I have been a community based midwife for well over six years now, and as such have attended close to 400 births. Before that, I was an RN for five years and was present for many more births. All of this time spent at the side of birthing people and their families as taught me several things: never underestimate the power of love, always remain alert and focused, situations can change quickly and always have a change of clothes handy....just to name a few.
Four births in four days is a snapshot of what this work can be and how birth can and should be supported for all low risk pregnancies. As usual, each birth brought lessons and unexpected surprises. Together as a group they are a lovely picture of what Community Birthing can be and do.
A family working to bring their first baby to the world. Another one of my midwife sisters had been with this family through their labor, and I was called in to assist because the birth center became very busy. By the time I arrived, she had been working for quite some time, her first stage of labor had been long at just over 24 hours. Her second stage was also long at just minutes short of three hours. She was so brave, tough and dedicated to her birth. I never heard her complain or falter…even through a difficult second stage that involved what I call “Birth Gymnastics”, meaning multiple position changes, in every possible position imaginable. Finally, as her darling baby began to crown, the reason for the hard work became apparent; her daughter was direct occiput posterior! This birthing warrior worked hard and did eventually birth her lovely 9lb daughter, direct OP, to her loving arms. Since I had not be present for most of her process, I inquired later about her labor pattern and contractions, wondering if the baby had given any clues to her position. Apparently, other than a long labor, there had been no other signs.
A second time family came in in the early morning. She had previously been to the birth center a couple days before and was sent home after her labor took a break. This morning she was very nervous about it being another “false alarm”. She was laboring, but it did seem to still be in the early phase, so I suggested that she and her husband go out for some breakfast. A while later, they returned, her labor was a little stronger but still not active. They decided to go for a walk. Her labor moved along slowly but surely, picking up little bits of steam here and there. And then, the switch flipped! After hours and hours of watchful waiting the baby decided to make his move and he did not fuss around. She had a beautiful waterbirth 13 hours after her first contraction of the day.
Another second time client who had also spent time in the birth center a day earlier and went home after her labor took a break. She returned to the birth center, clearly ready to birth her baby this time. She had the look about her: the labor look. When a woman is not really part of our reality, she seems to float above us and is so focused on her work. After her round of stopping and starting, this time her whole process was completed in under four hours. She had been nervous prenatally as with her first babe she had a serious postpartum hemorrhage and a fourth degree laceration. I am happy to report that neither repeated themselves and she birthed a beautiful son with the sunrise.
Another first time family. Her husband had called me that morning stating that her contractions had just become the 3-1-1 pattern. Usually, with a first baby there is still some work to do at this point, so we discussed some coping techniques and support measures. I asked him to call me back in one hour to check in. When he called back, I did not need to hear his full “report” because I could hear his wife in the background and I told him to just get in the car and head over to the center. When they arrived, all I needed was one look to know that we would very soon be welcoming their child to the world. Just under five hours from her first contraction she had her darling son snuggled in her arms.
All of these births had lessons within them. As a midwife, it is critical to continually be open to these inherit lessons. As a birthing person, these lessons should give you hope, courage and guidance to know that all things are possible. No two births will ever be the same but they can all be empowering when supported and monitored with patience, knowledge and thoughtful vigilance.
Aubre Tompkins is a Certified Nurse Midwife and the Clinical Director of Mountain Midwifery Center in Englewood, CO. She is a passionate supporter and defender of Physiologic Birth, ensuring choice for families and providing care to families in all the shapes and sizes that they come. She is also committed to growing the profession of midwifery both locally and abroad; this passion is fulfilled as both a preceptor to student midwives and as a Board member of Midwife International. On a personal note, Aubre has a fantastic husband and three precocious children that keep her busy at home.
You can also learn more about her birth center atwww.mountainmidwifery.com.