6-15-11: Stories of Birth
In May, a midwife based in Maryland pleaded guilty in Virginia to two felonies stemming from the death of a baby after a home birth. That midwife, Karen Carr, is now being investigated by St. Mary’s County in another death in rural Maryland in November. Last month, we spoke with Karen Carr about how she practices midwifery.
It also made us want to examine the practice of midwifery in Maryland more closely. Last week, we examined the different settings in which midwives practice–at home, in a birth center, and in hospitals. We also examined the different categories of midwifery, and the possibility of certified professional midwives becoming licensed in Maryland — right now, only certified nurse midwives are.
We received a number of comments, which Sheilah and Tom discussed in the mailbag here:
We also asked you to share your own birth experiences with us, whether it was at home, in a hospital, attended by a midwife or a doctor. We wanted to share some of them here.
Katie Dongarra, who lives in Towson, wrote to us:
I planned a home birth for my daughter, who was born last year. I lived in Georgia at the time, and received care from a practice with two home birth midwives, as well as care from a practice with two “back-up” midwives who had hospital privileges. In my experience the care from my home birth midwives, who are certified professional midwives, far surpassed that of the back-up certified nurse midwives. The time they spent with me and my partner to ready us for the birth, and the concern they showed–not just for my physical state, but also my mental state, is something I will always treasure. It is worth mentioning, though, that the certified nurse midwives provided an invaluable service to us, by providing me with care, so that I could have a back up plan to birth in the hospital should the need arise. Had anyone in their practice other than them known that I was attempting a home birth, they could have lost their jobs. Their willingness to stick their neck on the line meant a great deal to my family.
Typically, in a first time pregnancy, a baby will “drop” into the pelvis around 36 weeks. Even though I had a great pregnancy, up until the end, my baby did not drop into my pelvis. This was something my midwives knew from manual palpation of my belly and closely monitored. While they never told me I could not still have my home birth they did share gentle clues with me that informed me that my chances of transfer were higher. I did have an abnormal labor that didn’t progress as it typically would, due to the baby not descending. So, I was part of the very small percentage that had to transfer and ultimately delivered with one of my back-up midwives at 41 weeks at the hospital–my “plan B”. My transfer was not an emergency transfer, and happened about 8 hours prior to me delivering my beautiful daughter after having been in abnormal labor for three days. While that seems long, it was easily manageable with the care and guidance of the certified professional midwives within the comforts of my home. Being “allowed” to labor as long as I did ensured I could avoid unnecessary hospital interventions that could possibly have led to a c-section. The home birth attempt gave me control of the situation.
My hospital birth was picture perfect in that the epidural and pitocin were needed and did the job they’re intended to do and didn’t lead to a c-section. I had exhausted all options prior to showing up, so that I wasn’t put in a situation of being forced, guilted or otherwise persuaded into using unwanted interventions. I also had the great comfort of my home birth midwife joining me at the hospital as a “friend.”
This was my first pregnancy and birth, and I absolutely will plan a home birth with my next, and would recommend it to anyone with a low risk pregnancy. For me, the difference is that the home birth allows you to embrace the wonderful capabilities of your body to birth with a midwife patiently attending, while the hospital closely monitors, watching and waiting for everything to go wrong while pushing you along on their schedule.
Cheri Wilson, who lives in Harford County, wrote to us:
I have an almost 8 year-old-daughter and an 8-month-old son. I had natural, medication free births with both at my local hospital with the assistance of my midwife, doula, and my husband. While I would have preferred to give birth at a birthing center, there are none in my area. My husband and I toured the Special Beginnings birthing center before we became pregnant with our first child, but decided that it was too far to travel during the birthing process (almost an hour away with no traffic, and well over an hour in traffic).
Both births were fantastic, empowering experiences. I happened to have the same midwife during both births, and she allowed my husband to “catch” our children. My husband has described it as a spiritual experience, which he likened to being as close to God as he ever will be.
I guess the key is that I had confidence in my body’s ability to give birth, since women have been giving birth for several thousand years. I also didn’t view pregnancy as an illness, and continued to remain active. I engaged in lots of mental and physical preparation for both births, and am amazed by the beautiful outcomes.
Christy Larkin, who also lives in Harford County, wrote to us:
First: textbook labor, went to hospital when doctor told me to, got an epidural about five hours later (about 9 centimeters at that time), took about four more hours after that to get to pushing, pushed maybe four times, then was taken in for an “emergency” c-section because baby’s heart rate wasn’t great. At the time, I completely trusted my doctors, and just did whatever they said.
Second: labor was pretty irregular, was nine centimeters when I got to the hospital, got an epidural right away (pretty much) and had a successful VBAC. Again, I just did as the doctors told me throughout my pregnancy and birth.
Third: after much research and meeting several women who had home births, I decided that was the route I wanted to go this time around. My husband and I met with a midwife a couple times and then went ahead and hired her. She was wonderful! I had a labor very similar to my second, was able to labor in a tub in my family room, and then delivered her on a birthing stool while my husband sat behind me supporting me! It was the most amazing experience ever! My hospital births can’t even come close to comparing to my home birth, and my obstetricians (while I love them) can’t compare at all to my midwife. My husband went from being completely against a home birth to telling me how glad he is that we did it this time. And I know for sure that if I should ever have more children, home birth will be the way I go.
We welcome your comments about these segments. We’d also like to continue to hear your birth stories. Leave us a comment, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 410-881-3162.