Motherland Blog

Welcome Ana & Janeyne to Motherland Midwifery

This fall while Meredith is in on maternity leave and enjoying her first months as a new mother (so exciting--but I miss you already Meredith!), we welcome two birth assistants to the Motherland Midwifery team- Ana Gonzalez, a German-trained midwife living in Collingswood who will be primarily assisting clients in New Jersey, and Janeyne Sexton, an Philadelphia-based RN with a range of experience and training in birth over the past decade who will be primarily assisting clients in Philadelphia and the Western Suburbs. Both proficient birth assistants, they will be helping me (Christy) at births through the spring (& possibly beyond) and also observing/participating in prenatal visits in more of a student/apprentice capacity starting this month. I'm really excited to be working with both Ana and Janeyne- we did our first births together Labor Day weekend (how appropriate!) and they each brought calm, positive, energy to the experiences for both the families and for me!

Please welcome them! If you are a current client you will be meeting one or both of them soon! (Just to clarify--only one of them will be coming to each birth.)

Ana Gonzalez

My path to midwifery started in the year 2000 when I witnessed the beauty of birth for the first time.  The experience of seeing a women gently birthing her child at her own rhythm, of her own strength, and in a safe dignified place inspired me to become a midwife.

A few months later, I enrolled in the School of Midwifery in Bochum, Germany.  My training consisted of a mixture of didactic studies and hands-on experience in a high volume perinatal hospital.   Four years later, in 2005, I graduated with my Certificate of Midwifery and began working on the labor and delivery floor at Augusta Hospital in Bochum, Germany, which is a medium sized, low-risk hospital.   Over the next five years, I served as the primary midwife for about 350 women giving birth. Also, I regularly taught birth preparation classes to expecting parents and did countless postnatal care visits (Note from Christy: In Germany every woman who gives birth gets up to 10 postpartum home visits in the first 2 weeks after birth regardless of birth setting—amazing!)

After getting married to my American husband, Tom, in 2009, I moved to the US to begin a new life with him.  After taking some time to make the transition to life in the US, I am happily and eagerly ready to continue my path as a midwife.  My goal is to become a Certified Professional Midwife and so I contacted Christy to gain experience in the home setting and learn more about being a midwife in this country.  I look forward to providing support to women in their childbearing year while assisting them in having a positive and empowering birthing experience.

Janeyne Sexton

As a West Philadelphia native and mother of two, my interest in attending birth began during my first pregnancy.  I lived in Virginia at the time; had little success finding a midwife and limited knowledge regarding birth. I studied to avoid being shuffled through an impersonal medical system and to arrange for the type of birth I felt I desired, natural, without intervention or augmentation.  This led to a wonderful opportunity to experience having my daughter, Oyin, at home which stoked my courage to pursue what soon became a passion for midwifery.

Upon returning to Philadelphia, I chose to break from studies in herbal medicine and attend nursing school.  Advised that doula work would provide a setting where I could become more intimate with the craft, I trained with the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) to become a Full Circle doula.  Shortly thereafter, I was selected by Birthing Project USA to work as a midwives’ assistant on two international medical delegations to coastal Honduras.  Working alongside grand midwives who represented various parts of the United States, I had the opportunity to help facilitate trainings which provided traditional Garifuna midwives with supplies and skills not commonly accessible in the region.  This experience was tremendously educational, provided me with a depth of perspective regarding birth that I repeatedly draw from, and was part of a remarkable progression of events which has included receiving a degree in nursing and passing the Pennsylvania State Board Nursing Examination in 2009.

Since that time, I have had the privilege of working with families as a doula and of sharing the very sacred first moments of life with them.  In addition to working and learning with the amazing staff at The Birth Center in Bryn Mawr Pa, I am currently enrolled in the post-licensure BSN program at Thomas Jefferson University.

It is because of my personal introduction to the miraculous and transformative energy of pregnancy and birth, as well as the blessings I have received being able to experience it within my own sanctuary, that I support home birth options.  Working with Christy as midwife for the birth of my son, Djoser, and now as a mentor is a precious gift; I feel blessed and honored to be able to function as a part of something so profound and powerful.  My gratitude extends to each through whom I continue to learn and grow.

Motherland Spring Potluck

Big thanks to Tanya, Rich and Nellie Veitch for hosting the Motherand Spring Potluck at their beautiful urban homestead in the woods off Lincoln Drive. We had a great turnout with tons of adorable babies and toddlers, delicious food, and fellowship amongst past, current and future client families. The kids enjoyed checking out the tadpoles, the pony and horse, the chickens, baby chicks and the honeybees too! Look forward to gathering again this summer! Enjoy these pics!

International Day of the Midwife Walk

Over 40 people joined us for Philadelphia's First Annual International Day of the Midwife 5K walk. Motherland mama Stephanie Dodd organized the event with help from Christy Santoro in response to the call from the International Confederation of Midwives in the few weeks leading up to May 5th and has plans to make the walk an annual event and to grow it much bigger next year!

