Whose Blog Is This?
Log onto Squarespace
« Let's Critique a Birth Plan | Main | My New Hair »

A Birth Unfolds in Photos & Words

Needing to change to a hospital birth late in pregnancy, my client was able to change to Dr. Wonderful who works at one of the two Baby-Friendly hospitals in our city. His promise to help her have a marvelous natural birth in the hospital wasn't bullshit; his words are Truth.

This first picture, however, demonstrates what occurred when mom was admitted to the hospital. The baby's baseline fetal heart tones were about 100, albeit somewhat reactive. FHTs during the pregnancy were 140's-150's, so 100's were somewhat disconcerting. Dr. Wonderful was called in.

This photo shows mom's sister laying on hands and giving loving energy. Mom is talking to the baby, letting her know she is safe and all is well... dad, as we can see, is concerned, but hanging in there. Mom has oxygen on her and technology all around.

The (wonderful, amazing) nurse (we had) did a vaginal exam and found mom to be 3 cm. The nurse and I began preparing mom for a cesarean - physically and emotionally. I explained the cesarean procedure, the epidural... and the nurse said the anesthesiologist would do a spinal because the spinal would be faster... and I explained things to dad, tried to get his garb for him to put on, but we were busy getting consents signed and all. Waiting for the doctor seemed endless. Fetal heart tones were dipping into the 90's and not getting any higher than 110 with accelerations. I kept calm, but was clear and sharp with the information.

My dear doctor was on the phone at the nurse's station when I went out to go ask his ETA and our nurse said, "Do you want to talk to him?" and I emphatically said, "YES!" before the other nurse hung up and said he was on his way in.

Dr. Wonderful floated into the room like a silk scarf on perfumed air, filled with more confidence and hope than I carried - more like a midwife than I was at that moment.

He did a vaginal exam and immediately, the baby's heart rate jumped to 148! She loved his touch on her head. Oh, and how I did, too. Mom had also progressed to 6 cm. in the last 30 minutes. Amazing!

Tears fell from my eyes as I watched the baby's heart rate settle back down into the low 100's (90's/100's) and the doctor suggested taking a whiff of oxygen every few minutes when she felt like it instead of keeping it on all the time like she had been. He also told her she didn't have to lie on her left side... to move wherever she wanted to - oh, how she wanted to be on her hands and knees! He said the baby was just low, having a vagal response and there was no need for a cesarean at all.

And me, thinking he needed a scalpel. How precipitous I would have been as a surgeon! Thank the goddess it wasn't me making that decision.

The entire labor, my client was extremely vocal, so much so that at one point, the people next door banged on the wall, presumedly to make her be quiet. She, so high in her Laborland (her word), made passing notice, "What's that?" - not, "Oh, am I too loud?" I was so friggin' amused, I joined her howls, getting even louder than her for a few contractions lest she be worried at all about the sounds (she wasn't). No nurse came in to tell her/us to be quiet - that she was scaring the other women or that she was using all her energy in the wrong way or anything. She just howled her baby on down. Yummy!

And so mom moves onto her hands and knees... squats at times, rocks at times... even once jumped up onto her haunches from hands and knees!

I love, Love, LOVE this photo. It speaks of the beauty a hospital birth can actually attain when given a chance with the right doctors, nurses and hospital. And supportive midwife as doula.


Because we thought she would need a cesarean, we had mom take off her gorgeous Hawaiian dress and mom was then naked. The great nurse handed mom a hospital gown once mom knew she was going to stay laboring in that room and she promptly took the gown, put it in front of her and puked all over it. I thought I was going to pee in my pants from laughing so hard. No one ever offered her another gown.

Dr. Wonderful and Nurse Fantastic are seen below with mom as she feels her baby's head as it descends into her vagina. The doctor is on her left side, on the bed; the nurse, kneeling on the floor. Most of the time, I was where the nurse was, but occassionally moved to take photos. Notice that mom's belts have been removed... this is easily many, many minutes before the birth. We/I held the monitor to her belly instead of her having to contend with the strap at the end. I held the monitor on her belly for most of labor so she was able to move around, too. I much prefer hand cramps to a mom's immobilization.

Mom had a couple of exams. The nurse asked to do an exam when mom had an urge to push, but I discouraged it, so she went away. When mom thought she was pushing, I asked her to feel for herself and she felt for the head and it was, indeed there. I couldn't see (my head was down under her, lying on the bed), so Dr. Wonderful just rested his hand on her perineum for one second and said, "Yup, baby's right there," and removed his hand.

