Story by: Kim Huston on March 6, 2020
Vanessa Aho’s grandmother gave birth at home in a small town in Portugal. Her mother also had experienced a natural birth. When Vanessa became pregnant with her first child, she knew that she wanted to have a similar experience.
“It was what my family had done before me,” Vanessa said. “Plus, the more I learned about pregnancy, labor and delivery, the more I wanted a natural birth for me and the baby. I didn’t want a C-section [cesarean section], and I wanted to breastfeed, and it just seemed like a natural birth with as little medication and intervention as possible would put us on the right path for that.”
Vanessa followed in her family’s footsteps and experienced natural birth as she delivered her son. She was the first patient to opt for water labor in one of the new, inflatable labor tubs at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital.
Vanessa had several friends from church who had worked with a midwife at Advocates for Women’s Health, a Part of Norton Women’s Care. After talking to her friends and understanding their experience, she decided to go with a midwife for her pregnancy and delivery care.
“I was really nervous going into this pregnancy,” Vanessa said. “I didn’t know how ready I was. I felt with a midwife, I might get more time with them that wasn’t focused solely on the baby, but focused time for me too, getting that extra care and time I needed.”
She consulted friends about their experiences at various hospitals. Several friends had given birth at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital and had positive experiences. She also understood that should her child need specialized care due to an early birth or any other complications, she would be able to get the care she needed for herself or her baby.
“I wouldn’t have chosen to go the midwife route if they weren’t part of the hospital,” Vanessa said. “I wanted make sure I was giving birth in the hospital in case anything unfortunate happened. Advocates [for Women’s Health] was a great mix of what I was looking for. The hospital was great, and the practice was perfect … so it was a no-brainer.”
She worked with Bianca Weaver, APRN, CNM; Danielle Roberts, APRN, CNM; and Regina Mash, APRN, CNM. All three are certified nurse midwives, which are nurse practitioners with additional training in midwifery. Regina was with Vanessa for her delivery.
Vanessa woke up to her water breaking at 6 a.m. on a Saturday in fall 2019. She called Regina to let her know she was going to labor at home for a while, based on Regina’s suggestion, since her contractions hadn’t yet begun. She got to the hospital around 9 a.m. Hospital staff set up her room and the inflatable labor tub, as Vanessa indicated she would like to water labor.
“I progressed pretty well; my labor never really stalled,” Vanessa said. “My baby was in the posterior position, which meant I was having contractions in my back and they weren’t regularly spaced apart. I went from sitting on the bouncy ball to using the shower for pain management, and eventually … I was able to get into the tub.”
Regina helped Vanessa get into a position in the water that could help the baby turn into the correct position. Within three contractions, according to Vanessa, the baby had moved into a position that allows the baby to move more easily through the pelvis.
“Without the tub and having Regina there the whole time to help me figure out the best way for my son to get into the right position, I don’t know what would have happened,” Vanessa said. “He just wasn’t turning around on his own.
“After he turned, I labored a little while longer in the tub,” Vanessa said. “After it became clear to Regina that the baby was about to come out she moved me to the bed. He was out pretty quickly after that; maybe five or six contractions later, he was out. The entire delivery took about 11 hours. I felt really thankful and full of gratitude to the ward, my midwife, husband and my doula because it was definitely a team effort.”
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Vanessa and her husband knew that should any complications arise, they would go with any suggestions from their medical team. If she needed a C-section, she would get one, but that never squashed her hope for a natural birth. With Regina and the labor tub, Vanessa’s desire to have a natural birth was possible. She was able to have a similar shared experience with her mother and grandmother.
“It was really cool to feel what my body was doing and being able to follow my body’s instincts,” Vanessa said. “I experienced my body working in this way that I didn’t know was possible. My body is a lot stronger than I thought it was. I was able to hold him on my chest right away and start breastfeeding right away. It was an amazing experience to know and understand what women’s bodies can do. It was definitely worth it.”
According to Vanessa, the comforting care she experienced during her pregnancy and delivery continues after her pregnancy.
“During all of my postpartum visits, they remain so invested in my experience. There was never a point when I felt like I was going to need more help,” Vanessa said. “They were in control of everything that came up during the pregnancy. I definitely recommend using Regina, Bianca and Danielle for people who want more care and support during pregnancy.
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