Marlene Smith Licensed Midwife, Certified Professional MIdwife-Story and Philosophy
1. Who I Was
2. How I Birthed/Hospital
3. Mother of 9
4. How I Birthed Hospital/Home
5. Grandmother Tuki of 19
6. How I Came To Love Good Birth
7. Why I decided to Become a Midwife
8. How I became a Midwife
9. What is happening to me today
10. Why does it matter
1. Who I was~
All of my life as a young girl, I couldn’t wait to have babies of my own. I would purposefully sit behind a young mother in church so that if I could get up the courage, I could ask her to hold her baby. Most of them were quite happy to let me. I babysat my way through junior high school, and hoped that someday I would be able to perhaps become a nurse who worked in the nursery at a hospital, so that I could be around babies all of the time.
I met my future husband during my high school years and he and I got married when we were 19. I couldn’t wait to begin my family and was encouraged by the tenets of our religion, which taught us to multiply and replenish without regard to the financial or educational consequences because, God would bless us for our efforts. It was all the permission I needed to get started right away. I seemed to follow in the footsteps of my pioneer ancestors and was extremely fertile, because on our first attempt, we became pregnant. I should say I became pregnant. I get a little annoyed at the “we” part, because, it really isn’t a we thing at that point and there is no way any man can understand what it really feels like to be pregnant no matter how many pillows he stuffs under his shirt.
2. How I birthed/hospital
I was very excited to become a mother and have my own little baby to play with. I was staunchly opposed to taking drugs of any kind, and signed up for Lamaze Classes and spent time talking to my mother on the phone about having babies. She told me that it felt like a really bad stomachache and that she did not take drugs for her birth, and that she never needed any stitches so I came into my birth a little cocky about my ability to handle everything, piece of cake. The first thing that happened to us that should have tipped me off that I wasn’t going to be in control of it all, was when my OBGYN said that he would not allow my husband in the delivery room because he did not want to worry about him fainting etc. Because of our young ages and the fact that we had been brought up to respect authority, we did not push the issue, feeling that the doctor ‘knew best’.
When my water broke 4 weeks early with a big gush (while standing at the concession counter of a movie theater) we got home, called the Dr. and he said “your labor will probably begin in a couple of hours, then go to the hospital”. We sat at home timing contractions for a few hours, then packed up and drove to Mercy San Juan Hospital where we checked in. I was put in a labor box about 6 feet by 10 feet, no windows and was ‘allowed’ one person at a time to sit with me. I was given an enema (to clean me out), and my pubic hair was shaved all the way off, because of course, I was ‘dirty’ down there. I used a pull-down toilet that came out of wall, no privacy at all, then donned by hospital gown, and climbed up onto a very high bed to wait. Some time during the night around 3am, I received a shot in my butt that was supposed to allow me to relax and sleep a bit. It was a Visterol/Demerol cocktail and I believe that it really allowed the OB to get a full night’s sleep before he had to come to the hospital. For a young girl that had never touched any drug at all, I felt very violated. It caused me to go into a fog, with contractions that woke me up like a very loud fog horn every 3 or 4 minutes. I have a recollection of a nurse checking me about 7:30 am and saying, well, it’s time to take you into the delivery room. I had to lift my transistional body onto a guerney, and was wheeled into a very cold room, flat on my back, and then was asked to life myself onto a delivery/surgical table. I remembered worrying that I had my glasses with me as I wanted to see my baby be born. I was draped with green sheets, and a small mirror was positioned behind the Dr. who got into my line of sight most of the time. An anesthesioligist kept trying to put a gas mask over my face that I kept pushing away with my free hand, my other hand was being restrained by a wrist strap. I don’t remember the episitomy very well, because I was still stinging from the numbing medication he injected into me, but I do remember the feeling of being pulled off the table as the Dr. inserted forceps into me and pulled out the baby. A very lusty baby was dumped on my green draped belly. I reached up to touch him, remember that I was flat on my back, and was promptly told not to touch him because I would break the sterile field. His cord was cut, he was held up so that I could see him for all of 3 seconds, then he was whisked away to a warmer and then wheeled out of the delivery room to the nursery. I was told to lie still and was sutured up and taken to a recovery room, where my uterus was mashed at 10 minute intervals, and I patiently waited to see my husband who was finally allowed back by my side. Two hours later, I was taken to a private room, with a window! The staff thought that I would appreciate having that. Four hours later, a nurse came in an asked me if I was ready to see my baby. He was brought to me, bathed, dressed, wrapped and probably fed, completely asleep. I was commanded not to unwrap him as he might get cold, and he was too asleep to nurse, so I just held that little blanked bundle and stared at him for the 30 minutes that I was allowed to have him. When the nurse came back in to take him away, I gave him to her obediently and waited for four more hours to pass so that I could get him back. The first 3 days of our lives together were spent like that. Three and a half hours apart, 30 minutes together trying to nurse, mostly not. I came home shell shocked from my birth, happy that I had got him out through my vagina, but confused as to why my experience left me feeling that I was not really a mother and like I didn’t really know this little boy.
