How long have you been working at the Birth Center?
I am the newest midwife at the Birth Center, having
joined the team just about six months ago, in late June. I graduated from
Vanderbilt University’s midwifery program in December 2013, but was living in
Eugene prior to attending graduate school in Nashville, so I already knew about
the practice. Every day I feel so lucky to have been asked to join this
incredible group; everyone at the Birth Center has welcomed me with open arms
and taken me under their (awesomely knowledgeable and supportive) wings – I am
so very grateful for that!
Tell us a little about
your path to the Birth Center.
It seems everyone in my life knew I was supposed to be a
midwife before I did! I have always been fascinated with pregnancy and birth,
but I honestly didn’t think I could transform that passion into my life’s work.
My Dad is a journalist, my Mom is a business consultant, my brother is pursuing
a career in film; being an obstetrics care provider simply wasn’t on my radar
growing up. That said, my brother is eight years younger than I am and I
vividly recall nearly everything about my Mom’s pregnancy with him; I was desperate
to attend my Mom’s prenatal appointments and literally begged her to allow me
to be present at the birth (my parents deemed me too young). I was ravenous for
information related to pregnancy, labor, and delivery, even in the second grade.
I received my undergraduate degree in nutrition from UC
Berkeley in 2007. For several years following graduation, I worked in the field
of clinical dietetics at a San Francisco Bay Area hospital. At every
opportunity, I found myself trying to get under the service of the Registered
Dietitian assigned to the hospital’s antepartum unit; she spent her days
working with pregnant women who were hospitalized for gestational diabetes, hypertension,
etc. She is the one who told me, “I think you’re meant to work in labor and
delivery.” So, on her urging, I trained and then volunteered as a doula for
several years at a San Francisco county hospital. Witnessing that first birth
was it for me – I never again contemplated another field. I was lucky enough to
support women whose labors and births were overwhelmingly attended by the
hospital’s Certified Nurse-Midwives and the Student Nurse-Midwives of UCSF;
working with them made me realize that I wanted – and needed – to become a
What do you enjoy most
about working at the Birth Center?
Everything! For one, the opportunity to attend both
out-of-hospital and in-hospital births is an incredible (and rare) blessing;
it’s amazing that our practice can also offer that choice to our patients.
Additionally, I love that I get to work with women and families who
specifically seek out midwifery care; at the practices with which I trained as
a Student Nurse-Midwife, low-risk patients were automatically assigned to the midwives
and higher-risk patients were automatically assigned to the obstetricians,
which wasn’t always ideal. At the Birth Center and in this community in general,
there is so much respect for and trust in the training that midwives have and
our expertise in managing healthy, low-risk pregnancies and deliveries. I am so
appreciative of that respect and trust.
What is one thing about
you that might surprise people?
As a fairly new Certified Nurse-Midwife, everything in my
life seems to be focused on midwifery right now! Possibly it would surprise
people that I am a newlywed? My husband and I just got married in September. We
together moved to Oregon from California for his job four years ago, but soon
thereafter endured a long-distance relationship while I attended midwifery
school in Nashville. He’s an air traffic controller, so we both work varied
schedules. When he’s not directing airplanes and I’m not catching babies, we
indulge in one of our truest passions – delicious food and drink. We have loved
together experiencing Eugene’s burgeoning restaurant scene! We also make the
trek to Portland more often that I would like to admit simply to indulge our
many culinary cravings.
Outside, a shadow was creeping over the face of the moon. Peering out the bathroom window, I hoped to catch a glimpse of it but quickly gave up my search, figuring that the clouds of the Pacific Northwest were once again eclipsing my view of this lunar phenomenon.
Inside, weariness was creeping over the face of this forty-and-a-half-week-pregnant-lady. Trudging back to bed with the false hope of sleeping comfortably before the next inevitable bathroom break, I tried to release everything that was clouding my mind – worries, frustration, fear – eclipsing my view of the never-changing, faithful God of Creation.
Blood moon. The language adopted to describe the orange glow over the moon intrigues me. There is nothing mysterious about it – just the sun, moon, and earth following their natural course – and yet for me it is the language of promise and a sign of remembrance (see Acts 2). A reminder that Jesus is establishing His Kingdom on earth, and that His desire is to pour His Spirit out on us and on our sons and our daughters. A reminder that He is with us and that He is faithful.
It is a reminder that I seem to stay in need of, especially when life with three little girls, homeschool, and a part-time job gets so crowded that it seems difficult to breathe, much less take deep breaths of Life.
Was I ready for a fourth?! No, I decided. No, I was not. Three weeks previous, my midwife told me that all signs pointed to her coming “at any time”. And yet here I was past-due, my body already half-way to the magical 10 centimeters and nary a sign of “real labor”. Body and mind apparently concurred.
This was my “high-risk” pregnancy: advanced maternal age (a whopping 35 with healthily low blood pressure), gestational diabetes (with such a tightly controlled diet that my blood sugars were as low as – if not lower than! – “normal” women If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes – and even if you aren’t – I strongly recommend Trim Healthy Mama, and high levels of group b strep bacteria. Even though the mere diagnosis of gestational diabetes meant that this baby had to born at the hospital instead of the birthing center, we laughed about the first two conditions making me “high-risk”.
