I am so very excited to finally share something that has been in the making since early June! It has really been on my heart for the last few months to create a series to help moms have a better birth experience. As a monthly installment, I will be sharing interviews with midwives, doulas, as well as others who are apart of the birthing community to encourage moms to find the best solutions for their own bodies and children. I encourage all of you mothers, expecting or not, to research your options and decide what is best for you and your family. For far too long moms have been under the assumption that they don’t have many options when it comes to the birth of their children. I assure you, that is completely false. My hope with this series is to shed some light on the different options out there for birth while both encouraging and empowering you as a mother to make the right decision for yourself and your baby.
To kick off the start of the series I would like to introduce you to a fabulous midwife, Diane West! I have had such a wonderful time getting do know Diane. She has such a beautiful presence about her and I can only imagine the amounts of peace she brings with her to her clients.
You’ve been a midwife for quite some time…would you mind sharing a little bit about yourself and how you got into being a midwife?
Well, I think it started out with liking babies. I’m the eldest of five kids and it seemed there were always babies around. While in Drama School, I began volunteering in an adoption home. I got to know some of the young mothers there who were waiting to have their babies and a couple of them asked me to be with them when their babies were born. It would take 5 more years for me to finally decide I wanted to be a midwife… but those early experiences were definitely what sent me in that direction.
I got my license in 2004. But in an emotional sense… being with women and supporting them through the transition to motherhood… I feel like I’ve been midwifing for much longer.
Since you’ve had both a hospital and a home birth, yourself, how would you describe each of those experiences? What are some advantages to each method?
With my first pregnancy, I was induced just past 42 weeks. I had several other complicating factors – my baby was high, i had a large amount of amniotic fluid – that made a home birth a more risky proposition. It was amazingly stressful decision, deciding to let go of the autonomy of home, even though I was going to a hospital I knew, staff I knew, and a doctor I trusted completely. To me, the only advantage of a hospital is having high tech support available when you need it. And I am most grateful that I had that choice. My growing list of risk factors was making me anxious about my baby’s birth. And once I was in the hospital, those concerns dissipated. Although I was then faced with the stress of navigating hospital red-tape!
My 2nd pregnancy was much more straightforward. I had no risk factors at all and my daughter was born in our living room in a pool of water. It was a completely different experience. No forms to fill out, no people I didn’t know coming in and out the room, no questions to answer. Just stillness. The sounds of my family. And the quiet presence of my midwife. Both of my births were beautiful, transforming experiences. But the 2nd one was completely stress free.
I would say the unity of the room. Once my equipment is ready and I know mother and baby are healthy and that it is safe to deliver at home, I start trying to tune into the energy of the people in the room. I need everyone to be calm and focused on the needs of the parents. I want to make sure everyone there trusts in the process. And that their thoughts and actions are soothing and supportive. This can take so many forms. I might pull someone outside to talk and reassure them. I meet with whomever will be at the birth ahead of time to answer questions. I might send a nervous grandma-to-be out on an errand. Maybe hand a stethoscope to a big brother… Everyone there is a part of this wonderful experience and the more relaxed and joyful everyone around her is, the more smoothly the labor and birth will be for the mother.
Both as a mother and a midwife, what are some of your favorite reasons for having home births?
The ability of the whole family to participate in the birth at their comfort level. I loved having my 2 year old around for most of my labor. And I loved knowing she was safe and taken care of when it was too distracting to have her there. I loved the peace and calm around a homebirth. And knowing and trusting who your caregivers are going to be. And I also felt safe, knowing that I had medical equipment, a trained midwife, and medications available if I needed them.
witnessing the mother find her own strength. And sense of purpose I feel when someone’s strength is faltering and my words or touch help anchor them again. Sometimes it’s the mother who needs encouragement, sometimes the partner or a child or grandparent. And of course, the magic of seeing a new soul meet the family.
If you could give an expecting mother any tip of advice, what would you say to her?
Research, research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ultimately – trust your body.
Lastly, what are a couple of MUST HAVE items (in your opinion) for moms to bring to the hospital or to have ready at a home birth?
For the hospital, I’d say comfort items. Bring a favorite pillow. A favorite scent. Comfortable slippers. For a home birth, you pretty much have everything you need. But drinking straws are helpful! it is really hard to hold a cup in labor, and hydration is so important.
A BIG thanks to Diane for allowing me into her home (with those sweet girls of hers) and for being apart of this birth series!
If you would like to reach out to Diane, you may visit her website West Home Birth, or contact her via email – firstname.lastname@example.org
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