photo by JA Photography
We chose homebirth with midwives mostly because we wanted to have an unmedicated vaginal birth but knew we couldn't pull it off with just a birth class behind us. We wanted to have an established relationship with the people who would help us through birth - NOT whoever was on call when we happened to go into labor!
We got the fantastic coaching we wanted - and SO much more. Sarah and Lisa treated our pregnancy, birth, and postpartum periods wholistically - with care for bodies and minds. We talked about fears, expectations, discomfort, and everything else. With traditional care, the mother and baby are treated together until birth, but are treated as separate people afterwards. This doesn't match the feeling or the reality. Midwives see the mother and baby (and the father) as part of an integrated system. With home visits following the birth, there's no need for the mother or baby to attempt travel to a doctor's office. Lactation support starts within 10 minutes of the birth and carries through, well, as long as you need it!
For many people, being in a hospital relieves their fears. For me, being at home relieved a lot of anxiety which would have been generated by going to a hospital and having to explain my decisions about my care while in labor. At visits leading up to the birth, we reviewed all the evidence of healthy pregnancy, labor, and delivery and, yes, the signs that something was going wrong. We knew Sarah and Lisa would advise us against a homebirth if something about the pregnancy put us at higher risk, and they would monitor our progress during labor and get help if we needed it.
Our bodies tell us that pain means injury. Labor and birth is an exception to this. Nothing is wrong. Everything is right - most of the time. It is wonderful to be cared for under that premise.
In the early weeks of being pregnant with my first child, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to do a home birth. I had two main concerns, namely whether it safe for me and my child, and whether it was going to be more expensive than delivering at the local hospital. We took the time to meet both with the doctors at the local hospital and with Sarah on several occasions. As my pregnancy progressed, Sarah addressed every concern we had, never pressuring us to decide one way or the other before we were ready. The decision wasn't necessarily easy due to the fact that we actually very much liked the doctors at our local hospital and a delivery there would have been covered by insurance. But our time with Sarah was always so much more gratifying. Sarah is a vast resource of information and experience, and she made sure we had time to go over every last question before ending a prenatal visit. At 20 weeks, we established a relationship with a doctor who agreed to be our backup should we have any issues with the home birth. He did an ultrasound which confirmed our little boy was growing well, and wished us well. From then on, we felt confident and secure in Sarah's prenatal care.
During labor, Sarah was extremely focused and attentive to my needs. She was present, but not overbearing. She was confident, but not arrogant. And she had a sense of how to pace herself so that she did not tire when I needed her most. Sarah's patience allowed my labor to unfold naturally over many, many hours. Undoubtedly, if I had labored at a local hospital, I would have been encouraged to use pitocin or some other intervention because my labor was slow. But Sarah and her assistants carefully monitored me and my baby and it was clear that all we need was more time.
One of the most pivotal moments for me during my labor was when Sarah sensed that I was getting tired and frustrated and she asked me a series of questions that allowed me to express a fear I was holding onto. With just the right touch of humor, Sarah helped me release that final fear, and my son was born within the hour, a testament not only to Sarah's practical skills as a midwife, but also to her deep well of compassion for the women in her care.
To this day (and likely for the rest of my life), Sarah's first words — whispered in my ear upon her arrival to our home — still resonate in my memory, "Dana, you're going to be a mommy."
With her melodic voice and calm, gentle presence, Sarah spoke to reality what had now enveloped me — birthing. It was hour 13 of my 24 hour birthing journey. For all these hours I sat rocking in a glider chair, candles all around our living room lighting the dark evening and early morning hours, soft music creating the cadence that guided my breathing through hours of "surges" (aka "contractions"). We had called Sarah a few times before her lunch time arrival. In each conversation, her question, "Would you like me to come now?" evidenced her implicit trust in my own body-mind-spirit awareness and implicit respect for the sacredness of this moment and her desire to "tread lightly."
My surges continued on into the luminescent Fall afternoon. Given where I was in labor, Sarah did not rush to "examine" or measure me. Neither was I overly anxious to know. It was enough that my birth meditation was slow, conscious, peaceful. As lunch time soup was enjoyed, my partner Christopher readied the birth pool and the room where, hopefully, our child would be born. I say "hopefully" as I learned quickly in pregnancy to not count on hopes as certainties … gestation and birthing are inherently full of mystery and surprise. Our hope for a water birth, for a home birth … was just that … a hope.
Filling the birth pool was one of many instances of hope and surprise. Having strung the water hose to the pool, Christopher soon recognized that the hot water heater very quickly emptied. Not knowing how quickly I would enter the pool to continue laboring, he felt an instance of panic and disappointment with himself thinking that the pool would not be ready for my entrance. It was at this moment, thinking that hot water was too scarce, that he had failed me, that he paused. What if, he thought, hot water is not scarce but rather, present in abundance? Only minutes later, I heard the door opening and closing to our birthing room … the family next door had been enlisted to carry hot water to our pool! Suddenly, a water brigade had been organized! Water was abundant, indeed. In the end, the pool was ready well in advance of my need/readiness.
