A Midwife is Born
Although nonhospital births (births that occur in a home, free-standing birth center, or other location that is not inside or attached to a hospital) account for less than 2% of births in the United States, they have substantially increased since 2004. In 2013, the last year for which the CDC has released birth statistics, 1.42% of U.S. births for which birthplace was reported were not in a hospital, up from 0.87% only 9 years earlier in 2004.
I first entered the world of natural birth when I was pregnant with my first child in 2002. Having attended a breastfeeding support group, I was invited to attend a local “Parent Topic Night” about doulas. Doulas are women who provide professional birth support to women giving birth in any setting. The people I met were incredibly kind and very interested in me. I decided to hire a doula (I ended up hiring two) and had a natural, drug-free birth in a local hospital. The experience was such a good one, so much better than I had ever imagined it could be, that I decided to become a doula myself.
After attending a small handful of births as a doula, I decided that it wasn’t for me. I didn’t enjoy feeling as if I had no power to really help these women achieve a natural birth. I felt like they were at the mercy of the hospital, and it could be a very hostile environment; doctors and nurses pushed interventions and medications even when they seemed to me to be unnecessary and counterproductive. I decided that if I really wanted to make a difference, I would need to become a midwife.
By the time I was due to have my second child, I was enrolled in a midwifery school accredited by the state of Florida. I gave birth in the same birth center where I was trained, one of the busiest midwife-owned birth centers in the country. I graduated after three years of hard work, having excelled in my classes and having attended over 150 births, and thus earning an occupational associate’s degree in midwifery. I moved my family up to South Carolina where I proceeded to obtain my midwifery license and open my own birth center, with the partnership of three other South Carolina midwives.
In 2008, former talk-show host Ricki Lake released The Business of Being Born. This brilliantly done, emotionally compelling documentary helped propel nonhospital birth into the public consciousness. Lake has written about her own influence: “Every day women stop me on the street to share stories of their safe, successful, meaningful births. Many say they felt ‘in the dark’ about their options until seeing The Business of Being Born.” As 25% owner and marketing manager of the Carolina Community Maternity Center in Fort Mill, South Carolina, from 2009-2013, I made this documentary part of our regular free childbirth classes for the community. By the time the credits rolled, I was almost guaranteed new clients, freshly converted from planning a hospital birth to planning a birth center birth with me or one of my partners as midwife.