The weather was perfect and all had a great time. We handed out over 200 fliers with information and resources about midwifery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the US and the world! See below for the information from the flier.

Here are some great pics from the walk! Look forward to seeing this event grow in the years to come!

Happy International Day of the Midwife! All over the world today midwives & their supporters are walking to promote increased access to midwifery care for all women & babies.

The world needs midwives more than ever. Access to essential midwifery services lowers maternal & infant mortality & reduces the cycle of poverty in developing countries. We want to demonstrate our commitment to tackling maternal & newborn mortality by walking shoulder to shoulder with midwives & mothers around the world. While inequalities are a global issue, we also want to raise awareness of local challenges. Right here in the Philadelphia region the quality of maternal & newborn care is being affected by continued closures of hospital maternity care units, the lack any freestanding birth centers within the city, & the state of Pennsylvania not offering licensure for Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) which limits access to homebirth services. Join our efforts to ensure there is a midwife for every mother & baby who needs one in Philadelphia & around the world! For more info & to get involved in local, national & international efforts go to: or send us an email at to receive updates or be informed of future events in the Philadelphia region!

Slow cooker...

Charmaine is a slow cooking mama. Her first child, Reese, was a New Year's baby in 2009 after a several day induction at home after having an ultrasound showing low fluid. He was born around 42+5 days with lots of vernix and lots of clear fluid. This time around we decided to give this baby more time to come on his or her own! However, once the 43 week mark came and went with little signs of labor, and fluid levels seemed to be dropping some more, the decision was made to once again try to nudge Charmaine in to labor while we knew the baby was in good shape. We weren't super certain about the dating of the pregnancy but thought we were within 3-4 days or so we were over 42 weeks already no matter which way we sliced it.

Things have a way of working out as they should. On Friday January 28th I moved my family to my aunt's nearby Charmaine's for the weekend so I could go back and forth and visit Itzela so we could settle in to our efforts to get labor started. Charmaine took castor oil that afternoon and we waited to see it take effect but nothing too exciting was happening. We were debating a second dose when we had another mama go in to labor on her due date and Char was tired anyway so I went to join Meredith at the other birth (story forthcoming) and left Charmaine and Jamie to go sleep for the night and regroup in the morning.

The next day we started with another smoothie, this time with 4 full ounces of Castor Oil. Charmaine is a big believer in muscle testing and this was what her body was telling her would be effective to move her in to labor. By nighttime things started picking up and we decided to do a little bit of breast pump and herbs to help tip her in to an active labor pattern. All the while, Charmaine was handling her surges beautifully and listening to the Joyful Pregnancy Affirmations and other tracks from the Hypnobabies Program she had been using for the past 2 months. It was working well!

The herbs and pumping after the castor oil had gotten things moving did move Char into true labor. I called Meredith to join us and we got ready for the baby to come! Big brother Reese must have felt the excitement as he woke up and was up for much of the night anxious to meet his sibling.

Things really started heating up as dawn approached. Although Charmaine expressed the rushes were much stronger/more intense than with her previous labor, from the outside she seems comfortable and very relaxed-those Hypnobabies techniques were really working for her!

At various times in the process, we talked about potentially opening the bag of waters to move things along and make the labor go more quickly. But each time we decided that it was best to let the bag open in its own time (which is what we almost always do). Charmaine was so patient with the process unfolding. I think especially because we ended up having to coax labor into starting again it was extra important to let everything else unfold on its own. Her mama instincts were so right!

Charmaine was incredibly strong yet very gentle in breathing her baby down the birth canal. There was never any noticeable pushing effort the whole time baby Bryson was making his way between worlds. About an hour before he was born, there was a huge release of the bag of waters (the outer layer had ruptured around 10:30 pm the night before-we've been having a lot of one layer of the bag breaking at a time lately!) with lots and lot of clear fluid. So much for that low fluid seen on the ultrasound! Typically after the membranes open at that stage of labor with a mom who had already had a vaginal birth, the baby follows very soon after. But the gentle breathing the baby down and out that Charmaine used allowed the baby to move bit by bit over the next 50 minutes.

Bryson Glen Rusin was gently birthed at 8:21 am on January 30th (the day his mama intuited he would come as we made our plan to induce) weighing in at 8lbs. When his head was born it started to rotate to the left, then stopped and switched directions and rotated 3/4 of the way around to birth the shoulders the way that worked for him. He had a true knot in his cord which can sometimes be problematic if the cord gets pulled taut during the labor as it can cut off oxygen to the baby. Yet another reason to not artificially rupture the bag of waters and let the baby use everything he could to cushion his journey! (Did you know that according to midwife Cornelia Enning it is illegal to artificially break the bag of waters during labor in Germany because they recognize it can be dangerous?!)

Big brother Reese joined his mama, daddy and little brother minutes after the birth and he and Byrson enjoyed "Mem" i.e. milkies together for the first time!

