Code Switch's recent podcast highlights maternal death and the impact of weathering from racial stress on black and brown mothers and birthing people along with their need to be constantly vigilant in a racist world, as well as how racism impacts black and brown folks' concerns and symptoms being taken seriously.
Why Not Home? is one of the best and most balanced films around homebirth I've seen- it's the film that speaks to the issues of the moment around client-centered care, collaboration across settings, informed consent and shared decision making.
From Nicole... When friends/family learned I was having a home birth, they assumed my decision was motivated by the desire to give birth naturally. While that was partly my motivation, the greater reason was the kind of care offered by Motherland Midwifery, from prenatal to postpartum. While I spent more time in the waiting room of my OB/GYN than with her during my appointments, Christy devoted hours upon hours to getting to know me, my baby, my pregnancy and the type of birth experience I hoped to have. She later guided me through a long, challenging birth with unwavering support and tenderness. My husband and I are forever grateful for the breadth of her knowledge, which was certainly tapped deep during the birth of our son. Afterwards, I felt anchored. As a new mom, it can be very overwhelming, but Christy’s care (home visits, frequent communication, etc) made me feel that I was never alone. I can’t imagine navigating my postpartum recovery without her. Christy, in short, is a gifted midwife and a beautiful person: a shepherd of babies into the world and also of mothers.
My wife and I were already committed to the idea of a home birth but having Christy as our midwife was a truly transformative experience. There is no question that if we had birthed in hospital, my wife would have been given a c-section.
We hurdled some challenging moments during labor but every step of the way Christy was able to guide us and give us the confidence of getting over the finishing line. One example: her experience in understanding exactly where the baby was positioned meant that she could direct my wife with specific pelvic exercises to get the baby in position.
Professional, focused, and full of love are the first words that come to mind when I think of the experience. It’s not just a powerful combination, it’s a vital one.
My second home birth was my first with Motherland Midwifery, and Christy's knowledge and warm humor helped to make it a healthy and - dare I say it? - FUN delivery of our baby boy. At each prenatal appointment, Christy & Janeyne checked in with me both physically and emotionally, helping me to keep tabs on the baby's development, my state of being, and all of the concerns and excitement that my husband, four-year-old son, and I had. By the time active labor began, the five of us were a solid team ready to rock this birth! And rock it we did.
I spent most of my active labor (about 4.5 hours - thank Christy's advice in regards to nutrition, exercise, resting & sitting positions, and my regular chiropractic appointments) on a physio ball in my bedroom while everyone else hung out downstairs. It was quite a party - husband, son, doula, photographer, midwives, pets - and I have to say that the midwives' graciousness to my carnival was incredible. And can I tell you how comfortable it is to hang out in one's own bedroom, knitting, snacking, and chatting with the occasional visitor from my crew? Christy and Janeyne are so good at giving exactly the level of support that is asked for or required. They gave me lots of space to labor how I wanted to, maintained the vibe I had going when checking our vitals, and offered very unobtrusive suggestions.
About 3.5 hours in, I was at 7cm and ready to use the birth pool. My son went to bed and the real work of labor began. I will always be grateful for the calm, quiet way the midwives went about *their* work while I got on with mine. As the photographer remarked, they are total professionals - competent and capable. As I began making some unbelievable noises, the atmosphere in the room was both sacred and joyful. The louder, deeper, and longer I groaned, the bigger my husband grinned. We all knew we were very close to meeting this baby! Big brother was brought into the doorway, half-asleep, to fulfill his request that he be there no matter what.
The moment of crowning was almost overwhelming, I remember locking eyes with Christy and she intuitively showed me just how to breathe through it. And then baby's head was born! Sweet relief. I heard but mostly ignored some excited whispering - it turns out that he was born with the bag of waters intact. On the next surge, he burst through, I caught him and brought him to my chest, and we all rejoiced! My son's first words to his baby brother were, "Don't worry, Baby Carrot, your mommy is right there."
