Our Birth Journey

For almost 6 months now I have been formulating just the right story to share about our births.  There are so many fabulous & detailed birth stories written by other moms on Toni’s website that I wanted to share a different angle of our birth journeys especially for those of you who are at the cross roads: wholesome birth with an awesome Midwife – Toni or hospital birth, in high hopes that it can be as natural as it possibly can be without unnecessary medical interventions. Alex Koen Mom day2

A great place for me to start is at the beginning.  It all started in November of 2005 when we became pregnant with our 1st born son.  We were just relocated to Dallas, TX where most of our friends and contacts were young professionals, like us, without children, working on their careers.  We were on our own finding an OB.  Fifteen years earlier, as I was working on my undergraduate degree I was also working at IU Medical Center in Indiana at a high risk OB medical office as office/computer support person.  I worked with OBs who were highly respected and regarded.  I looked up the GURU of OB & MFM (Maternal Fetal Medicine)  and found him to be at Duke University.  I gave him a call, he remembered me, we chatted about his family & his whereabouts and he referred me to a colleague in Dallas.  We were thrilled as we thought we had the best OB to have in the Dallas area.  Our OB in Dallas was also on the cutting edge, also possesed the MFM certification (Maternal Fetal Medicine), and was/is faculty professor at the UT Medical School.  We really felt we were in THE best hands.  It was important to us to be followed & delivered by one and the same doctor.  We were reassured that this would most certainly be the case and that we would be very well taken care of!

The office was a very busy office and the wait time for each visit was about 45 minutes.  Not to mention the 30 minute drive from our home.  (We had a very nice hospital 5 minutes away, but because of this OB, we decided the drive should be worth it.)  I must say that I did not enjoy these long waits which were followed by being ‘hearded’ to being weighed, taking other vitals, peeing in a cup, drawing blood and then lastly seeing the OB for about 10 minutes!  It was so cold and not nurturing.  I felt like I was on an assembly.  This alone, should have made me look for other options.  At one point, I did ask our OB about birth options such as water births or being more in a vertical position to birth. I just received a ‘weird’ look from the OB, like I am asking a very stupid question.  No matter what we asked, we received the standard answer:  “We will take care of you, don’t worry!”  In our media brain washed minds we just concluded that Koen and Alexthey are the experts and we need to leave it up to them to deliver our child.  Another incident which should have sent us running out the door was during one of the visits when I was to have a vaginal exam.  We were all waiting for the nurse to come to the examining room, the OB had already put on the purple examining gloves and then decided to go on out of the room to locate the nurse.  When they both returned, after about 10 minutes, the OB was about to examine me with those same gloves!  My husband and I decided to ask the doctor to please change to clean gloves.  She, the OB, looked and acted very humiliated and caught off guard.  It was a very stressful and awkward situation, it really raised our eyebrows but we just decided to stick it out.  To top this, she never did disclose to us that she was pregnant and was due just a few weeks before we were!  Hind sight, we should have not felt bad about changing OBs!  Because it was a high risk office, we had about a dozen or so ultrasounds done.  It was as if they were looking to find something wrong!  I guess it wasn’t normal for them to have a normal pregnancy.  All these ultrasounds only stressed us out more!  But, in the end the U/S tech & the OB were victorious.  Our baby continued to be breech and they found issues with his kidneys at 34 weeks gestation, only to try and assure us that this condition is common and that it should resolve itself shortly after birth!  Picking up on our fears and anxieties the OBs (since our OB was going to have her 1st baby, she had a back up doctor working with her, luckily we felt more comfortable with her back up)  told us that they didn’t feel that it was safe to try and turn the baby that it could put the baby in distress so it would be best to just schedule a c-section.  We were very confused but again, they were the experts and we felt that we had to trust them!  As our son was ‘born’, tears ran down my cheeks, I was so sad about the cold and unnatural way he was entering this world!

Prior to the delivery, we expressed that we really wanted to breastfeed.  The staff did ‘allow’ our baby to be with us for a while in the recovery area but both of us where so out of it and drugged that he didn’t even have the desire to try to nurse.  The nurses reassured us that they will bring him to my room to breastfeed in a very short time.  When he did arrive, hours later, with the so called ‘lactation nurse’ we discovered that our wishes were ignored and he was already bottle fed with out any medical necessity.  He had no desire to try and breastfeed.  Instead, he was crying and pushing me away.  We tried everything over the next couple of months but he would not latch so I pumped for the longest time.  He developed other eating/GI issues which are apparently common to c-section babies & being overfed.  Recovery from a c-section was also very painful, especially because we were so mindful about not taking pain meds Koen birth1because we knew any meds can and do pass to breast milk.  To make matters worse, my husband was traveling with his job more than before.  This was quite draining on all of us.  We really feel that we were cheated and robbed by the current OB practices and the tendency for the OBs to push c-sections.  A scheduled c-section means more money for the doctor and the hospital and it is extremely friendly to the OB’s schedule.  (PS, our OB had a taste of her own medicine, she became the victim of a drug induced-stalled labor and ended up with a c-section!)

