In April, the director of Alma Laura Erickson did an interview with the Everything Birth blog. Here it is, reprinted for your enjoyment!
What a better way to start our series on Midwives and Doula’s than to interview My own midwife Laura Erickson CPM/LDM. Laura was with us with both pregnancies and she has a gentle, caring and guiding spirit. She held my hand during my cesarean section and stayed with me until they put the last stitch in all the while serving as my voice. And during my HBAC (home birth after cesarean) she spent the whole night applying pressure on my lower back during each contraction. She let my two-day labor take it’s own course. I needed to be mothered and she was there. Thank you Laura!
What inspired you to become a doula/midwife?
My heart always leaned toward the very young. As a child I was drawn to young critters. I was curious about the magic of birth. How could this fat dog waddling in the yard one day be a skinny Mama with ten wiggly, grunting puppies hanging off her tits in a big cardboard box the next day? What happened in between? How did those puppies get out? I would watch my Mom’s friends bellies grow and tried to imagine a baby under that big smock. With that inclination, I thought I had to become a nurse and then earn a masters degree in midwifery in order to make a career of my passion. Old time midwives who attended homebirths and used herbal medicine were as extinct to me as pioneers (like Laura Ingalls WIlder). I had missed the opportunity of being a midwife riding through the Appalachian Mountains to catch a baby in a cabin. Nursing school wasn’t alive to me at the time. I had zero passion for sickness or allopathic medicine. Six years of college studying something without interest seemed like a soul-suck. One day in the book store I found a copy of Elizabeth Davis’s Heart and Hands. My college room-mate was startled to find me dancing the euphoric dance of one who spontaneously finds her life’s work! Oh sweet rapture, midwifery still exists outside of the institution! Bye Bye nursing school and hello midwifery.
What did you do before you chose the path of a doula/midwife?
I babysat, taught children’s swimming, lifegaurded, and worked in restaurants. There has been midwifery all my adult life. My first births were attended as a 16 year old!
What services do you provide to a mother to be and her partner?
Alma Midwifery in Portland Oregon provides relationship based care. We attend to women during their prenatal, birth and postpartum periods using the Midwifery Model Of Care. We are a blend of Certified Professional Midwives and Certified Nurse Midwives. We attend women who choose to birth as close to nature as possible and without unneccessary intervention.
We honor women in their choices throughout pregnancy and also as they begin to parent their newborn. An example of how we honor women’s choices is in the use of informed choice agreements for about a dozen tests. Group Beta Strep (GBS) culture is an example of a test that is done near the end of pregnancy. We offer the culture to all women and most choose to find out if they have GBS because it can cause a newborn infection. If a woman knows all about GBS and the possible risks to her newborn by not knowing her GBS status, we will ask her to sign an informed choice agreement. She can decline GBS testing if she knows the risks.
At Alma we also have massage, acupuncture, belly dancing, several classes, and yoga available. There are four support groups happening throughout the year: Winter Mama, Spring Mama, Summer Mama and the Autumn Mama group. It is nourishing for women to spend time with others who are due in their season. There is a Dad’s group too.
Can you tell me about the birth that stands out most in your memory?
There was once this woman with a gentle smile and long sandy blond hair who had twin girls already and was in labor with her third child. She worked really hard to open her mind to this child exiting her body through her vagina since her girls were born by cesarean. Sometimes she would just labor with her sweet partner and sometimes she wanted the midwives to encourage her. As midwives we have a low cesarean rate because we mostly ignore the clock and the calendar. We know that things in nature take more time than things that machines do. We don’t see a long labor as a broken machine, we see it as a slow bloom. So back to this Mama… Her labor was long even by midwife standards. She continued to eat, drink and rest between contractions for her two-day labor. There was a wee hour discussion in which her stamina was questioned by her partner. She responded to his concern by vomiting and expressing fears, “My body didn’t do it last time and I don’t think it knows how”. The midwives listened to her and closely monitored the babies heart beat and all the mom’s vital signs. Her midwives know that she needed to stay hydrated and so they hung a bag of IV fluids and made her a smoothie. Sleep came to this exhausted Mama and she was restored a bit. She used this new energy to call to her unborn child,”Come on Noodle” Noodle was the fetus’s nickname. She marched around her tiny Portland home. She swung her hips and squatted deeply. She had found her courage to allow this baby to enter her pelvis! She took a shower to try to get the contractions to become stronger. Now that her will was to give birth her contractions were still lagging. In the hospital an IV of Pitocin is used to augment the uterine contractions. This is called a “Pit Drip”. At home midwives don’t use pitocin to kick a sleepy uterus into action. Midwives will use nipple stimulation to increase the mother’s own oxytocin. The woman or her partner will roll the nipples in the rhythmic way that a baby nurses to cause uterine contractions. The joke is that it isn’t a pit drip but a tit drip! Nipple stimulation worked for our heroine and her contractions grew closer. By eleven AM on day two she was nine cm dilated. She opted to have her sac (the bag around the baby full of salt water) ruptured to see if that will move things along.
Soon she said, I wanna push, I’m pushing! She took her time learning to push and finding her power. The waterbirth tub was freshened up and she got in and pushed some more. When labors last a long time the contractions can be weak and very spaced out. This Mama was determined to push out this baby. By 1:30 PM the top of the babies head was showing! By 2:25 the baby was in a full crown (the widest part of the head stretching the vagina-think “ring of fire”) and at 2:29 she had pushed his whole head out. We waited… we waited… no contractions! This baby needs to come all the way out.
He wasn’t really stuck but the uterus thought it was done. His Mama found the strength to get out of the tub with the head out and go to the sofa a foot away. By 2:34 PM the rest of this baby splashed out into his Dad’s waiting hands. His APGAR scores were 7,8,9. That is shop talk meaning this kid was breathing for himself and turned pink and cried. He was in good shape. The midwives were so proud of this strong Mother who had just had a vaginal birth after cesarean in her own living room on a rainy November day in Portland, OR! His Daddy was in love with his new son and very amazed at the stamina of his woman.
Although this woman was extra stong and brave, midwives get to see women as hero every day!
What advice do you have for a mother to be?
Observe nature-see how long it takes a stick to grow buds and for those buds to grow leaves. Notice how the seasons change slowly. Do stuff that takes a long time: grow a garden, play monopoly, do a 3000 piece puzzle, cook meals from scratch. Grow your patience. Write letters and email/text less. Watch less TV. Don’t believe the bullshit births in movies and TV. Move a lot! Dance, hike, swim and make love. Have fun and laugh a lot!