I am so thankful for our healthy birth journey, and how it was truly our whole family's. Those first few hours, snuggled up in bed as a family of four, are etched in my heart forever, and so precious to me. Thank you, Christy. Thank you.
All photographs in this post are copyright of Jamie Siever Photography 2014.
People often ask why I chose to use a midwife and do a home birth. It is an extremely difficult question for me to answer in passing because it was not a decision I made lightly (if you know me, you know that I do not make any decision hastily). I wanted to labor and deliver without drugs; I wanted to be in an environment where I felt safe and supported; I wanted a provider that I knew, trusted, and felt comfortable with; I wanted a provider who would tell me if I needed intervention but would not push me to unnecessary interventions. Those are just a few of the considerations that led me to a midwifery model of care and I cannot express how thankful I am that I found Christy. Christy has guided me through two pregnancies and the births of both of my beautiful daughters. I cannot fully express how much these experiences changed me. I first found Christy when I was pregnant with my first child. I unfortunately miscarried in the first trimester- I was around 10 weeks pregnant and was seeing an OBGYN at a local hospital while also considering a nearby birth center or home birth. Shortly after my miscarriage, I found out that I was pregnant again! The first thing that I did was contact Christy, and luckily she still had openings in my estimated due date timeframe. I remember the first day that my husband and I went to Christy’s house for a visit. It was a strange but comforting feeling to be welcomed into her home instead of waiting in an office over an hour past my appointment time. I immediately knew that I connected with Christy and that she would be a good fit for us. With Christy, I never felt like a number or like I was being passed around to different Doctors who checked my vitals to make sure the baby and I were healthy but wouldn’t remember my name. I didn’t have to worry which Doctor was going to be at the hospital when I delivered my baby, or whether my wishes for delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin, etc. would be considered. My appointments with Christy covered all of the necessary check-ins for vital signs plus check-ins about my emotional well-being, nutrition, exercise, and all of the “real life” stuff that helps you prepare for bringing a new life into the world. I am a very sensitive person and generally want to be left alone when sick or in pain. Because of this, I knew that aside from Christy and her assistant the only people I wanted present at my birth were my husband, my sister and one of our best friends who also happens to be a doula.
Our first daughter’s estimated due date was December 7th, 2012. Days came and went, with no signs that she intended to make an entrance anytime soon. I came down with the flu sometime around 41 weeks and, as you would imagine, was really fatigued and emotionally drained. Christy sent me for the non-stress tests every other day to ensure everything was going well with baby. That Wednesday, December 19th the Dr. at the ultrasound clinic said that it looked like the placenta was aging and it would be best to have the baby by Friday, the 21st. At that point, I had tried most of the recommended labor inducing strategies – long walks, intercourse, some nipple stimulation, etc. The only thing left prior to being induced was the one I dreaded, and feared the most…castor oil. Thursday afternoon I called my sister and asked her to come to our house. She arrived at 5 pm, just as I was downing my castor oil milkshake. 3 hours later, I was in labor and it was INTENSE right off the bat. I had grand plans of a water birth, but the oh-so-tiny water heater in the South Philly row home we were renting had a different idea. My sister got out our biggest pots to boil water and help warm up the tub, which was situated in Camille’s closet-sized nursery on the second floor (spoiler alert: I never made it to the tub). I had taken up shop on the third floor –totally naked, windows open, pacing between our bedroom and bathroom for hours, making noises that my husband said he has never heard before. Christy arrived around 11 or so and checked to see how I was progressing. I was only slightly dilated and my support team hunkered down for what it seemed would be a long night. A few hours went by and my contractions became longer and closer together. Eventually, I found my body bearing down on its own and was trying my best to hold back because Christy had checked me again and I was still only a few centimeters dilated. If I pushed prior to my cervix opening, it could cause swelling and pain and could potentially make the delivery more complicated. Christy and my husband Josh helped me breathe through contractions and eventually had me lay down on my side on the bed. I remember feeling like a caged animal but Christy supported me, encouraged me to relax and directed Josh in helping me work through the pain. I begged her to break my water but she encouraged me to wait it out and trust my body. I still remember the empathy in Josh’s face as he slowly helped me breathe through contractions “hee, hee, whoooo”. At some point, I ended up back in the bathroom, laboring on the toilet and some blood came out. Christy said that was a good sign and that things were changing and decided to check my cervix again. I will never forget the shock and joy on her face when she looked up at me and said something to the effect of “I don’t know how this happened so quickly, but if you’re ready to go…you can push with your next contraction”! I quickly decided that I did not want my baby to be born on the toilet, so I asked to go into the bedroom. I stopped before I crossed the threshold of the door and asked Josh to put the shower curtain down on the carpet so that I wouldn’t ruin it (I’m sure Angelo, our former landlord is out there somewhere thanking me for that moment of clarity). Josh quickly obliged, I got into a squatting position, and with a few pushes I delivered our precious baby girl!!! Camille Evette Kwedar was born at 4:04 am. She was 21.5 inches long, 8 lbs. 8 oz. of squishy faced perfection. Christy checked the baby and kept an eye on me while her assistants were like little elves, cleaning up all of the birth supplies, bringing me food to eat, and letting Josh and I have time with our sweet new babe while my sister captured photos of our first moments as a new family. It was the happiest day of my life.