We always knew that if we were to be blessed with getting pregnant and having a baby that we would try and have more children and fairly close in age.  In October of 2007 we became pregnant.  This time we were just relocated to College Station, TX.  Before becoming pregnant and our move, I did pick up several ‘natural pregnancy/birth’ books at one of the Babies’R Us stores – just in case.  The joy of finding out was quickly overshadowed by the dread of ‘having to go through the standard OB care, hospital birth, recovery, and post natal care’.  I was dragging my feet in trying to find an OB.  My husband was very concerned and just kept asking “What do you want to do?”  About a month into this pregnancy while we were settling into our new home, I came across those natural pregnancy books.  One of them was actually written by an Atlanta, GA Midwife and the other book highlighted various birth options: Midwives, Birth Centers, Doulas, Hospitals.  At 1st, I looked for an OB who would welcome a Doula BUT none seemed to be too open to the idea.  The closest birth center was in Houston and I was worried about the long drive.  One of the nurses, from an OB office I contacted, informed me about a Midwife by the name of Toni Kimpel.

I felt like we struck a gold mine when I got Toni’s contact information!  My husband noted that I was beaming and excited about another birth option available to us!!!!  I must admit that I felt so nervous especially when I called Toni.  I was lost, excited, confused, and nervous about the entire thing.  After all, I was heading for a VBAC at HOME!  Was this crazy?  Was it unthinkable to hope for a home birth?  I had mixed reactions from friends but most were supportive, it was all up to me.  Family members, on the other hand were a different matter.  Most of the male family relatives were quite supportive but surprisingly the females were full of criticism and astonishment, especially my mother.  This was very hurtful and disappointing and to this day, she does not acknowledge that our 2nd son was born in our home.  My aunts and my mom felt that I was just very lucky in that things did not go terribly wrong.  There was a part of me that knew that if something went wrong that everyone would blame me for it, for wanting a home birth.  Yet, deep inside I knew that there was more risk that something would go wrong if I chose the hospital route.

Toni is the sweetest, gentle, and Godly woman I have ever met!  She is just what I was longing for, not just for me but for all of us.  She is very maternal (after all, she & her husband share 10 children!), very experienced, compassionate, positive, embracing, and caring!  She knows how to spot trouble and does not hesitate to refer a mom out to the OB.  Toni utilizes all standard prenatal tests, medical equipment, and best off all, she lets any tests be YOUR choice.

I continued to be nagged by the fact that I felt like I was the only one in the circle of our friends and family to desire a home birth.  Then, Toni sent an e-mail around to many of her moms about the new movie/documentary:  The Business of Being Born.  This documentary really helped validate my experiences, my feelings, and my choices.  I think it is a must see for any woman!  Even those who are done having children so that they may be of support to those moms like us.  Choosing your birth with a Midwife is not about a fad or what is popular.  If anyone goes through fads it is the medical/OB community.  There is the current fad of c/sections, previously it was drugging the mother, cutting, and pulling babies out with forceps; what about doing x-rays on pregnant mothers (this lead to babies being born with cancer and many died of cancer as young children), before that the OBs provided mothers with medication to help alleviate morning sickness which caused babies to be severely deformed, and then all the way back to Twilight births (cocktail of morphine and other such ghastly and dangerous drugs!)  What will we learn in 20 years time about the current OB practices?

It is the profession and art of Midwifery which has been consistent in providing a calm & nurturing environment for mother, baby, and the rest of the family combined with responsible use of modern medical equipment and testing.  We should applaud their determination and urge the medical community and OBs to embrace their skills and knowledge and to sincerely put 1st what is best for baby and mother.  The USA OB medical community should look to countries such as England, Germany and the Netherlands where Koen snoozingMidwives are key care providers to pregnant mothers. Those countries have the lowest mother/baby mortality rates as well as very low c/section rates & inductions.  This just proves and shows that medical interventions do not generate best outcomes.  USA has one of the highest mother/baby hospital deaths, among industrial countries, because of the excessive use of drugs and medical interventions!

In the current turmoil surrounding birth choices/current OB turf wars and hostility, I feel so grateful and blessed to have had this magical prenatal care, birth, recovery, with such a special Midwife team, in the comfort of our home, with both of our babies right there and not having to be separated from our newborn for even a minute!  No matter what birth option you opt or hope for there is physical pain but with the natural birth there is a natural amnesia that quickly allows you to forget about any pain or discomforts!  Don’t let the fear or avoidance of pain steer you to a birth experience that you may regret for the rest of your life.  Best thing to do is believe in your body, educate yourself about the birth process and your anatomy.  Seek books and birth classes which are not hospital based but which are offered by licensed birth coaches outside of the hospital setting.  Hospital birth classes mostly teach you how to be a good patient and not ask questions.  Ask a Midwife about birth class no matter which birth option or place you choose.  Look to birth books & books such as The Bradley Method, LAMAZE, etc.  Also, a great read is called: “The Birth Book” by Martha Sears RN, birth and lactation specialist and her husband William D. Sears, MD.

Most pain felt during contractions/birth is a signal to change the position of your body to help the baby find the path of least resistance as it travels down the birth canal!  A home birth offers you all the comforts of your home such as your own tub, shower, toilet, snacks, drinks, birth pool, birth stool, birth ball most of which are not available in a hospital.  Sadly, in most hospitals a mother is confined to a an uncomfortable hospital bed, this is torture. Drugs are pushed by the medical staff and eventually welcomed, without full understanding of pros and cons, by the stressed out, agonized by pain, and scared mother and father!

I encourage moms & dads to do some homework, search your heart, make a birth plan and have a good and comfortable back up option.  Don’t allow fear to guide you in your decision making.  As for a back up OB or if you chose the hospital route at least look for OBs who welcome their patients to have a birth coach such as a Midwife or a Doula.  Nurses are overworked, change shifts and in most cases cannot do all of the hand-holding that you and your partner may want or need.  If your home birth does require a trip to the hospital you will not be alone, Toni and her assistant should be able to accompany you.

Best wishes,

Kat & family