I was not, however, at peace regarding the group b strep. It was talked of nonchalantly enough. A “normal” bacteria that occasionally increases in number. Can only be transmitted to baby after water has broken. Higher risk the longer water has been broken. Risk reduced to practically nothing with penicillin IV 4 hours before birth.
Except I have really short labors. No four hour warnings here! And even the use of penicillin comes with its own risks. I fleetingly prayed that the Lord would show me what to do, and oh, could You just make it so that my water doesn’t break until after she is born? That would be really cool. Thanks!
Read the rest of Zoe's incredible birth story at Amber's blog here
Did you have your baby with the Peace Health midwives?
For weeks and and weeks prior to the birth, I'd been having prodromal labor... meaning that I was having some really uncomfortable contractions that never escalated into real labor. They were uncomfortable enough to make me extremely grumpy, though.
Thankfully it was on and off instead of constant. So there were plenty of days in those last few weeks wherein I hardly noticed what my uterus was doing, thank goodness. And then there were the days where my uterus was a complete and utter jerk.
A week ago, I got my membranes swept at my checkup with the midwife. That means she stuck her fingers into my cervix (that's the entrance to the uterus, located at the top of the vagina) and then manually separated the bag of waters from the cervix. It feels really, really crampy. But, seriously, compared to the discomfort my uterus had been inflicting on me for a while, it wasn't that bad.
In theory, sweeping the membranes is supposed to stimulate prostaglandin release, and thus encourage the cervix to soften and dilate, and therefore encourage labor to start. At this point, I was 3-4 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced. Emily, the midwife in clinic that day, thought I'd go into labor quite soon and even told the on-call midwives to expect my call at any time.
Only... jerkface uterus was against this idea, and besides cramping like a monster all of that day, nothing happened. The uterus wasn't too mean to me for the rest of the week. I was supposed to go get my membranes swept again on my due date, but this didn't pan out because a midwife had called in sick and things were hectic.
So I went in to see the midwife in the morning yesterday, a little frustrated that I had made it several days past my due date, especially when I really wanted to have the baby in the birth center. (I would be required to give birth in the hospital after 41 weeks, which was only a few days away.) Oh, and not to mention that I was having pretty much every pregnancy symptom in the book on top of the disgusting nausea and vomiting.
The midwife (Emily again) swept my membranes for the second time. This time, I was 4-5 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. In the words of my sister-in-law, I was walking around with the door half-open. (Ha.) Emily also mentioned that my bag of waters was "bulging" and that she was afraid that she'd accidentally break it.
I went home and, within a few hours, my uterus got grumpy again. Soon I was having contractions every five minutes apart or so. At this point, I would still label this prodromal labor, but I guess it's hard to say. I say it's prodromal because, although they were really, really uncomfortable and annoying, they were still the kid brother contractions I'd been having for weeks, not really real ones. That said, they were kid brother contractions with an attitude, and I thought they might escalate into real labor, so I summoned James home. This was mostly necessary because I was getting really grumpy with Amelia, who was magically headbutting me in the uterus every single time I had a contraction, and jumping all over me, and... well, if you're having contractions (even the kid brother kind), this is not welcome attention. I swear the kid had a spidey sense, or something.
After James had been home for an hour or so, we decided to go on a walk since the contractions, still every five minutes, had not intensified. We walked outside, and decided the sun was too assaultive, and jumped into the car instead. We headed over to Target and walked there instead. For hours.
Sure, the contractions sucked... But I'd done labor before, and I was under no impression that anything was actually happening with them. They'd been going on for four hours now, every five minutes, and I hadn't had any worthy of the name mama bear... all kid brothers. All of them.
Frustrated, I called the midwife on call (Patricia). Her advice was to go home and take a warm shower/bath, which would do either one of two things: 1) kick real labor into gear, or 2) relax my uterus into a non-labor stupor. It did the latter, which very nearly crushed all of James' hopes and dreams. Seriously, he was more depressed than I was. Patricia had me eat a good dinner, drink lots of water, and go to bed on time, warning me that she suspected real labor would probably start in the night some time.
I had some contractions later in the night before bed, but again, these were all kid brothers. I managed to sleep through them. When I did wake up multiple times in the night, it wasn't the contractions that woke me, it was the full bladder.
Until about 4:30 am, that is. Bam. Contraction! I was suddenly awake. And oh, this wasn't a kid brother. So I pulled out my phone to time the suckers (I hate timing contractions... hate, hate, hate it), and after about three of them, five minutes apart, hurting like the dickens... I determined this was real labor and called the midwife around 4:45 am.
It was Hilary at this point... and her on-call shift ended at 6am. She thought I probably had some time before I'd need to show up at the birth center, and told me just to plan on meeting Patricia (the midwife who'd be on call starting at 6am) there... at 6am. Like... over an hour later. Of course, she said, call back if you really think you need to get there sooner, but I think you'll be fine.
