Beautiful Secrets of Birth

Today I sat in an office talking to the receptionist while my son was in an appointment. For some reason I told her I was a midwife and  I started talking about the beauty I find in midwifery and specifically waterbirth.

IMG_3087It’s not uncommon for people to ask me about waterbirth and if babies breathe under water when they are born. It’s actually one of the more common questions. I explained that babies have sensitive receptor sites on their faces that when hit with air they are triggered to take a breath. I also discussed how the umbilical cord is filled with Wharton’s jelly which is temperature sensitive. When it moves out from the warmth of the maternal body out into the cooler air it congeals and closes off the vessels that supply oxygen to the baby.  This encourages the baby to breathe and function independently of the mother.

My favorite part of our conversation was when I said babies have a reflex that we can see – the transition from fetal circulation to newborn circulation.   I discussed how they often stick their little tongues out and stretch their arms and even have a little jump. I said I don’t always see this but when I do it’s as if the baby is jumping into it’s body.  At that point it was as if I watched some magic happen to the woman I was speaking to. She said on my gosh that it just beautiful and so special.  I agree so very much.

As midwives we witness many beautiful things. This in just a small glimpse of the some of the countless little secrets I witness as I walk with families through the miracle of birth.

Watch this —>”Birth As We Know It

Holding Space

The last couple of weeks have brought forth a whirlwind of emotions as the world and day to day life is a complicated thing to maneuver for so many people. As the weeks wound to an end I found myself holding space for so many people as they themselves moved through the many challenges life has to offer. Ultimately, what I came to is that love is a fierce force to be reckoned with. Does this sound strange? Love is fierce! Love is so very fierce and unrelenting.

Each day we walk this Earth we are faced with decisions. We are faced with the question of how can we be the best or at times the worst version of ourselves. I have to add the worst version because we all know that at times in life we have made bad choices as we are created imperfect beings and only our creator is perfect. We have the power of freewill and that doesn’t always make the right choices.  But today I want to focus on love.

What love looks like to one person may look incredibly different to another. We work with and through love. We often define ourselves by our love or lack there of or even by the hope there of. Love is what most of us strive for. We strive to be some version love, to give love and be loved as we walk through this journey we call life. Love is fierce. Love comes with bumps and bruises yet it is still what we all strive to feel and essentially be.

love stillAs I have walked through my recent weeks I have sat with people loving their children and making the best situation out of the complicating factors in life. I have sat with people missing their children that live far away.  I have sat with people fighting for their children, to carry them in their bodies, to birth them, to see them and to give them the best love that they can in the midst of uncertain waters. I have sat with people walking through journeys many of us will never go through and with those that carry the secrets of those choices and will likely do so for a lifetime. I have sat with people mourning the loss of a loved ones as well as the loss of their belief in humanity.  I have sat with people trying to love themselves. It is a hard time in the world. I too sit with so many degrees of the complications of life and yet still strive to be some version of love that makes since to me and to those the I love and love me.

This week I was watching an episode of “Call the Midwife”. There was a quote that spoke
to me so loudly that I had to take note of it. “I have come to the conclusion that there are only two reasons for ever doing anything. One is love, the other is fear.” -Sister Julienne. I witness so many people walking their journey through love and fear that it is astounding. This is a powerful statement that means a lot to me on my own journey.

I wrote these small notes about the people and situations above so vague as it is not a place for me to share all the nitty gritty details of other peoples lives.  I just think it’s important to share some small detail of the bigger picture.  I witness the power of love in many forms and at times I carry this all, at times, with a gracious heaviness that is hard to explain.  I am a midwife. I am a person who holds space for not only the vital signs and medical information of pregnancy but for the stories of life that the people I sit with carry.  This is the midwife life.  This is a blessed life.  This is an interesting life. This is a life more real than I think I can every put into words.  I am thankful as well as humbled everyday to be one of the many people in this world that has been called to hold the space.

To the other gate keepers, midwives and space holders out there. Thank you for all that you do. Please don’t ever forget to put yourself on the list of those that you love as you give love to others.  Take care of yourselves and never forget how important self care is.  Find time to walk barefoot, go out into the forest, swim in a river, dive into the ocean,  hike in the desert, gaze at the stars, watch the sun rise and set, get a massage, listen to some good music, share meals and spend time with people that love you back.  You deserve it.

