International Day of the Midwife…

…and Elle’s Story

My main concern leading up to my third labor was being in place in time for the delivery. The labor with my second baby had been very, very fast. She was born in the hallway entrance to Labor and Delivery at a hospital. I was still sitting in the wheelchair with my sweatpants on. A fast, easy labor was somewhat of a relief but also somewhat scary. “What ifs” haunted me and I knew I wanted it to be more controlled (safer) next time.

I transferred care to the Minnesota Birth Center at 32 weeks with Baby #3. With every midwife I met at MBC in the appointments leading up to delivery I talked about how I really wanted to be able to be “in place” before the baby was born, which meant at the birth center and in the birthing room. Even though there were stated policies about when to come in and that the birth center did not have a midwife on site 24/7, how could I make this happen? Each midwife listened and basically said “Yes, we know your birth history, we trust you, we’re with you.”

This was such a HUGE difference from other prenatal care I had received where I felt that I was just another patient and no one was listening to me. This was so individualized! I was not being treated as another “lowest common denominator” patient but as an informed and capable human being.

One morning around my due date I had a few contractions and then nothing happened again until six days later. Around 4 p.m. I started to get a labor feeling, crampy and nervous/excited. The feeling wasn’t going away and was actually getting stronger. Around 6pm I called my mom to come spend the night just in case (to be with my other kids) and called my doula and the midwife. The midwife said to try to get some sleep and keep in touch with any updates. I was relieved and excited and nervous so I laid in bed but didn’t really get to sleep. I called the midwife again around 11 p.m. and gave her an update on the time between contractions and how I was feeling and such. Sensations were getting stronger but were still irregular. She said to stay home and keep in touch. Things kept progressing at home and just an hour later, around midnight, I called her back and said “I can just feel it, it’s time for me to come in.” She said, “Ok, see you soon.” My husband and I got to the birth center and settled in by about 1 a.m. and the baby came just 2.5 hours later!  

When I first got to the birth center I was able to laugh and talk in between contractions but very quickly was unable to do anything but focus on what my body was doing. This labor was a lot harder after the second baby (who basically fell out in the hallway). The support of the midwife trusting the process was extremely helpful and reassuring.

I labored for the most part kneeling on the bed, leaning against a yoga ball on the bed, with a blindfold rather tightly bound around my head and eyes. I’m not entirely sure what was going on around me. The midwife asked to check the fetal heart rate at one point and that was the only “intervention” I needed during the labor (that I remember) and that was exactly the plan.

The midwife suggested I try using the bathroom. The movement of walking towards the toilet and back broke my water and descended the baby. His head came out in one push while I was standing in the doorway between the bathroom and the room.

Baby’s shoulders got a bit stuck on the way out and the midwife knew exactly what to do (“walk over here, get on all fours, now lean back” or something like that). At first I was frozen because how do you take a step when there is a baby’s head between your legs? But my husband and doula helped me do as she said and it worked! He was birthed on the next push, healthy and perfect…in the hallway, but this time on purpose, in the place we were all ready for him.

Thanks to Elle for sharing her birthing journey with MBC as we celebrate this International Day of the Midwife! Do you have an MBC birth story you’d like to share? Email it to info@theminnesotabirthcenter.com.

Five surprising ways…

…that Doulas Support Birthing Families!

In a 2012 survey, 27% of those who knew what doulas were but did not hire a doula for their birth said that, in hindsight, they wished they had hired one. Here are five surprising reasons to hire a birth doula you may not have thought of before!

1. Birth doulas help you prepare during pregnancy.

You might assume that a birth doula only helps with, well, birth. But doulas can play an important role as families navigate the period before baby is born, too. As your belly grows, people might tell you you’re “glowing,” but if we’re honest, we know pregnancy can sometimes be really unpleasant! Doulas can teach many comfort techniques to help ease the aches and pains of pregnancy (bonus—these techniques work wonders during labor, too!). Pregnancy can also be a bewildering time emotionally. As your body changes, so does your sense of who you are now and who you will be when the baby arrives. Doulas are trained to help you understand and process the physical and emotional changes you are experiencing and adapt to your changing needs. The practical concerns of preparing for the birth of a baby can be overwhelming, too, as you consider what kind of birth you want to have and who your care team will be. Doulas know the providers and facilities in your area and can help you understand the differences between different types of care and different hospitals, birth centers, or homebirth teams. They can help you weigh your options and empower you to make informed decisions that match your values.

Photography by RockerByeBirths / rockerbyebirths.com

2. Birth doulas support the whole family.

Doulas often hear partners ask: “Why should we hire a doula? I’ll be by her side the whole time.” Our answer? A doula’s role is not to replace the father, partner, or support person or people the birthing person has chosen to have by her side during labor. In fact, a doula’s job is to help partners as much as it is to support birthing moms. Our goal is to make room for partners during birth. Doulas are trained to guide partners and support people in the best ways to help during labor. This might mean modeling comfort measures or normalizing what’s happening in the room so the partner can feel confident and calm. As doulas, we love the families we work with, but we’re not as emotionally connected as partners who have known the birthing mom a long time, which means we can be the cool head in the room. And let’s be real—while partners are super, they’re not superhuman. Your doula will be as in tune with your partner or support person’s needs as she is with yours, so they don’t burn themselves out as they support you.

