Miracle or no, what happened in my birthing room that day just before Christmas changed my perspective on birth forever. Despite having taught natural birth classes for over a decade, and being a veteran homebirthing mother, I became in that one moment one of the unlucky ones for whom birth didn’t work, and part of the fraction of the 1% of home births requiring emergency hospital transport for the newborn after birth. (1)
A treasured person from my local BELLA Team, our midwife, jumped into action before I even realized something was wrong, immediately starting neonatal resuscitation. After at least fifteen long minutes, my son’s heart beat was detected, and the ambulance team arrived. Our midwife stayed with my son, continuing to use the bag and mask throughout the entire ambulance ride to the hospital, at the request of the paramedics. Once I arrived at the hospital--(I was not immediately ready to travel with my son having just given birth!)--she stayed with my husband and me, not only caring for my needs as a newly postpartum mother, but also answering our questions, supporting us, helping us cope with the shock we were experiencing, and showing such deep care and compassion for us and our son that the memory still brings tears of thankfulness to my eyes.
And she wasn’t the only one. Our dear doula friend, also a beloved part of our BELLA Team, was also present for us, taking photos that remain so important for me, listening, helping us in practical ways, giving us baby clothing that my son wore on the way home, and even sewing a little bib for him. Both our midwife and doula visited often during my son’s stay in the NICU bringing the gifts of unclouded memories (to help us make sense of the trauma that we had just experienced); undivided, unhurried attention; prayers; and genuine love and concern.
And their support didn’t stop when the glorious day arrived for my son’s homecoming. They both checked in frequently with us, encouraging and trusting in me as my son and I learned to breastfeed successfully despite such a complicated start. Here is where a third person from our BELLA Team came to our aid, providing a breast pump so that I could keep up my milk supply, until we received a hospital-grade pump. And another BELLA friend set up a donated meal service to help feed my large family waiting for us back home.
Instead of a nightmare where I might have felt not only in crisis, but also horribly alone, my BELLA Team showed, by their words and actions, that there were knowledgeable friends ready to listen, to help, and to support. From our doula, I received notes she took at the birth which helped fill in holes in the story that I needed filled to make sense of it, as well as photos from during and after the birth that I could study in the short-term--and cherish in the long-term. From our midwife, I received medical care, as well as just plain care. All my BELLA friends gave something to me that the others could not have given, and their combined gifts working together were more than any of them could have given alone.
So why do we all need BELLA Teams? While the vast majority of mothers will have normal, “uneventful” births (there’s an oxymoron), ALL new mothers and families deserve the care, attention, encouragement and support that flow naturally from a collaborative group of professionals who believe that “all life is sacred” -- that “birth is normal” -- and that “all children are a blessing.” Birth workers with such beliefs instill hope, trust, and joy in their families, no matter what each family’s unique situation may be and no matter what their birth experience is like. Hope, trust, and joy are child-like blessings. Hope, trust, and joy are the antidote to a world that is jaded, destructive, and rootless. BELLA Teams--like the one that rallied to help me and my family--possess strength unto strength--the goods of excellent education and thorough training that the modern world has to offer, combined with the goods of personal connection, time, care, and respect for life, both in and out of the womb, that were so common in days gone by, but now seem in very short supply. We need BELLA Teams to help fill in the holes that need filling in our lives because families are smaller and family members often live far away. We need BELLA Teams to help usher in the love, beauty and joy of the Culture of Life: a New Renaissance!
How can you help childbearing friends to experience the kind of extraordinary care that I received? Share this website with your pregnant friends, so they can benefit from the shared wisdom of a BELLA Team. Head on over to Facebook and like our page. If you are a professional serving childbearing families who believes in our philosophy, consider joining or starting a BELLA Team of your own. Plant something beautiful near you. Become part of the New Renaissance!
(1) Cheyney M, Bovbjerg M, Everson C, Gordon W, Hannibal D, & Vedam S. Outcomes of care for 16,984 planned home births in the United States: The Midwives Alliance of North America Statistics Project, 2004-2009.
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The primary authors of this article are Leaders and Members of BELLA. If you have a beautiful, life-affirming message to share with others, we would welcome your contribution to this blog. Contact us for more information!