This year I had the amazing opportunity to intern at Embrace Midwifery Care & Birth Center as a birth doula. Once a month, interning doulas would meet, sometimes even with midwife Corina Hossle, to share skills, practice and learn new things about our work. And of course, the most impactful part of the experience was being right beside parents as they birthed a new child into our world.
As I listened, engaged, and watched, here are a few things that stuck out to me about birthing at a birth center like Embrace:
Tone & Language Matter
From the moment parents arrive, it's clear that midwives spend a lot of time with their patients before labor. There's always a little laughter and natural banter and hugging, creating a much more familial feeling than a clinical one.
When a midwife checked-in on labor, communication between them and parents flowed freely. Updates were always given, and often involved the words, "here are some things we could do next."
In the instances I saw in which birth plans began changing, or concerns arose, voices and language remained calm and smooth, even when they grew more direct or firm.
Birth Centers Are Fully Stocked
People often worry that a birth outside of a hospital won't be well-equipped, but watching labors unfold at Embrace showed me just how much they have to offer.
They have water proof dopplers to monitor baby throughout labor, all the equipment to watch parents' vital signs, IVs, antibiotics for Group B Strep positive parents, sterile tools such as scissors to cut the cord, resuscitation equipment, baby scales, herbal tinctures, homeopathy, medicines, and more.
Plus, you can't forget the birthing tubs! Embrace has two rooms, each equipped with deep soaking tubs well-suited for labor and birth.
Transfers Happen (& Can Still Be Calm)
A common question from parents thinking about using a birth center is, "What if I have to go to the hospital?" While interning, I was doula for a family whose long labor resulted in just that.
The midwife kept close contact with this mama throughout her labor, giving encouragement, recognizing what was difficult, and suggesting a variety of positions, herbs, an IV, and other practices before confirming the transfer decision, 24 hours after her water had broken.
The process of transferring, itself – a big change for any labor – went smoothly and quickly, with everyone on board, and ready for the change.
At the hospital, the parents were met by another midwife, as well as myself and the RN from the birth center. After nearly a day at the birth center and a few hours at the hospital, baby was still born vaginally, with minimal interventions.
Accidental Home Birth Happens, Too!
When I got the late night text from one birth center mom that contractions were picking up, I checked my birth bag, made sure her number was excused from my "Do Not Disturb" setting, and got ready for go-time. But early that morning, I woke to a very different text, that went something like: "Baby's here! And we're still at home! Call you tomorrow!"
These second-time parents had told me during our prenatal how comfortable they felt with labor and how they weren't sure they'd need much! How true! When baby came quickly at home, they had just called the birth center to confirm they were on their way. Within a few minutes, midwife Corina was on her way to them instead!
When I checked-in that week, the mom told me the whole beautiful story. It was a little messier than they were anticipating, but healthy mom and healthy baby were both very happy, and had had access to all the support they needed.
After watching how families are served at Embrace — from the moment they step in the door, to after baby goes home — all I have to say is, "Can we have more of these?!" "How can we let more people know?" "How can we ensure this is more accessible?"
I'm very grateful to have been able to be a part of Embrace's story this year. And to any parent considering a birth center — give your local one a visit!