The benefits of family-centered birth care began to emerge over the last decades. Initially, this model of care started in the fields of pediatrics and geriatrics. The importance of keeping children with their family members and including families as a whole in their care plan positively impacted physical and emotional outcomes. However, over time it has grown into many other areas of medicine and brought much-needed changes to how we approach and view care and the active roles patients play in their care.
Patient- and family-centered care is working “with” patients and families, rather than just doing “to” or “for” them.Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care
I’d love to share how this approach benefits birth experiences both at home and in the hospital setting. This post will focus on home births. This beautiful birth is a prime example of how it can look in the home setting.
Home birth provides the perfect setting for emphasizing family-centered birth care, after all, it is the birth of not just your baby, but your family as a whole, however it may look!
Of course, not everyone is a candidate for home birth, and delivering safely is always the best option. Always follow the advice of your care provider and be sure to explore and examine if home birth is a safe option for you.
As a labor and delivery nurse from 2000-2019, I enjoyed seeing many benefits of family-centered birth care emerge in my field. Patients and their families were empowered to participate actively in their care. The evolving emphasis on keeping moms and babies together, especially in those vital first hours, changed over my career for the better. Birth spaces became more family-friendly and much more comfortable and relaxed spaces. I learned firsthand how vital including family is in helping patients feel supported physically and emotionally.
During the pandemic, when families were separated from each other, and birth spaces became more and more restrictive, it felt like we had taken ten steps backward. Mothers were away from their children at home for more extended periods. Mothers weren’t allowed to have more than one support person present. It felt like a big gap had formed in the model of family-centered birth care.
I have loved being present in more and more home births in my role as a birth photographer, and I would have to say that this is part of the home and birth center births that has had the most significant impact on me; the stress on the family as the center. Also, during the pandemic, I saw more and more women turn to options outside of the hospitals, and this type of care was often the driving force.
As a labor and delivery nurse from 2000-2019, I enjoyed seeing many benefits of family-centered birth care emerge in my field. Patients and their families were empowered to participate actively in their care. The evolving emphasis on keeping moms and babies together, especially in those vital first hours, changed over my career for the better. Birth spaces became more family-friendly and much more comfortable and relaxed spaces. I learned firsthand how essential including family is in helping. One of the primary benefits of family-centered birth is the empowerment it gives families as they play an active role in their plan of care. With communication between patients and their midwives, a safe care plan can be arrived upon. It is a team approach, with families actively choosing who is present in their birth space between midwives, doulas, and ancillary staff versus being cared for by strangers. With active planning with their birth team, decisions can be made on spaces utilized, water birth versus land birth, and family members’ roles.
I have found in my experience that family members play a much more active role in this setting. It makes sense as these are the spaces they are most comfortable in, and family members and friends know you the best.
Patients can more easily change positions in this setting, often utilizing the comfortable spaces in their homes, such as showers and bathtubs, to living spaces, such as bedrooms. I’ve even followed some of my clients on walks in the neighborhood to keep things moving along. The patient’s birth team most often tends to follow the mom’s directions on what feels comfortable versus directing it.
This family is a perfect example of family-centered care at home. This mother had given birth to two of her children in the hospital setting, and although she had good experiences, the idea of not being able to have her family around her swayed her decisions. She delivered mid-Covid and wouldn’t have been able to have her husband, children, parents, and aunts present. Family is very important to her and affected her decision on where she believed it was best for her to give birth. Well-Rounded Mama helped this family create their perfect birth story.
Because families have actively chosen their birth team, their wishes and fears are well-known before the day they give birth. This adds layers of personalized care and adds dignity for families. Although I believe this type of care is achievable in all birth settings, a home birth adds the history of already knowing families and developing relationships with them. Their chances of everyone present in their birth space knowing them adds an extra layer of trust.
Although her family wasn’t always in the space she labored in, they were continually close by. Her children were asleep just on the other side of this wall, and her aunts and mother spoke encouraging words over her from the same area.
One of the most significant changes I witnessed in my nursing career was the shift towards uninterrupted bonding between mom and baby during the first hour. Things that parents had long advocated for, like the baby remaining with mom that first hour, delayed cord clamping, waiting on medications, and measurements were done on mom’s chest, finally had come to fruition. But, of course, this has been standard in home births all along.
It is one of my favorite aspects to witness in home births. Midwives are hands-off (unless interventions are needed) and sit by for those first essential moments of skin-to-skin, breastfeeding, and bonding. Then, when the parents are ready, they step in for newborn assessments. It doesn’t feel rushed, and it is beautiful to see. Instead, they spend that time feeding and hydrating mom as needed, getting her to the shower (if she wants), and providing a pleasant environment for mom, baby, and the entire family.
