Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Whole New...Website!

I am happy to announce that with a whole new start, comes a whole new website! Joy In Birth Midwifery is picking up steam again as a solo practice here in Southern California. To read the latest, check out the services, and contact me directly, visit

Happy birthing!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Desire of A Heart ~ Caroline's Story

Guest post by a precious friend!

This first week with our new little blessing has flown by, but the thrill of it all will stay fresh in our minds for a long time to come! Like all special scars mamas, from the start I’d been reading, researching, and praying to make the most informed choice about a VBAC. Since my classical c-section seven years prior, I’d believed what the OB had told me after the delivery of my 26 week preemie, “You will always have to have a c-section for future pregnancies!” I actually talked myself into finding comfort in these words thinking that I’d eliminate a lot of discomfort and stress by succumbing to surgery, however when I found myself pregnant with my sixth child, mothering hormones took over and I had the desire to do what was BEST for my baby. I knew that surgery was NOT BEST and after a little research I discovered that surgery was not only NOT BEST for me either, but was NOT my only choice afterall!  A homebirth attended by our dear midwife friend, Jennifer Stewart, was my dream, but possibly not the safest route considering the slight increase of risk with my classical scar. If I were to rupture at home, my midwife would be unable to perform the necessary surgery to save mine and/or my baby’s life. I’d never ask her to put herself in that situation and being the responsible midwife she is, she’d never agree to it. When I found an OB willing to be on call for my hospital delivery and a midwife in his practice who agreed (although not so willingly) to attend my birth, I felt a plan coming together. I tried to think of everything I could do for a successful delivery: exercise, excellent diet, a natural protocol to ensure that I’d be GBS negative (and my labor would not be slowed down by antibiotics required if a positive GBS test,) taking Gentle Birth herbal formula the last 5 weeks of my pregnancy to make labor go quicker (less chance of rupture, right?) and not go over my due date with a larger baby that might be more stressful to push out. Best of all, Jennifer offered to still attend my birth as a doula, doing all she could to ensure that my hospital birth was as close to a natural homebirth as possible.  

5-1/2 hours before birth
I was due Sunday, June 26th. On Saturday, the last shoe of my plans dropped. My oldest daughter was finished with her job at a summer camp for the week. I picked her up that morning so she could take part in her sister’s birth. She joked that I could go into labor just as soon as she took a nap! She got her nap and I still wasn’t dilated beyond the 3 cm that I had been for a week. My Braxton Hicks contractions seemed to have lessened even though I’d been pushing acupressure points (especially BL 32) all day. I finally took a walk around our yard and got one hard contraction to happen. I started dinner at 5:00 and seemed to be having good contractions every 30-45 minutes. I was beginning to need to breathe through them, but still only dilated to 3 cm at 10:00 pm. I just knew that I’d be in labor in the wee morning hours and exhausted from not getting any sleep, so I thought I’d lie down for awhile and perhaps the contractions would taper off and I could sleep a little? I messaged Jennifer and told her that I was going to get some rest and she probably should do the same. I anticipated making the one hour trip to the hospital in a few hours when (as the OB instructed) contractions were closer together. By the time my husband came to bed at 11:00 he noticed that I was breathing constantly and asked if we shouldn’t be thinking about going soon?

I was having bad back labor pains (still pushing BL 32 to alleviate them) and felt like I’d better get out of bed and perhaps use the toilet. Contractions were so intense that I worried I’d be stuck on the toilet. My thoughts were of a friend in that situation with EMT’s helping her off the toilet and into the ambulance, only to give birth a few miles down the road on the way to the hospital! My water conveniently broke before I made myself get back up and I checked to find that I seemed to be dilated past the point that I could easily measure! I tried sitting on the birth ball while my husband called my doula, Jennifer, to tell her that we were going to the hospital. As soon as I was somewhat in between contractions and could talk I told him to just tell her to come to the house that there was no way I was going to get in a car the way I was feeling. I asked her if it was possible for a baby to come that fast and she said that it was. She instantly turned back into my midwife and said she was on her way! [Midwife's note: as soon as I got that call and heard the intensity in their voices, I was changing clothes while still on the phone and was out of the house in 7 minutes flat!] To relieve my back labor I knelt beside an ottoman in the living room and immediately felt like I needed to push. Hubby later told me he was scared to death at this point, but I felt like since we had no choice in the way things were going and if God allowed it to be this way, it must be going to turn out OK. I felt no pains in my upper abdomen where I’d imagined my vertical scar to be. Hubby asked my girls to get a towel to put under me and then called them over to help him catch the baby. I had her head out in a couple of pushes. Tremendous relief followed but no immediate contractions to help me push her the rest of the way out. I was waiting on another contraction to keep from tearing (I’d had episiotomies with the previous 4 natural births) but when hubby saw her breathing he encouraged me to go ahead and push. Out she came at 11:37!

