CNEP Grad in the News … Home Birth in NC

Here’s one reason why we’re on our CNEP journey, future CNMs! This is a story about a birth attended at home by Frontier grad, Nancy Harman (CNEP Class 3) published in the Raleigh (NC) News & Observer. Just remember this when the homework piles up and the going gets tough…

Submitted by: Kathy Mercer, RNC, SNM


(Insert Pic #9)

Leah Friedman, Staff Writer

Staff Photo by Juli Leonard
DURHAM – Jennifer DeWolf’s face shifted between smiles and panic as she paced the beige carpet in her family room. She wore only a pink shirt, a bra, an untied white robe and striped socks.
She stopped, then screamed.
Her husband rushed to her side. She bent over the back of a kitchen chair and urgently told him where to put his hands on her back.
Jennifer, 31, was in labor, and the baby was in a hurry.
Just an hour after her water broke, her contractions were already five minutes apart.
But the couple didn’t lunge for overnight bags. Nor did they warm up their Volvo station wagon for a race to the hospital.
Instead, they called 20 friends and family members to come watch the birth of their second child.
Jennifer would be delivering the baby in a plastic bathtub set up in front of the family room fireplace.
No doctors. No epidural. No ice chips.
Jennifer was going to bring this baby into the world as our foremothers used to do it.
Naturally. At home. And with a midwife.
When Jennifer was pregnant with her first child three years ago, she found an obstetrician. But at every appointment, she had a nagging feeling he wasn’t right for her. She didn’t even know whether he would be the one to deliver her baby. It depended on who in his practice was on call that day.
So 26 weeks into that pregnancy, Jennifer told Dennis she wanted someone else to deliver their baby.
She found a midwife at Rex Hospital in Raleigh.
Dennis reluctantly agreed. At least she would be in a hospital if anything went wrong, he reasoned.
Even with the right support team at the hospital, Jennifer didn’t like the internal exams the nurses did while she was in labor. She hated the fetal monitor they wrapped around her bulging belly, even faking contractions just so they would take it off.
She ended up hiding in the shower sitting on a birth ball, so the nurses wouldn’t touch her.
In the end, she and Dennis, 32, had a healthy baby boy — Dennis “Trey” DeWolf III.
After her hospital experience, Jennifer didn’t want to go back. So, when she became pregnant with her second child, a friend told her about a midwife who delivers babies at home.
Dennis, a more by-the-book guy, wasn’t sure.
Then he met Nancy Harman, a midwife and registered nurse, who has delivered nearly 1,000 babies.
“I’m drawn to confident people, and she had a firm handshake and looked me in the eye,” Dennis said. “I knew if something happened, she would know what to do.”

Birth day
As Jennifer was putting dinner in the oven on Dec. 14, she felt her water break.
Harman happened to be near the DeWolf family’s Hope Valley Farms subdivision on her way to a meeting. When she got to the house, nestled in the middle of a cul-de-sac, Jennifer was doubled over with contractions.
Harman canceled her meeting.
She and her assistant, Chanel Carrell, quickly and quietly prepared for the living-room birth.
They set up the medical supplies they might need: oxygen, suction equipment, IV fluids, medication to stop bleeding and stitching supplies.
Dennis filled the birthing pool, the size of a hot tub, with water from a new garden hose hooked to the clothes washer’s warm water spigot.
The lights were dimmed and hypnotic, New Age music played from the stereo in the kitchen.
“God made your body perfectly, and you are capable of having your baby,” Harman, 58, tells her clients. “You have everything you need within you to birth well.”
With all the babies she has delivered, Harman has only had to call 911 once, when a baby’s heart rate dipped too low. By the time the ambulance arrived, the healthy baby had been born.
Harman says she relies heavily on prayer.
“I start praying a month before the birth,” she said. “I clearly ask God for what I need, and God honors that.”

