This letter was testimony for the Medical Board of California and is used with grateful permission of the author. Tonya Brooks did assist with the training of the midwife.
Re: Homebirths by Midwives
To the Midwifery Task Force,
Ten years ago today, my son was born. He was a VBAC, born at home under the watchful loving eye of two midwives. To this day, I am forever indebted to my midwives for their professional skills, loving instincts and committed endurance to see me through my labor. I am grateful every time I look at my son that I was given the choice to experience a vaginal birth and be conscious to the miracle coming from my body.
Seven years prior to that, I gave birth to my first son, a c-section. The experience I endured, the emotional and physical scars that marked me, still haunt me to this day. Not only was I determined to have a VBAC with my second child. I was adamant about not having another c-section. I could probably write a book on my two birthing experiences and how extreme the contrasts were. I tragically suffered three miscarriages after that c-section before my second child was born. This was most likely due to the scarring tissue from the c-section I was forced into (I did not want it), several invasive procedures during my labor and the infection I contracted which was not identified until three days after the surgery. My midwives guided and supported me using techniques that were not made available to me by doctors at my first birth. They supported me by doing gentle exercises to help open the pelvic floor, bring the baby’s head over my cervix so I could dilate and made sure I stayed hydrated in a natural way so that a full bladder would not hinder the baby’s head from dropping down (unlike most hospital procedures). They calmed and involved my family. They provided an atmosphere of trust and security so that I could maintain the faith that I could do this. Never did they try to scare me into a c-section as was done at my first birth by doctors.
Midwives are trained professionals who do a wonderful job of educating mother’s about the birthing process. Without them, we would be at a serious loss of medical practice which we so desperately need in our society. They are best suited to guide a mother through a VBAC, as they are nurturing, patient, skillful and committed. You are wrong to undermine the healing, empowering benefits of a mother and child experiencing a vaginal birth. It is crucial to the complete health of the emotional, mental, physical, psychological, and spiritual bodies in each individual.
No man, institution, or government should be allowed to take away a woman’s right to birth her child by her own body and through the birth canal. We need to be educating woman of the self-empowerment and emotional healing process a vaginal birth provides for mother, child and all those present; rather than scaring them into c-sections.
My VBAC experience was magnificent for the whole family. I am a CPA by profession. I have the ability to make informed, educated decisions for myself. I speak freely to women and men I come into contact with about the values of vaginal birth. Education eliminates fear. Knowledge reduces pain. We are a pained society when we encourage and provide a higher support system for cutting up our mothers through what should be a natural, empowering and healing experience. What kind of society have we become when we can raise a flag and be proud that more and more of our citizens are born under the knife? Do you really think that the birthing experience has no impact on how a person later lives their life and that the subconscious messages stored from a baby’s introduction into this world? Think again.
Most sincerely committed to the continued practice of midwifery and the VBAC experience.
I write this story to share my wonderful experience of childbirth at the Natural Birth and Women’s Center. I believe it was because of midwife Tonya Brooks as well as the assistance of Johanna and Erin that my labor and delivery went so smoothly.
When I arrived at the Natural Birth and Women’s Center at 11:00pm Johanna and Erin greeted me at the door. They began by expressing their excitement and joy about my having gone into labor. Unlike the chaotic, impersonal environment I had seen portrayed on television when a woman in labor enters a hospital I felt like a celebrated woman who had just entered a party being thrown in her honor. Johanna and Erin’s cool, collected demeanors instantly calmed my nerves. This was my first pregnancy so I had never experienced contractions before. They took me to my birthing room (a room filled with soft lights, Victorian style décor and the feeling of instant familiarity) and did their best to make me comfortable. Johanna quickly but carefully assessed my progression and asked if I prefer to stand or lie down. When I told her I felt much better standing up she escorted me as I walked the hallways between contractions.
I felt so at ease walking the hallways in my own clothes, at my own pace, in my own way. When Tonya arrived she asked if I was comfortable and suggested I try lying down in the birthing pool for a while. It was only after I was settled in the warm water that she gently checked to see how far dilated I was. I really felt in control of my own labor and thanks to Tonya’s insistence that a woman in labor must follow her intuition I felt confident my body would continue to tell me what I needed to labor in the most effective and comfortable way possible.
When I reached 8 centimeters I found I really needed support from others. Every time a contraction came on, Tonya was right there to let me squeeze her hand and help me focus on breathing. Her ability to find my eyes and make me look at her was tremendous. There was something about the intensity of her gaze that made me feel calm despite my being in full blown labor.
What struck me about Tonya was how steady and consistent she was. Even when I seemed to be in too much pain to look at her and keep up with her breathing she did not become frustrated with me. When I told her I didn’t think I could stand the pain any longer she reassured me I had the ability and the mindset to finish. Regardless of how my mood changed, Tonya remained firm in her determination to see me through my labor, helping me to access a self confidence I was unaware I possessed.
As my labor peaked and transition tried to get the best of me Tonya motivated me to continue. Using words of encouragement she reminded me of my inner strength and pushed me to keep going. It was during transition that I became most aware of Tonya’s brilliance as a Doula and labor coach. She was not attempting to do the work of labor for me or even with me. She was empowering me to complete the necessary process on my own – step by step – until the baby could be delivered.
It struck me later how difficult this method of support must have been for Tonya to implement and maintain, for in the midst of labor it is close to impossible to convince a woman she has enough power to get through anything! I didn’t want to do it on my own. I wanted someone to do it for me. What is unique about the way Tonya supported me through my labor is that her methods were not just meant to help in a single birth. Rather, her ability to help me identify and use my strength has prepared me for future pregnancies, labors and births, and any other difficult events life may throw at me.