As my surges continued, Sarah suggested that I take a walk in the neighborhood. Oh my, I thought, how could I leave my rocking chair and soft music? Yet, the autumn light was too brilliant to not enjoy. The walk would have the effect of advancing my dilation, so Sarah thought. Not only did the walk provide me with an opportunity to feel wind and light on this magical day, it also surprised me with a chance hug with an elderly neighbor who had become an adopted grandmother of sorts. I counted this as among numerable blessings of this day. Too, it was one more instance of Sarah's genius!
Not long after the walk, a second "check up" of my dilation showed that I was able to enter the birthing pool whenever ready. Wow! How good it felt to be surrounded by soothing, warm water … and, not at all too soon as I had been in labor for going on 18 hours! Soon, Chris would join me, hold me, support my movements, feel my surges in me … and, in this way, we were coming as close to sharing the labor as was possible. The water labor that I had hoped for surpassed all of my hopes.
In the next hours, my father would arrive to see his baby birthing her baby. As he entered the room hesitantly, unsure if his "place" was to be so close and present, we cried … holding each other with our eyes, holding each other in the absence of his wife, my Mom who had left this life too surprisingly only a short two years earlier. Also soon to arrive were three women friends in all … each friend providing me with something that I could never have known or predicted in advance that I needed or desired. I now cannot imagine how either myself or Chris or even Sarah could have continued without each's presence. Their arrival was yet another surprise and another of Sarah's gifts for creating the context wherein each friend became necessary. Were it not for the many conversations held between us (Sarah and me), I doubt if such synchrony, such harmony of energies and dispositions and capacities could have been created.
It took some time for me to fully understand what "pushing" required. It's like the biggest, most intense poop of your life! And no one tells you that it takes a bit of practice to really do it well! The explosive "pop" of the "plug" indicated that my pushing was becoming more directed. The "waves" of pushing surges then filled me, absorbed me, overtook me. Sarah's presence was both settling and commanding. To drink more strength-giving fluids. To push more productively. To rest. To remain still.
At first, I sat. Next, I knelt. Finally, I squatted in the water … with this position altered only by the need to rest my thighs with intermittent standing between pushes. Two hours into these very intense pushing "waves," I had birthed the baby's head. I couldn't believe this was happening … that these many years and months and days and minutes would now culminate in …. Only seconds after Sarah spoke that the head had moved from crowning to birth, Sarah ordered me to stand. It's unbelievable how much strength can be mustered to stand in the fraction of an instant when your midwife's voice commands it! Later I understood that the baby's shoulders were lodged on my pubic bone preventing the baby from turning to be fully birthed. In standing, the position of my pelvis changed just enough that Sarah was able to turn the baby. In retrospect, it seems that the baby entered the world with a "whoosh." I don't know really. I do know that it was all a bit clumsy. Sarah and Chris's hands holding the baby, between my legs, umbilical cord dangling, my father and friends encircling me. I recall a hush that lasted several long seconds until, finally, it was pierced by the whispered "niña" and then the exclaimed, "It's a girl!" We had not wanted to know in advance, you see, the baby's sex. As soon as this surprise registered, I must have repeated a dozen times, "Is she okay, is she okay?" as baby and cord and me were arranged so that I could hold my new little daughter. Her eyes, from the instant of her birth, were bright and wide. In seconds, Sarah placed the baby, my baby, in my hands as I stood shin deep in the water. Tears and laughter, disbelief and elation … words really do little to express fully the emotion of the moment. Sarah says that she'll never forget my expression. And, in this way, we have both made an indelible mark on each other's heart.
My birthing story surpassed my wildest dream, my greatest hope. My gratitude to Sarah knows no bounds.
I am *so* thankful for the role you played not just in helping us welcome T into the world as peacefully as possible, but for also pouring out love onto my whole family throughout the entire process. Thank you for all of your hard work and devotion to women and their babies.
I was born at home, so deciding to do a home birth was easy - as was deciding to work with Sarah! I believe this was one of the best decisions I have ever made. My experience of pregnancy was (relatively) easy physically - I was healthy and suffered only in the way that all pregnant mothers do - but it was also an exercise in losing control. My body was serving a very new and different purpose, and doing things I never imagined. Yet, working with Sarah helped me to regain a small sense of self-determination and gave me the courage to trust my instincts. At each step, we discussed all of the options - ultrasounds? glucose test? strep B culture? I had a choice with these procedures that have become common and standard in prenatal care, and I felt confident in making those choices with Sarah's expertise to advise me. We were so fortunate to have both Sarah and Lisa to help us (my husband was working almost as hard as I was!) through the labor and delivery, a "normal" experience that left me exhausted, ecstatic, and unable to walk for a few days. Sarah and Lisa were calm and gentle with both me and my new baby, continuing their support through getting the hang of breastfeeding and coping with the lack of sleep - even to fielding my questions that come up now as my daughter changes and grows. I am forever grateful for their guidance!
