Heather's Birth Story
After trying to conceive for over a year, I eventually resorted to seeing a fertility specialist. Three months (and what seemed like a million doctor visits) later, we finally conceived. I had been introduced to the idea of midwifery by a friend, and after completing the fertility treatment “gauntlet”, I was interested in researching a more naturalistic approach to the birth process. My husband was very much on board, which surprised me a bit because home births and midwives are unfortunately not commonly considered in this day and age. We researched what we could find about it, interviewed some midwives, and on my friend’s recommendation watched the documentary The Business of Being Born. We were shocked to learn what a “normal” birth is usually like in a hospital, and felt even more drawn to midwifery.
At our first meeting with Bonnie, we were pleasantly surprised to feel like we were chatting with a friend. Upon walking into her office, we sensed a warmth that is not found in a doctor’s office or hospital, and we knew right away that we wanted to have a home birth and that she was the midwife we wanted to work with. She gave the impression of someone who had the perfect balance of professionalism and passion, and we knew immediately that we could have total confidence in her abilities as a midwife. We were very excited to be pregnant, but even more so after talking to Bonnie and realizing that our baby’s birth did not have to be what our society tells us it should be (as always seen in movies): cold, scary, painful, with lots of screaming and crying and drama! Our idea of what a birth would be like had included all of these things and more. We thought that if you were having a baby you just went to a doctor and did whatever the doctor told you to do; you got induced if they said it was time, you got an epidural if they said it would alleviate the pain, you got whatever interventions they told you to, no matter how invasive. Researching midwifery and talking to Bonnie made us realize that birth didn’t have to be what we had originally thought! We learned that that pregnancy is not an illness, that babies usually know when it’s time, and that drugs aren’t always necessary if you have the ability to move freely which allows your body to employ its own built-in pain management.
With each visit to Bonnie, we learned something new, and I became more and more amazed at what my body was preparing to do. After seeing her for our routine pre-natal visits for the past 6 months I felt empowered, and confidence started to outweigh any nervousness. As my due date came, and then passed, I felt completely confident in Bonnie’s judgment that it was okay to go past the due date as long as baby was still healthy. Five or six days before baby was born I began having some noticeable mild contractions that I hadn't had before, but nothing seemed to come of them and there were no other signs of labor. Then a few more days passed, and I started to think he was never coming out. But not once did I feel that Bonnie was making the wrong call by letting me be. I knew that if I had been seeing a doctor, I more than likely would have been induced and things would have gone down a path that I didn't want.
Finally, on the evening of February 19, 2009, my Mom and I were at dinner, and I noticed the same mild contractions as I had had a few days earlier but they were just a bit more noticeable. We started to time them, and called Bonnie at 9:00 pm to report that they were about 3 minutes apart, but still very, very mild. I will always remember Bonnie telling me “Well, dear, you know that since this is your first baby, you will most likely be in labor for quite a while. So, I want you to drink some chamomile tea, take a warm bath, and go to bed. Call me back if the contractions become more intense or if something else changes”. I did exactly what she had recommended, but when I tried to lay down to sleep the contractions began to get incrementally more uncomfortable. I got up and walked around for a while, and started to notice that they were not something I could sleep through, but not terribly painful. My husband called Bonnie again sometime after midnight to say that she might want to head to our house. Again, I will always remember her saying that she was on her way, but wouldn't break any speed limits to get here.
Meanwhile, I began to realize that I was truly in labor. My husband, mom, and friend Caressa were starting to look a little nervous as I paced and breathed through contractions. Finally, I had some other signs of labor, but Bonnie was not here yet so my husband called to check on her whereabouts and inform her of my progress. She told him that she and her apprentice were almost here. When she arrived at about 1:50 a.m. she was calmly making her way in the front door when she saw me leaning on the kitchen countertop breathing through a contraction. She knew immediately that this was no early/false labor and informed me (very kindly) that I would have to lie down so that she could check my dilation. The very last place I wanted to be was on my back, so she checked me quickly and found that I was completely dilated - she could feel the baby’s head! Bonnie and her apprentice snapped into action; the items they needed from the birth kit began flying out of the box as they prepared for the birth of our baby… which didn’t take long because Elliott was born almost exactly 45 minutes after they walked in the door! Bonnie recently told me that next time she’ll be camped outside my house so that she doesn’t miss the birth….
Looking back at the whole experience, I can see so many things that worked in my (and Elliott’s) favor to make the labor process so positive. I was at home with no anxiety about when or if to go to the hospital. I was in my comfort zone, with my things, the people I wanted around me, and the quiet and space I needed to have throughout the labor. I was able to move as much (or as little) as I needed to. And once Elliott was here, I didn’t have to worry about anyone taking him from me before I had even had a chance to clutch him to my chest, breathe him in, and study him… this little person who had resided in me for almost 42 weeks was finally here, healthy and safe! And I am fairly certain that had I not had Bonnie coaching me through the beginning stages of learning to nurse, Elliott would have become a formula-fed baby within the first few days.
Thank you, Bonnie, for persevering in a sadly misunderstood, misrepresented field so that you can help bring babies into this world in the way they were intended to come. Thank you for sharing your passion, your wisdom, and your friendship. Thank you for making it possible for Elliott to be born into your calm, skilled, caring hands. And thank you for giving me the guidance I needed to be able to learn to nurse him successfully. Should I become pregnant again, you will be one of the first to know. And we’ll have a tent all set up for you in the backyard.