This is the third post in a series of blog posts based on interviews I’m doing with midwives who serve Utah County.
For this post, I was honored to interview Amber Adams (DEM) and Teryl Stay (CPM, LDEM), who attend home births in northern Utah County and southern Salt Lake county. Together with student midwife Kirsten, Amber and Teryl are Birth Mind Body, midwifery care that “brings back the village” to care for new parents. Both Amber and Teryl attend all prenatal visits and births together and work as a team.
Teryl and Amber each became midwives after first working as doulas. I loved talking with them about their journeys to midwifery, as my goal is to become a midwife as well! (I’m hoping to attend Vanderbilt’s CNM program. Fingers crossed!) Teryl became a doula at a friend’s suggestion and fell in love with community birth. She started attending Midwives College of Utah when her then-youngest child started kindergarten. For Amber, a series of random events led her to choosing midwifery care for her own first pregnancy and learning more about pregnancy and birth. After three people separately told her that she ought to be a midwife, Amber accepted the call to midwifery and also enrolled at Midwives College of Utah. Both Teryl and Amber had a baby (or two) while in midwifery school, and have personally experienced a range of birth experiences. They agree that the variety among their own births is an invaluable resource they drawn on as they support their clients. “I really believe that every midwifery journey gives you a different perspective to be able to help a client down the road,” Amber reflects.
The main topic I chatted with Teryl and Amber about was how they support their clients through decision-making. Throughout the conversation, they both emphasized that they view their relationship with their clients as a partnership, and that they expect their clients to be involved, active participants in their care.
Whenever their clients are making choices, their role is to teach their clients about benefits and risks of each of their options and respect their informed decisions as they move forward. Anytime screenings, tests, or interventions (such as glucose screening, Strep B testing, etc.) are offered, they provide an informed decision-making document with information about the possible benefits and risks of each option. Together with their clients, they talk through all of the information on the document and offer the chance to discuss any further questions they may have. The document also points them towards other resources they can consult as they make their own informed decisions.
“A lot of it is based on trust,” Amber says. It’s important that their clients trust their midwives to give them the information they need to make decisions about their care, and that they trust themselves enough to confidently make decisions.
Of course, there are times when, as medical care providers, Amber and Teryl sometimes need to hold firm on certain guidelines. They insist that all clients have an ultrasound to determine the placenta’s location during pregnancy, as placenta previa (when the placenta covers the cervix) is a serious complication that needs a higher level of care.
If other complications arise during birth, trust is again key. Teryl explains, “It’s also so important to talk about this prenatally, and even during the interview, that these things can come up… We want to make sure that you have enough trust in us that if we’re telling you, ‘you need to go to the hospital; there’s a higher level of care needed,’ that they will trust us.”
With this relationship of trust, Amber and Teryl strive to honor their client’s autonomy and provide safe, quality care throughout pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
Pam England’s Birthing from Within has been hailed as “… a landmark in the history of childbirth” (Dr. Michel Odent). Published in 1988, this book is still relevant and influencing couples preparing for childbirth today. Pam England is both a Certified Nurse Midwife and a psychologist, and she calls on each of these backgrounds and experiences in her childbirth preparation education and recommendations.
When my brother-in-law saw this book sitting out at my house, he jokingly said, “Birthing from within? What other way is there to birth?” But, as Pam explains, its often the internal preparation that is overlooked when preparing to give birth, and that can make a huge difference in the way parents experience birth. Throughout the book, Ms. England offers a wide range of activities to help expectant parents prepare for birth—from the inside out.
The book is divided into seven sections:
1. Beginning Your Journey
2. The Art of Birthing
3. Preparing Your Birth Place
4. Being Powerful in Birth
5. Fathers and Birth Companions
6. Birthing Through Pain
7. Gestating Parenthood
In each section, Pam offers activities that expectant parents can do together or individually as they prepare for birth. Here is a sampling of some of the activities:
Surrounding all of the activities is tons of important information about birth: what to know and expect physiologically and psychologically, historical and ethnographic perspectives, and research and experience say about various birth choices (e.g. helpful comfort measures, home birth considerations, birthing positions, epidural use pros and cons, how to have an empowered cesarean, etc.).
In all, Birthing from Within is a vastly useful book with information that can appeal to and offer relevant information for families in a variety of circumstances, with varied goals and backgrounds. It certainly appeals most apparently to those preparing for an unmedicated birth, but it calls on all birthers to do the internal work necessary to have the best birth experience possible. I’d definitely recommend it as a resource to call on in preparation for birth. Check it out from my Lending Library!
This book review blog post was originally posted on 11/21/2018 on the blog of my previous website, www.sarasbirthservices.com (no longer active).
As you can tell from the sticky notes, this book is packed full of good information!
I appreciate the Searses' well-rounded and positive approach to pregnancy they take in this book. They begin with detailed information about how to have a healthy pregnancy through wise nutritional choices, movement, sleep, and self-care skills. This starts the book off on a great foot for helping women be the responsible agent in their pregnancy and birth, which I believe is critical! They list helpful nutrients for pregnant women and their developing babies, the foods that offer them, and even recipes to incorporate them in your diet. In the section on exercise, they emphasize the importance of moving healthily and the wide range of activities that pregnant women can do to stay in shape and help their bodies and their babies be as healthy as possible.
The next section of the book details the month-by-month changes that occur in the developing baby and the pregnant mother's body. They address concerns and discomforts that may arise by offering helpful tips and solutions. In the section on birth, they offer a detailed explanation of the "hormonal symphony of birth" and beautifully describe how mom and baby's bodies work together to bring baby into the world. They address common interventions and when they can be helpful and when they'd be better avoided.
In the final section, uncommon pregnancy complications are addressed. The section begins with the directive to read only those sections that pertain to a complication you have, as there's no need to worry about things that could but likely won't--wise advice for an expectant parent! I especially appreciate their re-framing of the term "high-risk pregnancy." They explain that this term is necessary for doctors to be aware of women whose pregnancies and births should be monitored more closely, but invite women in this category to instead consider their pregnancy as "high responsibility":
"Instead of resigning yourself to the high-risk label, becoming a passive patient, and leaving all birth decisions up to your doctors, become a high-responsibility mother. Take an even more active role in your birth partnership; cooperation between you and your care providers is essential. You need to be more informed and more involved in decision-making than the average mother, and you need to take better care of yourself. The first question you should ask your doctor after you are classified as high-risk is what specific things you can do to lower that risk."
I especially appreciated this advice because both of my pregnancies have been "high-responsibility," the first because I was carrying twins, and the second because I have a blood-clotting disorder and was planning on a VBAC. In my first pregnancy, I resigned myself to the "high-risk" label and stopped asking many questions and taking personal responsibility for my pregnancy, and I ended up with some complications that I believe I could have avoided if I'd been a more active participant in my health care. In my second pregnancy, I made sure I was well-informed and the responsible agent for caring for my extra needs, and I had a very positive experience as an active birth-giver!
In all, I definitely recommend this book as a comprehensive guide to having a healthy and positive pregnancy. It's the best book of its kind in that category!
Hi, I'm Sara. I'm a childbirth educator and birth + postpartum doula serving Utah county. I'm a twin mom (plus one!), natural VBACer, and birth lover!