Last summer, my husband and I found out we were expecting our second child! I immediately reached out to Christy to let her know we were expecting as I know her schedule fills up quickly. My husband and I were on the fence about another home birth because we moved from the city to the suburbs and did not live as close to a hospital in the event that I would need to transfer. Additionally, this pregnancy was a bit more rocky from the start because I needed an emergency appendectomy when I was about 6 weeks pregnant. I voiced my concerns to Christy we discussed them at length. We both thought it would be best if I saw an OBGYN after my appendectomy. I found a wonderful provider at a midwife-friendly practice and was told that I was at no higher risk because of my appendectomy and ultimately decided that I could not imagine having anyone but Christy attend my next birth. We were treated with the same kindness, thoughtfulness, and attentiveness throughout this pregnancy.
The weeks came and went much more quickly this time around and before I knew it, I was desperately waiting for baby to arrive. Once full-term, I had some test results come back after bouts with nausea that showed slightly elevated platelet counts, so Christy sent me to consult with the OBGYN again. The OBGYN gave me the clear to wait things out and see when baby decided to come. 41 weeks in, I woke up at 4 am to a bloody show. I woke my husband up to ask him if he thought I should call Christy. He said “yes’’ and went back to bed. I texted her a picture (something I’m assuming you wouldn’t do with an OBGYN) and she told me to keep her posted if my contractions started. 40 minutes later I was in labor. I went downstairs, did the dishes, straightened up in the kitchen and labored until around 7 am when Christy encouraged me to wake my husband and have him take our older daughter to daycare. Christy and Josh both arrived about 7:45 and by 9:46 am our second beautiful daughter was earth side! Penelope Rae Kwedar weighed in at 8 lbs. 7 oz., 21.5 inches long and delicious as can be. Labor and delivery were much different the second time around. I totally opted out of the birthing pool because I didn’t want the stress of fussing with it and thought that I would probably want to pace around like I did when laboring with Camille. This time I spent most of my time laboring over the toilet or squatting on the stool. Christy eventually coaxed me onto my side on the bed (I was not very happy about it at the time, but I am thankful now) and I ended up giving birth flat on my back, which I totally did not expect! Penny had her fist up by her face and the cord was wrapped around her neck and her body, but Christy and Asasiya were extremely diligent, making sure that she was healthy!
Christy absolutely practices compassionate, women-centered care. I have felt so supported by Christy through pregnancies, post-pregnancy care, intermittent check-ins about emotional well-being, etc. I truly love and respect Christy and am forever thankful for the impact that she has had in my life.