The first part of her I saw was her tiny little feet, a visual I’ll never forget, as I flipped over to put her on my chest. Every inch of her was beautiful-so perfect. I thought about that signed birth plan in the diaper bag. All my picky little details that I was prepared to ask for at the hospital. And now I could do whatever I wanted! I had so much energy because it wasn’t even my bedtime yet. I felt like I’d just run a quick sprint. My girls were crying tears of joy, hubby was still in shock I think, and Jennifer was just coming through the front door. I was just amazed that my little girl was there in my arms on my living room floor. I actually got a homebirth afterall! God knew what I really wanted and gave me the desires of my heart without my even asking.  Caroline had a peaceful, beautiful entrance into the world. I shudder to think of what it would have been like for her if I’d given in to the fears of others and had a repeat c-section. I believe that God understood my wanting to ensure the safety of myself, my baby, and my midwife by choosing to birth in a hospital, but in his omniscience He also knew that it would be just fine for me to birth at home and unassisted at that! Thankfully, we didn’t need to go to the hospital at all, as Jennifer expertly attended to all that needed to be done afterwards. God worked it all out and used all of my prior preparations in the perfect way that only He can and I’m so grateful!


Emilie "Caroline" ~ 7lb 6oz

Beautiful family!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Changing of a Season

New beginnings are only the end of the last new beginning....

Life comes with many ebbs and flows. We often don't know what tomorrow will hold, and plans can change quickly. 11 years ago my family was looking for a new home in a new state. Our dreams of living "forever and ever" on our beautiful land in Louisiana changed in a moment of decision-making. It has been 10 years since I have lived here in West Virginia. It has been both good, and also filled with struggles and hardship, of body and soul alike.

I grew as a person. I grew as a Christian. My family saw sorrow...shared laughs...sang...prayed...lived...

It was here that my journey as a midwife began its active phase. I began apprenticing with local midwives, happily exposed to the wonder of the birthing world, fascinated by all I learned and saw. I was thrilled when my own practice was born, and have watched it mature and grow.

I started my first home here, enjoying the simplicity of apartment life for over two years now. I am happy. I love to open my door to friends and clients, showing some Southern hospitality with food and cups of hot tea or coffee.

I have made dear, dear friendships that will last forever. I am blessed to dance between many worlds in my never-dull social life.

I have been privileged, in the last 13 years, to attend births in Louisiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and California. One day I will add the name of some international country to that list.

Yes, seasons come and go. Life changes when we least expect it. Our focus shifts, and dreams expand. Such a shift has happened in my little universe. In December, 2010, I went to California for 7 weeks to help a sweet midwife friend during a busy season. While there, I got an offer to return for a year to work with her, help expand the practice, grow my own practice as a (hopefully) newly certified International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and just do what I love doing best...being a midwife.

It took a while for me to come to a decision. It was hard to face leaving my church, dear ones, family, and practice, which includes several families hoping to get pregnant so that we can experience that journey together.

This is my official announcement to the world, that on April 12th, I said yes. I will be moving in just a few months, heading to CA in November. A season is ending, while another is beginning. It is not easy for me to pick up roots, to leave those I love behind. I have worked hard to forge relationships here, both professional and personal. It is only in the last few weeks that I have finally been able to open my mouth and tell an expanding circle of people, "I'm moving." I have been touched by the tears springing up in the eyes of those that love me, because they mirror my own.

My life is a whirl right now. Not only am I on a tight deadline to submit my paperwork to become a Certified Professional Midwife, I will also become a Licensed Midwife in the state of California - another process requiring reams of paperwork! I am set to take my test to become a Lactation Consultant next month (July 25). Then comes two months of packing and studying, a test in California (October 2), my "little" brother's wedding (October), another test in Niagara Falls, Canada, (November 9) then I will finally have only one major step left - that of planting my feet in sunny Chino, CA.

It's a big deal, this changing season. It was not an easy choice to make, but it has been a peaceable one. God has opened amazing doors. He is blessing me with a fantastic midwife "partner" in the form of Lori Luyten at Ancient Paths Midwifery, and all the work my heart desires. It will NOT be dull - ever!

For those who have known for months, and those who have known for a day....thank you for your support. It has meant everything to me. When I've cringed to tell someone, they've given me fantastic love and encouragement. When I have become overwhelmed, my cheering section steps up and gives me the courage to keep going, one step at a time. With your help, I will make it to the end, triumphant but tired!

Much love to all my dear ones here in WV...much joy to see again those I have grown to love in CA,


Friday, April 1, 2011

Do You Know What You Have?