Because families are in a familiar environment, they feel comfortable in their beds, their children feel comfortable interacting and meeting their new baby, and all comfort items are close by.
The Empowered Start names some of the many benefits to mom and baby for skin-to-skin including:
-Mothers are more likely to breastfeed during the first four months of life.
-Studies that followed moms and babies for one year found that mothers were also more likely to bond with their newborns.
-Mothers are less likely to have anxiety and experience more satisfaction with their birth experience as a whole.
-Newborns are more likely to have stable heart rates, breathing, blood sugars, and oxygen levels.
There are many resources and evidence-based studies to support this practice.
Her sons were able to come in and out of the space as they felt comfortable meeting their new baby brother. They were all immediately smitten, of course!
Women have given birth with women present much of history. Having the wisdom and support of those that have gone before you is not only helpful, but also adds an additional layer of trust, and improved experience for mothers.
I hope you enjoy their beautiful birth film. It is full of support and care from her beautiful birth team and family.
Stay tuned for my post about how to have a family-centered birth experience in the hospital setting and how you can advocate for it.
Tuesday, February 28th, 2023
I am so excited to finally share this beautiful Las Vegas home birth story.
Once again, I am behind on my blog posts, but I am committed to getting each birth story up, not only because they are beautiful and full of emotion but also because each is unique and special.
What I love about this birth story is that there are so many beautiful elements and layers of support woven in from her husband who never left her side, to her sweet pups that were nearby at all times patiently waiting, and her midwives who held and supported her when she began to doubt she could.
Be sure to follow along to the end to see their beautiful and powerful birth story in film.
Deanna called me on a Saturday morning to let me know that she had been contracting since before sunrise and that they were staying consistent as well as increasing in intensity. The funny thing is that she had a feeling that this particular day would be her son’s delivery date, and she was right! She told me she would call me back when she was ready for me, and I got that call just a few hours later. So mid-morning, I joined them.
She was doing so well moving around to whatever position she felt most comfortable, and that changed from standing, to the birthing ball, to rocking on the bed. You could feel the anticipation in the room. She was able to talk through her contractions, and we had some sweet conversations about how they met and their history together; I love hearing families stories about how it all began.
Her midwife team arrived early afternoon and got right to making sure she was hydrated and had some healthy nutrition on board, as well as checking on baby and mom’s vital signs. It was such a beautiful early summer day, so they decided to try and get things moving and went for a walk.
Her contractions did increase in intensity with the physical activity, and she began to turn inward more, and we all gave her the space to labor. You can feel that shift when moms have a strong birth team; it is a very sacred feeling when the room begins to ground itself, and the chatter fades to quiet support.
She spent some time in the water and tried to find the most comfortable position for her. After some time in the water, she decided to get out and spend some time on the birthing ball she had found comfort on earlier. By this point, it was getting a bit harder to rest between her contractions, but she continued to stay focused and grounded through each wave.
By now it was early evening and she was moving into the transition stage of labor. Her contractions were coming closer together, and she leaned into her support team. I have seen mothers begin to doubt themselves during this stage of labor; there is often so much going on physically between intense contractions, nausea, shaking, and pressure. She began to doubt herself and her husband, and midwives were there to physically and verbally support her with position changes and encouraging periods of rest. This stage lasted late into the night, and this mama was so exhausted.
By now, she was feeling pressure and the urge to push and spent some time in this stage of labor, and finding a comfortable position was increasingly difficult. There is a reason they call the toilet ‘the dilation station’; it is often where women instinctually go with that intense pelvic pressure, and sitting on the toilet helps to open the pelvis and allow the baby to come down. When her sweet babe decided to come, it happened so quickly that she only had time to get to the space directly outside her bathroom.
Because of the baby’s position and he was delivered, there was some perineal tearing and quite a bit of blood loss. Poor Deanna was not feeling well at this point and was trying hard to enjoy and savor every moment. Because of the difficulty keeping her vital signs stable, they decided to transfer to the hospital.
Luckily, I was able to come and document a sweet Fresh session for them when they were all home safe and sound.
Thursday, October 27th, 2022
I am so excited to finally share the birth of Javier Cesar, a beautiful family-centered birth story.
I have been anxiously awaiting a break in work to catch up on my blog. Unfortunately, I am months and months behind; this birth took place last April (2021)!
