Thursday's child...welcome Blake!

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.

Better late than never for a home sweet homebirth!

Marisa and Chris came late to the homebirth decision. We had spoken earlier in her pregnancy but she had decided to just stick with working with midwives in the hospital setting. But as the birth grew closer she realized that in her heart she really wanted to have her baby at home. Her first appointment was her 36 week home visit and we all jumped into the journey together full force! At 39 weeks Marisa thought she was going into labor but things were very inconsistent still. We decided to keep in touch over the afternoon and I started heading back into the city from the Western Philly suburbs where I was with family. Right as I was pulling up to my house Marisa called reporting they were coming every 3 minutes all the sudden and strong! It was a Monday so Martin was in New York. My babysitter was on her way home from work to watch Itzela but given it was baby number two and rush hour I couldn't wait the 30 minutes til my babysitter arrived. I headed over with Itzela in tow and my friend and sister Motherland Mama Inga agreed to meet me in the rain at rush hour with her two kids at the house to pick up Itzy (thanks Inga!!). We arrived and dad Chris put on Dora the Explorer in the living room for Itzela who was nonplussed having Marisa in transition in the bathroom just 4 feet away. Itzy knows her mommy is a midwife and "a midwife helps mommies and babies" so we talked in the car on the way about the fact that mommy had to help this other mommy and I needed her to just wait for Inga while I worked. She said "ok mommy!". My little midwife helper.

Anyway, back to Marisa!!! She was on the toilet laboring hard with the support of husband Chris and her friend Rikki who is an acupuncturist and doula in training. It seemed like the baby was going to come very soon. But after her water broke while on the birth stool things didn't progress as quickly as I expected. Looking at her belly it seemed the baby had rotated posterior as he was finding his way through the birth canal. We did some positional things to help the baby get in a better position but at this point Marisa was full-on pushing and baby was descending. Ana arrived just before baby 7lb 10oz Benjamin emerged "sunny-side up" and Marisa brought him to her belly.

Marisa was amazing and Chris was calm and excited about his first baby! I'm so glad this sweet family made the switch to homebirth! Congratulations!



Fast & furious first time labor!

Maria had been at my house at 5 pm on November 14th so I could check on the baby's heartbeat. She was around 41 weeks and we just were making sure the baby was moving ok and still happy being on the inside. Maria had been at acupuncture earlier in the afternoon. As she was leaving my house at 5:30 pm she started to have a few contractions. We joked about the baby coming in the next few hours as my mom who was my childcare had just left (since Maria was my only client in her birthing window, was a first-time mom and wasn't in labor) and Martin wasn't going to be home for a few hours. Maria got home and sure enough contractions picked up. By the time her husband Matt was home from work at 6:30 pm she was having contractions every 6-8 minutes. Within an hour they were coming every 5 minutes and super strong and I got ready to head over. As I was packing up my car Matt called saying he thought Maria was pushing! Ahh! I was delayed a couple blocks from my house when I apparently -with the surge of adrenaline - didn't exactly stop for a stop sign and had to explain to the police I was racing to catch a baby. Thankfully they waved me on and  I arrived, parked illegally and ran up the three flights of steps to find Maria in the midst of a furiously strong contraction and sure enough sounding like she was pushing! Matt asked me if he should fill the tub and I told him it was way too late for that! Maria remembers after I said that there was a pause during which Matt realized the birth was happening NOW! Exciting!  I did a quick check and she was 10 cm with a bulging bag of waters. Maria was amazing! Matt exclaimed- "What a Motherland Mama you are!" in his excitement and was so sweet and supportive. Maria moved to the birth stool and began pushing began in earnest. Janeyne was on her way and arrived just before the baby was born.What an exciting and unexpectedly rapid labor!

8lb 4oz Anders Paolo was born at 9:57 pm- less than 5 hours after Maria left my house having no more than sporadic short contractions--wow! Talk about fast and furious! Daddy Matt was very impressed shouting "This is the most awesome birth ever!" Congratulations to this sweet family!

Welcome Julian Felix!

Liz and Jared were due on 11/11/11- what a cool due date! As some blood pressure concerns arose the end of pregnancy Liz was super diligent about nutritional and alternative ways to help keep her BP under control. She went into labor the night of 11/9. It was a hard labor pattern and her body had a difficult time keeping anything down as the surges came. When her water broke and there was pretty thick meconium in the fluid and we were still in the first part of labor, we all decided the hospital was the safest place to be and knew Liz could benefit from IV fluids since she was nauseous and throwing up too. Baby Julian Felix was born Wednesday November 10th weighing in at 8lb 11oz.