Congratulations and thank you for sharing your strength and faith in the process!

Here's a poem Charmaine wrote about waiting for baby that she wanted to share, especially with other slow cooking mamas...

Never again will I feel these limbs kicking, jerking, in my womb. The woosh of a body inside a body pulling like the tide with the moon. Never again will I have this glow of a round and sacred thing, the honor of providing life to a brand new human being. Never again will I be attached so firmly to another An intimacy not even known to the steamiest of lovers. A new life growing and churning just beneath my flesh, A miracle, a mystery With who's care I have been blessed. Soon enough, this life we share will be a foggy memory, So why would I rush to cut the cord Where God tethered himself to me?

Charmaine Rusin

Blizzard Baby of 2010...reflections from Christy a year later

I had the pleasure of being at Anjali Dyen's first birthday party today with Itzela. In reflecting on parents Madhavi and Jeremy's journey to birthing their daughter and my experience at their labor I realized I never posted the links to their accounts of the birth on their very comprehensive and enviable blog about their life with Anjali. So I wanted to share the links to their stories here so folks could check it out: Anjali's birth as told by her mama

Anjali's birth as told by her papa

and also share a bit about my personal experience as Madhavi gave birth to Anjali as it related to my own experience of labor and birth.

As most if not all of folks reading this blog know, I ended up having to have a medically necessary C-section with Itzela due to her having an unusually short cord that prevented her from being born safely vaginally after several days of labor. As one might imagine, this was especially challenging for me having been to hundreds and hundreds of homebirths and then to not get to feel my little one move down through the birth canal into my awaiting arms. I was so excited about pushing my baby out and truly mourned not having that experience (amongst many other things related to the C-section experience).However, I was also so profoundly grateful that Itzela and I were both safe throughout the whole experience and so thankful to live in a place where we have access to the best of both worlds in terms of hands-off, holistic midwifery care and high-tech, high-risk obstetric care.

When Madhavi was pushing at the end of her lovely Hypnobabies labor she was very connected and drawn to me, both physically and spiritually. As we made our way down the hallway towards the shower (which as you'll read in their stories we never made it in to the shower!) Madhavi's full moon belly was pressed tightly against my own stomach and chest. As each birthing wave came rolling through her body and Madhavi pushed, I could feel the baby moving down almost as if she was inside of me too! And then with the final wave before the head was born I felt the little one push off with her feet from the top of the uterus to help propel herself into life on the outside of the womb. It was quite a profound and moving moment for me as I realized that it was the closest thing I was going to experience to that last part of labor and birth while Itzela was still a little baby. You see the spring before I had taken a training in Cranialsacral Therapy for Newborns and Infants and the teacher, Carol Gray, had taught the midwives in the course in great detail about the efforts babies make in-utero to help themselves be born and we did exercises with little newborns recreating their birthing journeys in our arms to work through their births and saw those pushing efforts. For most of us the specifics of the baby pushing off the wall of the uterus to help move down through the birth canal was new fascinating information and really memorable, so it was amazing both as a midwife and a mama who had given birth by C-section to experience those sensations in that moment with Madhavi and Anjali. It was truly a gift and an important step in my healing from my birth experience.

Madhavi was standing leaning on me when the baby was born. I swear I even felt the sensation of the placenta started to detach as the baby was born from being belly to belly with the birthing mama, so I wasn't surprised when Meredith, who along with papa Jeremy had lovingly received the baby  on the floor below us, let me know their was a separation gush immediately after the baby was born and the placenta was coming. It was wild to feel that from the bodily perspective of the mama but to know what was going on physically, both because I'm a midwife and I wasn't in laborland!

I recognized that something special had just happened to/within me and tucked that feeling away for the moment  and worked hard to stay present as Madhavi's midwife for the next bit of time. Once we had tucked the sweet family in to their bed, I whispered to Meredith I needed to go downstairs for a few minutes. Itzela was just under 6 months old when Anjali was born and was in the house with me during the birth. It was the day after a huge blizzard last winter so Martin and Itzela both came so I could nurse since it would have been very hard for Martin to get back and forth with the baby in such weather. I went downstairs and shared the significance of the experience I had just had with Martin and held Itzela tight and had a healing, happy cry with my own family before going back to tend to the new family upstairs. I could tell that experiencing those sensations with Madhavi and Anjali was going to help me move forward in my healing journey.

We just never know what gifts we will be given in this work and I was reminded of that today being with this lovely family a year later! Thank you to Madhavi, Jeremy and Anjali for that blessing! Happy Birthday Anjali! Happy celebration of your Giving Birth Day to Madhavi and Jeremy!

The third December full moon baby!

