Birth stories from the other side: A midwife's experience

Written by: P&N

We asked the contributors to our article “Words of wisdom” to share with us some of the most memorable births they've attended.

Today, Karen Hinkle, CM, owner of Mountain Midwifery Services in Elizabethton, TN shares the three of her most remembered experiences. She has attended nearly 700 births.

There have been so many stories over the years—and I save every chart for every pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum. I will tell you that three events always come to mind when I am asked to share an experience or two that stands out.

The first was the day and night that I caught three babies, attending three different women. I was called out to a client who lived in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area on the day of that year's NCAA basketball championships and both teams were from the area. Of course the game was to take place that evening, but the traffic was horrible and I got a police escort when I started driving on the shoulder in the traffic jam. After the birth and the normal three or so hours I spend at the home postpartum, I was called to the inner city to a single teenager in labor. It was nightfall by this time and my partner met me at her home. I have found that teenagers give birth easily and the birth was rather fast and all went smoothly. Then I was called to a labor about two hours away in a very rural area. My partner stayed behind to tend to the newly delivered mother/baby with postpartum and breastfeeding care while I sped to a family having their seventh child. Luckily, I stress to women that they should notify me as soon as they think anything is signaling the start of labor, especially if the mother has had several babies already. It was before midnight when I arrived and three hours later, baby number three was born. I was very tired, of course, and could not wait to get to my home, which I did without incident or interruption by sunrise.

The second story involves a woman who was expecting her fourth baby. I was still an apprentice at the time, having just finished midwifery school. The midwife I was apprenticing with was several hours away and busy with a birth when this woman called. Another apprentice and I arrived at the woman's home to find her reading a magazine with her head under a hair dryer similar to those used in hair salons with no noticable discomfort. Thinking surely she was in early, early labor, we started to examine her for labor progress (she is still sitting w/ her head under the hair dryer) and found that the baby was crowning. Sometimes there is no pain in labor!

The third is the story of an older woman who was pregnant with her first child, planning a homebirth. An alphafetoprotein test was positive for an anencephalic baby. The mother continued with her plans for a homebirth and struggled with the medical providers about her decision. We joined her through much counseling during the pregnancy. As labor progressed and she felt an urge to push, an internal exam revealed a perfectly normal fetal skull and she soon delivered a perfectly normal baby girl. Every emotion possible filled the birthing room as this mom, expecting to give birth to a baby who would die within days, had a beautiful and healthy newborn! Sometimes the tests are wrong. (Note: there have been several instances when a sonogram interpretation of the sex of the fetus has been wrong, too!)

Expect the unexpected—that is the beauty of life !

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