Stand for love!

be kind

 

 

how we celebrated International Day of the Midwife

This week on May 5th we celebrated International Day of the Midwife.  This is a day that we celebrate the sisterhood of midwives around the world.  For us at Andaluz we had a staff meeting and spent the day together. We talked about so many things that effect our day to day life as midwives, plans for the future as well as doing emergency drills.  We all separated into groups, scenarios were read and we practiced neonatal resuscitation using an Laryngeal Mask Airway (LMA) at this meeting. Over the years techniques and guidelines change and currently this is what is being taught.  We like to stay current and up to date on recommendations.

LMAs are interesting to use. They are a device that go down into the babies mouth to cover the airway to ensure appropriate ventilation. Will every baby need this?  No!  This is a devise used for extended resuscitation efforts which thank goodness we don’t see very often. Most babies breathe on their own without any complication, few will need a few breaths to inflate their lungs as babies are respiratory driven and a very very very small amount will ever need extended resuscitation efforts. Regardless, it is a skill we are all working to get more comfortable with if ever needed.  At our meetings we practice on our creepy little resuscitation dolls.

I love being a midwife at Andaluz. I love being a team.  We all work so well together and we all work to ensure our students get a great education as well. We include our students, who attend a variety of midwifery schools,  in most of our educational drills as well as try to set up times for them to practice and discuss situations at other times.  Our goal with our students at Andaluz is that most of them will attend 100 births before they leave their time with us. There is something, that many of us say, happens at 100 births that makes you feel like more of a midwife.  It’s fun to watch them grow and change over those 100 births.

So this was how we celebrated International Day of the Midwife this year. We were just a bunch of midwives doing midwife things.

 

putting our work before our family

Midwifery is a unique lifestyle. I would say more of us than not have been faced with putting our work before our family. Over the many years I have countless examples from missing holidays, birthdays, school events and medical emergencies.  I think we all struggle to find the balance as we want to provide the very best care to the families we serve.  I have heard so many midwives talk about this.

I feel my current life provides more support and balance. I work at Andaluz Waterbirth Center and we all get a more than fair amount of time off to be with our families, to travel and to turn off our cell phones. Regardless, when emergencies arise we do have to consider, “Do I stay or do I go?”. Today I had one of those emergencies.

At about 1030am I got a message that my son had an accident. His foot had been run over by a tractor, a flipping tractor! I was sitting in an appointment and I was very worried. I chose to make the decision to leave my appointment in Portland and go to my son. I work with an amazing team of midwives and staff so my day was well covered thank goodness. I was so worried that I got lost on the way to the hospital which is next to my house but about an hour from the Portland Birth Center. How did I get lost?  I was so worried. Ultimately,  he was OK and his foot was not broken. How can that be? A tractor ran over his foot and it was not broken. Honestly, it was just a bit swollen. He’s in a lot of pain but it’s not broken. Praise the Lord.

After we left the hospital I was still a little worked up so I went home and did some “Earthing”.  The term cracks me up.  Standing barefoot in my yard made a world of difference. I even tried to mow my lawn with our manual push mower. The grass was too long though and it was a little ridiculous. So we have a couple stripes in the yard.

There were also some things that happened today that made me wish the world was a kinder place.   The internet gives people such a vicious voice and I witnessed a friend get blasted online for her kindness and humanity for all people in my community. It bothered me and made me realize yet again that not all people love one another or think just like me. Some people are full of a kind of hate that I just don’t understand.  I will keep hoping that the world changes and I will remember that my role is to provide babies with as gentle a birth possible into loving arms. It is my hope that over time this truly will make a difference.

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so many wonderful things

I woke up today tired without any reason. My goal continues to be to get back to my routine of waking up at 5:00am and going to CrossFit. It’s been harder than it used to be. I stay up later than I used to and my diet is just not what it used to be. As the season change and the warmer weather is upon us I hope this will transition. It was a longer Winter than usual. There was so much more rain, like 150 days or rain or something absurd like that.