I was inches away from mom's perineum as the baby was coming towards the earth and this was the last photo right before Dr. Wonderful put his hands in the way and covered the head as the baby was being born. (I'm going to have to speak to him about that!) This series of minute forward motion head shots is so incredible because I can see the capillaries stretching/breaking in mom's vulva as the head descends. Who knew all that happened!

The baby girl, tightly squeezing out... her head had been suffused, so her body is quite white. The doctor does have gloves on, but they are surgical gloves, so it almost looks like he doesn't have any on at all. He is not pulling her at all, but allowing her to come out all on her own. He is very gentle on "his" babies... allowing them to do their own thing and never pulling on them. In fact, I was more concerned about a stuck shoulder than he was. He smiled at me when I put the camera down and asked if he needed help. I'm laughing at how funny that must have sounded to him now, but at the time - and how accessible he is to me - it doesn't sound absurd at all. He just smiled and the baby came out nice and slow... slipping out roll by roll by roll... all 8 pounds 8 ounces of her.

Before the baby was born, the nurse came up to me and asked, "Does mom and dad want Vitamin K and Erythromin for the baby?" and I answered they did not and thanks for asking. She didn't bat an eye and nothing more was said about it. When things got closer, I let mom and dad know things had already been covered regarding the baby. They were glad they didn't have to do it. Me, too! How cool to have a nurse come to me, eh?

Because the baby had a tight squeeze and because there was a goodly sized caput, I was wondering if the baby might not need Vitamin K after all. Dr. Wonderful checked the baby over and said, "Nahhhh, she's fine."


Do you see the doctor in this picture? He's the one not in scrubs. The one in the yellow shirt.

Dad wasn't sure about catching, was going to help me catch when we were having a homebirth, but wasn't so sure about it at the hospital. Once there, though, I'd talked him into helping the doc and even had him practice washing his hands with the fancy foot soap and water thingie at the sink. Once the doctor was there, though, he was more nervous, but as things got closer, I put my midwife voice on and said, "You will only birth this child ONE TIME, so I HIGHLY suggest..." and that was as far as I needed to go before he jumped up and washed his hands and got ready to help the doc catch his baby.

The picture below is the beautiful photo of dad (who does NOT have gloves on, thank goodness!) assisting Dr. Wonderful with his newborn daughter.

In 24 years and 8 months of assisting women in birth in the hospital, I have never seen a woman birth on hands and knees. I've never seen an OB or a CNM allow a woman to birth in the hands and knees position. I have never seen an OB do a vaginal exam on a woman in any position except on her back until this birth when this doctor did a vaginal exam with mom on her hands and knees. I actually wondered if he could even find her vagina with her on her hands and knees! He didn't have any problems at all. Shocking. I think I've seen a CNM do a vaginal exam on a woman in an "alternative" position maybe 20 times in all these years, so even that is a sad commentary. I tell women I can find their vagina or fetal heart tones if they are hanging from chandeliers! How did I get so good at it? PRACTICE!

Anyway, so here my client has her baby on her hands and knees... her husband helps the doc catch and it is amazingly wonderful, but now mom needs to see her new daughter. How does that happen?

In most hospital worlds (as if any of the above would have happened in the first place), the cord would be cut, mom would be flipped over, the bed would be broken, mom would have her feet placed in the stirrups so she could have her vagina checked and she'd get her baby that way.

Instead, Dr. Wonderful, who's not wearing scrubs and only a pair of surgical gloves, doesn't cut the cord and knows how important it is to just give mom her kidlet says, "Okay, mom... here comes your daughter... ready?" And then passes her between her legs.

I love, Love, LOVE that I have this picture! There won't be many times in my life that I will have a photo such as this. This is a DOCTOR (I know, I shouldn't be shocked anymore, should I? But I am. I am mostly shocked that I am blessed to be in the same room and photographing such an awe-inspiring event that brings hope to hospital birth everywhere).

Nothing needs to be said about a mother's love. This picture is my desktop right now. I think this is one of the best pictures I have ever done showing a mother and child. I get shivers just looking at it! The shadows are perfect, the lights... the IV... all of it... her daughter isn't even 3 minutes old in this picture.

I end the series with a tender surprise photo I took of Dr. Wonderful with my client. He embraced her, then she him. He with tears in his eyes and both of them whispering thanks to each other.

