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Special deliveries: Friends who are midwives ‘catch’ each others babies

  • Laura Motyl, a certified nurse midwife, left, attends to patient Yesenia Mejia of Springfield during a routine prenatal care visit at the midwifery clinic at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY PHOTOS

  • Laura Motyl, a certified nurse midwife, is shown Dec. 9, 2016 in the midwifery clinic at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Laura Motyl, a certified nurse midwife, right, attends to patient Yesenia Mejia of Springfield in the midwifery clinic at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Vanessa Thomas and her husband Jason John Thomas hold their son Jason John Thomas Jr. after his birth in May at Baystate Medical Center.  Vanessa Thomas—Contributed Photo

  • Midwife Vanessa Thomas, 34, above, gave birth to her son, Jason John, in May at Baystate Medical Center with the help of her midwife Laura Motyl. Vanessa Thomas—Contributed Photo

  • Certified nurse midwife Catherine Ruell's baby was delivered by her former teacher Laura Motyl and her classmate Vanessa Thomas at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. Vanessa Thomas—Contributed Photo



Gazette Staff
Thursday, January 26, 2017

When her water broke — a sign that her baby’s birth was imminent — Catherine Ruell of Belchertown knew that two of her friends would be at the hospital to witness one of the most intimate moments of her life. Laura Motyl and Vanessa Thomas are midwives, as she is, and they wanted to be there to catch Ruell’s first child, Scarlett, when she emerged from the birth canal.

Ruell, 28, took a deep inhale, let go of her fears, and rode the wave of pain and trusted that she and the baby were in good hands at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.

A midwife’s role is to provide both medical and emotional support at a birth. And when that support is coming from women you trained and work with side by side, it makes the experience even more remarkable the three women say.

“I didn’t have to worry, I could just completely shut my mind off and just focused on what I needed to do,” Ruell said.

Six months earlier, Motyl had also helped deliver — or as midwives call it, “catch,” Thomas’s son, Jason John Jr.

Scarlett’s birth in October went exactly as Ruell had planned: no cesarean, no drugs and no other interventions. She doesn’t remember much, just the contractions and the intense urge to push.

Her two friends, Thomas, 34, of Southampton, who was a classmate in the midwifery program she took at Baystate, and Motyl, 37, of Wilbraham, who taught those classes, were in charge. Ruell’s husband Allan Reull and her mother Susan Mellen were on hand to welcome Scarlett as well.

There is no tally of how many midwives deliver each other’s babies, but in recent years there has been a number of instances within the community at Baystate, said Sukey Krause, the midwifery education program director.

“It’s an interesting professional and personal overlap,” she said.

Midwives strive to meet all the need of women during childbirth while letting the process unfold as naturally as possible. They can also offer ongoing care throughout a women’s life, from birth control counseling to menopause. 

Still, they are an under-utlilized resource in this country, with just 8.3 percent of the births in the United States involving them in 2014, according to a report by the American College of Nurse Midwives. 

At Baystate Medical Center that number is higher with midwives used in 20 percent of births, said Krause.

“Most women chose midwifery because they want the support of a physiologic, non-interventive birth.  They want a care provider that will support and educate them about this normal process and not over-medicalize the natural process that is birth,” Krause said. 

Some first-time mothers can be nervous, Motyl said, so the midwife is also there to provide emotional support.

Ruell says that having her colleagues attending Scarlett’s birth gave her an extra sense of comfort, allowing her to relax. It also was a pleasure for her to share the moment, one of the most perfect days of her life, with them, she says.

Both had been on call and were in their gowns and gloves when Ruell arrived. When Scarlett came out, they placed her on Ruell’s chest.

Teary eyed, Allan Ruell cut the cord, while Mellen stood nearby watching.

“Kate had this beautiful labor and this beautiful delivery. We were there for her,” said Thomas. “This is the way it is supposed to be.”

Thomas says that even though her labor for Jason’s birth had to be induced and he had to be helped out with a vacuum suction, she felt fortunate to have had Motyl there to put her mind at ease.

“You know someone a little bit more intimately,” Motyl said. “You feel like there is more at stake and you want to make sure that they have a great experience and a memorable experience and their baby is healthy and mom is healthy,”

A passion for women’s health brought the three friends together. They are all certified nurses and graduates or soon-to-be graduates of the Midwifery Education Program at Baystate, a five-semester certification program for nurses who want to specialize in midwifery.

“I love the idea of working with women and families and babies, of course,” said Motyl. After nursing school, she worked in geriatric care. Then, after she had her daughter, Sydney, nine years ago, with the help of a midwife, she started to think about a career in women’s health.

She graduated from the Baystate program in 2012 and has been working with Baystate Midwifery and Women’s Health ever since, joining the faculty of the Midwifery Education Program two years ago.

As a midwife, she not only sees expectant mothers, she also sees women at all ages for ongoing health care, birth control counseling and pelvic exams.

Thomas began seeing a midwife at her first gynecological exam and always knew that she would go back to school to get certified to become one herself. She is now getting ready for her midwifery exams and is due to graduate in May.

Through the program, she has helped to deliver a number of babies and, she says, she still gets the tingles at each birth.

“I cry at every single one, just watching the mothers meet a new person,” she said.

Ruell is taking time off to be with her baby, Scarlett, before starting a new midwife job in Worcester.

But even though these women barely see each other these days, their bond is still strong.

“I felt like I was family with these girls even before I had the baby,” said Thomas. “Our classes are always really intimate.”

Ruell and Thomas agree, that that closeness gave them a feeling of freedom during their own birthing experience.

“I didn’t have to listen for her heart beat…,” Ruell said of her newborn. ” I didn’t have to worry about any of that. I could just completely shut my mind off.”

Thomas says she had the same feeling. And to minimize her stress, she dimmed the baby’s heart monitor near her bed, trusting her colleagues to be on watch for any danger.

Ruell also says having her skilled friends on hand allowed her to stay calm when she experienced some postpartum bleeding.

Overall, both births went well, both babies arrived healthy and after experiencing the joy and learning the ins and outs of delivering other people’s babies, the women are now enjoying the coos and cries of their own.

“These ladies both did amazing,” Motyl said.

Lisa Spear can be reached at lspear@gazettenet.com.