Today I did make it to the gym. It was later, 9:30am.  Hey, I was only 4 hours behind. Regardless, I made it. I arrived to see so many familiar faces, even one of my mommies. Many of the women at my gym have had me as their midwife. It’s a fun aspect of being a community midwife. I get to watch these mommies be healthy during pregnancy and return to a healthy state after their babies are born. I also get to watch their babies grow. They go from being in carseats and strollers to running around. It’s a sweet piece of life. This morning I saw one of my mommies coming in and I went out to help her with her kids. I brought her boy in in his stroller and set him up next to me while I rowed. My coach asked if I was starting to bring my work to the gym.  I laughed and said this actually is one of my babies so I guess that is a yes.

Today’s workout was grueling. It killed everyone. In the end a bunch of sweaty bodies were lying all around the gym. I did not by any means kill it, but it did kill me.  I didn’t really have time to lay around and socialize after. I had to run out and head to the cottage for an appointment. I arrived in my gym clothes sweaty and a bit disheveled. I am so happy we have a shower there. I quickly showered and put myself in order for the day and started my appointments.

I love people. Most people I know know that I am very social. I love talking to people and sharing stories.  I learn about their lives and their children and they learn about me. It’s a very fun exchange. Midwifery is a different type of healthcare that involves relationship. We all socialize in different ways and have different personalities but overall I think most would agree we enjoy getting to really know the people we work with.

After my time at the cottage I grabbed the baby scale so that I could go do a home visit and weigh a little tiny peanut of a sweet baby.  I drove out into one of our smaller towns in the area. Today was absolutely beautiful. It’s 80 degrees, a first in sometime, and the sky was the bluest blue I have seen in ages. I stopped at the Mexican grocery store, got some lunch as well as picking up a fresh cooked chicken, roasted peppers and fresh tortillas for dinner. I am a master of multitasking. It may be the only way we all survive.

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I arrived to a mommy with her little baby in her arms and her toddler running around the yard. They, my little babies and mommy,  were also enjoying the sunshine. We went inside and had a lovely postpartum appointment. He’s just about 6 lbs now and as cute as can be.  I had to poke his little tiny foot which he didn’t like. I was impressed honestly because he is so young that his response seemed like an older baby. I also did some craniosacral therapy which he enjoyed and even smiled a couple of times.  This family is special to me and over the years I have gotten to know them well. So today felt good.

Midwifery is so many things, so many wonderful things. We provide quality healthcare, we socialize, build relationships, watch families grow and change and build life long friendships. It really is a very special thing.

Reflecting on a journey of firsts

I gave birth to my first son in 1995. It was a life changing experience. It literally changed my life and my direction. I left knowing I wanted nothing more than to be a midwife. Within 6 months I was studying midwifery. Time passed and I learned many things. I studied, I took classes, I taught classes. For several years I worked at McKenzie Midwifery as the office coordinator and childbirth educator. I taught a class called Bistro Babies that I basically inherited  from another midwife. It was a fun class that I taught over 4 weeks. I taught a lot about waterbirth. I worked at one of the first hospitals to provide waterbirth in the US.  I can’t say what hospital was the first but I know it was the early days.  At that time waterbirth with homebirth midwives was often done with Rubbermaid horse troughs. I’m sure there are still midwives using those tubs but for many of us that helps to date it. Waterbirth is my passion. It always has been. I have never had a waterbirth but I have attended hundreds upon hundred of them in an out of the hospital.

As a childbirth educator all those years ago I used to use the Andaluz “Born In Water” video to teach. I had never been to Andaluz but the video was pretty much the only thing we had to teach with. With that, Andaluz had some superstar status in my brain.

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As the years passed I became a midwife and in some organic way I ultimately became a midwife at Andaluz Waterbirth Center. It was totally unplanned and something I never could have imagined. Today I sat in the Lavender Room at the first Andaluz and I reflected on just that. My history of working in one of the first waterbirth hospitals in this country to my current life of working at one of the countries first freestanding waterbirth centers has been quite a journey. I have been here for over 5 years now.  I am proud of the path I have taken–all the twists and turns and the diverse experiences that I have had. I look forward to seeing what the future brings.

Andaluz Waterbirth Center, Lavender Room