Callie called early in the morning to let me know that she thought her labor might be brewing. Definitely having some new sensations with contractions, but no regular pattern yet.  She wondered if now was the time to alert her and Phil's dear friends from Missouri who were planning to drive to Philly and be here for the birth, or if it was too early.  "I know it could still be a couple of days once things get started," she says.  With beautiful baby Elliott making her arrival by lunchtime, it's funny to think that we thought it might be days! When I first arrived Callie was leaning over the bathroom sink with Phil squeezing her hips, moaning, and she looked at me between contractions and said seriously: "I think this is going a lot faster than we thought."  There was no doubt in my mind from the moment I walked in the house, so I started setting up my equipment right away.

A few minutes later, Callie turned to me again and said, "Just so you know, I'm starting to push a little bit-it just feels right." At which point I called Christy who raced over to join us as well as doula Mayumi Miller. Rarely do we have a first time mama whose labor goes so fast!

Callie spent most of her short and intense labor on her hands and knees by the side of the bed. Phil was by her side squeezing her hips when needed,  whispering encouraging and loving words, and being an amazing presence and witness to the miracle unfolding. Callie's mom, who came to be with them postpartum, marveled at how beautiful and calm the whole environment was in their home... indeed it was that way through the pregnancy and birthing as well.

At the end of her labor, Callie moved from the floor where she had been crouching down to the bed. Soon the baby began to crown, and when her head came out, Elliott turned all the way around, sputtering and making noise, to look straight up at us.   So special for Callie to be able to look down towards her baby looking up at her, while the rest of her body was still inside.  We all just stared in awe and delight...each birth is so unique.

And just a month after 7lb 3oz baby Elliott Ama Magdalene's arrival, Callie gets ordained as an Episcopalian achievement that was much more than 9 months in gestation.  Congratulations, Callie & Phil!

Bienvenido a Tara Alegría

Ivette and Steve were considering switching to a home birth late in their pregnancy and after coming to the fall potluck for Motherland families, they were convinced this approach to not only birth, but prenatal care, parenting and community was what they were seeking!

Like almost every first time mother, Ivette was surprised by the intensity of the rushes of labor but with support from her husband Steve, and Meredith and Christy, Ivette was able to shift in her experience of the rushes and draw upon her meditation practice to help her ride the waves of her labor.

Ivette shared with us that "your invitation to talk about my feelings and fears, was very important as well as the massages, the tenderness from all of you, your care in cooking meals, offering drinks, all of that was amazing!"

She and Steve were so beautiful in their connection and in their intention to be present in welcoming their daughter. Labor had begun with her water bag breaking and it seemed like the baby's head wasn't in an optimal position for stimulating strong contractions for that last few centimeters of dilatation. After more than 30 hours at home in the tub, out for walks, salsa dancing with her midwives, resting and doing some home approaches to increasing the frequency and duration of her contractions, we all decided it was best to go to the hospital for some rest and the judicious and appropriate use of Pitocin to help Ivette have a vaginal birth. We were blessed to be able to transfer to an area hospital under the care of the Certified Nurse-Midwife on-call who is an old friend of Christy's. The midwife gave Ivette a big hug and a smile as we arrived and we all knew it was going to be ok. Ivette got some rest and with the pain relief and Pitocin quickly proceeded to being fully dilated. We asked for the epidural to be turned down and Ivette was amazing at pushing her baby. It was so wonderful when Ivette exclaimed, "I can feel her moving down!" as the epidural wore off and she could really connect with the pushing and fully experience the gentle birth of her baby girl. Tara Alegría weighed 7 lb 12 oz and was present and alert from the first moments of her life. As we do with all our clients who have to transfer from home, we did all our home postpartum care and it was a true reminder of how wonderful it can be when homebirth midwives and hospital midwives, nurses and doctors can collaborate for the health and happiness of the mother, baby and family!

Full moon baby Aine-fast, furious & on her due date!

The full moon/lunar eclipse/winter solstice energy brought Motherland Midwifery a bunch of babies this year--three in 36 hours! It was Natalie's due date, December 20th, and she felt a pop and small gush of pinkish fluid at 6pm--would this baby come right "on-time" instead of a week or more "late" like her other two?  We chatted on the phone and I was wrapping up a homevisit in the neighborhood so decided to stop by and check-in.

Little did any of us know that baby Aine Siobhan (called Annie) would be born less than 2 hours later! I had left my equipment and headed home to put away groceries and nurse my baby to sleep thinking I'd be back in a few hours after big brother Connor and big sister Cara went to bed. But the contractions picked up like crazy right after I left and I turned around part-way home and raced back to Natalie and James' house with midwife Jane Cruice on her way to be there too.

Natalie was clearly in a very intense labor and seemed close to birthing when I arrived. Sure enough she started pushing and her 7 1/2 lb girl was born at 7:30 pm! What a whirlwind! It was a big of a shock for us all--especially Annie and Natalie and doula Jodi who arrived a bit after the baby. We all recovered as the family nestled in bed with their early Christmas present!

Baby Mose...the first of the full moon, solstice babies!

The full moon, lunar eclipse, winter solstice in December brought a bunch of babies this year. Three little ones in our practice were born within 36 hours and Anne was the first!