He was such a cutie with a lot of hair and just plain adorable! Julian spent a week in the NICU due to respiratory concerns that the doctors thing were due to an infection that developed during her labor. Liz recovered beautifully and was soon able to nurse her son and was very calm and present with him through it all. He went home at a week old healthy and strong and an amazing breastfeeding baby!


"The Mighty One" is born!

Snow in October in Philadelphia is not a common occurrence. But after this year's weather, we all know anything is possible. So when I heard from Ammie and Schuyler early on the morning of the 29th that early labor had begun, as we prepared to set out for some snowy Halloween parties, I wasn't at all surprised. Both because I had a feeling Ammie wasn't going to wait for November to have her baby, and because big changes in weather often bring on labors!

Contraction waves stayed about the same for the day and the family (big "brother" Toby the dog included) went on a snowy walk in Mount Airy. Close to midnight Ammie's water bag released and things intensified so Janeyne and I headed over. It was such a treat to see several inches of snow on all the fall trees in Mount Airy, a veritable pre-winter wonderland, in contrast to just the sleet and slush in South Philly. Those couple degrees of heat in the heart of the city make a big difference I suppose!

This yoga mama was relaxing well through the contractions and mostly upright in her bed. That yogic breathing is so helpful for labor--Ammie's powerful breath directed the energy of her surges and things were moving along. But baby Bhima (sanskrit for "The Mighty One") was still working through things on his journey. Mama cajoled her son encouraging him to cross the threshold into life on the outside and making sure he knew they were ready and he was most welcome! At one point she said, "Let freedom ring Bhima-it's time to be born!".

As dawn approached we were all a bit surprised to not have met this little one yet. I encouraged Ammie to try some squats with Schuyler supporting her as she really did not like the birth stool but we wanted some gravity and to help her really sink into the sensation of the baby moving down. That was the trick-- what a sight to see this loving, strong, couple both squatting for most of a half an hour with no other support than each other. Ammie really began to moan and move the baby downward and Schuyler was quietly focused on supporting her and reminding her he was there for her to lean on and to offer strength and love for their family. At one point during this time, Ammie finished a contraction and with wide, beautiful eyes shared, "It's not about opening your cervix, it's about opening your whole heart!". And then just after saying that, exclaimed, "Something's happening!". We shifted back into the bedroom and after a bit more work including some hip rocking to help baby navigate the pelvis, Bhima's head emerged. Ammie was semi-reclined on the bed with Schuyler behind her helping her pull back her knees towards her ears during her pushes. With Ammie being as incredibly flexible as she is this was quite a sight as her knees were literally up behind her ears really accentuating the passage of the baby through the birth canal towards crowning. The parents had a great view from that vantage point of seeing the head slowly emerge and baby Bhima moving his head around even as it passed through the ring of fire- those babies are such active participants in their births working with their strong mamas!

6 lb 13 oz Bhima latched right onto mama's breast and had continued to be an amazing nursling gaining weight like crazy! Ammie & Schuyler & Bhima snuggled up together for a snowy Sunday in October- what a (trick-or-) treat! And little Bhima is another early EC baby-he's even learning to signal for pees at 10 days old! Wow!

Welcome Matteo Justus Shenk!

Cheryl and Tim are a lovely, kind, compassionate couple that live in the Camden Community House in the Waterfront South neighborhood of Camden and are very involved in efforts to bring social and environmental justice and resources for positive change to their community and city. Martin, Itzela and I are occasional attendees of the church they do work with and through--Sacred Heart--and so we've gotten to know them through church and another Motherland family, Cassie, Chris and Simon Haw. Itzela and Lydia have become buddies, especially through prenatal visits (where Lydia perfected her fetoscope skills per the photo here!) and playing in the back of the church. It has been fun to see the girls get to know each other more throughout Cheryl's pregnancy--to the point that now when Itzela and I have come to the house she says, "No church, just Lydia's house". Timothy is such a fun, engaged dad (and, as we saw during the labor-an engaged, loving partner) that Itzela often talks about him and asks for "Michael Jackson dance parties with Lydia's daddy".