3. Mother of 9
Much changed in my life over the course of my childbearing. Lucky for me, I kept having children until I could get it right, which being the hard head that I am, took 9 times! I did vow never to go back to Mercy San Juan or use the Dr. that delivered #1 and to this day, I choose not to walk into that hospital. The next babies were born at Kaiser Morse. Delivering babies was evolving, thanks to the efforts of many whom I did not even know at that time. My #2 son, was born in the Kaiser delivery room (also labored in a box) but they dimmed the lights, put me on a small wedge under my back so that I wasn’t flat and only gave me “just a little cut”. I was a much better experience for me as I was fully awake and able to hold him in the delivery room for 30 minutes before they took him to the nursery. Two hours later, they reunited us in my room (a 4 bed sleep over with women telling their birth stories all day long and most of the night). I did have a curtain between us, but no real privacy. Nursing was better and I was happier. #3 was born on the guerney while they were trying to get me into the delivery room, surprise, no tears and an extremely happy mom. The nurses were frantic but the Dr. told them to leave me alone and just “let her birth”. I’ll never forget his words, they changed me forever. My first daughter was Kaiser’s 1st ABC room (stands for Alternative Birth Center) room. That meant that once I was laboring, and had been checked to make sure that I was at least 5 centimeters dilated, I was admitted into the bigger labor box, and was told that if everything went well, I could stay in that bigger box, and deliver there and not be moved into the delivery room. I arrived at Kaiser in the morning and was told that I was 3 cent. We left the hospital, laboring at malls, and restaurants and in the car until I could hardly walk from the car to the door of the hospital. The nurses saw me and rushed out with a wheel chair. My daughter was born 45 minutes later. After recovering I was moved into the slumber party room, and she was taken to the nursery. Even though they were changing, they just couldn’t figure out that keeping mom and baby together was an okay. Daughters 4 and 5 were born very much the same, and I felt like I had finally found a way to birth that I could deal with. Then the amniotic fluid hit the fire!
4. How I Birthed/Home
I met a woman who was home schooling her children and was impressed by her love for them and her desire to keep them at home with her all day, an experience most mothers are happy to give to the school system. I asked her why she felt that way and she expressed to me that it was because of the way she birthed them. I felt like a beam from heaven had just descended upon me as she spoke about having her babies at home with a midwife. As she was pregnant at the time, we parted with me saying that if there was anything I could do to help her with her birth or after (thinking of childcare, food, etc) to call me. Two weeks later, my phone rang during the night and her friend said she was asking me to come to her home, that she was in labor and would like to invite me to be there at the birth. When I arrived, the house was quiet, dark and sacred. I couple of candles were burning and quiet voices of encouragement were heard. I was happy to be a fly on the wall as I watched in amazement as she quietly pushed out a baby, which was lifted into her arms, covered in warm blankets and left there! The mother held her baby, showering it with kisses and loving words while everyone else was silent. Her baby’s first experience with life on earth was the sound of touch of her mother. After 20 minutes, and placenta out, mother carried baby to bed, nursed for a long time, and then baby got weighed, dressed, and back to bed with mom. I was stunned. How simple, how sweet, how right. I went home with dawn breaking along with my heart for not knowing about this. Six babies born before I got the chance to see it done right. Though my husband and I thought we were done having children, we were wrong. Three more came our way. A home birth for me and number 7, a planned home birth that became a hospital birth because my little girl decided to get tangled up in her cord and left me before I could greet her, which is another story to tell, and a home birth for baby #9 at the age of 41 which was my biggest trust lesson. During the last 3 babies, I began attending births with my midwife as an extra pair of hands. I felt like I had finally found my calling. I got to be around babies frequently. I even took mine with me to births as I was now home schooling my girls and they would go with me to tend when needed.
