“It looks like there’s a chance of rain tomorrow,” Bren Smith said to his wife, Charlene McNamara, the night before their son was born. And sure enough, at 8:04 a.m. on June 28, Reyn (pronounced rain) came in the form of a 9-pound, 7-ounce baby boy delivered at home and in bed with midwife, Alison Osborn, attending.
Reyn’s morning arrival may have been what prompted 3-year-old Kieran Smith to propose they call his new brother “Nightflight,” because when he woke up that morning, the much-anticipated new playmate had arrived. Kieran easily fell into the part of big brother and fetched a gallon of milk from the refrigerator, in case the new baby was hungry.
Three days after Reyn was born, the McNamara-Smith family and Osborn sat on the living room couch and jovially relayed these stories, talking candidly about their experience with home birth. The overwhelming feeling in the room was very warm and casual, and the new baby was passed between family members and the midwife, who had become their friend.
It was exactly the atmosphere that Bren and Charlene felt had been missing when Kieran was born in a Bay Area hospital.
Charlene said that when she gave birth to Kieran, it felt more like a medical procedure, and she attributed her 28-hour labor to panicking nurses and a sterile environment.
“I didn’t need to be saved. I wasn’t dying; I was giving birth,” Charlene said.
The couple was also the first to acknowledge that all hospitals are different and that they have heard many positive stories of friends who have birthed their babies in hospitals. “Obviously, it is so personal and (hospitals) are great for some people,” Charlene said.
Bren’s firstborn, Kyle, 14, was born two months premature, and the hospital where he was born most likely saved his life. His daughter, Kendall, 11, was also born in a hospital. Bren and Charlene also said the obstetrician they had during Kieran’s birth was very compassionate and competent, but that they were still looking for something more intimate and more involved.
The couple decided to pursue the option of home birth and when they met with Osborn, a midwife with 25 years of experience, they were convinced that their next child would be born at home.
“With Allison, I met with her for an hour and there was a much more personal connection. She is like a friend,” Charlene said. The close connection and extended time a midwife spends with a woman helps ease anxiety during the actual birth, making it safer, Osborn said.
The average obstetrician meets with a woman 8 to 9 times for an average of six minutes per visit during her nine months of pregnancy. In comparison, a woman’s visit with a midwife lasts an average of 45 minutes, explained another Nevada County midwife, Vanita Lott, who is also a registered nurse.
Lott and Osborn are two of three licensed midwives in Nevada County. Cindy Foxfoot is the third. She was trained by Osborn and lives in North San Juan.
All three have good relationships with hospitals. They said that they are very willing to send women to the hospital who may need more medical care, but they are also trained and experienced in handling many complications that commonly arise during childbirth.
“I use technology and lab tests, too,” explained Lott, who worked as a delivery and labor nurse in a hospital before she became a midwife. She brings a “home birth center” with her for attending births, which consists of many items found in hospitals, like a heart monitor. For her, the difference between the two is that “the midwifery model is high-touch versus (the hospital model that is) high tech.”
Osborn came into the field of midwifery as a lay midwife and steadily gained experience. She was instrumental in obtaining licensure for lay midwives in California, which was an important step in helping to debunk midwifery myths and in establishing trust and credentials.
“It took 15 years to get licensure in California,” Osborn explained. She was part of a group of women that decided that if the state would not license them, they would license themselves. This act drew national attention, and a Newsweek article called the midwives out in California “brazen women,” she explained.
Midwifery was legalized in California in 1993, behind several other states.
The widening acceptance has caused women from many walks of life to choose to have their babies at home. Osborn said she has “done births for cops, county supervisors and grocery clerks.”
The three local midwives can be contacted at the following telephone numbers:
– Alison Osborn – 477-1154
– Cindy Foxfoot – 292-9271
– Vanita Lott – 477-7333
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