I attended a Mother Blessing for Cheryl and the common theme of the women sharing their thoughts was Cheryl's quiet strength. It is a constant yet subtle presence in her day-to-day life and that carried through into her labor as well. As did her subtle and wry humor--always fun when mamas can keep their sense of humor through labor (though understandable when mamas can't too!) With Cheryl's first birth she had taken castor oil after her membranes had been open for awhile, so she was looking forward to spontaneous onset of labor this time around. After a few bouts of warm up labor weeks before her due date, early labor set in the morning of her 41st week of pregnancy. Timothy has written a lovely, detailed account of the labor and birth that I'm hoping they'll share on the website, but I'll share a few of my favorite thoughts/moments.

Cheryl and Timothy really made an impression on Ana with how connected they were through each surge and how Timothy was completely and deeply present to Cheryl for each moment of the labor even as he jotted down notes about the journey to record the story for the baby.

When I decided it made sense to do the rebozo sifting of the belly to help get the baby's head aligned better, we offered to pile up pillows for Cheryl (who was on her hands and knees while I did the rebozo) to rest on in between contractions. But Timothy wanted to be helpful so he made himself into a human table for Cheryl to rest on (a phenomenon that I've witnessed before in labors but never ceases to move me!).

Lydia came into the room after missing mommy and after a few cuddles and kisses with mom, decided to give some direction by saying, "Baby come out. Now!!".

Even with her focus on birthing her baby, Cheryl really wanted to make sure that the post-baby lasagna Timothy had prepared was defrosting and then getting heated up for her-- she knew she'd be hungry!

When Cheryl was on the birth stool getting into the groove of pushing, I asked her at the end of the contraction how it felt to push and she commented "It feels crowded". We all got a good laugh at that! Little did Cheryl know she'd be holding her baby only minutes later!

Baby Matteo Justus Shenk emerged at 1:22 pm weighing 8lb 9oz with his big sister Lydia there to greet him with her parents and auntie's Cassie and Kristin. Timothy sang his son a welcoming song and Cheryl was able to gather up baby from between her knees and enjoy that Golden Hour postpartum with her son and family despite a bit of bleeding (which our team of Ana, Kate Aseron of Rising Moon -who had been at Lydia's birth, and I handled smoothly together--go midwives!). And little Matteo was doing poops and pees into the potty bucket just a couple days after his birth! I even got to EC (Elimination Communication) him at one of the home visits : )

Itzela joined me on a home postpartum visit the day after the birth to have a little playdate with Lydia and her grandparents. Later that afternoon Itzela told me she wanted to be a sister--so Lydia must have really been doing a great job and enjoying her new role in the family!

Matteo and his midwife


Welcome Matteo! And congratulations to this sweet family!

Motherland Fall Potluck!

We had a beautiful autumn day and a wonderful turn out last Sunday for our Motherland Fall Potluck! At the height of the gathering there were over 50 folks, big and small, enjoying food, fellowship and Itzela's toys and dress-up clothes! From vegan raw foods cheesecake to veggie pot-pie, homemade apple pie to 7-layer dips and hot mulled apple cider to beautifully decorated shortbread cookies, and more- the food offerings didn't disappoint! But it was seeing the families meet each other and all those amazing babies and the increasing number of toddlers enjoy playing together that was the real highlight! And of course giving Nora Grace a big welcome and seeing Meredith as a beautiful nursing mother!

We look forward to the next gathering! Enjoy the rest of your autumn & this Smilebox of photos from the day!

Click to play this Smilebox collage
Create your own collage - Powered by Smilebox
Customize a free collage

Lucky 7...October 7th, 7lbs and 7th baby!!!

Yolonda and Isaiah and their family moved to South Jersey when they were about 33 weeks pregnant and found me just in time to make plans for a homebirth! They had 5 girls and 1 boy and their last baby had been born at home in Ohio with a midwife I know from doing midwifery/birth political work nationally. This sweet family was excited for a homebirth to christen their new home. Yolonda had typically had long labors even with having birthed a number of babies. This time around however, she had a lot of warm up labor from Saturday night through the week until Thursday but the bouts of contractions kept stopping after a period of time. It was my hope that after all that warming up, the main event would be much faster for this quiet powerful mama. And that was certainly the case!