I was so thrilled when I realized I would be able to work with Christy for my second homebirth. Working with Christy felt like being with a kindred spirit. She has a calming presence, but her fierce protective instincts are visible just below the surface. And I really got to see her jump into action during my labor... I ended up having a VERY fast labor, with only Christy and my husband Ken in the bathroom with me, our 3-year-old son Naftali asleep down the hall. Shortly after Christy arrived that night, I went to use the toilet in the middle of very intense contractions. I stayed on the toilet for the next contraction. From the other room, where she was setting up, Christy could hear the sounds I was making and called to me "Are you pushing, mama?". It wasn't until she asked that I realized I was! I love that she knew what my body was doing better than I did, just from hearing the sound of my voice. She rushed into the bathroom, with Ken working to both support me and help her set things up.
I had told Christy that during my first labor, I felt like I didn't get to slow down and notice what was happening while I was pushing. This time I wanted to feel more like I was letting the baby slip out, rather than efforting so hard. So in between the three or four pushes it took to bring Nomi out, Christy reminded me to stop and breathe for a minute. What a powerful moment! Nomi's head was right there crowning and I got to really feel it. "Um, Ow!" I said, laughing. Then another push, and there she was. I feel so grateful to have had the strong and wise support of Christy in such a fast labor. We really got to do it exactly how we wanted it - in our home, with our family, and however my body needed it to go.
I could not be more thankful for finding Christy, and am so grateful she was able to be my midwife for my second pregnancy. With my first pregnancy I began doing research and realized I wanted to have a natural childbirth. Fortunately, I was able to have a natural birth at a hospital, however it was not quite the experience I had desired. I realized that the second time around I wanted an even more personal and less medical birth. I choose to have a homebirth with a CPM because I felt this was the best possible choice for me and my family. We researched CPM’s and homebirth and found that for a low risk mother such as myself, it is a valid and safe choice and one that fits with our wishes, much more than a hospital birth. We wanted a personal relationship with our provider as well as an approach to birth which treats birth as the normal and natural event that it is. As a physician myself I have a great appreciation for hospitals and medical intervention when it is necessary, and if I had needed such intervention I would have been grateful to receive it. However, I do feel that, at present, hospitals often provide more intervention than is necessary and that is something I wished to avoid. I was grateful to have a completely natural childbirth in my home with Christy, I would recommend her to everyone. I only wish I had found her for my first birth!
I haven't had much time to blog this summer (is it really the end of August?!) and realize I'm about 20+ births behind on stories. We'll see if I get to catch up in the coming weeks but in the meantime I wanted to quickly share this happened-upon parenting wisdom we encountered on the last day of our vacation in SW Pennsylvania at the Laurel Highlands Garlic Festival at a quaint family farm.
I thought it was sweet and rang true (yes, I know too much random praise isn't good for kids and it's a bummer that the poem refers to all children with the male pronoun-this looks like it was from the 70s). But I wanted to share it with folks! Hope everyone is having a great end of August!
Chrissy & Anam decided to have a homebirth a little more than halfway through their pregnancy. We are so glad they made the switch! About 10 days after her due date Chrissy called me at 6 am very excited that labor had begun! I was excited too as I had three mamas past their due dates and a couple others approaching their due dates and was ready for someone to get the birth boom going! Her mom arrived soon after I got there and was absolutely thrilled to have been invited to the birth and was so proud of her strong daughter.
Chrissy labored beautifully-- slow dancing, big hip circles, moaning out her beautiful birth song. The baby's in-utero nickname was "Bonkers" and Chrissy kept saying "Bonkers, we are doing it!". Anam was a sweet and steady presence. By 8 am the surges were closer and stronger and Chrissy continued to talk to her baby girl and saying affirming things to herself like "Ah yes, I can do it!" and "I'm doing it, I'm doing it!". Her low and open sounds helped things progress. Anam was looking at Chrissy with so much respect, awe and curiosity of the this heretofore unknown power in his partner. There was so much love between this mama and daddy!
By 10 am Chrissy was starting to bear down at the peak of the contractions and sure enough was fully dilated and the urge to push was beginning. It was a couple more hours before the baby made her way out as Chrissy tried a lot of different positions including some time squatting in her tub which really helped the baby drop down into the birth canal.