I've made a major decision...I'm done. Forget my soapboxes. I'm tired of the drama, politics, and never making headway. You want an epidural? I'll ask for it for you. A c-section? No problem! I'll find the doc with the 75% section rate to do it for you! This midwife stuff was fun while it lasted!
That was my status update on my business facebook page this morning. It took a few minutes for people to realize that it was a joke in honor of April Fool's Day. But my tongue-in-cheek post got me thinking - how many midwives do I know that have said something like this at one point or another? Nearly every one. The standard joke is, "I'm quitting and going to be a Walmart greeter!" Somehow, despite it all, they keep going, and don't actually quit.

Midwives are some of the most undervalued people I know.

We are undervalued by our own selves. A good midwife is humble, loving, giving, a servant to those she is privileged to assist with their births. That humility can backfire a little. I have had friends begging me for years to raise my prices. I think one friend turned a cartwheel when I told her my fee went up by an entire $100. (Insert wry smile here.) We want to give, to make midwifery care accessible, yet it can sometimes appear as if we don't think our services are worth charging enough for. We undervalue our time, allowing the world to dictate our days, and not making time for ourselves. We go and go and go until we sometimes collapse from sheer exhaustion. And even then, when the phone rings at 2am, we go again, occasionally with a private sigh, but always with a public smile.

We are undervalued by the people we serve. This is a difficult one to discuss, but it's honest. If you understood the heart behind a midwife, and realized the hard, hard work that she puts into her care, you would never rescind on your bills. If you knew how much she cared for you, you would be honest in your communication, never leading her on, or causing her to believe things that aren't true. You would never use her for your own good, or abuse the trust between you. You wouldn't gossip about her to others, but would be bold enough to discuss issues with her directly. A good midwife appreciates that more than anything. On the other hand, if you had a true issue that couldn't be resolved, or a genuine concern about the quality of care you received, you would talk about it in an honest manner with her governing body, which is usually her midwife peers. For the sake of future midwifery care, this is vital.

We are undervalued by the people that think we are in a fun little hobby. Those are the ones that don't understand what a midwife actually does, nor the training and time that has gone into making her the care provider she is. I do not stand over an open fire, stirring a big pot of a mysterious bubbling brew. (Another wry smile.) I know how to check blood pressure, do a physical exam, and other basic medical skills. My hands are trained to know how your baby is lying in your womb, and approximately how big he will be at birth. My ears are so sensitive, I can hear your baby's heartbeat during the early months of your pregnancy without using an electronic monitoring source. I have been well-trained in the science of midwifery, while time and instinct have taught me the soul of it. My work is not a hobby, but a heart-filled profession. It is my calling. I cannot walk away. I have wondered sometimes where my next rent money will come from, but I have never abandoned my calling to serve.

We are undervalued, saddest of all, by those in our own profession. The things that make us sensitive, caring people can also swing the opposite direction and make us sensitive, self-centered people. We can lack loyalty, getting desperate in our need to be validated or have work. Narcissism can be a very real thing in this and other similar professions.

Do you know what you have? If you appreciate your midwife, tell her so. Never let her walk away without a hug and a thank you. We face the enemy daily, and that comes in many forms. I personally know several midwives that are experiencing undeserved unkindness and persecution by fellow midwives, the medical profession, consumers, and even entire legal systems. Support your midwife, be kind and generous in your relationship with her, and love her well!

To be honest, sometimes working in a book shop sounds more appealing than the struggles I face as a midwife. But the rewards of happy parents and healthy babies does offset the difficult days! I will never quit! ~ Jennifer Stewart, Midwife

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How Do I Love Thee...

We have just passed the Day of Love, commonly known as Valentine's Day. It used to make me feel like a relationship loser - all these people celebrating their successful "pair bonding", while the single people swirl around in looking-for-true-love limbo. That feeling has changed over time as I have learned to look for, and receive, love in many places. Last year on Valentine's I kept my best friend's children so that she and her husband could have a well-deserved date. I think that was the year I quit feeling sorry for myself.

This week has been spent getting back in the traces after my recent long absence to California. I didn't realize just how much I loved my four walls until I stepped back into them and what I saw brought a smile to my face. Tonight as I've been hanging up yet more clothes, tidying up things I had not had time for before now, I keep smiling as I think of all the love in my life. God has blessed me richly in that alone. It is not that I'm so special or wonderful, and that makes people love me, I think it is more because I have been willing to GIVE love. Like everyone who has ever drawn a breath, love has disappointed. Relationships that went awry, abandonment by those who should love you most, love that was betrayed or treated lightly. Yet despite all that, we each have a protect our hearts from love and potential hurt, and therefore the warmth of human feeling, or to take chances and love thoroughly and well, no matter the outcome.