Isaiah called just after midnight on the 7th to report it seemed like this was the real deal. Ana and I arrived within 45 minutes and it certainly appeared like Yolonda was in active labor. She had warned us she was a very calm laborer (so calm her midwife had missed her last birth because it seemed so early on) so we had that info. Ana had also seen her earlier in the day when she was having regular (but in restrospect much calmer) contractions and could attest to the fact that the surges we were witnessing that night were much stronger. Yolonda's two oldest daughters were helping out timing contractions and awaiting the new arrival. Very soon after we arrived things shifted into a stronger pattern and before we new it Yolonda had the urge to push. After a beautiful slow gentle crowning baby Taja (all 7 kids have "T" name) was born in the water into Ana's excited, caring hands- marking her first baby catch on American soil! Soon after the other big sisters and brother appeared to great the newest addition to this big happy family. The family preferred to let the cord dry on its own for a Lotus birth so we tucked the mama, baby and placenta (wrapped in a bag and then in a container) into bed before we were on our way a few hours later.

Ana joyfully proclaimed, "These are the births I've always read about! I'm going to dream about this one!" as she reflected on how happy she was to have the opportunity to assist at low intervention natural childbirths in the home setting. It's been lovely to work with Ana and share experiences with one another and it was wonderful to see her so happy to serve this family!

Congratulations to Yolonda and Isaiah and family, and to Ana too!

Friday, Saturday, Sunday...and Baby Jack arrives!

Michelle and Lee Clemmer patiently waited to meet their child as their due date came and went around Labor Day and they saw other families in the practice due after them welcome their little ones. When Michelle 18 days past her due date and the baby's fluid levels had suddenly dropped we decided to try castor oil after three days of acupuncture hadn't gotten labor started. Michelle's full moon belly was impressive and she was strong and determined as she moved around her home and went on long walks trying to help her body move into labor. Her water broke after taking the castor oil (nice clear fluid even at that gestation for the healthy mom and baby!) but we still were unable to get into active labor after 18 hours at home and the decision was made to continue the induction efforts in the hospital. The test of endurance and patience continued there as the hospital staff used the tools they had to get Michelle's cervix favorable for the use of pitocin.

After 18+ hours in the hospital Michelle was handling the contractions she had beautifully but the medications we tried had not worked to the point pitocin could be used. At that time the difficult but reasonable (given the gestation, open bag of waters with GBS and challenge getting any regular labor going) decision to have a C-section was made as it seemed that the baby was maybe communicating that he or she didn't want mom to go into labor. With Lee's love and support and Michelle's eye towards a long life with a healthy baby, this sweet couple shifted gears to excitedly celebrating the birth of 11lb 8oz (!) Jack Albert Clemmer on Sunday Septebmer 25th! We were expecting a 10 lb+ baby but were all impressed with his size. Jack was the third baby in three days for Motherland that weekend!

Jack is almost unbearably cute and an excellent nurser-mama Michelle was over the moon when Jack latched in recovery soon after birth. Michelle is absolutely delighted to be a mom and falling more and more in love with Jack each day and Lee has become a championship baby wearing daddy!













It was such an honor to see the family move through this challenging journey with grace, humility, love and perspective on the long-term vision of their family life together.


Surprise...Baby Wolf wanted to be born in September!

When Wolf Gabriel Snyder decided he was ready to be born at just under 38 weeks he meant business and made quite an entrance! Kate and Damean were preparing for new carpet installation and finishing up the nursery on Saturday September 24th when Kate's water broke at 3pm. No one would have imagined by 9:30 pm that baby Wolf had arrived! As I've talked about a lot recently-- fast and furious labors don't equal easy. By 5pm Kate was in very hard labor and progressed from 2-3 cm to 9+ cm in just an hour and she worked for it! The tub provided some relief and Damean was a loving support to his wife encouraging her with positive affirmations like "You were made for this" when the intensity of the surges was making Kate wonder how long she could keep up with the labor. She was an absolute natural at laboring though--and looked glamorous and beautiful the whole time too!

We think baby Wolf was a bit surprised by labor starting too and it appeared that his head entered the pelvis tilted (asynclitic) when the water bag broke unexpectedly that day. We did all our tricks to help the baby's head adjust and Kate began to push. However, the baby's heartbeat showed he wasn't at all happy with pushing. After trying to get him out quicker than we normally would for a first time mom, and continued concern about his heartbeat combined with uncertainty as to if he would be born in 10 minutes or an hour or more, the decision was made to be in a hospital for the birth in case the baby needed extra support to transition to life outside the womb. Kate was calm and focused and an amazingly strong mama through all the craziness and we think one of the bumps on the ride helped get Wolf's head in a better place to be pushed out. He was born just 10 minutes after getting to the hospital and came out healthy and handsome much to the relief of all of us present! He did have quite an impressive conehead coming up on the one side of his head though which both confirmed our suspicion he had come down a bit crooked and prompted his daddy's first question once he saw his son was crying and healthy to be "is that going to stay like that?" (To which I responded "Nope--but that is really the reason we put hats on their heads after the birth!") It is miraculous how those baby heads mold and change to make that journey!

