Like most of us who call Marin home, Fairfax native Camille Hale loves nature. She grew up spending a lot of time at the Fairfax lakes with her family, a tradition she plans to pass on to her own kids. Pregnant with her first child, she often strolled around the lakes for exercise, enjoying the sunshine and serene landscape, and looking forward to her big day.
Unfortunately, Camille’s first birth experience at a hospital in San Francisco was nothing like the fulfilling, natural experience she had imagined. She had wanted an un-medicated birth, with no epidural or unnecessary interventions. When the time came, her labor progressed very slowly, as is often the case with first-time moms. Camille was admitted early to the large city hospital where her OB/GYN had privileges. She was given an epidural. Later, she started pushing when she was fully dilated, but the baby wasn’t coming down. Nobody explained that her son was in the posterior position – face up. Camille had been pushing for two hours when she was pressured to have a C-section. At this point, Camille was feeling “scared, cold, and out of control.“ In what felt more like a precautionary measure than a necessity, baby Travis was whisked off to the NICU before Camille had a chance to bond with him. He was kept in the NICU for two full days, and the initial separation was hard, especially since Camille was recovering from a surgical delivery and facing a few more days in the hospital
When Camille got pregnant again, she was determined to have a better birth experience, and she knew she wanted to have a “vaginal birth after Caesarian” (VBAC) if at all possible. Her OB/GYN was reluctant to approve a VBAC so Camille decided to switch to a midwife.“ I wanted to get back to the notion of having faith in the woman’s body,” Camille explains.“ I thought, I can do this, my body was built to do it.” This time, Camille chose to have her daughter at Marin General Hospital, one of the only Bay Area hospitals with 24-hour midwife services. Camille’s midwife was enthusiastic about the possibility of a VBAC. The fact that Camille could have her baby close to home, without crossing the bridge, was an added plus.
Camille was 6 months along when the midwife suggested she write a birth plan. Every woman’s birth plan is unique, and Camille’s included specifics about music, dim lights, bringing her own pillow and exercise balls, and being allowed to drink water and eat snacks. At her midwife’s suggestion, she also decided to hire a doula to provide comfort and support during labor. When the time came, Camille waited until she went into active labor before checking in to Marin General Hospital.
Camille believes her delivery at Marin General was the best of both worlds: a home birth experience in the safety of a modern hospital. She describes her daughter Sienna’s birth as “an incredible experience.” The nurses, doula and midwife worked together in perfect synchronicity and their presence was nurturing, calming and supportive. Because of her past C-section, Camille had continuous fetal monitoring, but she was able to walk around and even labor in the shower for a while because Marin General Hospital offers fetal monitoring with telemetry (without cords) . The doula provided aroma therapy and suggested various labor positions. She and Camille’s husband were there throughout the birth, with the midwife coming in periodically to check on Camille’s progress. Everyone honored Camille’s wish for an un-medicated birth, and the word “epidural” was never mentioned. When it came time to push, both the midwife and nurse were fully supportive of Camille’s chosen laboring position, leaning over the edge of the bed and squatting with the midwife sitting behind her cross-legged on the floor. Camille actually helped deliver her own baby and pulled her new daughter up onto her own chest. The birth team encouraged immediate skin-to-skin contact, and the baby lay on Camille’s chest for a long time before being weighed, bathed and given the necessary eye drops. Camille was able to initiate breastfeeding shortly after giving birth.
One year later, baby Sienna is just learning to walk, and Camille enjoys taking her and big brother Travis on walks around the lakes in Marin. Camille has amazing memories of Sienna’s birth and enthusiastically recommends Marin General Hospital to other moms-to-be. “It’s a great place to have a baby. I don’t think I would have had such a transformative healing experience anywhere else. I am happy to spread the word and encourage other mothers to have their babies there.”