I am pleased to feature a story about Pittsburgh's own midwife center, as experienced by Amanda Bates. Check out her blog at Ventures in Green.
Life is full of the unexpected. Our pregnancy was not a surprise, but the birth we experienced with our daughter, Rowan, was one of the most amazing events I’ve ever encountered.
Six years and a few months before Rowan was born, I had Dylan. It was a beautiful hospital birth experience I never expected to have. I arrived at the hospital too late for an epidural, and am ever grateful for that (though he was about one hour shy of being born in my friend Amanda’s car, something we still joke about). It was as natural as a hospital birth could be, so when I got pregnant again, it was what I thought we’d be doing again.
This time my boyfriend, Brendan, asked something I hadn’t even thought of. “What about a midwife?” he asked while I was making my OB-GYN appointment. Hmmm, a midwife, I thought. I was a little nervous about it, so I made the OB-GYN appointment, and decided to do some research before I went. After scouring the internet, and watching Abby Epstein’s documentary, The Business of Being Born, we made our decision to have a midwife deliver our baby.
We are very fortunate to live in Pittsburgh, an up-and-coming city with access to some of the best medical treatment you can find, should you need it. Being a very healthy 25-year-old, I decided to opt out of a hospital birth and sought care at The Midwife Center for Birth and Woman’s Health in the Strip District neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
An old house-turned-birthing-oasis, The Midwife Center was everything we were looking for in the place our child would make his first appearance. I always felt comfortable being there through all nine months. With a helpful and friendly staff, cozy waiting room, and extremely unique exam rooms, I found myself getting excited about regular exams. They believe in transparency, and upon entering, you sign in and are handed your chart to review.
We planned on having an out-of-hospital birth at the Center; the only freestanding birth center in Pittsburgh. In case of an emergency, I’d be transported to a local hospital and continue the birth with the midwife, alongside a doctor. I was confident that it wouldn’t come to that as I chose The Desert Room to birth in. It’s one of three themed birthing rooms on their first floor, the others being The Ocean Room, and The Forest Room.
With our birth plan in order, it was just a waiting game. On January 26, 2011, I was enjoying dinner with Dylan, our now eight-year-old, and Brendan’s mom, Maria, when my contractions started. Brendan was at work, and I called him to let him know I was having random contractions -- nothing regular or severe. I told him to stay at work, and I’d call him if anything changed. I was dealing well with the first wave of contractions, even laughing and joking about things. Then, while Maria was on the phone with Brendan’s sister, things stopped being funny. This was it. I called Brendan and told him to come home immediately. I grabbed my bag, and waited for him by the door.
The ten minute journey it takes to get from our house to The Midwife Center felt like it took an hour. It was late in the evening, about 10pm, so there was not a lot of traffic on the road. Maria and Dylan were in the car behind us. All I could do was hope my water wouldn’t break in the car. The contractions were coming fast and regular, and I was having flashbacks of before Dylan was born, hoping my water wouldn’t break en route and I’d have to pay for vehicle detailing! We made it there without incident, and I learned my parents, Brendan’s sister Christina, and her girlfriend Michelle, were all on their way down to witness a birth like they’d never seen before.
We got to the Center a little after 10 p.m. I paged the midwife on call before we left, so she and the nurse were there with the room prepped and ready, waiting for us. The rooms are pretty much like a master suite in a house. A bedroom with a queen sized bed, and a large bathroom attached to it with a large Jacuzzi style tub. I was planning on spending some time relaxing in the tub to help cope with some of the more intense contractions, but by the time we got there, I could feel my time was running out. After using the restroom, I made my way to the bed with Brendan, Kara (the midwife), and Cheryl (the nurse). The other ladies in our group waited outside in the hall with the door propped open, while by dad and Dylan were upstairs in the waiting room.
As you know, all women labor differently. Some scream in agony, some stream profanities, some take pain medication to cope. I was quiet. Besides the occasional moan, I focused on my breathing. I broke my concentration once and let out a whimper of a scream, but Kara reminded me that screaming is a sign of fear, and I had nothing to be afraid of. Kara and Cheryl were amazingly supportive. A few weeks before the birth, I penned a birth plan and gave it to the midwives to be placed in my file. It wasn’t very detailed, I only had a few requests. I trusted my body to make everything happen smoothly, but my mind might need some reminders.
I was laboring on my back, which I knew better than to do. Gravity was working against us, but at that moment, I couldn’t move. I tried to go on my hands and knees, but it wasn’t happening. So Cheryl sat behind me and propped my back up to curve around my belly for some leverage.
At 12:56am on January, 27th 2011, after being at the Center under three hours, baby's head was on its way out. Kara was there to deliver the head, and part of the shoulders, but it was Brendan who caught her upon her final descent. She was laid on my chest while we waited for the cord to stop pulsating before it was cut.
We didn’t want to find out the sex of our babies before they were born, and it took about 10 minutes after our daughter was born to look and see that she was, in fact, a she. We wanted to meet our little person before we went about naming them, so we didn't have any names picked out. It was a few days before we decided on the name Rowan Elise.
After getting settled in and breastfeeding successfully, Cheryl provided us with the First Family Breakfast. The other members of our family left to go back home, and we took a little nap to rest after the birth. One of the great things about The Midwife Center is you do not have to stay for a long period after your birth. As long as there are no complications, you can leave between 6-12 hours after your birth. We were on our way home by 9 a.m, less than 12 hours after we first arrived.
It was a wonderful birthing experience we would do again. If you live within a short driving distance of a freestanding birth center, I urge you to check it out. The whole thing changed my views of what birthing is supposed to be like.
Part 1 -- my personal story
Part 2 -- Candice's story
Part 3 -- Lisa's story
Part 4 -- Julie Ann's story
Part 5 -- Wanda's story
Part 6 -- Stacie's story
Part 7 -- Breanna's story
If you would like your story included in the series, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to share your story!