Sherry L. Bushnell, LM, Doctor In LibbyMy Midwives, Cathy, Sherry and Lori
The morning after holding my sweet new baby girl Atarah
Lori and Cathy working the night of my delivery
When my husband and I decided that we wanted to try for a baby, there was no question in my mind that I wanted to work with a midwife. Most of my girlfriends have had their babies in the hospital, and for the most part they were positive experiences. In fact, I would be the first person that I knew of that had an out of hospital birth. So going into things, I had a lot of questions.
Along the 9 month journey, my husband and I have come to the conclusion that choosing a midwife for our birth was a great decision. Here are some reasons why…
Our Midwife Allowed Us To Call Her With Questions Whenever We Wanted – One of the best things about working with a midwife was that she was there to answer questions all along the way. We could email or phone our midwife with any question, and she would be available. With a doctor, getting an appointment can be difficult. Your appointment may be only 15 minutes or less and fitting in any questions that you may have can be challenging. Overbooked doctors can be very rushed. You may feel like you miss out on the personal relationship like you would have with a midwife.
A Midwife Is There At The Beginning Of Your Pregnancy, And She Follows Through Even After The Birth – While you may have a trusted family doctor, chances are you won’t know the nursing staff that will be assisting you through the majority of the birth at the hospital. It is common for the doctor to step in at the last minute to supervise your baby being delivered, but the majority of the hard labor will be spent with nursing staff. A midwife on the other hand will be coaching you through what to expect month by month, and when it comes time for the birth, she will be as important as your best friend or mother or sister. You will know her personality, and she will be able to know your wants and desires for your birthing plan.
If An Emergency Arises, Your Midwife Is A Phone Call Away – There was one instance in the pregnancy where I had very bad cramping that stretched on for about 6-8 hours. My husband and I tried to figure out what was causing the cramping by looking for a cause on the internet. After not finding any answers, we decided to phone our midwife. Within just a few minutes, she knew exactly what was causing the pain, and gave us some strategies to relieve what I was going through. She gave us a general time frame for how long the pain would last, and she was right on key.
If I had worked with a doctor, I would have had to go into the emergency room, because the pain started later in the evening.
Would I phone the emergency room in advance and be able to talk with someone about what I was going through?
My options would have been either to look on the internet and find some answers, or go into the emergency room. I would have been sitting in pain in a waiting room, rather than the bathtub or the comfort of my bed.
Pregnancies can bring about many unusual discomforts that you normally don’t experience, and it can be comforting to know that you can phone your midwife, and then she can decide from her knowledge which direction to take…. either the hospital, or something more natural, if it isn’t serious.
I find that many women who choose to go the hospital route often have questions, but don’t have anywhere to turn except on facebook to find their answers. We all have questions about the process of motherhood which our friends and family can answer. However, when it comes to something more serious such as bleeding, would you rather have someone experienced giving you advice, or someone who is simply just guessing?
After being a part of a few pregnancy groups on Facebook such as Pregnancy To Mommyhood and Pregnancy Corner 2.0, I would encounter many examples of women asking others about when to go to the hospital as they are battling with contractions, or asking people on Facebook what to do when it came to dealing with pain. Unless you are a nurse yourself, you wouldn’t know the answers to many of these health questions, so being able to call your midwife who is expecting your call is worth the investment in these key moments in labor when most of us are clueless.
When Contractions Start Your Midwife Is Waiting For Your Call – Toward the end of our pregnancy we were seeing our midwives on a weekly basis for a check up. I was a week overdue with our baby, and our midwives were seeing us every couple of days until I went into labor. When I went into labor, we phoned our midwife, and she came over to check how far along my cervix was dilated, which allowed me to get to the birthing center in a comfortable time frame.
Working with a doctor, you would be making the judgment call on your own, and often they send you back home. For any woman it can be difficult to determine how quickly or slowly you are progressing though contractions. Having a midwife to make that call for you is comforting. You are then able to settle in, and not worry about traveling at the last minute.
