An Austinite for Birth Centers
There are times when a foolish notion perpetuates an action resulting in a far-reaching and unintended good. Such was our introduction to the Austin Area Birthing Center.
Much of my youth was spent in the company of books, many of them romantic novels of bygone times when life was simple and people braver, truer, and fiercer. Or so I imagined. The depictions of frontier women, able to provide a living from next to nothing set a standard of strength. Legendary women leaders who defied convention to save their people, often giving up their own lives in the process shone as paragons of virtue and self-sacrifice. To these characters, ease and comfort could be earned but were never expected. Which is how, at a young and naïve age I determined any childbearing I would do would be accomplished without the aid of drugs. It seemed an easy promise to make myself as I had no intention of marrying or bearing children.
Even when a dark-haired, big-hearted, musician-and-engineering-student swept me off my feet into matrimony these rather stock stereotype notions continued to influence me. If we were ever to have children, I of course, would not be THAT woman who chose modern medicinal ease over traditional childbirth. What would Joan of Arc have thought? Again, this decision seemed quite ephemeral as our married life entered season after season, year after year, with no children threatening my resolve.
Five years after becoming Mr. & Mrs. we found ourselves pregnant.
An appointment with a highly regarded doctor’s office was made, we arrived early, waited past our allotted time, and had a fine, rather brief visit resulting in a couple sonogram photos and lots of literature to read. The delivery would take place in a hospital. An honest self-inquiry clarified that should drugs be an option, I would most likely use them.
And so our introduction to the Austin Area Birthing Center (AABC) occurred. What had been a foolish whim led us to a truly wonderful establishment.
Two weeks ago we took our fourth trip to the birthing center in just over five years. It was a Sunday morning, which took me by surprise. As the other three Torrey children debuted during the week, I had unintentionally adopted the belief that children were only born on weekdays. Upon arrival we were greeted by the well-known face of Vickie, a midwife who had seen us throughout the four pregnancies in clinic but had yet to catch any of our babies (fun fact – upon seeing me for the first time pregnant with T4, Vickie loudly proclaimed that this baby she WOULD in fact be catching. And she did).
This is not a birth story, so I’ll spare you the details of labor. Although the birthing center encourages, and depends upon, natural birth in a home setting with the help of a midwife, they are adamant in teaching that the “best birth is the one resulting in a healthy baby and mama.” To that end, they provide numerous prenatal and postnatal classes – ranging from yoga (an absolute saving grace in EACH of my pregnancies) to labor prep to “baby love” (a class of babies and mamas incorporating baby massage with songs and group therapy) and many more. The center boasts three fully equipped (king size bed, birthing tub, walk-in shower, extra chairs) birthing rooms, each tastefully decorated according to a theme. We have birthed in each room, and with Cora doubled up on one, the Folk Room – she and Olivia share. The center is also adamant in their care of mama and baby: pregnancies that need the attention of a doctor are referred to local hospitals and labors that progress anywhere outside of normal are immediately transferred into hospital care. Although natural birth is encouraged and celebrated, healthy babies and mamas are the ideal, no matter how that birth is achieved.
AABC relies on midwives to ensure this ideal. Somehow the midwives exude professionalism in a nurturing and caring manner, a throw-back perhaps to the “bedside manner” one reads about but rarely experiences. They are calm in the face of intensity, providing direction and encouragement while allowing labor to progress in accordance to the mama’s preference. Joshua has been beside me for each labor, literally. His very presence allows me to endure pain beyond anything I’ve ever encountered – his tone of voice, alternating between lighthearted and serious, exactly right for each moment. Without being told, the midwives have given him free rein and cheered us on as we labored.
My natural inclination with pain is to pair it with movement: walk it out, breathe in motion. Birthing at the center allowed me to walk, lean, stand, and sway as needed – which was needed pretty much for the duration of the labor (thankfully only the first was a long endeavor, else I might have used too much energy before it was truly needed!). While I have needed to be hooked up to an IV for each birth, the midwives ensure this need not hinder movement. Labor has been my most challenging moment, each time. How wonderful that each occurred under the kind and compassionate care of birthing center midwives!
Today, as I look around at the four little beings gifted to us by a God most Holy, I am also thankful for His gift of AABC. It has been a community for us unlike anything I expected, from being challenged and encouraged by yoga teachers to being warmly welcomed for each prenatal visit (and there have been a lot!) by the front desk staff. In giving birth naturally I discovered a strength I never knew I possessed and an appreciation for the body God crafted to endure such labors. That foolishness of ignoring modern medicine was also, interestingly, eradicated in joining with the birthing center – as they realigned my focus to the result rather than the path of childbearing. Thank you Austin Area Birthing Center for partnering with us these five years. May you continue the work so well done, for any future children on our part, and the many others here in Austin choosing, "wisely or not", to partake in your services!