Sarah was extremely professional and knowledgeable. She is a great listener and she met the needs of my growing family with grace. Sarah encouraged me to participate in the birth of my son, always honoring my comfort level. And she gave me great tips on how I could support my wife throughout the long labor. As a father, I recommend Sarah for anybody who wants to play an active role in the birth of their children and have more control over the birth experience.
Choosing a home birth with Meadowsweet Midwifery was the absolute the best decision for us. The level of care that Sarah provided was dramatically different from what I had experienced at my OB in early pregnancy. I believe that confidently laboring at home enabled me to have a quick, relatively easy birth for a first-time mom. There is nothing like the joy and peace of laying in your own bed on that first night with your partner and new baby. What I am truly grateful to Sarah for is her incomparable support post-partum. When it began to look as though my son may have a health condition she helped me push his doctors to get the information we needed, recommended our now beloved pediatrician when we were dissatisfied with our son's care, and was an absolutely invaluable emotional support through a very difficult time. I truly don't know how I would have gotten through those early months without Sarah's guidance. I recommend her services without hesitation.
Our third child, Charlie, was born in Sarah's loaner birthing pool on a blustery March morning right there in the middle of our living room, right there where I usually ate my dinner and watched TV at the same time. There were snowflakes flying outside and I remember noticing them in a raging fit of inner peace and tranquility in the very moments when our baby boy rose up out of the water and took the very first breath of his life.
Nothing will ever match those few seconds in my world. I know that now. It was and will always remain the best thing I have ever known. I was crying happy tears as I walked over and put the record player on, Frank Sinatra 'Fly Me to the Moon.' I wanted that to be Charlie's first song.
Laying there on his mother's chest, I noticed Sarah watching the two of them from a few feet away, her hands slowly reaching out to touch our boy's toes. And right then and there I felt probably better than I have ever felt in all my days.
So much of that has to do with Sarah.
She is, by far, the greatest person I can ever imagine having present at the birth of my child or your child, too, and that's no lie. Having been through two fairly flawless hospital births, I can now say with absolute certainty that our entire experience with Sarah, from the very first consultation to the monthly…then bi-weekly…then weekly check-ups in her cottage, and right up til the moments Charlie was born and beyond, it was all more that I had ever dreamed possible.
Sarah's knowledge of the mysterious (to me) world of pregnancy was so helpful; she never made me feel dumb or silly for asking questions. In fact, she seemed happy that I was interested. And that made me more interested in what was going on during every step of the pregnancy.
And whenever one of us was maybe a little uncertain or cautious about a specific angle of having a home birth, Sarah often seemed to me to go way above and beyond the role of a midwife, often talking to us as more of close and trusted friend with an incredible knowledge of something we were both curious and maybe even slightly unsure of.
I could go on for days about her, but I don't want to embarrass her on her own website. I just want to tell any mom-to-be or dad-to-be who is considering Sarah as the person to help them bring a baby into this world that she is the very best midwife you could ever hope for.
I'm so glad she was the one who guided us to our Charlie.
Sarah defines what a professional, competent, caring healthcare provider should look like. Her all-encompassing knowledge base and diligent use of evidence-based medicine surpasses even the most critical of expectations (mine, a PA-C!). Her gentle touch and naturally easy bedside manner compliments perfectly her quick wit and a sense of humor that calmed even *my* nervous husband (a triumph). In labor, she knew what I needed when even I didn't. When I had an unplanned water birth, with a baby who decided he would rather not have his shoulders be delivered, she met the surprise challenges with absolute confidence and agility. I have complete faith that Sarah will make the best decisions for mother and baby, without fail. There is absolutely nobody else I would trust or recommend to provide pregnancy care. I find myself wishing for another pregnancy just to see Sarah on a regular basis again!
Sarah's midwifery care is, hands down, the best experience I've had in my life with a health care provider. My prenatal care was defined by being treated not only with care and compassion, but also as an intelligent self-aware adult, capable of making informed decisions about my body and my care. During my labor, Sarah's calm grounded presence held the space that allowed us a fearless and beautiful home birth. My postpartum care was also exceptional. I had some challenges with breastfeeding and Sarah was with me and my son every step of the way. She was patient, loving, knowledgeable and unendingly supportive. To have had such exquisite care during what was one the most vulnerable times in my life is a gift I will cherish for the rest of my life. Sarah is highly competent, knowledgeable, experienced and deeply intuitive, compassionate and loving. The quality of care my son and I received from Sarah is what I would wish for every single pregnant woman and new baby, the world over. I cannot imagine how it could have been better, and I will forever be grateful for Sarah and her care. She is a truly remarkable midwife.