Wolf was born at 9:18pm on Saturday September 24, 2011 and weighed in at 7lb 2oz and 20 inches and was the second and most unexpected of the three babies of the weekend for Motherland Midwifery.

What a beautiful, loving family! Congratulations!

Helen Magnolia...born in a flash!

Summer was expecting a fast and furious labor after a very first fast birth 4 years ago. Jane Cruice (who was at Summer's first birth and who was going to the birth with me) and I were really focused on getting there in time to catch the baby! So we were in close touch with Summer about if she noticed anything starting up since she seemed to have missed early labor last time around! Fast and furious it was! Things suddenly shifted from light occasional crampy contractions to slamming labor and there was no stopping this baby! Summer managed the intensity of the labor amazingly well but it was a big shock to her system that the baby was coming so fast. Realizing her best chance at a break was having the baby be born, Summer was able shift from disbelief baby was coming so quickly to lovingly welcoming baby Helen Magnolia just 90 minutes after active labor began. Soon after being born Helen met big sister Birdy (who also weighed 8lb 1oz at birth!) and daddy Jeffrey was happily beaming, surrounded by the ladies in his life.



Helen nursed beautifully soon after birth and we tucked the family in for the night before I headed to the next mama in what proved to be a busy baby weekend for Motherland Midwifery!

Kestrel Rain Veitch is born!

Tanya and Rich Veitch along with big sister Nellie welcomed sweet Kestrel Rain to the their family on Tuesday, September 13th at 1:47 pm. Tanya had been my client for the birth of her first daughter Nellie who was ultimately born via C-section after an epic and valiant 3-day labor. Nellie had rotated posterior while trying to navigate through the birth canal with her arm up around her neck. We could see and Tanya could feel Nellie's head while pushing but the combination of the arm plus a posterior presentation was just too much to be able to fit 8lb 3oz Nellie through. I was very confident in Tanya's ability to have an HBAC (Homebirth After Caesarean) and super excited to be part of what we hoped would be a much shorter labor and triumphant VBAC!

Tanya had a feeling the 13th was her day--it would have been her mother's 60th birthday and the full moon was the night before and it just felt like her time. Sure enough contractions began just around midnight but they weren't into an active labor pattern until close to 9 am. At that point though things shifted rapidly and Tanya found herself immersed in a fast and furious intense labor--completely different from the last time around.

Some relief was found in the tub but it didn't slow the labor down. Understandably, Tanya needed reassurance that her body was working, that she was progressing and most importantly that this level of intensity wasn't going to last too long as it was much harder to cope with than the intensity of the surges last time. (Note from Christy- fast and furious labors are as hard or harder than the slow and steady ones as the mom's body has to open up just as much only in a shorter time period so each contraction can be that much more intense!) We reassured Tanya that she and baby were moving right along and that she was laboring beautifully and effectively! It was such a powerful and exciting moment when Tanya felt the baby surge down while pushing in the tub and I saw that in that very instant she truly and absolutely believed that she was going to push this baby out at home. Determination and renewed strength set in and before long the head was crowning.

Laura Cochran, CPM (a former apprentice of mine when I worked with Karen Webster and now owner of Sunrise Midwifery) was on-hand to assist me at this birth and her calm and steady presence was very welcome as the birthing time approached. She had been an apprentice at Nellie's birth so it was sweet to have us all come full circle. Janeyne was also on-hand as Nellie's doula and she did a brilliant job of keeping Nellie happily occupied and unfazed by the noises mommy was making. At one point Nellie came over to Tanya and kissed her and said "I love you mommy" and "You are doing a great job" and then went back to playing with Janeyne.

And back to the birth...the baby crowned in the water and then Tanya had to work very hard at the end of the labor to push out 9lb 5oz (!) Kestrel Rain as her shoulders needed some help to pass through the pelvis. The baby transitioned beautifully and soon was earnestly at Tanya's breast and greeted by her big sister Nellie. Daddy Rich was calm and loving throughout the labor, birth and postpartum and is thrilled about having another daughter.