I agreed to this plan at first, thinking it was probably sensible enough. I got into a warm bath, hoping that this'd soothe the pain somewhat, but...
I ended up calling Hilary back at like 5:20am to tell her I needed to go to the birth center before 6am. My contractions were three minutes apart. Oh, and they sucked. All I could think of is that these contractions sucked so bad, and boy, did I not want to be confined in the passenger seat of the car while trying to deal with one. Seriously. That plan was a no-go. Car ride now, not later. (We also called our friend Cassie to come, because we needed someone to watch Amelia at the birth center while James was helping me out.)
Poor Hilary reluctantly met us at the birth center at about 5:45am once I insisted that I really couldn't wait until 6am. I think I was right. Once we got there, I started to get very nauseous. (For the people who don't know, this is a sign that I am almost fully dilated and that the pushing stage is about to happen. I.e. labor is almost over.) We had to wait a few minutes for Hilary to show up, and during that time, I was madly pacing through contractions and keeping an eye out in the landscape for a suitable place to vomit. Because I might have to.
We got inside. I stripped immediately. Well, immediately after a contraction, anyway. I found a toilet. Baby was low. As in, really low. Pushing poop out low. My rectum felt squished, probably because it was. It was like... like... there was a baby's skull pushing down on my butthole from the inside. Kind of like that. Only this was secondary to feeling like my entire pelvic bone was trying to come out. Basically, lots and lots and lots of pressure in the nether regions.
Hilary checked baby's heart rate and my cervix as soon as I let her. Baby was fine. My cervix was 9 centimeters dilated, so she warned me that I'd probably want to start pushing any time now. "Has your water broken?" "No." At this point, Patricia showed up and took over. Anne (a midwife-in-training) showed up, too...
I got in the bath, only to discover that James had failed miserably at making sure the water was warm. It was pretty chilly. Too chilly for the baby, so I wasn't going to be allowed to give birth in the tub, and the water wasn't all that effective at relieving the pain. I supposed that was okay, because my only specific plan for the birth was to do whatever I felt like, but I was pretty annoyed. Not gonna lie. Annoyed.
I elected to stay in the water for a time, though, because of the buoyancy. I started to basically bob up and down with each contraction, because that's what my body felt like doing. I suppose this was getting baby down into the birth canal. In the meantime I was still annoyed at the cold water. Oh well.
Patricia and Anne kept saying things like, "Wow. She is so calm and focused!" between the contractions. I'm not sure what I would have called it. Focused, I guess. Calm...? I might have been. I think there should be a different word for it. I don't know what it is. I felt very primal though. Maybe that's it.
I was bobbing up and down for a contraction in the tub, when... SKIDOOSH. (Not the Wuxi finger hold!) "My water just broke." It felt like there was Diet Coke up there and someone had dropped some Mentos in. Only it was exploding out my hoo-ha. (Pleasant? Uhhh... not really...) Followed immediately by a baby's head.
And that's when I stood up and somehow got out of the tub. I'm not sure who I used to get out. James, Patricia, or Anne... or all of the above, maybe. In any case, I got out of the tub, and sat promptly on the birthing stool. And at this point the pressure in the nether regions got really bad, that and the stinging. Oh, the stinging!
The stinging is the stretching of the... everything. The perineum and everything around it. We could feel David's head when I got out of the tub. It was so squished that it was super wrinkly. (The midwife later told me one dad asked if that was baby's brains when the same thing happened with his baby. Nope. Just very squished head.) Someone commented that he didn't have much hair. I said "can't" here, I think. I was trying to say that "I can't tell if that's baby's head or just me", but talking was impossible. The stinging felt like I was ripping in half, right down the middle. I have some important bits right down the middle. I was worried about them.
I got fed up with the birthing stool, and waddled kind of spread-eagled over to the bed, because I had this idea that side-lying would be comfortable for me. Only as soon as I laid on my side, I realized... No, no way. Not the side. So I turned onto my back, slightly propped up, and with my legs wide...
And then I really, really, really had to push. I'd kind of been pushing before, but now I pushed. And I vaguely remembered that screaming helps with pain management. So I let out some mighty screams. Best pain management technique ever. It really did help. It also really helped to keep in mind that David was practically almost out.
With a mighty scream, I got his head out. And also, a lot of amniotic fluid. I don't remember if he made any sounds at this point. I wouldn't have realized that he was partly out had the midwives not told me. With another mighty scream, and a lot of my body urging me to just get that sucker out, I got the rest of him out in a giant gush of fluid. James was fortunate not to get splashed.
And then I felt much better. It was 6:39am, about an hour after we'd arrived, and about two hours after labor had started.
They put him on my belly, and he started talking and complaining about his exit immediately. Seriously, really cute baby noises. He sounded like the cute baby dragon or baby dinosaur noises you hear on cartoons and movies.
[You can read more about Jenna and David's adventures at the Birth Center here]
Did you have your baby with the Peace Health midwives?