5. Grandmother Tuki of 27
I had my babies the way I did because of a lack of understanding that there might be a better way. It took me a long time to discover what my ancester mothers already knew. I did not want my own daughters to go to their births without choice. I hoped they would choose good/home birth but knew that they would have to decide for themselves. They have made the choice to birth at home and it has been a wonderful, miraculous adventure to attend my daughters at home. My three girls have given birth to 9 babies, all at home. What surprised me was my son’s wives have also chosen to birth at home. They were lovingly offered our services and told that they needed to study and decide for themselves. I believe that a woman needs to want a home birth for her own reasons. If she chooses it to satisfy anyone else, it will not be as fulfilling for her, sometimes resulting in transport. After finding out what the medical world would offer them, these three women also have choosen to birth at home. One of them did a college paper on home birth as her way of learning more about the process. They have given me an additional 7 grandchildren. There are 3 more due this year 2010 which brings my grandmother bragging to 19, all born good at home. My grandmother name is Tuki which means ‘sweet’ which is not necessarily my personality but perhaps more with my indulgences.
6. How I came to love Good Birth
There was something else I was learning though that was profound. I learned that yes it was fun to be around the babies, but my joy in this work came from working and being around you mothers. You became my focus with the realization that the support and empowerment of you through birth celebrated your ability to fully embrace and realize your femininity, power and strength as women. Your feelings of self worth grew because of your strength and this transfers to your mothering. We mother with more passion, more attachment, more protection and most importantly, more enjoyment.
An empowering birth experience builds a foundation in us as women that allows us to weather the storms and winds of life. It gives us courage, determination, compassion, patience, endurance, gratitude and love. All of these attributes come together during one event, birth! There is no other time in our lives that we can be given so many gifts at once. It also gives us memories. The kind of memories that will cause us to smile in our old age with the knowledge that we did something special. We are so worth it.
I believe that a woman can have a good birth anywhere. It doesn’t have to be a home birth to be a good birth. You just have to work harder anywhere else but home.
You really don’t need a birth plan for home. All of your things are at home. We come to you, no bumpy car ride. We greet you quietly, and do not need to ask a million questions about you. You can eat, drink and go to the bathroom without asking permission of anyone. Your other children are home with you if you want them to be. They are in their own environment. You are the center of the experience at home and it’s all about you, your partner and your baby. The baby is welcomed safely, gently and with respect. I believe that the sacred moments immediately after birth should be a time of uninterrupted reverence when you and your baby can fall in love. When a birth is planned at home, the experience is one that you want to repeat someday. It is satisfying and you will love to share it with anyone who will listen.
7. Why I decided to become a midwife
When I am asked why I became a midwife, I smile. There is a beautiful movie I saw once and when the man an woman finally realize in amazement their love for each other she says to him, “don’t you realize that every step I have taken since I was that little girl on the bridge, has been to lead me to you”. I feel in looking back at my life and my story that every step I have taken since I was that little girl in church, hoping to hold a baby, was to lead me to midwifery. My greatest joy in life is listening to women tell their birth stories and how proud they are of themselves. I am fulfilled in the pride they have in their own abilities to birth and parent, and if I was available to them to help create the safety net for them to have a good/home birth then my work is worthwhile. In our practice we know we have done a good job, when we overhear a woman say when asked who delivered her baby, “I did”. I feel the most valuable when I am able to be the fly on the wall, and do the least.
8. How I became a midwife
A. Direct entry
I worked with the midwife I had for my last 3 children for 7 years as an extra pair of hands, kitchen help and eventually catching babies, mostly for women who asked me to. I never turned down a birth, missing birthdays, holidays, and anything else. I was completely hooked. I apprenticed under the Shaman’s rule, do anything, anytime to prove to your shaman that you want to learn. It wasn’t until Kaleem Joy came to town that everything came together.
Kaleem was a new midwife from the bay area who came to Sacramento to put her son in the Waldorf School here and start a midwifery practice. She was looking for a partner. I was looking for a way to become a midwife officially. We met, we found mutual honor and respect and value. Kaleem knew how to get me on the right track, and I still remember exactly the moment that she wrote out a check, put it in the mail to enroll me in the Seattle Midwifery School. I was excited and nervous because I knew within me that I would become a midwife someday. One Heart Midwifery Care was born on that day, still a baby, but vigorous and thriving.
