…because a gentle birth lasts a lifetime

An Open Letter from Nancy

When my first baby was born I was so delighted to be a mother, and so incredibly happy to have a healthy baby, but I was very upset by the way my son came into the world. He was born by what I now know was a totally preventable cesarean section. The obstetrician induced my labor for his convenience; we all know now that induced labors almost always result in sections, as the mother’s body is not ready to have a baby (if it was ready, she would be in labor!) I was told that all of my children would have to be born by cesarean, and that was unacceptable to me. I had done enough research to know how dangerous major abdominal surgery is, and that in other countries, if a mother had a section, her next babies were almost always born normally, even when the next baby was significantly larger than the baby for whom she had been cut.

My second baby was born vaginally. It was certainly better than a cesarean, but there were bright lights, strangers, many unnecessary medical interferences/interventions, no food, and little warmth from the hospital staff, who changed shifts at regular intervals. I had no idea who the doctor on call would be; if it was man, he surely would never have had a natural birth himself, and I knew that it was rare for a female obstetrician to birth her own babies naturally. I had an episiotomy— my goodness those people like to cut— and my baby was taken away much too soon so that she could be weighed and measured. I fought to keep her near me; I figured that she would weigh about the same an hour later, and probably wouldn’t have grown too much more in length. I knew deep in my heart that birth could be far better than what I had just experienced.

My third baby was born at home. I felt connected to all of my ancestresses who had given birth naturally from the beginning of time. I had learned a lot about how other mammals birth their babies. I had become a childbirth educator, coined the term VBAC (pronounced “vee-back” – vaginal birth after cesarean, which is now used internationally) and had begun writing and speaking about the American way of birth at conferences, on the radio and on television. As I was breathing my daughter out of my body ( or, should I say, as my body, in its infinite wisdom, was birthing her), the midwife inside of me was also being born. Being a doula was no longer enough for me, as I could no longer be witness to the unnecessary tests and procedures that were a part of routine obstetrical care (and what I believe to be a form of violence and abuse against mothers and babies — a total lack of respect and understanding for birth as a normal and natural physiological experience). I waited until my youngest was in junior high and then began training to become a midwife. Since that time, I have been privileged to attend approximately 1500 births — some in the United States, some on the border of Mexico, and some in Jamaica. I now train student midwives and am writing my third book about birth. I truly love what I do and am thankful day in and day out that this became my life’s path.

It is my deep desire to help women feel confident, excited and peaceful about Birth and to have the birth of their dreams. When a woman chooses to have drugs during labor, to be numbed out during one of Life’s most amazing experiences, she AND HER BABY miss out on something very important. This choice is made out of fear, and decisions made out of fear are not really choices at all; they are forced reactions. (And, by the way, if epidurals are so safe, why then does the labor have to be monitored continuously once the woman gets one??!!) So many trusting, unsuspecting women get hoodwinked once they are in labor; their birth plans go down the tube as they are hooked up to all kinds of instruments, tools, substances and machines. As one of my mentor midwives says, “If you don’t want Chinese food, don’t go to a Chinese restaurant.” If you buy the hospital ticket, you are in line to go on the medical ride.

You are welcome to have a private birth, or to invite family members or friends — as long as they love you and are willing to smile! The baby’s siblings are more than welcome, in fact, encouraged to be present no matter what the age; after all, we need someone to hold the flashlights (if it is night time) and to hand us the warmed baby blankets! (Pets are also welcome, as long as they don’t like midwives for a snack!) Photographs and videotaping are also permitted – this is your birth and you get to orchestrate it in your own personal way. Nothing is done without your awareness and permission.

You will note that we use different language than you may be used to. We don’t use the term “mucous plug”; what woman, who wants to feel the full ripeness of her femininity (which is not easy if you are put into one of those boxer-short-pattern hospital jonnies) wants to have a glob of snot in her vagina?! We call it baby gel. We don’t think of the water ‘breaking’ – nothing is broken and nothing needs to be fixed – the water releases. When I am asked how many babies I have “delivered,” I reply honestly: “One.” My son was delivered via section by the doctor; my first daughter was pulled out with forceps. However, my body delivered my second daughter at home. I attend births, I assist at them, but the women deliver their babies. The words we use speak volumes about our innermost thoughts about birth and influence the mother-to-be as well as the laboring woman.

We spend time talking about nutrition, as what you eat will have tremendous influence on your pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum period, not to mention the baby! We remind you that the size of the baby has little to do with the length and breadth of the labor – some of the easiest births are the biggest babies! You can have a nine pound baby that has the same head circumference as a seven pound baby; the only reason the baby is nine pounds or more is that this baby has “chubs” — and the chubs squish and come out very well, thank you very much. Ultrasound sonography is notoriously inaccurate for dating and also for determining the weight of babies — it can be off by as much as two to three pounds! We all know that there are many researchers who are concerned about the safety of ultrasound (if we know and accept that whales and dolphins are definitely affected by sonar, we must then consider that there may very well be effects on our little ones are as well). We know that babies react to ultrasound scans – they dislike them. If an ultrasound has already been done, or there is a valid reason to do one, so be it, but we avoid the “searching, poking, scrutinizing, viewing, testing and prodding” of this pregnancy unless it is absolutely essential – and most of the time, it’s not!

As you can see, I have a number of opinions about birth, which I have come by honestly and which I share freely! We don’t always have control over what happens to us in this lifetime, but we do have influence over much of what happens. What I CAN guarantee, however, is that your phone calls will be returned promptly, you will have your questions answered to your satisfaction, and we will take the very best care of you that we know how. I can guarantee we will be excited along with you as your pregnancy advances, your labor begins, your baby is born, and you greet your baby for the very first time. We get to know you quite well and form a lovely and lasting bond ( even those women who decide to home birth late in their pregnancies, and the three who showed up on my doorstep and birthed their babies in my house!); we are warm and welcoming even as we are professional.

Thanks so much for considering a midwife and a natural birth at home. Your baby will be delighted! I, too am delighted to be contacted by those who are interested in this option — it brings me hope for the future of this planet which we also call “home”.