Two years ago Decatur residents Courtney Adams and husband Jeremy Samford had their first child in a slightly more traditional manner—in a hospital; albeit natural, and with the assistance of a doula (a labor assistant). However, their second child, Harper Rose Samford, was brought into the world on Sept. 26 at 6:43 a.m. in a completely different manner—at home, in a birthing pool, with no drugs. “Not even an aspirin.” said Samford.
Harper Rose was born at home with the help of a certified professional midwife named “Debi,” who did not wish to provide a last name because her services are technically considered a misdemeanor.
After reading a book titled Ida May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and viewing a Ricki Lake documentary The Business of Being Born, Adams said she realized that she did not want another hospital birth. Adams and Samford then began searching for a midwife and secured the services of an Alpharetta midwife. Two thirds of the way through the pregnancy, the midwifery company with whom the couple had been working with closed, leaving them in a potentially bad situation.
Happenstance brought the couple in contact with Debi when Samford casually mentioned to a client that he and his wife were considering home birthing their next child. “Once you mention home birthing, people come out of the woodwork with stories and suggestions,” said Samford.
Debi, who has many years of birthing assistance experience, and is certified by the North American Registry of Midwives, came highly recommended and was able to help fill the void. Debi explained that Georgia law does not allow certified professional midwives to practice without a license and the state will not issue the licenses. “It’s illegal” she said. She further explained that the major difference between a certified professional midwife and a certified nurse midwife is that the latter works in conjunction with a medical doctor and in a hospital setting. “People have a choice to do whatever they want with their body, they should have to choice to do whatever they want with their baby, it should be a full circle.” said Debi.
Prior to birthing, Adams and Debi met numerous times, and Adams had all the standard prenatal tests, including blood pressure and urine analysis; however she did not have any blood tests. Debi said that urine tests can show any potential problems that may create a high risk delivery. Fetal monitoring is done with an underwater Doppler. According to Debi, “Ultrasound is not safe; babies will actually try to hide from it. What we do is all about the process, and we need people to understand that. It’s all about healthy moms and babies.”
Harper’s birthing process was what is referred to as a water birth. The expectant mother is submersed in a pool of body-temperature water, which according to Adams, creates a natural, soothing effect on mother and child. “During the process I never even thought ‘I can’t do this,’” said Adams.
When the time came for Harper’s birth, Adams, Samford and Debi were ready for the event. As Samford described, “The lights were out, we had candles burning and soothing music playing in the background. It was a very relaxing setting.” As the labor contractions increased in frequency, Samford readied the birthing pool, described as being similar to a child’s play pool but with handles. The birthing pool needed to be filled with warm water, and Samford was assigned the task keeping the pool filled with warm water.
After sitting several hours in the birthing pool, Adams decided she would be more comfortable standing slightly. She then leaned over, placed her hands inside the edge of the pool, gave a hard push and the baby’s head appeared, one more push and the baby was delivered. Adams said the pain subsided immediately and she was happy to not be affected by drugs. She described her daughter’s birth as “an athletic event, not a medical event.”
Adams said she has no doubts that given the choice she would repeat the home birthing process, describing it as “more peaceful, non-invasive and nobody pushes you.” She did, however, say that there was a certain level of fear that can’t be taken away.
Home birthing with a midwife is the most common type of childbirth worldwide, according to Adams. Of all developed countries in the world; the United States has the highest incidence of infant mortality of any county, she said.