Love comes in many forms. It is the toddler yelling "Hey Jen-Jen! Hey Jen-Jen!" as he gallops towards you as you step in the door for the first time in months. It is somebody walking the ailses of the grocery store, buying your favorite pickles. It is a friend popping up to buy lunch and sit for a while. It is groceries left in your refrigerator and on your counter, and a pot of cheery, fragrant flowers left on your windowsill. It is a note given you by your brother, which brings you to tears as you read that he's proud of you. It's a couple in labor excitedly anticipating the imminent birth of their baby, telling you that you can't leave town until they're old and past childbearing age, "Just in case we have more than nine children!" It's a teary, silent hug and a teddy bear given as you say goodbye to a dear friend. It's a text that says, "I miss you!" It is a Valentine's card from a young girl, compelete with bedazzling. It is a dozen roses. It is a single daisy plucked out of the yard. It is fancy handmade chocolates, or a pile of fresh homemade muffins. It is a chocolate cake made by eight little hands. It is the sweet memory of conversation hearts being given by a precious Granddad, many years ago. It's movie and ice-cream night with a girlfriend. It is the reinforcing hand on your shoulder when sorrow puts tears in your eyes. It is an overflowing bag of goodies, given as a Merry Christmas. It is surprising a friend by showing up on her door and her jumping into your arms asking, "Can you stay for dinner?? Can you stay the night?? Can you stay forever??" 

It is two arms stretched open wide as the Saviour said, "I love you this much." That is the most wondrous love that fills my life. What love story would be complete without a mention of Him? I would not know the true meaning of love if it wasn't for my Christ. He gave his life for me when I was not his friend, so that one day I could be.

How do I love thee? I just counted the ways....

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Can I Help You? Please?

Please, let me make a difference.

Reward my hard work with a listening ear. See my passion for what it is - genuine care for you and your baby. I'm not crazy, or fanatical. I just believe in a way to give birth that veers from society's norm, but is a path that is as old as time itself. When my eyes light up when I find out you're pregnant, and I ask your birth plans, it's not because I'm looking for business. More than wanting clients, I want more success stories! I want you, my dear friends and acquaintances, to be successful. I don't ask your birth plans to make you feel inferior. I don't make little suggestions or ask questions to test you. I do it because I care.

If I give you a book, will you read it?

If I suggest an article, or make a comment about a new study I read, will you consider it?

If I look like I want to cry at the story of your planned c-section, can you please forgive me?

If you tell me everything you think I want to hear, but then go do the exact opposite of what you say, can you please, please not expect me to act joyful and OK?

If I suggest you allow your baby to come in his own time, do you understand that I do it because I want to help you ensure that your body and baby are ready and you won't end up with an unnecessary c-section?

If I probe about a fully natural delivery without epidural, do you know I am not sadistic and wanting you to have pain, but wanting you to have few complications and a successful breastfeeding relationship afterwards?

If you're a Christian, could you consider for even a moment that God designed you to give birth, and that you are not broken?

If you're not a Christian, could you consider that God designed you to give birth, and that you are not broken?

Lastly, can you forgive me for making this personal? This path I am on as a midwife is not about me, it's about babies and mommies. It's about your future health. I just can't help but be sad at times, when I see those I care about completely disregarding everything I stand for. I have some dreams that are dying painful deaths.

Can I help you? Please?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dream With Me!

Today a friend posted this on his facebook status -

In a phone conversation with a friend of mine this morning we were discussing a project and something he said caught my attention, "Dream with me about this!" I was encouraged by that statement, so full of passion and enthusiasm, in that we should always be dreaming of doing great things for God. People, including myself, are often afraid to dream, and to dream big, and it was truly refreshing to be asked to dream!
It resonated in my mind all day...dream with me. I cradled a newborn baby....dream with me. I made a phone call....dream with me. I read out of my book....dream with me. I saw couples newly pregnant walk through the door....dream with me. I looked out on the beautiful snowcapped mountains...dream with me. I shared side-splitting laughter with my midwife friend....dream with me. I peeked into empty birthing rooms, checking their readiness...dream with me. I looked at my calendar of events for the year....dream with me.

Dream with me....

What are you dreaming of? What is lying dormant even now in your mind? What ideas did you put aside a long time ago, labeling them "Impossible", "Improbable", "Unlikely", "Unbelievable", "Too Big", or, "People would only laugh"? What is dancing on the fringes of your awareness, making you smile and look out into the distance with a look of wonder and curiosity on your face?

Dream with me...

I dream of people knowing. I dream of more babies being born into the hands of their mama, daddy, or beloved midwife in the comfort and safety of their own homes. I dream of making a difference to more lives than I did last year. I dream of educating myself even further, getting more certifications that will help me become a better, more rounded midwife. I dream of loving people so thoroughly that it is God they see, and not me. I dream of knowing God deeper, truer, sweeter than I did last year. I dream of having a prayer life that knows no bounds, only faith in a God who answers, and dares us to ask. I dream of things that are even now only coming into focus. I dream of waking up every day with another dream on my heart.

Tell me your dreams so that I may dream with you, and rejoice when a thought or an inspiration becomes real in your life.

Come. Dream with me....