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Have the delivery of your dreams

Just before Thanksgiving 2017, our family was blessed with the birth of our first grandchild! A beautiful and healthy 8-pound baby boy and we have been in love with him ever since! I felt doubly blessed because our daughter welcomed me to be present for the entire labor and birth. Such a special gift!

The whole experience of our daughter’s pregnancy had me reflecting upon my own pregnancies (3 of them) and the differences in prenatal care, labor, and delivery. She had the birth experience I always thought a woman should have, and I’m so grateful that she did!

The main difference was my ObGyn-guided hospital delivery versus her midwife-assisted “home birth” at the midwife office (which, by the way, is a beautiful setup).

"Not only was the labor and delivery experience different, but the differences in prenatal care were obvious as well."

One of the first differences I noticed came with the test for gestational diabetes. If you’ve ever been through it, you will remember the dreadful orange syrup you are forced to drink. Taken on an empty stomach, you prayed you were able to keep it down until being poked for a blood draw. I absolutely detested that orange syrup—it reminded me of the syrup for orange soda, minus the water and bubbles. YUCK!

Our daughter, however, was given a choice of foods that would have the same sugar content as the nasty orange drink! The midwives provided her a list of possible breakfast options that she could have for the test. There was a sweet smoothie recipe and even pancakes with syrup! She still had to be poked for blood every hour for 2 hours, but at least she got to eat something she enjoyed and had no problems keeping down!

During labor, I found that the midwives were very patient, gentle, and kind. They were in no rush and they had nowhere else they needed to be. They were happy and content to be right where they were. In contrast, while I labored with our daughter—she was my first—it seemed my doctor had a lot of other places he needed to be! He really didn’t spend much time with me at all, and I was there and in labor for more than 43 hours!

The freedom of movement our daughter had was another thing I noticed. She was able to freely move during labor; alternating between positions on the bed, standing or walking around, using a birthing stool, or in the birthing tub—which is ultimately where her son was born. Changing positions as she pleased, she had no straps or cords restricting her movement. 

I did learn, through the midwife's gentle guidance during her labor, that the most comfortable position isn’t where you want to stay for too long. The positions that aren’t as comfortable are actually doing more to hasten the progress of labor, which is why you experience discomfort. The comfortable positions are great for when you need a little break and need your contractions to slow for a little bit. But, then it’s back to a less comfortable spot to help keep things moving along.

During my labor with her, the hospital had me lying in bed, flat on my back.  Straps across my belly held a monitor recording her heartbeat and my contractions, an oxygen meter was clamped on my finger, and an IV was in my hand. Not so easy to move or change positions!

My daughter took great care, educating herself for her labor and delivery experience. I was very proud of her for learning different breathing methods. She found one that worked for her and really did a great job of breathing through the contractions. The midwives were right there whenever she wanted them, and if they even sensed she needed help remembering her breathing, they gave polite reminders and words of encouragement. I think she had the most gentle labor and birth I have ever seen or heard of! Even the midwives commented on how gentle it all was! 

On the contrary, my husband and I were pretty much left to figure out breathing techniques on our own. And no one, other than my husband, showed much care about my breathing methods, or lack thereof, during my labor.

Both my daughter and I had the same difficulty with a lip on the cervix that didn’t want to flatten out. For me, this meant an epidural, pushing until we got her head past the lip on my cervix, a suction cup to help pull her down, forceps to help bring her out, and a double episiotomy (both midline and Medio-Lateral!) For my daughter this meant trying a few different positions and, in the end, the midwife, as gently as she could, used her finger to slip that bit of the cervix over the baby’s head. While it wasn’t the most comfortable thing for my daughter at the time, it sure beat the alternative that I had to endure! I learned that this little lip not wanting to flatten is common and can simply be caused by the position the baby is in. This simple issue can have a simple solution if your provider will take the time and effort, instead of reaching for the quick-fix tools, causing further pain and discomfort for mom. 

After that little trick she transitioned to the tub and had an amazingly beautiful water birth. Her husband was even allowed to help catch his son! It was such a beautiful, gentle experience for all involved, especially mom and baby.

I had always wanted a water birth myself, but the hospital that delivered my daughter didn’t have a birthing tub. My second and third pregnancies ended with C-Sections, so I was excited and so happy for her that she got to experience such a wonderful and natural birth—with no need for a painful episiotomy! 

After he was born, she was allowed to hold and nurse him right away. She held him close and they were able to bond for at least 30 minutes. When I had my children, I had maybe five minutes of them on my chest before they were whisked away by hurried nurses for tests and measurements. The midwives still get all of the same information, but it wasn’t so hurried and they were much calmer about it. The most important thing to them is that mom and baby have plenty of time to snuggle and nurse.

The midwives were incredibly knowledgeable. They were able to tell, just by the sounds she made and how she was breathing, what stage of labor she was in. They explained everything as it happened so that she could fully understand what was going on and what stage she was in. For instance, that the sharp labor pains happen while the cervix is flattening out and once those pains subside you will get the urge to push. And, oftentimes, you’ll enjoy a little break in between the sharpness leaving and when you feel the urge to push! Because of this knowledge, they didn’t have to constantly check her to see how dilated she was—which is something I experienced quite regularly. They simply asked if it was still sharp in the lower, front, or center portion of her abdomen. I think they only physically checked her progress three times in the entire 11 hours she labored at their office. 

All in all, I must say that I was both grateful and very impressed at the knowledge, ability, and patience of the midwives! 

I know many people who wonder if they should have a hospital birth or home birth with a midwife. I have to say, after my own experiences and being present for our daughter’s experience, the midwife route is definitely one that involves a very patient and caring delivery staff, and you have a lot more involvement and control when it comes to the birth of your baby! 

For many women, the desire to have a midwife-led birth is often overshadowed by the fear of “doing it alone, or at home.” The good news is you CAN have it both ways! For women who want both a hospital and a midwife, many midwives are also allowed to deliver at a hospital now!

None of what I have shared is to say that having an ObGyn and hospital birth is a bad thing. I know many women who have experienced wonderful hospital births with their doctors. My experiences come from 9 to 25 years ago and certainly, things have changed. Every woman needs to choose what is best for her and her baby for each individual pregnancy.  

My sincere hope is that every mother gets the chance to have the delivery of her dreams, whatever that may be!

By Tracy Sweder, Master Herbalist 
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