Four Birth Stories

[Editor's note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today Issue 50, Summer 1999.]

What Sweet Helpers!   Remembering the Small Things   The Soul of Midwifery   The Soul of Homebirth

What Sweet Helpers!
by Debby Sapp

Two of my doulas at each of my last two births were my daughters. My oldest daughter was almost five and my second was 20 months old at my first homebirth. They were 17 and 14 years old at my second. A videotape of the first birth shows me leaning over the bed laboring. Becky, twenty months old, leans with her back to the bed, eating an apple with her left hand and rubbing my belly with her right. Every now and then she leans over to me and says, "It'll be all right, mommy. It'll be all right." How gentle and tender her touch. How sweet her words of love. Brandi, five, smiles and grins and talks about her sweet little brother who is coming to see us. Such encouragement. It kept me focused.

At the next birth, Becky was there again. She prayed for me and gave me comfort. She rubbed my back and hair. She cried for me when I moaned. Brandi was at my head waving her baseball cap to give me fresh air. Her tears, too, flowed with empathy for me. Her new sister was given to her to give to me. Earlier, Brandi helped point the video camera in the right direction before turning it over to a friend so she could be by my face where I needed her. Her prayers, too, were of comfort. "Help her, Lord, please help her." I smile now, remembering the sweet words and actions of my daughters as they helped me bring their sister to the world.

My friends at my births were also a major part of the soul of my homebirths, but my daughters, oh what sweet helpers! Many of us talk about how having a baby at home removes the mother's inhibitions, but I think it also removes the helpers' inhibitions and allows them to assist the mother more effectively.

Debby Sapp, DEM, is the Christian mother of five homeschooled children ages ten months to twenty years and wife to Duane. She lives in southwestern Georgia.


Remembering the Small Things
by Deb Phillips

I had lunch today with a client who is moving to Georgia. She wants to become a midwife after having experienced birth at home. She has had three cesareans, two hospital births, and finally a homebirth. She commented to me, "I finally was able to see that birth can be an empowering, beautiful experience. I want to help other women experience that."

This mother had a beautiful birth at home at age forty-one. Her twenty-one-year old son and her two-year-old daughter surrounded her in birth, as did her mother, husband and other children. Her birth was a beautiful moving experience, one of those peaceful events that gives us strength to carry on as midwives. She labored gracefully.

She recalled to me at lunch that what touched her so much in labor were the small things that now mean so much to her. She remembers most the times when she would wipe her brow, and I would turn on the fan. She licked her lips, and I gave her a drink. Her husband's knee was bothering him so I gave him a pillow to cushion it as we knelt next to her while she was pushing. She remarked that a midwife safeguards normality in birthing but does so much more—she tends to the needs of the mother, be they medical, emotional or spiritual. Midwife means "with woman" and that is where a midwife is at her best.

Deb Phillips, CPM, of North Little Rock, Arkansas, has been a midwife for seventeen years and has caught more than 600 babies. She considers herself a non-interventive midwife and specializes in waterbirths. She is a homeschool, homebirth mother of three.


The Soul of Midwifery
by Allison Ratliff

At dawn one September day in 1979, I was awakened by my father to witness the birth of my precious brother. My mother's midwife helped her push gently, so that this twelve-pound bundle did not leave so much as a skid mark as he entered the world in the darkened bedroom in our home. All things were as they should be. Mother, father, baby, sister, dearest friend and midwives were in attendance.

In April of 1997, I attended my first birth as an apprentice midwife. The father was at the mother's side, while the grandmother held the mom, her own baby girl, in a supported squat as she birthed her daughter. I witnessed three generations of women drawn together in strength, in birth and in love.

The grandmother had been knocked out as her own children were dragged from her by forceps delivery. I couldn't help but think that while Grandma cried as her granddaughter came into the world, the grandmother had finally gotten her birth.

The transformation of couples into families, daughters into mothers and mothers into grandmothers—that is the soul of midwifery.

Allison Ratliff, wife to Stephen and mother to Elizabeth and Andrew, is an apprentice midwife who lives in Texas.


The Soul of Homebirth
by Vi Sadhana

What is the soul of homebirth? How do you describe the action of choosing homebirth? For me, that action was a Kriya, something one does on purpose, a purposeful action. Another way is to liken the soul of birth to a holy feeling, a Darshan or spiritual audience.

And how can one explain childbirth? Birth is truly that which cannot be explained, or Wakan, the "great mystery." The difficulty and work of labor leading to the pleasure of birth and nursing is Evam, the joining of negative and positive energies.

With the birth of my first child I realized that the event of birth needed to be in the familiarity of home. With the birth of each of my other three babies, this notion was only strengthened. During this time, my life as a homebirth midwife was born and grew. Now my babies are nearly grown and on their own, and that notion still holds true—birth needs to be in the familiarity of the home if at all possible, and in the event of being elsewhere, the soul of birth can be maintained by those present. I guess that is what we midwives are supposed to be doing when we assist someone with her birth, no matter where we are.

Vi Sadhana, homebirth midwife, is helping keep birth simple and in the home.

[Editor's Note: According to the author, Kriya and Darshan are Sanskrit words, Wakan is Native American and is used for the Great Spirit, and Evam is most likely Tibetan. Those words are also the names of the author's four children. "As each one was born," she writes, "I realized that their names clearly described birth as I perceived it to be. Now, nearly grown, they live up to their names."]



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