A group effort
Jennifer, a former sixth-grade teacher, planned her home birth right down to the towels she would use to clean up.
She assigned most of the guests a task:
One sister-in-law to make caramels from the book “The Baby Catcher.”
Other sister-in-law to bake a birthday cake.
A friend to put up balloons on the mailbox after the baby was born.
Another in charge of taking pictures.
Her brother to light a fire. Dad, brother’s backup. Her mother to watch 3-year-old Trey.
But if he wanted, Trey could stay for the birth.
“Mommy will have these faces,” she said, showing him scrunched-up looks she could have during a contraction.
Trey laughed.
Dennis teased Jennifer, comparing her planning for the home birth to their 2001 wedding at Meredith College’s Jones Chapel.
Harman came to their home a few weeks before Jennifer’s due date. Dennis called it the rehearsal. He even asked if he should put tape on the floor to indicate where people should stand.
“And I’m the best man,” he said.
Calling everyone
Once Harman arrived, Dennis called everyone on the list of about 20 family members and friends that Jennifer had put together.
“Hey, it’s Dennis,” he said into the cordless phone. “Jennifer’s in labor.”
Friends soon appeared and let themselves in. Daniel and Brie Johnson, Jennifer’s brother and sister-in-law, drove in from Charlotte. Wendy Albano, Dennis’ sister, walked from down the street. And Dan and Carol Johnson, Jennifer’s parents, and Kim Johnson, her little sister, were driving fast from Morehead City.
Jennifer sipped water through a straw in between contractions. Harman squeezed clear liquid on Jennifer’s belly and used a portable fetal heart rate monitor to check the baby’s heart rate.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Jennifer said, adding that she wasn’t ready to get in the tub yet. “It’s so inviting, but I’m nervous to get in. I feel like when I get in there I’m going to go.”
Intense cramps shot through her back.
“Oh, ow,” she said.
“Good job,” Harman whispered.
As the contractions intensified, Jennifer took off everything but her flesh-colored bra and stepped into the warm water.
Another check of the heart rate.
“That’s a happy baby,” Harman declared.
“That one’s in the front, all belly,” Jennifer moaned.
About 9:15 p.m., Harman and Carrell headed into the living room. Jennifer, ever the hostess, had been fretting over her guests, and it was slowing down her labor. Harman wanted her to focus, so she left Jennifer alone with Dennis, Trey and a few friends.
Harman tracked Jennifer’s progress by listening to her moans — Harman referred to them as birth music.
About 15 minutes later, Harman returned to Jennifer’s side. A naked Trey was in the tub splashing around as if it were bath time.
Jennifer’s eyes filled with tears.
“Thank you all for being here,” she said to the family and friends sitting around her.
With the next contraction, she sounded like an opera singer warming up. She hit all the notes.
Trey got out of the water.
“I think I need to push,” Jennifer said, more to herself than anyone else.
“Just let it build and build,” Harman whispered as she sat next to the tub. “You’re doing great.”
“Honey, will you support me some more?” Jennifer asked her husband. “Do something, please!”
Dennis rushed out of the room. He pulled off his shirt and pants with Superman speed and came back wearing red swim trunks. He climbed into the pool.
Jennifer constantly switched positions in the tub, from leaning on Dennis to all fours. She lay quietly between contractions while guests in the kitchen started cooking.
Others sat on the couch, chairs and floor, mesmerized. Harman shined a flashlight in the water to see if the baby’s head was out.
Contractions were every two minutes.
Just as Jennifer started to push, her parents ran into the room.
Harman pulled her long, brown hair back into a ponytail and took off her watch.
“When the baby’s head comes out, stop pushing so I can check for the cord,” Harman quietly instructed.
“It’s there, Nancy, it’s there!” cried Jennifer as she felt the baby’s head between her legs.
One, two, push
Jennifer invited everyone to touch the head, which was covered in black hair. Her sister reached into the water. Others moved to get a better glimpse of the baby’s nose and ears.
“Trey, do you want to touch?” Jennifer asked her son. He shook his head no.
Harman checked the baby’s heart rate, then asked Jennifer to push.
“I can’t push through it. I’m so scared,” Jennifer said.
“Three long pushes back to back,” Harman calmly told her.
“I’m tired,” Jennifer said. “I can’t. Just give me a minute. Can you guide me through the pushes?”
One. Two. With one final push, the baby was out.
“There she is!” Jennifer exclaimed.
She pulled the baby from the water.
“Hi, baby,” she said. “Mommy is so glad to see you.”
Tears flowed from the onlookers. Harman cleared the baby’s nose and mouth, and the newborn let out a big cry.
It was 11:09 p.m., just five hours after Jennifer’s water broke.
Jennifer and Dennis climbed out of the tub, careful not to tug too hard on the umbilical cord, which was still attached to the placenta. Jennifer plunked on the couch next to the pool.
Soon after, Jennifer had more intense contractions. She didn’t remember it hurting like this after Trey was born.
She pushed out the placenta. Harman handed Dennis scissors, and he cut the cord. Then Harman put the afterbirth in a silver serving bowl and examined it to make sure it was normal and healthy.
Dennis held the baby and announced her name to the room.
Caroleen Marie DeWolf, named after Jennifer’s mother, Carol Marie.
Jennifer’s dad passed around birthday cake and glasses of champagne as Dennis offered a toast.
“Thank you all for coming,” he said. “I never dreamed it could be like this. It’s everything Jennifer described and more.”
“To Caroleen.”
Afterward, Dennis said, “That went better than our wedding.”
Jennifer was pleased, too.
“In the hospital when I had a contraction, they made me push through it,” Jennifer said. “This time I wanted to focus on my body and let my body do it.”
Harman filled out paperwork, including documents the family would need to get a birth certificate from Durham County. Then she stitched up Jennifer and took her temperature.
Jennifer’s father emptied the pool water using a pump and the hose placed down the clothes washer’s drain.
Everyone else passed baby Caroleen around.
Jennifer showered in her own bathroom and climbed into her own bed.
Harman then weighed Caroleen.
“You’re not going to believe this,” Harman said.
Caroleen was a whopping 9 pounds, 4 ounces and 21 inches long.
“Get another scale,” Jennifer said in disbelief. “I guess the preemie diapers are going back.”
Pink balloons were tied to the mailbox, and the DeWolfs said goodbye to their guests. They finally went to sleep about 2 in the morning. But now, their king-size bed seemed a little smaller with two children bundled between them.


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