8lb 11oz Coraline Soleil Owili-Eger was born on February 15, 2012 at 12:47 pm with her mother, father and grandmother present surrounding her with love. What a lovely post-Valentine's Day birth! And the beginning of a busy month...more soon about the other two babies born that week!
Congratulations to Chrissy, Anam and Coraline!
(It has been awhile since I've been able to post birth stories-- I'm about 13 births behind as I've been so busy catching babies and doing midwifery political advocacy work-- but hope to get a bunch up soon!-thanks for your patience!)
Kristen and Jude were expecting their first baby the end of January. Besides moving to a new (and lovely) home in Manyunk partway through the pregnancy, their little family was faced with the challenge that Jude injured his leg and was on crutches for the last several months of the pregnancy and into the birth and postpartum. But this sweet couple took it all in stride and prepared for life with a little one.
Kristen's labor began in the middle of the night and steadily intensified over the course of the day. By late afternoon the contractions were very, very strong and Kristen's friend Alais came to do some Cranialsacral Therapy to help her move through it and support both Kristen and the baby. Kristen was progressing but slowly and some concerns arose over her Blood Pressure, the baby's heart rate and meconium in the fluid so we made the decision together to transfer to Pennsylvania Hospital. The rest of Kristen's labor and the birth were a great example of how the judicious use of an epidural and pitocin can be so effective and helpful in preserving having a vaginal birth. Kristen was so strong and steady throughout and Jude (God Bless Him hopping around the hospital room on one-foot!) and Kristen's sister and Cranialsacral Therapist Alais were also great support. Once Kristen got some rest and the pitocin was started things progressed quickly.
In fact at one point when the baby dropped quickly into the pelvis her heartrate dropped. At first there was concern but then we realized it was head compression as this baby girl was ready to be born! Kristen pushed amazingly effectively and Lilianna May Alvarez was born on January 26, 2012 after just 30 minutes of pushing! She weighed in at 6lb 10z and was (and is!) cute as a button.
Congratulations to this sweet family!
Sheila and Radha had a beautiful homebirth with Meredith for their first child Uma. You can read about it here.
Sheila had Uma early and didn't expect that would happen this time around so she was surprised when she started having contractions the morning of the Winter Solstice. I think that she was in a bit of denial about it really being labor and rather than call Meredith she just sent her a Facebook message as Meredith was showing up as being signed in. (Note--don't do this! Call or text us! ; )
Luckily Meredith saw the post and sure enough it was the real deal when she called this sweet family.
Meredith caught me just as I was leaving Sarah's birthin New Jersey so we all converged in Elkins Park. It was baby Nora's first birth with her mama midwife and soon-to-be big sister
Uma got some great practice entertaining a little one as she helped bounce Nora and keep her happy as Meredith and I attended to Sheila and Radha.
Sheila was in the tub rocking and moaning and singer her birth song. It was a sight to behold as she felt the baby moving down and her bright eyes shined with the intensity of the surges and the realization that indeed today was the day she would meet her new baby and be the mama of two lucky little ones!
Just about 30 minutes after we arrived Sheila powerfully and exuberantly pushed baby Madhava into her hands and there was a lot of joy in finding they now had a son! Uma and Nora were excited and happy too!
7 lb Madhava latched to the breast and soon big sister joined him.
What a happy family! And what a nice birth to welcome Meredith back from maternity leave too! Congratulations!
Morgan and Keith switched to planning a homebirth at the beginning of the third trimester for their second child. I remember after our interview Morgan wrote me saying she just felt so happy and at peace and excited to have found this model of care for the rest of her pregnancy and transition into the next chapter for her family after a very medicalized first birth in the hospital.
Morgan went into labor on a Saturday evening and I headed over around midnight. She is a very laid back mama and it was hard to tell how far along she was at first but the contractions were regular and felt strong. She is a crafty mama too and we enjoyed seeing some of the latest additions to the room including a mural of Ganesh on her closet door by the birthing tub. Ganesh--the overcomer of obstacles is a good god to be watching over you in labor!