From that day on, I studied and learned and went to every birth with Kaleem. She had an amazing ability to teach and step aside for me to get the hands on experience I needed. She was key to my education/experience. I had been attending births for 7 years and believed I could do it, but Kaleem gave me the ability to know I could. It took 3 years of study and hands on training and then the big day of testing. I tested for 2 days, both written and clinical with about 15 other hopeful midwives. I’ve never seen so many bottles of Resuce Remedy at one time. After passing the Seattle School’s Program, I took the NARM (National Association of Registered Midwives) exam and then applied for licensure at the California Board of Medicine. I was granted a license to practice midwifery in CA on December 28, 2001, followed shortly by my Certified Professional Midwife Certificate in March of 2002. I continue to follow the requirements of licensure which include continuing education units, CPR and neo-natal resusitation renewals at the proper intervals.
9. What is happening to me today
A. On going practice
Since One Heart Midwifery Care was started in January 2001, Kaleem and I have attended 450 women, families and their precious babies. We have celebrated each birth, cried with each miscarriage, weeped with 2 mothers whose babies did not cry. We have had 5 perfect children who came with Down Syndrome, including Courtney, my granddaughter, and have directed their parents to nutritive therapies and guided them into systems for assistance. We attended the funeral of Emily, 3 years old, one of our beautiful babies, hit by a car while chasing the ice cream truck. We have attended births in California, Utah, New York and Texas and have been asked to go to Lithuania and recently Israel as our families have moved all over the globe.
B. Greater trust and desire
I continue to believe in the sacredness of birth, that it is a moment in time when if we are willing, we can be shown just how strong we are as women and families. I believe that safety is always important and that the way we birth sets a seed in us that influences our self image for the rest of our lives. One of the most important lessons we learn is trusting ourselves. How many times do we think, “I hope I’m making the right choice” or “I trust it will all work out”. When we trust our body to birth, one of our most basic body functions, we learn to trust less other issues that surely will come.
10.. Why does it matter
A. “So as a women lives, so does she give birth” or “so as a woman gives birth, so does she live”?
I believe that couple intimacy is the physical manifestation of an emotional commitment. When two people share an emotional bond through their friendship, love and respect, it can culminate in a physical relationship that depends on trust and a willingness to expose our selves in a vulnerable way to each other. This is a gift we give to the one we love and do so in a desire to create oneness and a wholeness that we reserve for only one other. It is what makes our relationship special/sacred and different from the other relationships we share. I also believe that birth is the physical beginning of an emotional commitment as a family. When it is a family centered experience, the family is strengthened, the partner feels more involved and there is less sibling rivalry. When we get married, we invite our loved ones and friends to the service to witness our commitment to each other. Their responsibility is to remind us of how happy we were on that day, how much in love we were and that the event really happened. They help us internalize an immense moment. Birth is another immense moment. Those who are there with us, serve as a forever witness of that day, the strong work we did, the triumph we experienced and the love that was created and enhanced. Is it not then very important that we create a birthday for mothers and babies that will do for parenting what a marriage ceremony did for a couple? Invite those to be present who have the ability to honor your process, hold space for safety and sacredness and who are willing to remind you that you did something wonderful on one special day.
B. The baby benefits by the experience of the mother
I recently read a statement from a man who said, “I hope to go out this world the same way I came in, warm, wet, and torn from the arms of the woman I love”. It sort of epitomizes our cultures feelings about normal birth. I wish he had said “…and wrapped in the arms of the woman I love”. Such small words, such powerful meanings. Babies have feelings and they also are emotional sponges. They are also primed to fall in love at birth as the same love hormones in mom transcend the placental membrane and enter your baby. They soak up the good or the bad and they make infant determinations as to how they respond to life. We can make a difference by keeping the mother/baby/family connection strong. That is where the power is. That is where strength comes from. Being wanted and loved from birth. Having our mothers love cannot be oversimplified.
C. Strong desire to help women understand their power and worth.
~Credentials ~ Experience ~ Certifications~
Mother of 9
Grandmother of 19
Midwifery Assistant Workshop Summer 1992 with Alison Osborn LM, CPM
Midwifery Assistant for a Home Birth practice 1989-1998
Junior Midwife One Heart Midwifery Care 1998-2001
Licensed Midwife 2001-present
Certified Professional Midwife 2001-present
Neo-Natal Resusitation Certified
Attend Bi-Monthly Peer Review
As of 2009 attended over 600 births