miscarriage occurs “out of the blue”, and usually there is no obvious explanation, even though we usually wish we knew why, or what happened.

Typically, a client will have just been in touch to let me know that they are excited to set up a time to talk about homebirth (or resume care if they were a previous client), and then they let me know that they are having some spotting. Spotting in and of itself can indicate an impending miscarriage, or it can be indicative of an irritated cervix, or it can be sign of a “subchorionic hematoma” (which usually results in spotting/bleeding without harming the baby, and resolves on its own). Quite honestly, if a miscarriage is going to occur, there really isn’t much that you can do, as oftentimes if it is indeed going to progress into a miscarriage then the baby has already died by the point you are experiencing spotting. But the unknown is not easy, as you want to KNOW what is going on. Our options at this point include doing labwork to see where the progesterone and Hcg levels are by now and going in to an OBGYN or an ER for an ultrasound (usually this is a vaginal ultrasound in order to get the best look at the uterus in early pregnancy). If the mom is 5 or 6 weeks or more, they should be able to visualize the baby, and be able to tell if the heart is beating, and labwork can reveal whether the pregnancy hormones are continuing to increase as they should. If mom prefers to wait, then there are some herbs that can be taken, and some moms choose to also use progesterone cream to help support the body until we know for sure what is going on.

If the ultrasound or labwork shows that miscarriage is inevitable, then I try to offer support and encouragement while the mom walks through the next several days. In most cases, mom is able to pass the baby on her own, and we stay in touch via phone or email. Spotting usually progresses into bleeding, and cramps accompany the bleeding as the cervix dilates enough to pass everything, which typically happens within a week of the initial spotting. In the event that it takes a longer amount of time, then we can use herbs to help encourage things to move along, we closely monitor for infection, and occasionally we need to transfer to an OBGYN for further care.

Once a miscarriage has taken place, I really encourage moms to take it easy, and make sure that they give their body time to heal both physically and emotionally. Oftentimes a mom can be left feeling very tired and anemic, as the body usually loses a significant amount of blood, and the intensity of labor can leave her worn out. There is also the emotional side of processing the loss, and this combined with the hormonal swings that go along with pregnancy followed by delivery can create quite a roller coaster of emotions to work with, and mom needs to know that this is normal and okay…and that her body is grieving and adjusting, which takes time!

The good news is that a previous miscarriage in and of itself does not negatively affect care for a future pregnancy. As I mentioned before, we usually don’t know what the root cause was, but there are many moms who go on to carry a healthy pregnancy following a miscarriage. Sometimes it can help a mom to relax more if she has more frequent monitoring during the early weeks of pregnancy after a miscarriage, and I am glad to do progesterone and Hcg testing to make sure that these levels are increasing like they should during the initial weeks. Oftentimes these moms also want to get an ultrasound performed earlier, in order to know that everything is looking good and that baby is growing like he should. Other than these factors, there isn’t much different for prenatal care, unless a mom has had several miscarriages in a row.

If a mom has had several repeat miscarriages, I highly recommend consulting with a NaPro Fertility Specialist (these providers concentrate on helping to achieve and maintain correct hormonal balance in order to prepare a mom’s body for and help in maintaining pregnancy). Many moms have inadequate progesterone levels, and having a specialist helping to monitor levels and provide prescription strength progesterone when needed can be a tremendous blessing, and prevent the trauma of further losses.

In closing, here are some suggestions if you are walking through a miscarriage:

  • Drink red raspberry leaf tea frequently in order to help balance your hormones and increase your iron as you recover (although stop drinking if you become pregnant again, until you reach the second trimester).
  • Take Evening Primrose Oil to help regulate hormones and support the body.
  • Consider taking an herbal-based iron supplement for several weeks to help restore your iron levels.
  • Take time to rest, don’t push yourself too hard, drink a lot of fluid, and take time to reflect on the short life you were given to carry, and allow yourself time to recuperate and heal before trying to resume your normal responsibilities.
  • Check out these sites that have further tips: Healing After Miscarriage and Healing Naturally.

And if you are preparing for pregnancy following a miscarriage, here are some ways to support your body:

  • Take folate (not synthetic folic acid!) and methylated B vitamins regularly.
  • Start taking a high-quality plant-based (not synthetic!) prenatal vitamin to build your body’s supply of needed vitamins and minerals.
  • Look into the benefits of using a quality, natural based over-the-counter progesterone cream to help promote healthy progesterone levels.
  • Consider having some herbal tincture on hand (such as C & B formula from Mountain Meadow Herbs) that you could take at the first sign of any cramping or spotting-this tincture helps to calm the uterus.
  • Check out this blog post for more practical tips: Preventing Miscarriage

In closing, would you have any suggestions you would add? If you have experienced a miscarriage, what was the best information and advice you were given? Any suggestions for moms hoping to get pregnant soon after going through a loss? I’d love to hear your answers if you would be willing to share!

 

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!