To have witnessed the cruelty and evil of so many other (un)care providers in over two decades of birth work, I splash in the absolute pleasure of experiencing birth in a hospital with my guard down, not worrying about saving my client from having her birth plan ripped to shreds or having her baby taken from her by Child Protective Services for being one of "those" mothers. There's always so much to watch out for in the hospital... we all have to be Cerberus to feel safe (and even that isn't nearly enough, now is it?).

So, it just seemed so important to demonstrate how it CAN be. It might not be for anyone else in the world but this one mom - or the moms who get this one amazing doctor - but if this one man can exist, then there is hope in hospital birth. It doesn't mean hospital birth replaces homebirth at all. My client needed to birth in the hospital for a very serious reason and she was so amazingly gracious about moving to the hospital to deliver there. So, if some women do have to deliver in the hospital... isn't it a good thing to have hope?

I live for hope.

Baby Madeline Joyous was born August 12, 2007 at 2:41 am after 6 hours of labor.

She is gorgeous!

(more pics of the baby to come when I take some)

References (2)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (92)

The client has given me permission to discuss why she had to go to the hospital instead of staying at home and instead of discussing it here, I will make it a separate blog piece.

Look for the blog piece that discusses Late Pregnancy Systemic GBS.

I went to Dr. Wonderful's office yesterday and have some cool things to share about that, too. Another blog piece there, too.

Time to hop off this one and start writing about different things again. :)

August 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Hey Barb, I found your blog by accident. I am so glad I did! What a WONDERFUL birth...I hope all hospital births end this way.
We are good..Abby is 4 months on sunday! WOW!

August 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDebstmomy

Those photos are beautiful! If you don't mind me asking, what camera do you use? Mine tends to have these annoying delays right when I'm trying to grab that perfect shot..

August 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie

This was an amazing entry, and really very important to the whole culture of birth in this country. I am amazed--pleasantly-- by what was accomplished in this situation.

If you don't mind the suggestion, I hope you post that crowning series you mention. I have *never* seen birth pictures like this and I think they are so empowering.

August 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter~L~

Beautiful! I just wanted to add that when I birthed my daughter at UCSD, I was on all fours and the CNM did not try to get me to change position. I was lucky that I didn't have an IV or any intervention. Regardless, next time around I'm birthing at home!

August 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLynnSofia

wow, that was amazing. am i the only one who thought that dr was totally sexy in his yellow shirt?

August 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

What a wonderful story [teary]. I wish this was the norm.

August 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Elaine at Wannabehippied linked this over at MamaSaysOm. Simply beautiful, and wonderfully shared. Brought tears to my eyes. Wish my births had gone like that! What a great doctor.

August 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMandy

Stuff like this reminds me why I want to be a midwife, and part of the birth process some day.

I could only have wished for such an incredible Dr at my births.

And I had stopped getting teary until I read Grandmama's post, and then I started all over again!

thank you! Thank the family! What a wonderful gift!

August 21, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterthordora

Amazing story, even more amazing photos.

We have a practice like that here in Phoenix. I've been to two births with them, with two different docs. One got down on the floor to do a vaginal exam, the other didn't do a single check the entire time. One mama birthed STANDING on her bed holding the squat bar, the other birthed leaning over the bed while doc sat down on the floor to catch baby (truly, that birth was more hands off than many home births I have seen). Truly amazing (Central Phoenix OBGyn for anyone wondering - Dr. Whitehead (no longer practicing) and Dr. Thompson.


August 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJeanette

I've never commented before but often read!
Thanks for posting this. Stunning, stunning photos.

I have had two births, both hospital births and both induced (ARM and syntocinon - I believe you call it pitocin in the US, I am in Australia)

My 2nd birth, my daughter, last year was a similarly amazing birth for a hospital

I was induced at my request against my OB's wishes

prostin gel at 10pm and 6am, ARM and syntocinon at 9am, baby born at 2pm

No drugs. Baby monitored when waters broken and after that only by doppler. Spent labour on ball, then on hands and knees in show and then standing over the bed. Baby was born with me standing over bed, doctor behind. Doctor caught her and passed her through my legs to me as I sunk into the chair behind me.

Only VEs were performed at my request and I was not lieing down for either. In fact after the fetal monitor was removed after 15 mins (after ARM) I refused to get back on the bed!

I had a very anti-intervention OB, an amazing OB and a wonderful hubby. And huge resolve to birth my daughter as naturally as possible.