I love blogging these stories because seeing them as a whole shows how much storytelling there is in birth. The beautiful story that is birth begins months before you even meet. It starts in the planning, dreaming, hoping, praying, and in all the anticipation before your baby’s arrival even begins. Birth is the beautiful climax of your baby’s story. I believe there is no more life-altering and life-changing moment in our lives. So to witness it and capture it for families is such a blessing, and a responsibility I don’t take lightly!
Michelle found me in her second trimester as she searched for a birth photographer in her area. She reached out, and we talked about her hopes and wishes in documenting her birth. She and her family lived in St. George, UT, a town located an hour and a half north of me. Their birth would be the furthest I had ever traveled for a birth story. As we talked through her plans and wishes, we immediately connected and decided to move forward with lots of communication to make sure I had as much window as possible to make the drive and arrive in time. This was also their fourth baby, which added another layer of worry as she had gone pretty quickly with her last delivery.
Michelle is a truly special woman! I immediately admired her passion and drive, and her beautiful heart. She is also a talented birth photographer located in North Port, FL, an Ayurveda herbal specialist, military veteran, has even become a doula since her last birth!
This was their first homebirth and first son, so it of course was going to be a little bit extra special. I love that Michelle researched and educated herself, building her dream birth team.
Be sure to follow through to the end to see their beautiful birth story film, oh, and grab a box of tissues!
Michelle called me in the early morning hours on April 27th, letting me know her contractions were becoming regular and she believed it was time. I quickly packed up my car and got on the road. It was a beautiful rainy morning which made the drive through our desert so gorgeous. I arrived at their home just as the sun was rising. Everyone was up and Michelle had her close friend and neighbor as well as her doula, Trish Baird there.
Soon her midwife, Janae Sherman arrived with the rest of her birth team. Michelle had created a beautiful space and atmosphere to labor in and was held and supported by her family and birth team.
By midday, her contractions were becoming more intense and Michelle began to pull inwards and focus through each wave. At this point, she decided she was ready to get in the water.
One of my favorite parts of witnessing home births is the family-centered care that comes so naturally in homes while allowing the space to move freely, not only for mama but also for children and support persons. It takes so much fear out of laboring. Their oldest daughter stuck by her mama’s side throughout the whole day, diligently timing each contraction, it was the sweetest.
This labor was longer than her last and caused Michelle to have some doubts about her ability. This is so common, especially in the transition phase of labor. She has done some incredibly hardcore things in her life from being a Marine, running the Grand Canyon rim to rim, and competing in body-building competitions, she has definitely done some hard things. She leaned into her team and into her strength and although this period was intense, it quickly got her to the pushing phase of labor. She planned on delivering in her tub but settled on her most comfortable spot along the tub. I love that she didn’t force it and trusted her body and position.
As Michelle got cleaned up and led to the bedroom, dad held his sweet new son and sisters gathered around. This is definitely one of my favorite births for so many reasons, one of them being the intense way this family loves each other.
This was their biggest baby which explained his slower descent, at 8 lbs 7 ounces.
This family booked me for ‘The Whole Story’, my birth package that includes maternity, birth, Fresh, and newborn sessions. I love being able to come back in the weeks after and document their continued story. It is such a beautiful way to complete their birth story, and always a little bittersweet.
Thursday, March 17th, 2022
This beautiful mama found me after they moved to Las Vegas as she began her search for a midwife and birth photographer. I am so happy she found me! They had so much to do while searching for care after moving mid-pregnancy, finding care they felt confident in, and organizing their new home.
I was even more excited that she also wanted to document their pregnancy.
I really love being able to document not only your birth (my true passion), but also more of your journey through maternity, Fresh 48, and newborn sessions. It really tells more of your story, and the story always has my heart.
I have loved having more and more clients this year request in-home maternity and family sessions! I think they have such an intimate feel to them, and I love including the elements of your own home. After all, your home is where your memories together will be made!
Shooting their maternity session in their home was also great because Nicole planned on giving birth at home, so we could have our consult and an opportunity for me to take a look at the areas she would be using for her birth. It really helps me to be visually prepared as far as setting and light. It also makes your birth experience more comfortable because we have already met, and I have more of a feel of your personalities and wishes.
Very rarely do I prefer black and white images over color, but both of their maternity and birth sessions converted so beautifully to black and white, and I adore them.
We also incorporated their Christmas tree into the session since it timed out perfectly with the holidays.
Nicole delivered 3 weeks early with their older daughter and had experienced quite a lot of preterm contractions with this pregnancy. She also had a history of fast delivery with her last baby, so we talked about this quite a bit. Because of her history, I started call for her birth at the 37-week mark, and we talked often to check in with each other so that I would be on high alert when the time came.