Thank you for allowing me to serve you as midwife again and for inspiring this hopeful future VBAC mama with your strength and determination!

Gavin is born!

From Stacie: Thank you all so much for playing a role in the birth of our son!  You were every reason why my birth was so satisfying to me and will leave such a positive impression on me for the rest of my life.  From Maria watching Mia so that Dave could focus on me to Laura's photography and positive words during pushing to Meredith's gentle reminder that perhaps I should push a wee bit harder.  Christy, what can I say, you have been there since day 1 (well week 13 is pretty close anyway).  Thank you for putting up with my "scientician" ways of analyzing things (and over-analyzing, at times) and thank you for always making me feel so comfortable under your care.  If we were planning to have another baby, I would want no one else to care for me and for my growing family than Motherland Midwifery.  The journey that you guided me through has been awesome.  From the empowerment I felt from the first pee stick I had to interpret on my own to the trust I gained in my body's ability to birth a baby with no internal exams or "coaching" and finally to the amazement I developed for Gavin's ability to nurse without assistance at less than 1 hr old.  These experiences are now embedded in facets of my personality that are forever mine to treasure.

Thank you each for playing such an integral role.  And without further ado, here is Gavin's birth story:

Let me start off by saying that this birth story will not include times and dilation updates because no internal exams were done. I was Group Strep B positive and internal exams can spread the bacteria. We did get an intramuscular shot of antibiotics but midwives are generally minimalistic in their approach anyway. But I digress. . .

· I want to start off the actual birth story by saying that the last trimester was sprinkled with an astounding number of Braxton hicks contractions making me carry the lovely diagnostic term of “irritable uterus”. Kind of just evokes a hilarious image doesn’t it? In any case, with regular intense contractions ever 2-3 mins apart lasting an entire minute it was no wonder that I suspected I wouldn’t know I was actually in labor until the early phases were gone and the active/hard labor had begun. Fortunately, I was wrong.

· The day before Gavin’s birth day was a fairy tale day for our former family of 3. It started off with blueberry pancakes that we all made together and then proceeded to the Philadelphia public library to return some books (including “the new baby at your house”) and checkout some more (including “In the Night Kitchen”). After an hour or so at the library we headed to center city to go to the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. It was an amazing day, the temperature, the sun, Mia’s mood, everything. After months of fearing walking, which made my practice contractions go nuts, now I was embracing the exercise and possibility of bringing myself closer to my son. We made it to the children’s garden where Mia got a balloon, listened to some Jazz, watched a human statue fountain and capped it all off with lunch at Govinda’s vegan food spot. That night, I assumed it would feel best to just kick back and read a novel in a rocking chair but something kept me nesting all night long. Perhaps there is something to the wives tale that women get a surge of energy just before labor.

· That night I was sound asleep until the breadmaker alarm sounded that it was done only instead of the wonderful aroma of bread it smelled like something was burning so I ran downstairs to find a ruined loaf (still not sure what happened). When I came back upstairs to go to sleep that is when the contractions started (just after midnight). I had a gut feeling these were “the ones” but not because they were stronger but actually because they were more subtle. My Braxton hicks contractions were always very strong and obvious and I just had a sense about these ones.

· Sure enough, 2 hrs later I felt a bit of fluid down below. Thinking it was discharge but never having that happen in bed lying down, I immediately got a surge of adrenaline/excitement just knowing for certain this was IT! Sure enough, some more fluid and then I got up to check it out in the bathroom and had to tuck a towel between my legs for the walk over so I didn’t wet the floor. I sat down on the toilet and even more came out. It looked clear and so I put a pad on and went back to bed to try to get some rest (ha!). Later on, I inspected the pad and it had lots of baby hair in it. I was shocked and confused; later when I told the midwife she said she had never seen/heard anything like it. It turns out it was just lanugo, the little hairs babies have all over their body that eventually come off. In any case, with Mia the water breaking delineated easy from hard labor so I was pleasantly surprised to be able to get along just fine for hours after the water broke. After hours of “trying to get rest” Dave and I got hungry and went downstairs for some cereal thinking this might be our last chance to get food in ourselves before the big event. I eventually would throw this cereal up during early active labor but boy did it feel good not to have nausea during contractions after that!