Unlike doctors who have rounds with other patients, midwives only work on one mother at a time during delivery. A midwife will accompany the mother through all pregnancy stages, such as early labor, water breaking, muscle contractions and the final stages of pushing the baby out. A doctor will not give this type of full medical attention. A midwife is able to make the experience more personal than a doctor who may only come to give commands prior to labor.
A midwife has more specialized training when it comes to pregnancy, labor, and after care which can make a women feel more comfortable when compared to a doctor. Would you rather have a women who deals with the art of pregnancy and childbirth as her full time profession? For me, I wanted that experience on my side.
A Midwife Won’t Rush You Through The Labor Process – Not knowing how long my labor would take, I felt comforted knowing that my midwife would be there for a long labor if need be. Many women have had the experience where the hospital rules, limits, or denies them the time to labor and birth naturally. Not always, but some people report that nursing staff can push drugs to speed delivery along even if they have only been in labor a few hours. For women who want to go with the all natural route, working with a midwife may allow you to avoid pressure to hurry your labor with medication and other interventions.
Midwifes Live and Breathe Pregnancies Year Round – I wanted to work with a woman who specialized in pregnancies as her main practice, rather than a doctor which had his or her focus in a number of areas.
Our midwives have an excellent working relationship with the local hospital and were all highly trained themselves. If there were any complications, they wouldn’t put me at risk and gamble with my health or the health of my baby. The hospital was 5 minutes down the road, where they knew the medical staff, and knew how to handle the procedures at the hospital if anything should arise.
When Michael and I decided to go with a midwife, we didn’t know we would have two other additional highly trained midwives through the process. Often times, this is the case where one midwife can lean upon another, and they don’t stand alone, but with other professional women in the area.
All of our midwives had their own strengths. Throughout my labor, they offered suggestions of positions, and what to do to ease the pain, and every single time, they were right on the mark. Many women bring in their girlfriends, sisters, or mothers into their birthing rooms, which can be great for emotional support. However, I have found that midwives bring a vast pool of knowledge that others simply do not have. they have gone through the motions of childbirth over and over again, they know what works, what doesn’t work, and what positions to try when things stall. I honestly feel that I shaved off a lot of time from my labor with their suggestions and expertise.
Complications Are Lower With A Midwife – In the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health (JMWH), a study confirms that women who have planned a home birth have a very low rate of intervention. This study examined 17,000 courses of midwife-led care, confirm the safety and overwhelmingly and overall benefits for women who choose the route of working with a midwife. Home birth mothers had lower rates of interventions in labor, fewer episiotomies, pitocin for labor augmentation, and epidurals. 97% of the babies were carried to full-term, weighed an average of eight pounds at birth, and nearly 98% were being breastfed at the six-week postpartum visit with their midwife. Only 1% of babies required transfer to the hospital after birth. See more here
A Home Birth, Or Birthing Center Is So Much More Calming Than A Hospital – Hospitals have changed from 10 years ago. Today many rooms are outfitted to be more comfortable, and the babies are often kept in the room where the mother can nurse, than a closed off nursery we remember 20 years ago.
This was one of the key factors in my decision to work with a midwife. I wanted the best of both worlds, and choosing a midwife actually allowed me to have both the comfort and privacy of a home to birth in, and the experience and connections of my midwife, if surgery came into play.
The beauty of giving birth at home, or in a birthing center, is the atmosphere. I was able to bring candles, sit in the hot tub, make cookies in the oven, and eat through the labor if I choose to. While my labor was pretty quick, many of these luxuries are why many women decide to choose a labor at home. You can easily set up a kids pool in your living room, or lay in the tub, or shower for the majority of your labor…options that many not be available at the hospital. My midwife told me that one of her clients ate a hamburger in the hot tub in between contractions.