She had quite a few moments in the week leading up to the birth that she thought could really be it. She experienced quite a few sleepless nights and uncomfortable cramping, but they always spaced back out and became irregular. It was a bit tricky, but as always, when on call I checked in often and kept my phone right by my head at night. Finally, after her last office appointment, her cervical check did show some cervical change, and her baby was sitting so low, so we amped up our communications. She really wanted to be sure they stayed regular before calling everyone over, and as they became more and more uncomfortable, we finally decided to just be safe and have me head over. Luckily, I live just 20 min away from her.
When I arrived, the door was ajar for me, so I just knew I better book it up the stairs, and sure enough, by the time I got up there, Nicole was in the tub and quite calmly looked over at me and said, “I’m pushing”. The room was dark and calm; her husband, Anthony, was cool as a cucumber. I had beaten the midwife there. As I frantically ran around trying to add enough light to capture some images without being too disruptive and altering the room’s mood, she calmly delivered her baby girl into her arms. Neither one of them got worked up, and it happened so quickly! I could grab one image of her baby emerging and then just started shooting everything as it unfolded.
Her midwives arrived shortly after I did. I always love seeing the Serenity Birth Center birth team, they are such a capable group of midwives.
I was impressed by how well they handled the stress of such a precipitous delivery. They just did what they needed to do, and it unfolded beautifully.
Nicole had really hoped her dad would be in town when she delivered, and he was scheduled to fly out the night she went into labor. It timed out so perfectly. I just love capturing family members meeting their new baby, you could just see the pride all over his face.
Big sister slept through the whole birth, and mom and dad were pretty exhausted, so we decided I would come back the next day to capture more images of them together once everyone rested.
Their daughters are just under a year apart and big sister was so good with her! Documenting siblings meeting is one of my favorite things!
Oh, how I wish I could have captured more of their birth, but I am so happy for them that it was a quick one! And this just goes to show you that there is still so much story surrounding the actual moment of birth. I love the story and the love we were able to capture around it!
Saturday, March 28th, 2020
I am so excited to finally share this beautiful birth story of John Tito, born at home. I adore this family. I met them in 2018 when I documented their first delivery at home. I was in awe of the love they had for each other and the strength of this incredibly powerful mama.
Jennifer delivered her first at home, in the water, and stayed strong through a long labor, delivering their baby girl into her husband’s arms. It was beautiful to witness. Both mom and dad are first responders in our community, with mom being a paramedic and Greg being a firefighter for the city of Henderson.
I was so excited when Jennifer contacted me to document this birth story! There is nothing better than documenting a family as they grow. I was so excited that big sister would be there and that she intended to deliver in the water again.
As with my birth clients, I checked in frequently with Jennifer to see how she was feeling and how things were going as her due date approached. She had gone a week over with her first but felt like she was going to deliver sooner with this one. She is an incredibly busy woman and was in her last semester earning an advanced degree while working, and taking care of a toddler, so as that due date approached, she was so tired and ready to hold her baby in her arms.
I am an early riser and don’t sleep well while on call for births. I woke up at 3 am one morning and checked my phone, as usual, to make sure I hadn’t missed anything just as she texted me to let me know she was having pretty strong contractions, but they weren’t staying too regular quite yet, and that she would keep me posted. Although I have my gear ready at all times while on call, I made sure it was at the door, and I was showered, just in case, because they live about 40 minutes from me.
She updated me again at midday to let me know she had gone to the midwife to be checked and was dilated, and her contractions were still strong but not regular yet. So, I continued to wait! Late afternoon I got the call that it was time. Dads often call me by this point when moms are in active labor, and Greg did call me to let me know they had called the midwife to come, so I headed out there. He felt like she was going fast at this point, so I didn’t waste any time heading out there.
Jennifer was pretty uncomfortable when I arrived and was just ready to move into the tub.
Little Angelina was so cute and well-behaved as Jennifer labored in the water surrounded by her midwives and husband, coming over every so often to give her mama a kiss or drink of water.
Jennifer’s labor was similar to her last at almost the same time of day, right down to the hour. Both times she trusted her body and, between gentle touch and reassurances from her midwives and husband, labored with such strength.
Finally, Jennifer felt the urge to push and work and once again delivered their baby boy into her husband’s arms. It was just beautiful.
I am continually in awe that I witness such strength and beauty in women. I have been a part of the birth industry for almost 20 years now, and the beauty of birth has never faded.
Monday, January 27th, 2020
It’s an honor that you let me capture yours.