Anne, JD and big sister Tova welcomed little brother Mose to the world on December 19, 2010. Mose weighed in at 7lb 10 oz and he arrived on his own timeline. After a fast and furious first labor with her daughter, Anne experienced a very different pace this time as her labor began with the pull of the full moon breaking her waters for quite some time before active labor began.

She really welcomed and enjoyed the contractions as they came and worked beautifully and patiently with her baby, body and husband to birth her son right into her arms. Apparently only one layer of Anne's water bag had broken as Mose was born with the inner layer of the bag intact! We had to peel it off his face when he was born!

After the baby was out and settled in to bed to nurse, Anne and Tova sang him a song they had practiced--it was just so sweet and so perfect! The family is very glad they chose a homebirth this time around so they could let Anne's body take its time with moving into labor and having such a gentle birth and beginning for their son. Congratulations!

Baby Finnian is born!

Winter is Jess and Nathan's baby season--all their babes were born in the month between December 3rd and January 3rd! On December 3, 2010 Jess had her third homebirth and her third baby with Christy having the honor of receiving the new life into her hands! First one standing in the bathroom, second one in the birth tub, and this big guy came out with mama on hands and knees!

Jess was beautiful and strong and focused as she birthed her 10 lb 7 oz son, Finnian Emmett Kayleo Waggenbeek with his dad Nathan and Oma Susan and midwives Christy and Meredith there to welcome him! She had to push him out all the way to his toes with his sweet and chubby body. Big brother Otis helps Christy cut the cord and big sister Sadie joined us soon after to meet her little baby brother! Finn was a great nurser from the start and is growing like a champ so he can keep up with his siblings.

It is always extra sweet to be with a family for multiple children and especially with someone who is such a dear friend as Jess. I love you Mama! Thanks for inviting me to be part of your growing family!

Meredith's trip to Haiti: reflections, thanks and photos!

It is with much gratitude that I share some reflections on my recent trip to Haiti.  There is truth in the cliche "you get just as much as you give," out of a mission like this.  My earnest hope is that in 2 short weeks, I made some small impact on the heartbreaking problem of a high maternal and infant mortality rate...both by bringing much needed supplies, and by supervising/training Haitian midwives who will be there for the long term doing this important work.  I was welcomed graciously, both in the orphanage and among the midwifery students.

I was reminded of my own adaptability...and that even amidst the very different circumstances, in a different culture with very different resources, there is a fundamental sameness of women giving birth.  It is part of what has always captivated me about attending births- it is at the same time exquisitely personal and universal, it is both a sacred event..for some a peak spiritual event...and a mundane event happening every day all around the world.

Midwives I know come to this calling from many paths and for different reasons.  We are disgruntled by a medical system that seems to have undermined women's confidence in their bodies to give birth, we are political activists, we want to see women have the full range of options when choosing their care provider, we want to help women have empowered, sometimes even ecstatic birth experiences, and we believe that our work is contributing to the way families are welcoming their newborns and parenting the next generation.   I learned that women become midwives in Haiti in large part because they want to save least the women I met in this program.  They have seen enough women and babies in their families and communities die in childbirth, that they are compelled to learn the skills to help ameliorate this devastating reality.  While I didn't always observe the groovy "midwives model of care" that we strive to provide in our practice, the 12 students I met are well on their way to making a big difference in the lives of the mamas they serve.

There are so many stories I could share...but I fear this email is getting too long already. Like:  the twin delivery that we did in the middle of the night by headlamp, talking to the mamas of the 2 hydrocephalic babies that were born on my last day at the hospital, the lady who came in from a village a few hours after she had given birth because the placenta hadn't been born yet...manual removal of the placenta and then that mama stayed at the hospital for a good week of the time that I was there, the 4lb premie baby that I carried around the hospital looking for oxygen, the 4th c-section on a 23 year old that I sat in on.  On and on...would love to tell you more stories in person!

Let me tell you how your generous donations made a difference on my trip.  Not only did they contribute to my pre-departure visit to Penn Travel Medicine along with the proper vaccines and medicines to keep me safe while there (my mom also thanks you!), but also towards a personal translator to be at my side during all hospital and prenatal shifts, a 2 week stay at the guest house of Maison Fortune orphanage, transportation while in Haiti---all things which made it possible for me to do the work I came to do.  I was also able to bring two 50 lb. bags of luggage, filled with some art supplies for the children at the orphanage (which numbered over 200), and mostly medical supplies for the hospital and mobile prenatal clinic.  Baby scale, stethoscope, vitamins (most of which were used the one day we saw 70 women at a rural prenatal clinic!), hemoglobinometer and supplies, pee sticks, chux, sheets, mesh panties (they giggled at these...there is very little of anything disposable there), wind up flashlights (turned out to be very useful since the electricity goes out basically every night at the hospital), etc. etc.  AND, I have $500 left over to donate directly to Midwives for Haiti, which is amazing.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.



Brother Bear is Born!