Your photos of this birth are just amazing. THANK YOU for sharing them

August 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRae


where is this hospital? please say in connecticut! i'm having a 2nd home birth, but i'd love to refer my doula clients to it.

August 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermommymichael

As far from CT as you can get. We're in San Diego. Sorry! I say visualize one in CT!

August 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Oh how wonderful! So much in fact, it made me cry.

August 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTheknittingidiot

That was wonderful to look at. I am in tears with the beauty of it.
Thanks for sharing!

August 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSheridan

This is a beautiful narrative. I linked to this post on my blog (as my husband and I are TTC). I hope you don't mind.

August 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKelly Gorski

Loved your blog, I have just started a face book for midwives and student midwives, can we add your blog as a link??? Come join us, I only just started so need some funny entertaining stories...

August 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMeegan

What a beautiful blog. I love the pictures included, particularly the last one. It's unusual to see a doctor's emotions. Even more unusual to hear of such an incredible doctor who believes in natural birth. That man is marvelous.

August 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMamaStace

I loved all of those photos but that last one made me teary. Dr. Wonderful, indeed. If we could all be so lucky to have caring people helping us along!

August 25, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterradical mama

Awesome story. What a gift to that family, and Dr. Wonderful that you were able to catch those moments for them! Keep up the precious work. Thanks for letting us know about Dr. Wonderful. I trust he will continue to make personal, the care he gives to mothers and families during that empowering time! Hurray!

August 26, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterbirthwisdom

Love the story. Love the photos! Awesome photography. I am so glad you have such a wonderful, supportive doc to work with. Do you think he can clone himself for the rest of us??!

I would like to add though, that many of us CNM's do indeed attend births and catch babies in whatever position mom wants: squatting, hands and knees, side-lying, on the floor, standing...you name it, I think I've done it.

For the moms and for the babies...

August 27, 2007 | Unregistered Commentercnmnancy

That was truly one of the most incredible birth stories I've read in a long time. What a "wonderful" doctor he is - he is beautiful and so are you. I am very touched by this birth and the lovely pictures. Thank you for sharing this inspiring story.

August 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

Thank you for sharing that. Stunning.

August 28, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjoy

This wonderful story moved me to tears. Dr Wonderful should be lauded publicly. I hope he is teaching other doctors to listen bravely to mothers and meet the needs of mothers and their babies in labor, delivery and beyond.
Thank you for sharing this story. I also thank my daughter for sending me the link. I will send it on to my doctor husband, brother and medical student son.

August 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMargot

Wow, wish I could get a doc like that. The closest I had was my first doctor, and I still was on my back. She did stand beside me after baby was born and lean on the rail with her head resting on her hand. She just looked at me and my baby and smiled wide. She suddenly said, "so, when are you having another one, that was such a nice birth and this is such a beautiful child." I was very happy that she gave me such a nice comment. She also had turned my sunny side up baby, which I was amazed to know you could do. She didn't hurt me when she did it, so I wonder how it can be done. Baby came down easily and I had one stitch (firstborn, remember). The nurse was good too that day, when I felt the urge to push before I was complete she just said, "go ahead and do little pushes." I only pushed total for 15 minutes and it was a gentle delivery that way. I, unfortunately consented to IV and to having my bag of waters broken, I think I could have gone without that...but no one offered meds or anything else the whole time, nor restricted my movement except that they encouraged pushing in that semisitting position...

August 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

just gorgeous photos. especially the one of baby's head starting to peak out. thank you so much for sharing this.

Dear Navelgazer, I know you've probably put this to rest, but would you consider sharing one of your older posts in my oldie but goodie carnival formerly known as Refried/Remix now known as Reloaded. If there's anything older that you really enjoyed writing and reading that you'd like to repost, here's your opportunity. thanks. and again, beautiful photos.

September 1, 2007 | Unregistered Commenters2

s2: Can you tell me where it would go? What topic? Something YOU want me to bring out of hiding?

September 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

This is so beautiful, thank you for sharing =)

September 2, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersashanova

Wow! What an amazing story! =D

September 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPunkyzNena

Came across your blog randomly from another blog and just happened to catch this story. I am days (maybe hours??) away from the birth of my first baby and this story and these pics are awe-inspiring. My husband and I are planning a home birth with our midwife team and the thought of transfering to hospital doesn't enthuse me at all. I'm pretty sure the OBs here are NOT like Dr. Wonderful - but it is soooo refreshing to know that he exists! Thank you (and Mom and Dad) for sharing such a beautiful story!

