A Mother and Daughter Midwifery Duo

Dear Readers,

I am thrilled to introduce you to my wonderful midwives, Mary and Pita. The narrative below is written by Mary! If you would like to hear more about their wonderful care and my experience with both Mary and Pita as my midwives, check out my home birth stories here and here. As always, I’m so happy you are here, and I hope you enjoy!

Best, Shantel

Midwife Blog Home Birth Mary and Pita

I have been involved in the birth field since 1973.  First as a Bradley instructor attending births and then as an apprentice midwife.  I started out in Long Beach, CA and then in 1976 moved to Washington State.  Before becoming a Bradley instructor, I worked as a civilian employee for the US Army as an ammunition clerk at Ft MacArthur in San Pedro , CA. I had to keep track of all ammunition used by the 6th Army Reserves and National Guard.  Before computers.  Gah!  I was also a long distance telephone operator for Ma Bell, and I worked for LA County as a dispatch operator for the LA County Sheriffs Dept.  Never in a million years did I ever expect to be a midwife until I had my second baby, Pita, in 1973.  Even then I just wanted to tell people that the Bradley Method works and that there is a better way to have a baby than to be drugged up and managed.  Knock ‘em out, drag ‘em out was how Dr. Bradley put it.  Through the birth classes I taught, I attended so many births.  Mostly the births I attended were in the hospital as a doula/photographer, but also home births.  There I met midwives and doctors that did home births.  In 1970 and on it was an uphill battle to change the way things were done.  Most births were medicated, you had to stay in bed, no food or water for the duration of labor, IV’s always, episiotomies always, spinals or epidurals always, hands strapped down, legs strapped into stirrups, no husbands in the delivery room, and no rooming in.  You got your baby 24hrs AFTER delivery and only to feed them every 4 hrs.  If they got hungry before that, the nursery would give formula.  Oh, and everyone got a high soap suds enema at the beginning of labor and a shave.  Glorious right?!  The only way things changed was that women were being educated about birth by going to childbirth classes and learning about birth.  Then the moms would request the most outlandish things like no medication, having their husbands with them at birth, no episiotomies, etc.  When we found a Doc that would oblige these mom’s, everyone would switch providers to get what they wanted.  After a bit of time and mothers requesting these things and taking their money elsewhere, the hospitals got the hint and slowly started to change their thinking.  By the time I left Long Beach in 1976, it was totally changed to a more natural approach.  Almost all of those routine procedures were gone.

Then came Vancouver, Washington.  April 1976.  I started doing public film showings at the library.  I showed the Bradley film, “Childbirth for the Joy of It” and the Brewer film, “What Every Pregnant Woman Should Know”, which people loved, and the Navy Training film that showed a normal hospital birth and all that that entailed, and also scared the bejeezes out of everyone.  What a contrast!  I was discouraged when I moved to Vancouver because the only hospital that was offering maternity care was doing everything that I fought to change in California.  They thought I was a lunatic.  Maybe I was, but I was sick to death of how the birth scene was here.  I started teaching Bradley classes and attending births and at one home birth I met the coolest lady ever, Hazel Woodward.  She was a direct entry midwife, which I had never heard of, and she told me about a midwifery school that had started in West Linn, Oregon.  I applied and was accepted and graduated from there.  Some of my class mates were Gail Hart and Patricia Edmonds among other like minded women.  Our teachers were midwives, naturopathic doctors, and chiropractors.  Some of these had been catching babies for 50 yrs or more.

What a wealth of info they had.  Way before water birth caught on, we were taught by Dr. Babnick, who was at least 80 then, to put women into a hot bath to help with labor. We got them out to births, but we learned so much from those good hearted, wise teachers.  How to not interfere with the normal process of birth.  How to listen to mothers and how to feel baby’s position with our hands and not ultrasound.  How to get baby to turn into a better position before birth to avoid problems in labor.  Dr. Jack taught us to not be afraid and to go with what we see, not the what if’s of fear based decisions. We learned herbal remedies and properties of the plants. Homeopathics also.  It was a great education and made me hungry for more.  After I graduated from midwifery school I apprenticed with Hazel for a year and then started on my own from there.  I’ve been catching babies in SW Washington and the Portland area since then.

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Midwife Liz in Ireland

13737591_1082598538442977_423303551401227599_oImagine antenatal appointments in your home or at your place of work with the same midwife who will attend your birth. Imagine these visits lasting two to three hours and accompanied with tea and conversation generated by your concerns, thoughts, and recent research discoveries. Imagine maternity care from an open minded, evidence based seeker with enough empathy and strength to make you feel any goal you wish to reach is possible.

The women in Ireland need not imagine. Liz with UK Birth Centres/Neighbourhood Midwives is one of those beautiful souls that will move mountains to make sure you are in control and confident in your birth choices. Liz believes maternity care is a “personal friendship” and she walks the talk by listening, communicating with care, and discussing robust evidence based literature with her clients to ensure each and every choice, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is carefully made.

Liz started her midwifery career in 2006 after putting her shovel down as an archeologist, Liz has been practicing in the growing Ireland home birth community for almost two years, and she has attended, as a lead midwife, 60 home births in that time. She’s busy. Before joining Neighbourhood Midwives, Liz worked for 18 months in a large, understaffed hospital where the maternity ward cared for every aspect, both positive and heartbreaking, in a single wing. Liz spoke fondly of this experience as she learned more than she could have imagined during those 12 hour shifts that were nonstop and demanded a deep understanding of midwifery and the ability to make quick and accurate decisions. Liz also recalled the emotional capacity she quickly developed as she would often care for a woman coping with a miscarriage at 20 weeks and then a laboring women the next second in the room next door. Liz’s experience at the hospital cultivated a respectful relationship that makes communication easier if Liz has a transfer from a home birth. Liz chuckled, “They [the hospital] should trust me. They trained me!”.

During the two hours Liz carved out to talk with me, her passion for genuine, intentional care came across in every word and gesture;  it’s easy to understand why she is successful in her midwifery practice. I had heard praise from several mum’s she has worked with over the last two years, and my only wish is that I was having another baby with her in Ireland! Liz accepts, without fear, the responsibility to help women usher their babies into this world in the way they wish to do it. Even if the birth plan doesn’t go as planned, Liz has an internal commitment to work with the mother to ensure the mother feels in control and empowered to make the decisions that need to be made for the health of mother and baby. This commitment to putting the mother in control of her birth goes beyond labor. Liz is passionate about post natal care as she knows how critical those first weeks after birth are for bonding and transitioning into a new, beautiful life.

Liz, as well as all the midwives at Neighbourhood Midwives, will visit the mother and baby 4-5 times in the first week after birth, two times the second week, and once the third week. However, when a birth doesn’t go as planned,  Liz will make daily visits until both parties are comfortable. Liz has even stayed at the home until mum and babe were on the mend.

Healthcare in any country can be confusing, and Ireland is no different. Liz explained that “although maternity care is provided under the HSE, Health Service Executive, home birth is only offered by two other establishments with a narrow scope and little, to no, room for negotiation if your pregnancy goes outside their policies”. Women seeking a home birth or more control over their birth choices, look to private companies and use private insurance or pay out of pocket. Quoted from the Neighbourhood Midwives website: “Neighbourhood Midwives work in partnership with UK Birth Centres to bring private maternity services to Irish families. Informed choice is the foundation of our service. All clinical care is provided by Irish midwives employed by UK Birth Centres”. Neighbourhood Midwives is currently serving select areas in Ireland, but they hope to be country wide in the future. If you would like to have care  in your neck of the woods, reach out and let your hopes be heard!