Marni and Tray Duffy welcomed Ryder Doyle, affectionately known as "Brother Bear" by  big sisters Sage and Fern, into the world late Sunday night October 11, 2010. After waiting patiently going past her "due date" for the first time, Marni powerfully and gently birthed her big 8lb boy into water into the waiting hands of dad and midwife. It was an intimate little circle of love and support for this little being. I'll never forget the ear-to-ear beaming smile that emerged on Marni's face when she reached down and felt her son's head crowning and knew the moment of birth was near! So beautiful! He started nursing right away and hasn't stopped already 5 oz above birth weight at 3 days old! Welcome to the world Ryder!

Welcome to the world Ryder!

Orson is born!

Parents Chelsea Thompson and Jethro Heiko and big sister Hazel welcomed baby Orsen into the world on a busy Sunday morning in August for Motherland Midwifery (two babies before 10 am!). Orsen weighed in at 9 lbs--almost one and a half pounds bigger than his sister. It was a lovely waterbirth and Chelsea birthed her son with a roar followed by a smile of relief. We were all so impressed by her strength! Way to go Mama!

And her name is...

Itzela Domenica Santoro Wiley8lb 5oz 20 inches 8/12/2009 @ 5:09pm

Itzela a Spanish name meaning 'protected one'- pronounced as ee-tsela. A name we searched for after our experience together & born from our gratitude that she was protected & able to join us safely despite the perilous challenge with her short cord.

Domenica was Christy's Italian grandmother's middle name & it means 'Belonging to God'. Gram's birthday was on July 21st-looking back we laugh at our thinking 'maybe the baby will come on Gram's birthday!'

We have an eye toward calling the baby 'Zela' although a bunch of nicknames are being born each day! Zela means 'sacred' in Greek & also derives from having zeal, zest & passion for life!

It's a big name for a little girl but she's already more than matching it & it fits her perfectly!

Look forward to sharing more about this wild ride when as we settle into our babymoon...thanks for the love & support of our family!


Christy, Martin & Itzela

Midwife in Morocco!: Birth Story

Lila Canela Fina Tazi born at home in water Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 4:03 p.m. 7 lb. 7 oz (3.5 kg) and 20 inches long Wow! I can't believe that I am already writing the birth story! What an amazing day! Sadek's father predicted that today would be the day the baby would be born-- he was right! The three of us had an amazing Friday and Saturday together, and I felt our relationship as midwife and family really reached a new level of trust and connection. I had been planning to stay overnight Saturday at their house, but got invited to a party in Dar Bouazza, so adjusted my plan to go back to the beach. I joked with Aurelia and Sadek, that often when I have a party I want to go to, someone goes into labor and so that this was a good sign! They drove me to the mosque on the edge of the city and Jess picked me up there and we all kissed goodbye, promising to call the next morning before I went with Jess to El Jadida (a town about an hour south of Dar Bouazza) on Sunday morning to make sure no contractions were happening.

Sure enough, the midwife at the party mojo worked! Contractions and a small gush of fluid started around 3:30 am. But the contractions were about 15 minutes apart to start and so Aurelia rested in bed between them. They got closer but continued to be on the short side and of light-moderate intensity until dawn. She called me around 8 am to share the news and make sure I didn't head out of town! We chatted a bit on the phone and agreed it was too early for me to come and to check back in a couple hours and to go outside for a walk. Around 11:00 am we spoke again and contractions had spaced out a bit to every 10 minutes but were getting stronger and longer-- good signs! I suggested they eat a good lunch, try to rest and touch base in an hour or two. At 1 p.m. we talked again and things were still moving forward. We agreed I wouldn't rush up there but would start making my way to check in on the baby, get my things set up and etc. Aurelia had been listening to the baby with the fetoscope I had left with her and she was moving a lot and doing great. I had commented that often things don't really pick up until dark sets in, especially for first time moms so had emphasized the need to rest and eat and be patient.

I updated Trish and we agreed to leave in an hour or so. I went for a short walk on the beach and was in the midst of my third sun salutation when the phone rang again and I knew that it was time to go. Sure enough Sadek said that the contractions had really intensified and could I please come now. Of course! I loaded my things in Amine's car as Amine had taken the kids to his mother's with Trish's car. Somehow, Trish thought that she had a copy of the key to their second car, but upon trying it realized it was actually an old key to a car they no longer have! We didn't have a key to the car-- visions of taking a taxi blanca-- the crazy long distance taxi's that go up and down the road ran through my head, and my adrenaline started pumping. Every birth needs a little drama. Luckily our neighbor Jess had no plans since we had been planning to go to El Jadida together, so he let us use his car (a very cool little BMW- thanks Jess!). We were on our way!