Some of the things that really helped through my labor, was a crock pot that was filled up with hot water, which held dozens of face cloths. With every contraction, a new hot face cloth was applied to my lower stomach, and it eased some of the pain that I was experiencing. It was so simple, but made a tremendous difference. My midwives also had a low wooden stool with a cut out in the front which I used through the early contractions, and pushing the baby out in the end. It allowed me to open my legs up, and squat comfortably. Not to mention, the massaging through the entire process.
Midwifes Have Natural Techniques That Work To Get Labor Going – Midwives have their own techniques for dealing with a baby who is positioned wrong through the birth process, or having a cord wrapped around their neck. They know how to handle these different obstacles without running for a c-section.
Epidurals Can Cause The Babies Heartbeat To Slow Down – Some women, who give birth through the hospital believe that their doctor has saved them from a bad outcome, when, in actuality, the hospital or doctor (procedure that they performed) caused the risks that forced a c-section.
Many women find themselves pushed into unnecessary cesareans because of laboring positions, or through the use of epidurals. An epidural can cause your labor to slow down and make your contractions weaker. Other studies suggest that your baby might experience respiratory challenges, an increase in fetal heart rate, which often causes the medical staff to then use forceps, vacuum, cesarean deliveries and episiotomies.
Women Are Told To Be Fearful Of Their Labor – Birth is supposed to be a normal part of a woman’s life. Women, for thousands of years have delivered their children naturally without the use of drugs. It is a personal decision to choose or not choose an epidural. At times it cannot be avoided for women who are facing complications.
Today women are taught that birth should be feared, and complications WILL happen along the way. We are told that the hospital is the only safe place to be. The medical community has us believe that medication is the only way to get through this process, and we cannot do it on our own. The hormones that make for a good birth experience also includes endorphins. Adrenaline would hamper the oxytocin, as it acts as a shut off for the laboring process. (Think fight or flight response, or the fear, pain, tension cycle.) When women don’t fear the process, labor can progress smoothly.
Laboring On Our Backs Prevents Labor From Progressing – We have all watched labor scenes through Hollywood movies showing women birthing on their backs. In fact, I learned that being positioned on your back can be one of the worst positions to be in while giving birth. Laying on your back, pushes the coccyx tailbone up. It prohibits the baby from moving down into the pelvic outlet, making the passageway for baby up to 30% smaller. It causes the tail bone to stick upwards, and the baby has to navigate upwards to get out.
This position is used the most in hospitals because it is the easiest for the medical staff to see what is happening. In addition, with a heavy epidural, many women have no feeling or mobility in her legs. Laying on your side, on the other hand allows this tail bone to be pushed out of the way of the baby, giving her or him more room to descend into the pelvis.
Pushing The Iliac Crests Bones Apart Can Aid Your Baby To Move Down Faster Your midwife, or husband can place his or her hands on the side of your hips, and your bones naturally move out, allowing your baby to move down into the pelvis. This was a technique that my midwives used, and it felt great with each contraction. I thought it was a little trick that not only helped our little girl, but helped me bring the focus off the pain through the contractions. When pushing firmly on the top of your hip bones, or the iliac crests, it allows your baby to move down easier. This is precisely why you don’t want to be sitting on your backside during labor.
Get Pregnant Using A Fertility Chart- One of our first appointments with our midwife discussed how to get pregnant. Instead of relying on those ovulation kits you can buy in the store for $5 dollars, you can track your own ovulation cycle by taking your temperature through out the month. If you look under google images, you can see dozens of examples of charts that show that when our temperature spikes, an egg is dropped. Within this 6- 12 hour window, is the time you have to conceive. If you are trying to get pregnant, this simple tool of charting your temperature can give you a precise time frame of when you can make a baby. Who knew!
Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler is an in-depth “how-to” book that creates a great learning base in understanding your ovulation cycle. It also shows plainly how to use an ovulation chart and the needed information for managing pregnancy with natural family planning. It teaches how to understand your cycle through several factors; consistency of mucus, opening of cervix (it actually dilates a tiny bit during ovulation!) and body core temperature. For women and that are interested in learning more about how the whole process works, and becoming more in control of their cycles and even becoming pregnant, without using costly and sometimes controversial birth control methods, this book is just about right. It is easy to read, has some great pictures and is not a “fine-print-text book” kind of read. Buy it from $3.99 on Amazon
Lifting Anything Heavier Than Your Baby After Your Birth Inhibits Your Pelvic Floor Muscles From Going Back Into Place- After your birth, avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby. Lifting anything heavy within the 2 week period after your birth will cause your hammock muscles to become droopy, and not go back into their proper place. If you want your stomach to get back into the shape it was in before your pregnancy, avoid lifting anything 2 weeks after giving birth.
Inserting Primrose Oil Soft Gels Vaginally Helps Soften The Cervix– A couple weeks before my due date, I took primrose oil orally, and inserted soft gels into my vaginal area before bed. The primrose oil is supposed to soften the cervix so it can open easier through contractions. You can also buy labor prep pills like Dr. Christopher’s Birth Prep, which is a herb formulation designed to support an expecting mother’s body for the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. The herbs prepare her body for the birthing process. Gentle Birth Formula also aids in less pain during labor and delivery, and shorter and easier labor.
Drain One Breast At A Time Before Feeding From The Other Side- If you don’t feed fully from one side before moving to the other breast, your baby may not reach to the heavier cream behind the water. Draining each side fully allows your baby to reach the more saturated milk as your breast fully drains.
A Midwife Is There After The Birth – A midwife is also there to check you in the weeks after your birth. Once you are discharged from the hospital, you might be on your own for breastfeeding, and the discomforts of stitches, or challenges with the baby. Midwives can bring in their knowledge with latching challenges, sleeping patterns, addressing your babies feeding and if they are gaining enough weight. You are not on your own in the weeks after the birth.
Hopefully this article sheds some light on the alternative options of going with a more natural birth. If you are planning out which direction to head in, contact your local midwife, and ask her questions about her process. Our midwives were a wealth of information.
Products I Have Bought And Loved:
Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW Prenatal– here After researching many prenatal vitamins, this was the highest rated brand on amazon. It has close to 500 – 5 star reviews. They contain the highest quality ingredients in the raw form. We have bought their Superfood – Raw for years.
Philips AVENT Double Electric Comfort Breast Pump, here– This is a fantastic breast pump, which has three speeds. This breast pump has high reviews. At $169, I thought it was priced well.
Hands Free Breastpump Bra– here For the working woman who has things to do, this bra allows you to pump milk without holding your pump. It comes in two sizes, and the back is has two areas where it can expand, making it feel like a strapless bra.
Stork Craft Hoop Glider and Ottoman– here If you are looking for an affordable glider- Stork Craft sells a version that is only $152 dollars. The brand comes from Vancouver, BC, and ships in a box, which has to be assembled. Our box arrived, and it took us about 30 minutes to put together.
Fisher-Price Power Plus SpaceSaver Cradle ‘n Swing- here I had a heck of a time finding a swing that was able to be plugged into the wall. After having several cat toys which required batteries, I didn’t want to be endlessly charging batteries. This swing plugs into the wall, and can be switched from a side to side swing, or a head to toe swinging motion. It has a musical option as well. The rocking for the first two weeks was quite fast even on setting one, but our baby now enjoys it, even at 2 weeks old. It sells for $149
Long hooded A-line velour robe- here For those late nights where you have to get up, and rock your baby, it is nice to be able to slip on something comfortable. I found this robe for $34 dollars. I ordered the plus size, and while it is a little bit big, it is nice to have the extra room to move around in.
Organic Mother’s Milk, 16-Count Boxes, here, This tea is traditionally used to help nursing mothers with breast milk production. If you end up having challenges with breast feeding this tea might boost your milk. I have ordered boxes of it.