September 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJen

After reading this post I just sat with my 8 week old in my arms and kissed my almost 4 year old and just felt such joy.

I birthed my first at a birth center - the second at home. But I was always grateful the hospital was there if it was needed. And I prayed I could have it like this if I needed it.

I'm glad to have done it at home, but I'm so grateful to see this and start to picture this for women who make the hospital choice - no matter when they choose the hospital route in their pregnancy.

Thank you!

October 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAlora

Wow, that was amazing. Please tell that doctor to travel to Miami, FL, I have a friend that needs him LOL

November 7, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteryasmel

This is probably the most beautiful hospital birth story I will ever have the pleasure of reading.

This doctor gave so much to that mom buy just accepting that her body knows how to birth a baby. He didn't panic or show her worry, which is always benefical.

And this doctor, has forever been touched by birth. My favorite picture is the "Thank You" photo. He is truly a diamond in the rough, and may he never have the 'birth burn out'. What a lucky community to have such a wonderful Dr. Wonderful!

December 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJari

That's it! I'm packing up and moving to San Diego the instant I am lucky enough to become pregnant. I just found your blog yesterday, just read this entry today, and it is beautiful.

Congratulations to all.

January 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKris

As a mother of 5 and a homebirth mother, I am just worried you are going overboard worshipping this doctor. I wouldn't be encouraging intimacy with him either, the mother might bond with him and not the father. I am confused as to why she had to go to hospital in the first place. I delivered myself although I had a midwife, be careful, as you are influencing a lot of women.

February 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAussie Mum

I am hardly "worshipping" this man. I am honoring an OB that could possibly influence many, many other OBs and create a much better environment for the women who choose to birth in the hospital (or have to deliver in the hospital)... of which 99% do.

My client had a systemic infection that was resistant to treatment during the pregnancy, therefore had to be in the hospital for some serious antibiotics during labor. There's more, but that's enough (and she did say I could share, so not exposing anything private).

Also, I know the relationship with parents after the births and they are strong and tight. While they are grateful and thrilled with Dr. Wonderful, no one speaks about leaving their husbands for him.

"Intimacy" is in the eye of the beholder and it is obvious that MANY, MANY women wish they could have a doctor that is more intimate than what they have or had. If *I* had to choose steel-cold clinical or the intimacy Dr. Wonderful offers, I would choose his warmth any day of the week. I respect a doctor that remembers my name, that speaks to me looking in my eyes and that holds and loves my children as if they were his.

I *hope* I am influencing women! I hope doctors see this and are snapped to attention about their nasty and cold ways and choose to do something different.

If *you* are uncomfortable with his "intimacy," you are free to choose a doctor that doesn't offer that. There are, as we know, millions and millions of them.

February 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I loved this story and pictures! Giving birth to my second in the hospital I was BLESSED to have a midwife who let me labor any position and in the jacuzzi as well. She caught my baby as I pushed him out on my hands and knees (well, more like elbows). So awesome and such a joy to have that experience in a hospital.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Masterson

Proof yet again that birth is an intensely spiritual and energetic event.

October 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterColleen G.

I keep returning to this post to view these pictures and read the story again. Very special.

May 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJMT

Thank you for sharing this beautiful birth. It brought tears to my eyes. Luckily the Midwives here in Scotland are very open to helping mothers have the birth experience they desire and it makes me happy to know that other mothers are supported in the same way. He is an amazing doctor.

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMoxie

Hey...how'd you post MY birth experience with Dr. Biter?...
wait...I don't have a tat, and I have longer hair...but it was the same exact, incredible, life-changing experience for our family. Dr. Biter was our trusted friend (not the man in the white coat lording over the whole process) he allowed nature to take it's amazing course and for me to bring my daughter into the world in a loving, safe and welcoming environment. Shame on Scripps Encinitas for trying to rob other women and babies of such a beautiful caregiver.

May 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSage

This was beautiful and moving. I have to give HUGE kudos to Dr. Wonderful!

I had a similar experience in a hospital with my 2nd and 3rd. My Dr. was willing to let me labor and deliver in ANY way I felt like. Any other Dr. would have wanted to do a C-section with me expecting 9 pounders being slender and 5 feet tall. They wouldn't have risked the possibility of the baby getting stuck. I HAD BOTH NATURAL WITH NO COMPLICATIONS DURING DELIVERY.


So if anyone needs a Dr. Wonderful in central Florida...

July 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.