When you think back to the earliest of times, when hospitals were not readily available for routine procedures that we take for granted today, you start to develop a greater appreciation for those mothers who gave birth to their children from their own homes. Back then, this kind of birth was not called “natural” childbirth, it was simply childbirth.
“Our culture is so far away from normalcy in childbirth it is often difficult to have a discussion about it,” said Sandra Hess, a Certified Professional Midwife from the Heartland Midwifery Center in Fresno, Ohio. Hess described to me that saying “natural childbirth” is like saying “frozen ice cream.” The culture that many of us have come to surround ourselves with, considers the norm as one where mothers go to a hospital to give birth to their children.
“You don’t have to add anything to have childbirth,” said Hess. As a midwife, her focus remains solely on keeping the woman comfortable and by doing this a birth can easily take place without the use of surgical tools, drugs or cesarean sections.
Hess found herself interested in the human body and the nature of birth from an early age. She began her studies by doing a lot of textbook research, self teachings and attending conferences on midwifery. She worked as an apprentice and gained her Certified Professional Midwife license in order to gain the respect and confidence from the locals she served. As a part of Heartland Midwifery Center, her goal is to provide a place where women can come to and feel at home as they give birth to their children and has served as a midwife for almost 30 years.
Part of Hess’ job as a midwife, is to take the time to get to know the mother to be; decide how to best assist her through her pregnancy and determine how to best serve her in childbirth. “I support a mother’s decision in how she wants to have her child (whether that’s through midwifery or surgical care) but I want the mother to be informed about all her options,” said Hess.
The Midwives Model of Care gives a good understanding as to what midwifery has to offer. The model is based on the fact that pregnancy and birth are a normal life process. This model should be introduced to women considering home birthing and reads as follows:
Monitoring the physical, psychological, and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle.
Providing the mother with individualized education, counseling, and prenatal care, continuous hands-on assistance during labor and delivery, and postpartum support.
Minimizing technological interventions.
Identifying and referring women who require obstetrical attention.
The application of this woman-centered model of care has been proven to reduce the incidence of birth injury, trauma, and cesarean section. (Midwifery Task Force, http://cfmidwifery.org/mmoc)
As part of Hess’s prenatal visit, she presents all the options a mother has when it comes to birthing her child. When it comes time for the woman to have her baby, she can plan to come to the midwifery center or give birth in the comfort of her own home.
Throughout the pregnancy, midwives do have the tools to monitor the pregnancy but are mostly looking for anything that could be considered abnormal. No drugs or medicines are used during childbirth, in fact midwives are merely standing by to oversee and assist as needed. The less stress is put on the mother-with people surrounding her-the easier it is for mother to relax and have the baby.
“The first disturbance in labor comes when a woman leaves her own home,” said Hess. Hormones are rising and the baby can become distressed if the mother is not comfortable herself. “Why not have a home-like room for a couple to come to and have their children.”
At the midwife center, the mother to be has the ability to roam around the room, use the small kitchen, walk the hallways, and do anything they could do in their own home. This allows the mother and baby to become more relaxed making childbirth easy when the time comes.
During her time as a midwife, Hess has served many Amish families in the area. While some choose to give birth in their own home, some also visit the center.
Midwifery is not as highly practiced in all Amish communities as one might think. According to Hess, it depends on the community and their beliefs. A large Amish community like our Amish Heartland, found in Wayne and Holmes Counties, is home to Amish who range from the oldest of orders to newer orders. There are many Amish families who choose to have their children at the local hospital but there are also many who choose to stick with a traditional home birth.
For many Amish, the choice to practice traditional home birthing comes down to both logical reasoning and valued beliefs. Amish families tend to average 7 children and the cost of birthing each of them could become substantial by attending local hospitals without commercial insurance. Comfort is also key to the traditional lifestyles of the Amish. Midwives and local doctors tend to have a better understanding of this lifestyle. Many Amish families live a great distance from the nearest hospital and quick transportation is not always readily available.
Whatever a mother chooses to do is essentially based on her own values and beliefs. Hess said that many women choose to follow the traditions of their sisters when it comes to the birth of their children. Hess wants all mothers to really research their options and become more informed. She hopes midwifery will someday become a more commonly practiced method of childbirth for Amish and English women.
If you are interested in learning more about Sandra Hess and the Heartland Midwifery Center call 330-231-5945 or visit the center at 28448 CR 10 in Fresno, Ohio.