Learn about birth centers from two midwives who share their stories.
For many, midwifery is a mystery. We’ve heard of it or we might even have ideas and images in our minds about what it really means. For most, having a baby means hospital visit. The women of Heart 2 Heart Birth Center would like to share the real story. Because they believe that knowing your options, knowing your body and knowing what you want is the most important part of coming into motherhood.
Learn about birthing centers and midwifery from Michelle, a 3rd generation midwife who has been in the business for more than 20 years. And Courtney, who got her education in Gainesville and has been working with Michelle to help women transition into motherhood.
What are the misconceptions about birth centers?
Courtney: That we’re hippies.
Michelle: That we aren’t real medical professionals, but only because they haven’t taken the responsibility to find out.
People say, you’re not a surgeon. I would say no surgeon is a midwife.
They don't give the special care we do. We’re diagnosing every encounter. And it’s funny, people mention everything else when it comes to birth; pain, emergency, IV, blood, but they never mention babies.
Michelle: That this is a strange concept. There are surgical centers outside of hospitals all over the country. A lot happens outside of hospitals, from eye surgery to plastic surgery.
How is a birth center different?
Michelle: We focus on the baby. We teach women about their bodies, about their responsibility and we usher them into motherhood. How it impacts her body, her life…it’s a really big deal to us and for them. We are genetic screening counselors, marriage counselors. We spend a lot of time finding resources. We spend a lot more time than doctors can afford to. They’re just too busy. They are overwhelmed and have a lot to do. Our responsibility is to mother the mother, one baby at a time. We’re in the moment.
Courtney: We counsel women through labor. We provide well women care, prenatal, postpartum care…we do a lot. There’s a long list and we fill big shoes.
What does it take to become a midwife?
Michelle: I was sitting watching TV one afternoon. They were talking about opening a new school for midwifery. I signed right up. School was hard. But it was fun. It was easy because I grew up with these type of topics and the emergencies we learned about. It was interesting.
Courtney: Ever since I was little I knew I wanted to deliver babies. I took a women studies course and they showed the business of babies being born. I knew it was for me and I went to school through Gainesville. It was difficult to go to school and study while showing up at 3am and giving a woman your all when she’s giving birth. It’s a difficult journey but worth it, you get to do something you love, something positive.
What kinds of challenges do midwives face?
Michelle: There was a moment when I said, I don’t want to do this anymore. I had a mom face a complication before delivering that made me question everything. It’s the kind of thing that stays with you your whole career.
Courtney: I haven’t had any terrible outcomes but It’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Things happen but its a learning lesson.
Michelle: If you don't see an emergency, you haven’t been practicing long enough. You’re going to see things but you can’t let it scare you.
When you face a challenging moment you just do what you have to do.
What should you know before choosing a birth center?
Courtney: Be mindful of your options, do your research, know what you want. Not a lot of people even know they can have a baby at a birth center. Just know your options and don’t be afraid to try.
Michelle: Take some responsibility for your own healthcare. Women often just go the route that their mother did. They think later, I wish I had done it differently.
Courtney: Also, the more people in the room with you, the harder it is on everyone. We have no problem helping you kick your family out.
Michelle: Know that most mothers don't do well watching their daughters give birth. We encourage them to bring them ahead of time to see the center to help them feel comfortable.
Are birth centers covered with insurance?
Michelle: We accept Medicaid and insurance companies have to cover midwives at the network level.
Do midwives have superpowers?
Michelle: We don’t have superpowers, we’re there to usher, guide and facilitate.
The women have the power. We’re just showing them they have it.
Courtney: Our super power is giving back power.
Michelle: Midwives are brave. Sometimes crazy but brave.
What should all moms know?
Michelle: That it’s going to be hard. It doesn't feel good. It’s not fun or even wonderful. But it tests you. Typical labor is 12 to 24 hours. It’s nothing like you see on TV. You need to have reasonable expectations.
Courtney: That it’s good to labor at home as long as you can. It takes time. When you get here, you’re ready to go. So come here when you’re contractions are 5 minutes apart as a general rule. But not everyone has the same experience so trust your body and you have to be willing to give up control, which is hard for a lot of people. And drink a lot of water.
Michelle: It will be hard but you have support, you’re not alone, we’re here to help you.
But the minute the baby is out it’s all fireworks and goosebumps.
The pain stops and you’re overwhelmed with this incredible feeling. You fall in love and it’s a beautiful thing.
Michelle: Don't listen to all your friends. In our culture, we like to one-up each other with dramatic stories. If you prepare yourself, you have a good chance of having a healthy birth. You need to have realistic expectations. That’s why we have childbirth classes for both mom and dad.
Heart 2 Heart Birth Center has been open for 8 years now. Michelle and Courtney have seen a lot and they’ve been inspired by all of their experiences, even the challenging ones. Their coworkers, community and women they work with every day has played a role in their success.
What do they hope to achieve?
Michelle: Helping women, everyday. Giving babies an incredible start. Being a beacon in the community that needs women's support. Helping families have healthy and great experiences. To give really great medical care and doing so safely.
Courtney: Being able to change someone’s life. It’s that simple.
Michelle: We have women come back and tell us that we’ve made a difference. That our confidence and encouragement has made a difference for them personally.
When you go through birth, you know you’re a superhero. We hope to empower women to feel that way.