Around 4 am on January 8, 2012 Morgan began pushing and soon after her bag of waters released. Often when the water breaks at that stage of labor and one has already had a vaginal birth the baby comes very soon after. When that didn't happen it seems to confirm our already strong suspicion the baby was posterior. Morgan was going to really have to work for this one! She got into McRoberts position (i.e. the position pretty flat on your back with your legs up by your ears that most folks think you never get into in a homebirth but sometimes is the best one for the baby to come out especially if posterior) and the baby started moving down more effectively. Soon after getting in that position the baby came around the curve of the birth canal and Morgan was able to feel "Frog's" head -- big brother Toby had named the baby Frog!
Zoe Indigo was born soon after weighing in at 7 lbs and indeed being born "sunny side up" or as my assistant Ana taught us it is called in Germany as a "stargazer". Thanks to Janeyne who was assisting me at this birth and complied with my excited request to get a picture of the baby and Morgan looking at each other when the head came out and Morgan was the amazing two-headed lady for a brief moment before she pushed out the rest of the body! And thanks for Morgan for being willing to share the pic!
Baby Zoe did the breast crawl and got a few good sucks in and some skin-to-skin time with mom and snuggles with daddy Keith (who was such a great support to Morgan throughout!) right after the birth which was so precious as that didn't happen in the hospital with her son. Big brother Toby slept the whole time but was very excited and a big overwhelmed to find out he had a sister when he woke!
Belinda wasn't due until Christmas eve so I was very surprised when I heard from her and Eric early in the morning of December 4th! But after an hour it was clear this wasn't warm-up later as her surges were coming every 3-4 minutes and getting stronger! When I arrived Belinda was working hard but doing a beautiful job relaxing with the contractions. Eric got the tub ready and she found some relief during transition in the warm water.
Belinda was strong and steady as she moved from the tub to the birth stool to her side in bed as she breathed her baby down and out. 7lb 5 oz Cal Arthur's head emerged after a slow gentle crowning while Belinda smiled from ear to ear with joy and relief!
His body slipped out with the next contraction and much to all of our delight this sweet little boy did the breast crawl and started nursing on his own minutes after the birth! Big brother Sam slept through the whole labor but joined his family soon after to welcome baby Cal. Congratulations to this great family!
Sarah and Ben were expecting baby number four just before Christmas. Sarah had a history of very fast labors so when she started having contractions on Thursday December 15th we all thought it was going to be the day and rushed over to her house. But her sweet little boy wasn't quite ready so we all just got to enjoy eating some of Sarah's amazing cooking for a few hours and then decided we needed to wait and let the little boy pick his birthday. Baby Blake was apparently set on being a Thursday's child--just not Thursday the 15th. Early in the morning of the solstice Thursday December 22nd I got a call that this was the real deal. I raced out the door on the unseasonably balmy first day of winter and got a text when I was minutes away that Sarah's water had broken. I knew that meant that the baby was coming quickly.
Sure enough 7lb 9oz Blake was being caught by his daddy Ben as I was pulling up in front of their house! It was perfect and just as it was meant to be. I came in a caught the placenta and checked on the baby and this strong, healthy mama. All was perfect! Sarah and Ben were calm and happy and big brother Tyler and sisters Cassidy and Ava were ecstatic and lovingly welcomed their little brother! What a lovely solstice gift and early Christmas present! Congratulations!
ps-As I left Sarah's Meredith called to inform me that another mama was in labor! What a solstice! More on that birth soon!
pps- Sarah made these amazing and yummy Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip muffins while up with early contractions at 2:30 am so we got to enjoy fresh muffins as we celebrated Blake's speedy and healthy arrival! Here's the recipe! Enjoy!
Chocolate Banana Muffins - Organic and Vegan Yields 12 muffins
1 3/4 cups spelt flour 1 1 /2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp salt 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas 2/3 cups maple syrup (grade b) 2/3 cup softened coconut oil 2/3 cups chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tray with coconut oil.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Add the mashed banana and syrup, and oil. Stir just until all the flour is sbsorbed. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Portion the batter into muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.