· I was hoping to be able to eat breakfast with Mia but by 6:30am or so when she woke up I was already needing Dave for contractions. Maria, who was coming from Binghamton, NY to watch Mia was just half an hour away so things worked out beautifully. There was only 30 mins where it was just Dave, me and Mia. Just as a contraction ended Mia woke up and we rushed her into the bathroom, where we were at the time, to tell her the good news. I said, “Gavin is coming today Mia” and there was nothing so beautiful in the whole world as the look of excitement that came over her face at that moment. And then it was interrupted by the sensation of an oncoming contraction. Our plan was to have Dave and Mia eat breakfast together while I used the magic of water (in the form of a shower) to soothe me in Dave’s absence. While in the shower Christy came by and gave me my antibiotic shot (boy that stung! You’d think after feeling labor pains I could take a simple shot in the butt but I definitely remember whining to her about the sting). The shower worked well enough to sooth my pains (along with some good old healthy labor moans/songs) although there was something so much more comforting in gazing into Dave’s eyes through a contraction. He just appeared so strong and confident at a moment where I felt so weak and vulnerable that we just balanced each other out and ended each contraction with a mutual smile of relief. This gaze helped me through the earlier parts of active labor.

· Dave came back and informed me that Maria had arrived (thank goodness for her!). He offered to come in the shower but it didn’t feel right at the time so I offered to get out and we labored in our room. I believe we sat on the bed eye to eye and holding hands.

· Here’s where things get somewhat blurry though I remember much more than I did after Mia’s birth for some reason. Christy suggested a new position to help Gavin’s positioning since my belly hung so low. I sat in between Dave’s legs and he held my belly up a bit during a contraction.

This immediately intensified things but I knew it would bring us to Gavin quicker so despite my tendencies towards self-comfort we stayed this way for a bit. After a while of this we did some side lying in the bed.

Of course I’m thinking this is bliss until Christy suggests holding my knee up and back. . . now why did she have to ruin a good relaxing position like that? At some point I do remember her saying “this isn’t about your comfort anymore Stacie this is about getting your baby out, the one thing that will bring you ultimate comfort”. Touché’ Christy! Well said!

· That knee up idea may have been where I first experienced the sensation of spontaneous pushing. How amazing to not have any clue that one is fully dialated and yet your body knows just what to do. Even more amazing is to be surrounded by people who trust in the birth process and in your body almost more than you do. After Mia’s hospital birth of prescribed pushing (3 times per contraction) and popped blood vessels in my face it was liberating to be left on my own to push as I deemed right.

· After this knee up bed thing we did a bit of hands and knees and then squatting while hugging the birthing ball (thanks to Laura! You’re right that headboard was not nearly as comfortable as the ball). We went to the birthing stool where we did essentially the same thing as before (where Dave held my belly up) but the birth stool helped open me up better than the bed. Pushing is where my lovely (or so they said) birth song turned into primal screaming (or so I remember). I was pleased and shocked to hear later that Mia never showed concern or nervousness at any of my noises. She never did come into the labor room, which was fine with me, but to hear her having fun and laughing in between my contractions was music to my ears, to know she was well cared for and happy was something I can never thank Maria for enough.

· A bit disappointed since I had heard the average 2nd time mom pushed for only 20 mins, I kept asking someone to just tell me they saw the head but no one would comply with this request of mine (for it wasn’t there to be seen). Meredith, in all her wisdom, finally suggested very gently, that if I wanted I could hold my breath and really push hard. I guess I was being too nice to myself because once I started pushing harder everyone REALLY started cheering me on.

· My humor, I was told, never wavered. I remember 4 specific instances that got people smiling.

o Someone said “good job” and I broke into a song that they do at Mia’s daycare for when kids do a good job cleaning up “G-O-O-D-J-O-B Good Job, Good Job!”

o Then, when describing how to push effectively, Christy said you want to push into it “down low” and I said “too slow”, as in the old 2nd graders High Five prank (cheesy, yes I know but it made light of an intense situation, which is apparently my M.O. as I cracked jokes during Mia’s labor too).

o When given a pellet of Arnica for bruising/swelling, I found it didn’t dissolve fully. They said that was fine and I got all the dose I needed and could spit out the pellet. Well apparently with labor went my manners and I spit it out almost directly at Christy.

o Finally, I recall someone saying the birthing stool was working great but bed would be more ideal for actual delivery so we should do 3 more contractions on the stool and then move to the bed. When asked what I thought of that plan I responded, “whatever you think is best, you are the professionals”.