We arrived shortly after 2 pm to find Aurelia in active labor and Sadek filling up the birth pool. I had brought the UK "Birth Pool in a Box" inflatable tub that I had rented from Mothering & More in Reading, and this would be the first birth I had used that tub. Per as usual, the task of filling the tub and managing the hot and cold water balance, pots on the stove, etc. was a bit distracting and kept dad busy for a bit. Sadek asked when I thought the baby would come and I answered truthfully that I didn't know, maybe in 3 hours, maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow morning. My feeling was that this was going very fast, but I've been fooled before so I certainly knew better than to make predictions! Aurelia was doing so beautifully--positively glowing, walking through the contractions, breathing, and sometime lying on her side in bed. I did a little massage to help her remember to relax her shoulders and she realized that the cold of my hands (cold hands-warm heart!) felt good so we started using a cool cloth on her shoulders and face and head which proved to be very useful for the rest of the labor.

The contractions were coming about every 3-4 minutes at this point and were quite strong-getting stronger each time. Aurelia was saying "I love the breaks!" and radiantly smiling, knowing the day was here when she was to meet her baby! As the strength of the contractions increased, and it very much looked to me like she was approaching transition, she started moaning a bit more and I think Sadek started to get a little worried, as very often happens around this point for the father. Trish (who was our lady in waiting in the kitchen in case I or we needed help) and I both assured him that all was normal and Aurelia was doing beautifully! Aurelia was so present- so in the present moment with each breath, using her breath as her guide, vocalizing low and open sounds like she had learned in yoga, in her pregnancy singing classes, that we had practiced together.

It was such an honor to witness. After the birth, she commented that last night she really tried to just let go and accept and surrender to the baby coming when she was ready. We had been talking a good amount about the balance between letting the baby know she was ready and could come, and not feeling like she was forcing it. She said she just consciously let go of wanting it to happen now-- of wanting me to get to travel, to stop keeping the secret of the homebirth from her family, to stop feeling impatient for the baby to arrive, etc. and trust that it would all unfold when and how it was supposed to! This was such a great lesson in how letting go of trying to control or force something allows it to just flow into your life.

Though the tub was only half full, I suggested Aurelia get in while we continued to fill it as things were building very quickly and I thought it might help take the edge off the pain and intensity. She loved the tub and we continued to fill it with very hot and then cold water until a point that I felt it would be fine if the baby was born there as I didn't want Sadek to be distracted anymore with that task. Aurelia was handling the fairly continuous flow of contractions amazingly well. Brightly smiling as each rush began to wane, wide-eyed and glowing in between. Sadek was behind her outside the tub for now, giving love and words of support and I was in front of her, helping her ground with eye contact and helping her bring her vocalizations lower and deeper. She said she felt very safe and surrounded by love with me in the front and Sadek in the back. After a couple particularly intense contractions, something shifted and it seemed that her body started to push a bit. She was on her knees, hips wide open working with gravity, opening for her baby, Wawita (their pet name for the baby in utero- that Aurelia learned as a name for baby when she lived in Chile) She was so in tune with exactly where the baby was the what the different sensations she was feeling were--for a first time mom this was pretty incredible.

After a half hour or so, I suggested Sadek get in the tub-- partly to allow him to be closer to the experience, partly to help physically support Aurelia and partly because I knew he would help bring the water up to a level I'd feel more comfortable with for the actual birth! Once he got in the tub, it became clear that Aurelia's body was spontaneously pushing. And she loved it-- she felt here baby moving down, felt her body working! We moaned and ohm-ed through the contractions together and gazed deeply into each other's eyes (Monique, if you are reading this, it was very much like at your birth--gazing into the eyes of the eternity of women who had given birth through the ages), I was smiling at her nodding, saying "this is bringing your baby, don't be afraid, you are doing it, your baby is going to be born soon". Thankfully I had brought my new underwater flashlight, so I could easily see what was going on. Aurelia had the natural instinct to give some counter-pressure at the top of her labia, and could feel the baby's head bulging. At one point I reached down to feel the baby's head right there and assure her everything was all right-- that was the closest we came to any vaginal exam.

Within 10 minutes of sensing the shift of her body pushing, we started to see the baby's head--I shared with them "your baby has black hair!", which was very exciting for mama and papa. Aurelia had changed from a hands and knees squat to sitting back semi-reclined towards Sadek. The baby was coming and she knew it! With each contraction I could see more of the baby's head through her labia, more of the hair peeking out. With Sadek supporting her from behind, I offered reassurance that all was okay and that she was doing this beautifully and did not need to be afraid. Every contraction ended with a deep breath and a smile--Aurelia has a smile and radiance that lit up the room, it was such a gift to be sitting right in front of her as she gave birth. As she felt the baby coming down with each contraction and then retreating between, I explained that soon the baby would stay down in between contractions and then be born, and that she was stretching beautifully and this was giving her perineum a chance to stretch around the baby's head. As she and Sadek had recently started doing perineal massage, she understood those sensations. The whole baby's head was bulging in her perineum-- it was a perfect birth video "live". After the birth, Aurelia commented that she was so happy we had watched several birth videos together, including some that very closely showing the actual crowning and birth as it helped her visualize what was happening and understand what her body was doing.