Photography by Raven Ivory / ravenivory.com

3. Birth doulas stay with you during your labor.

Birth is unpredictable. Even as we learn more and more about what happens to the human body during birth, we still can’t know ahead of time how long labor will take or what might happen over the course of a birth. Hiring a doula gives you one “known” in a sea of “unknowns”: that you’ll have an informed, caring ally by your side from the time you call her until your baby is born. The rest of your care team, while incredibly important and skilled, will be focused on the medical side of things—your health and your baby’s health. Your doula will be fully focused on your emotional and physical needs as you labor, and will use her extensive training to ease physical discomfort and pain. We are trained in centuries-old comfort measures, such as rebozo techniques used by Mexican midwives. (A rebozo is a long piece of cloth, a sort of cross between a scarf and a shawl, and is used for many purposes, including to relieve pressure on the body). We are also up-to-date on the most recent scientific evidence about positioning, movement, and comfort during labor. With training and experience in both ancient wisdom and modern research, your doula can simultaneously soothe and comfort you, offer evidence-based information, help you weigh options in your care, and be your cheerleader.

Doula Alicia K from Midwest Doulas

4. Birth doulas reduce the need for interventions and improve birth outcomes.

Studies have indicated that hiring a doula can have a significant impact on your birthing experience. According to Evidence Based Birth, a doula supporting you during labor has been shown to shorten labor by an average of 41 minutes, decrease your risk of a C-section by 39%, and increase your likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth by 15%. Doula support impacts infant health, too—having someone provide continuous support during labor was shown to result in a 38% decrease in the baby’s risk of a low five-minute Apgar score (Apgar scores are a common immediate postpartum assessment to assess your baby’s health). Perhaps most importantly, the support of a doula has been shown to result in a 31% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with your birth experience. This means that, no matter what happens physically during birth, your chance of feeling satisfied with what happened increases significantly with a highly trained, informed, and empowering doula by your side.

Photography by RockerByeBirths / rockerbyebirths.com

5. Doulas help with the transition into the “fourth trimester.”

Congratulations—your baby is here! You did it. But…now what? The first three months of a new baby’s life are often called the “fourth trimester”—a time of adjustment and growth that can be as intense, if not more so, than the experience of pregnancy and birth. You may find yourself overwhelmed by a wide range of emotions when faced with the new reality of life with a newborn. Or, if this is not your first baby, you may find the transition to life with more than one child to be challenging for your whole family. Your birth doula will visit you after your baby is born and help you process those emotions, give you evidence-based information on baby care to help inform your decision-making, and generally support you as you transition into this next wonderful and challenging stage. They will also make sure you have all the resources and referrals you need to be supported as you move forward. And, if you find you want more regular emotional and physical support, many birth doulas also offer ongoing postpartum services that can extend through the first months of your baby’s life and beyond.

The bottom line? Your doula is there for you when you need her throughout pregnancy, birth, the postpartum period, and as your children grow up. Our motto at Midwest Doulas is, “Once your doula, always your doula.” When you hire a doula, you’re making an investment in the wellbeing of your entire family.

How did your doula support you in your labor? Share your doula story below!

Justine Temke is the founder of Midwest Doulas. She was born and raised in France, and that unique worldview drives her passion to educate and support women. She loves to share her knowledge of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding and strives to empower women and their families by providing compassionate support during and after pregnancy. Midwest Doulas was the winner of “Best of the Twin Cities” at the 2018 Birth & Baby Expo.

Fond Farewells + New Beginnings

To our MBC clients, friends, and community partners,

After recently celebrating the 2,000th birth for our practice, the team at MBC is certainly familiar with new beginnings. Today we have an exciting new beginning to share with you. At the end of March, we will be welcoming a new Clinical Director to lead our wonderful group of midwives. Patricia Hinck is joining our team to take over for Mary-Signe Chojnacki, who has been our Clinical Director for the past two years.

Mary-Signe was one of the original Certified Nurse Midwives hired at MBC seven years ago, and she has been an integral part of the birth center. Many of our staff and clients have been honored to call her their provider, friend, trusted colleague, and leader. Her presence, skills, and knowledge will be greatly missed. We are excited that she will stay on part-time and will continue to be a part of MBC and the care we provide patients. She has been called a protector of physiologic birth, and we couldn’t agree more.

Patricia Hinck, APRN, CNM, and Mary-Signe Chojnacki, APRN, CNM

Taking over as Clinical Director will be Patricia Hinck. Pat comes to MBC from Olmstead Medical Center where she founded and led the CNM group for five years. Pat brings a wealth of midwifery experience, and passion for physiologic birth and the midwifery model of care. We are so excited for her to get started! We can’t wait for you to meet her in the coming weeks and months.

Just as the transition from birth to postpartum and parenting takes time, so do big transitions like a change in leadership. We will take our time in ensuring a smooth transition and continuity of the excellent care you expect and deserve from MBC. We hope to see you in clinic soon!

With heartfelt gratitude,

The MBC Team