· Our move back to the bed marked a big moment for me since I knew it was my last positional change. And now armed with a really effective push I held nothing back. I recall being so charged up by each person’s praise (I especially remember and appreciate some of Laura’s kind words). Things were fairly uneventful and it was suggested I touch the head to get excited and to feel my pushes progressing him. I did feel his head but kind of just wanted to get the show on the road so I re-focused and pushed with all my might! Soon enough I heard everyone talking about his dark hair and how he was out to his eyes and then soon enough I remember everything of his head was out but his chin. . . I had never heard of having to push for a chin! Silly chin! Eventually the chin came out, with Christy’s help no doubt, and then there was the relief of having done the hardest part.

· Only a couple more controlled pushes and he was born into his daddy’s hands at 10:08am on May Day (May 1st 2011). By 10:48am Gavin had completed the breast crawl meaning he made his way, all by himself, from being centered on my chest to nursing. He was immediately a natural nurser, which pleased me almost as much as being done with labor.

Gavin William Michelson was 8 lbs, 8oz and 20" long!

· Mia was immediately called in after Gavin was born and sat right next to me.

We kissed, did “noseies” (rubbed noses), and even “eye glasses” (butterfly kisses). When Dave came in with water for his “ladies” he offered the straw to Mia who said, “no, mommy first.” I nearly cried. Another thing with Mia was that since my tummy was so big during pregnancy I had no proper lap, she had to sit off to the side. So Mia invented a word for sitting in someone’s lap but NOT on the side. “Can I sit in your middle?” she would ask. I told her that after Gavin was born she could once again sit in my middle. Sure enough, this was one of Mia’s first requests so, despite the awkwardness and slight discomfort we had Mia-in-the-middle time with “her baby” in her middle.

Annaliese and her three big brothers!

Candy and Brad welcomed 9lb Annaliese Elizabeth on September 4th in the pre-dawn hours of the day. After a lot of anticipation as we determined if Candy's water had broken, once this baby decided it was her time she didn't mess around! After a very rapid transition, Candy gave just 2 pushes and sweet Annaliese was born in the water with her parents and Aunt Stacey welcoming her. Annaliese was wrapped up in her 36" (read LONG!) cord and was as surprised as we all were at her fast emergence from the womb. But she adjusted beautifully and after a few minutes of celebrating the birth of their fourth child, Candy and Brad celebrated having their first daughter as well! Big brothers Nolan, Gavin and Benjamin couldn't be more thrilled to have a little sister! What an amazing birth! Candy is a physician and it is always extra cool to have a doctor give birth at home! Welcome Annaliese!

Labor Day indeed...welcome baby Maggie!

How appropriate that Nancy birthed her sweet baby girl Margaret Frances (Maggie) on Labor Day after patiently waiting until she was more than 42 weeks pregnant!









Little did Nancy know that she would have just turned 30 herself (on September 2nd) before it was Maggie's birthday at last! Nancy, surrounded by her tribe of women and with the reassuring, loving support of Chris, gave birth so gently and with such grace to 9 lb 5 oz Maggie. Her labor and birth were a true testament to the Hypnobabies program as Nancy remained calm, centered and relaxed the entire birth and to her (and my) surprise didn't even give any conscious effort to her pushing waves -the baby just came down on her own.

After being untangled from another long cord, Maggie emerged from the water and lifted her head to gaze at her loving parents. Big brother Luke met his sister shortly thereafter-- what a beautiful LABOR day! Welcome to the world Maggie!

(Coming soon: a link to a short video of Nancy's amazing hypnobabies birth!)

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

Motherland Winter Potluck!

Two weeks ago we had a lovely well-attended potluck of past, present and future client families in our growing community! Many thanks to our gracious hosts Meghan, Jacob, Rory and Duncan Smith for welcoming us into their spacious and inviting home for the third winter gathering in a row! Over 70 people were in attendance over the afternoon and there was a lot of food, playing and sharing of stories and experiences. It was quite a scene at its peak around 4:30 pm and the few couples there pregnant with their first babies were wide-eyed at the happy madness that is a whole bunch of babies and toddlers and preschoolers having a good and loud time together! Sadly, Meredith couldn't be with us as she had injured her back but we sent her a card with good wishes and thankfully she is mostly healed now!

Here are some pics from the day! Look forward to our Spring Potluck!