The crown of fire began and this little being was about to join us! She was stretching beautifully and with one last push, the crowning of the head, eyes, nose, mouth. I reached in to check for the cord, and there was a loop around the neck that I couldn't reduce over the head so I just held it over the shoulder- which was presenting within 20 seconds of the head being born. And then, came the baby! The cord was around the neck, under and around the arm and around the trunk of the body, thick, pulsating and beautiful. I tumbled the baby out of the cord and brought placed the baby on her mama! It was 4:03 p.m. on January 21, 2007.

Wawita was completely covered in thick white vernix-- more than I have seen on a baby, especially a baby at term, in a long, long time, making her look even more new, a creature from the spirit world not yet fully transitioned to our realm. It was amazing to see her unfold and transform over the next hours into her full baby self. (Sadek kept remarking through the evening--"She's changed!" "She's changed again!" It was so sweet.) Such a fast and intense labor--everything happened so quickly I think we were all a bit stunned. Could it be true? The baby was born ten days after my arrival, after we had connected and bonded and belly casted, baby was born in the tub with Sadek in the water with her, with lovely music playing (which I found out afterwards was shamanic music from Peru that was very special to Aurelia), diffuse late afternoon light, the fire in the fireplace. It was all as we had visualized and hoped for, but had done our best not to be attached to and it has manifested that way! Amazing! Baby in her arms, with wide present eyes and an even bigger smile, Aurelia explored her little baby. After a few minutes she looked at my kind of tripped out and blissed out and said that she couldn't really feel present, that so much energy was coarsing through her. I told her not to worry, just breath and do whatever she needed, that she would come back to earth soon enough.

I ran out to the kitchen to "tell" Trish that the baby was born. She of course had heard everything and was sitting in the kitchen with tears in her eyes. She came in to meet the baby for a couple minutes soon as Sadek and Aurelia thanked her for all her help and support. This little pink flower, Lila, continued to blossom and unfold before our eyes. She gazed wide-eyed up at her mama, and was so calm and content, reacting to her parents voices and singing, taking this whole birth thing in slowly and peacefully. Her cord was pulsing strongly for over 10 minutes.

If there is anything I am proud about in this experience, it was my excellent multi-tasking as midwife and birth photographer. While I didn't get the actual birth since I had to catch the baby, I got some great shots during labor and immediately after the birth. Within minutes of the birth, Sadek and Aurelia were singing their welcome song to the baby, whose pet name on the outside became Canela Fina "the best cinnamon". "Hola Wawita, bienvenida, Canela Fina" and I tried the video function on my digital camera for the first time since Christmas day and shot a very sweet 45 seconds of this family discovering each other, loving each other, honoring the birth of their beautiful family with the music from Peru in the background. There had been some bleeding right at the birth, which in the tub looks like a lot (like food coloring in water) but all within normal. After a half-hour, I cut the cord and we planned to have Aurelia squat next to the tub to birth the placenta which has separated. Sadek held his little girl skin to skin and brought her to the bedroom and Aurelia birthed the placenta once I promised her that it really, really, wouldn't feel like the baby being born! The placenta plopped out and mama joined baby in the bedroom. It was an interesting placenta-- I forgot to take a photo after I examined it and put it in the freezer-- it had an extra area extending in to the sack from the main disc, kinda like a stem off an apple or strawberry. But it was all there and very healthy.

The baby latched right away in the bedroom. Calls to family disclosing the exciting news as well as the home waterbirth were made to Sadek and Aurelia's parents and siblings. Trish and I laughed as we heard them explain in French-- "no we are not at the clinic. The baby was born in water at home. We had a sage femme (midwife in French) extrodinaire!" All were excited, if a bit taken aback by the news of the location and manner of the birth. Aurelia's father put their sentiments best when he said, "It sounds like it was wonderful and beautiful and I'm so glad I didn't know about it beforehand." Aurelia was a perfect example of the sentiment that "women birth as they live." Her approach to life is peaceful, aware, present, creative and beautiful and that was all reflected in her approach to the pregnancy, her openness to the journey with this little being, her beauty and grace during labor and trust in her body and her baby.

What a gorgeous vision of love and family union to behold--and what a contrast to what is available to women here, even more stark than what I feel when I'm at a birth in the U.S. Trish remarked later-- how sad that this will probably be the only baby born at home (planned) in Casablanca this year. It would have been so wrong for this birth to have taken place in a clinic here--it just couldn't have happened, and Aurelia's deep, clear knowing of that is what got a midwife she never met from Philadelphia to come to Morocco to help her safely fulfill her vision of a different way to birth her baby. Of course, it is only because they have considerable resources that this was able to happen, but I have no doubt that this mama is going to spread the word and do the work over time of helping to create options for women here...I've already encouraged her to think about how to start teaching childbirth classes once her baby is a bit older-- she has a gift, great intuition and instincts and such a passion and belief in her body and all women's bodies to give birth--perhaps she will become a midwife herself?

vamos a ver...