After I delivered a healthy baby boy I needed to be stitched up for a few minor tears. Because I found the stitching painful Johanna and Erin held my hands while Tonya carefully but gently completed the repairs. Tonya also took that opportunity to remind me of how much I’d been through in the past few hours and how much I’d grown. She described moments during labor when I’d shown strength, courage and patience. She highlighted times when I’d acted calm or confident. Before I knew it the stitching was done.
It was because of the staff at the NBWC I can remember the positive and beautiful moments of my labor and delivery. Just as in labor when Tonya helped me to focus on my inner strength, in my memories she showed me how to focus on what went well and motivate me to tap into what qualities I can count on to be successful again. I appreciate the NBWC because their techniques seek to serve the present moment as well as the long term. The confidence I feel having given birth under the careful watch of the NBWC helps me to know I can and will have another positive natural childbirth experience. As I write this story I am one month away from giving birth to my second child in the NBWC. I cannot express how excited I am to experience childbirth again knowing I have such an incredible team of women to guide me through it.
I was seeing a midwife at a hospital who stated that my baby was too big and that I would have to receive a Cesarean section and that I had no choice in the matter. I called Tonya Brooks who said that she would see me at 38 weeks. Tonya really took a lot of time in my initial examination to determine if I could actually deliver this child naturally. I was given very exact handlings and information on how to handle this. She stated that with my body and the size of my first child, I would be able to have this child naturally. Two days later I had my baby after 3 1/2 hours of labor and no tears, infections, or complications whatsoever! It was easy and we were ok’d to leave almost five hours later. Now we are still doing fine. Thanks to Tonya, I had a beautiful baby girl and an easy labor and recover. If I hadn’t come to Tonya I would probably still be recovering from the surgery.
My husband and I took the Birth Center classes and our son was born at the Gentle Birth Center.
I felt completely informed about what was going to happen and how to stay “on top” of the birth experience – which was important for a first-time mother of age 37!
It was not an easy birth, but Tonya and the Birth Center staff were with me all the way – competent, encouraging, and uncompromising in their determination (in agreement with my own) to have a drug-free, natural, vaginal birth.
I know that if I were in a hospital, I would have had to have had a Cesarean. Not so here. The complications were completely handled, and the baby monitored the entire time to ensure he was in no danger. All this in a pleasant, home-like environment.
It’s hard to express the gratitude I feel for the service at the Gentle Birth Center. Not only do they really know their stuff – complete competence and up-to-date medical handlings (where needed) – but they really care, and respect you, your baby, and your family as unique and self-determined individuals. Whenever a friend is pregnant or planning on it, I always insist they have the baby in liaison with the Gentle Birth Center. It’s simply the BEST!
Thanks again, and I will see you for my next one!
I waited so long to have a second baby. When I realized that I was going to have a baby I had 5 people tell me about the Natural Birth Center.
Tonya worked with me and I only gained 11 lbs. Tonya really knew what to do as problems arose, and she had a natural answer. That meant a lot to me, not using drugs was what I wanted.
My baby had to come early as I was going into preclampsia. The birth was longer than I had expected, but drug-free and beautiful.
The amount of help we received from Tonya was invaluable and was worth more than we had hoped for. It was greatly appreciated – thanks!
J.S. & K.S.
Wow! I now have a little girl. What a wonderfully perfect product!
This is my first baby and I was only in labor for 6 hours. My labor was very good & quiet for the most part.
The things that made it easier to deliver were: 1) my husband pushing down on my hips to help open the bones up more & counter pressure, 2) the reminder of different breaths/pants, 3) the TR3 to push & how to, and 4) the back up of our birthing team together.
Eight and a half years ago, Tonya helped deliver my daughter Gracie. I ended up in the hospital with an emergency Cesarean, and even though Tonya had halted me on such procedures, I never thought I would have one. So, I was extremely grateful that Tonya was by my side throughout the entire procedure, even though this was the eighth baby she had delivered that week and she was suffering from some sort of physical ailment that was causing her a great deal of stress.
As most babies go, Gracie was ready to come in the wee hours of the morning. The surgeon wanted permission to train a surgeon during the procedure. Since we both had wanted as close to a Dianetic birth as possible, she instructed the surgeon that he was not allowed to speak at all during the operation. Also, the room was kept quite warm and the lights as low as they could be in a hospital setting. The surgeon and the rest of the staff kept silent throughout the procedure until Gracie was out, when the doctor stated gleefully, “It’s a girl! Look at all the hair!” Everyone in the room laughed and Gracie looked around the room a bit surprised but quite alert.
This is a moment I will never forget and I know it would not have been possible without Tonya in control. My child is very healthy and happy because she had a safe entry into the world. I couldn’t have had a lovelier experience.
My name is Leilani. I was born June 8th, 1998, at the birth center. It was quite an experience! I was a pretty big baby for my mommy’s size (9 lbs., 21 ins.). It was a challenging birth, but Tonya, Lili, Mom & Dad were great! And we pulled it off! The environment had an empowering energy. I loved the quiet, relaxing bath Lili gave me right after birth, and I especially enjoyed having some private time with mom & dad!
Tonya took really good care of my mommy throughout her pregnancy, keeping her in top shape with wise nutrition advice and thorough recommendations on any health concerns. Mom & Dad also took Tonya’s ACHI classes, which were truly an eye-opener and very informational!
Tonya has so much experience and she carries a unique insightful intuition. Thank you for making my coming into this world as natural as possible. You & Lili have been so kind & supportive. You two are a one of a kind team! Continue the wonderful job that you dedicate yourselves to, so that my potential brother or sister and many other babies can be as lucky as I have been.
Thank you also to the rest of the staff at the center, for making each visit a pleasurable and empowering experience.
Tonya & Lili, thank you for making it possible for us to cherish this first birth experience!