Praying that Catholics would understand and act on "the inseparable bond" between love of God…
Indiana birth center is a labor of love
Birth is a natural and beautiful thing, and many mothers are opting for a homelike environment to deliver their babies. An Indiana birth center offers that option with a Catholic twist. The Holy Family Birth Center in Fort Wayne opened in May, the brainchild of Dr. Christopher Stroud, an obstetrician/gynecologist at the Fertility and Midwifery Care Center, and his wife, Marianne Stroud, a midwife and nurse.
The Holy Family Birth Center looks like someone’s home. There are three rooms, each bearing the name of a saint: St. Gianna Beretta Molla and Mother Mary on the main level, and St. Mary Magdalene on the lower level, near a kitchen. Each room has information on the saint posted in case the mom may want to include that information in the child’s baby book, and each room has a crucifix.
“A little catechesis while they are laboring,” Dr. Stroud told Our Sunday Visitor. “There is a crucifix in every room by design. You never know,” he said, referring to those who are not Catholic. “We plant those little seeds.”
The Holy Family Birth Center is a facility specifically for giving birth. Eighty years ago, most births were in homes, not hospitals. To send pregnant women who are not sick to a hospital “hasn’t turned out to be all that great an idea,” Marianne said, “because women need space to move; they need freedom to move.”
With its two floors, outdoor walking paths and a pond, women have the option to move at the Holy Family Birth Center.
Women don’t need all the medical things that a hospital can offer, Marianne said, “So for the select few that think they want to choose a different path, we want to give them that different path.”
All births are natural at the birth center. “We have a little bit of help, pain-medicine-wise, but no epidurals,” Marianne said.
Cassie and Andrew Herber sought a natural childbirth at the center. Their first child was born in a traditional hospital setting.
Cassie, who is a physician’s assistant at a family medical practice, told OSV, “What appealed to me was the faith and family-centered” atmosphere of the Holy Family Birth Center. “I just got the feeling that the whole family was going to be involved with the birth, especially my husband.”
In the hospital setting, she said, Andrew was involved, “but not as much as I would have liked.”
With Cassie’s nursing background, she liked that the “midwives would be my primary care providers there.”
The name — the Holy Family Birth Center — had a lot of Catholic and family value for the Herbers, and they wanted to incorporate their faith in the process.
Education is key for natural birth delivery. So when a mother discovers she is pregnant, she contacts the center.
“We get them in right away,” said Dr. Stroud, who has three additional obstetricians and gynecologists on his team. “We like to see people very early. We think we can prevent a lot of miscarriages.”
“We start their routine prenatal care,” he said. “As part of that, we talk to them about their birth preferences. And one of those is facility. ‘Are you interested in a hospital birth or in a birth center birth?'”
Those women and husbands interested in having their child delivered at the birth center are then sent to the classes. “We have a lot of educational prerequisites, you might say, for birth-center births,” Dr. Stroud said.
Parents attend seminars that cover safety and costs. The classes that they attend ensures the couple is right for natural birth delivery. There is also a consultation with one of the four midwives to make sure the couple fits within the guidelines to deliver at the center.
Classes cover breastfeeding, parenting for new parents, general information to the birth center. “By the time they get to the end of pregnancy and labor, they are well educated in out-of-hospital birth,” Dr. Stroud said.
“We like to say the greatest enemy of natural birth is fear,” Dr. Stroud said. “The greatest anecdote to fear is education. So we spend a lot of time educating people, because if they can get rid of the fear of natural birth, it’s going to go really well as it is designed to go. If we can help them get rid of that fear by professional, high quality education, they’re going to be successful, more times than not.”
Cassie and Andrew Herber felt well-prepared for the birth of their son. She had been having contractions while at work and called the midwife when she got home. The Herbers’ son had a quick, “rather unexpected delivery,” Cassie said. “Everything was just flawless from start to finish.”
“Everyone from the midwife, to the nursing staff was very calming and compassionate, super supportive and exactly what we needed as a couple to deliver,” Cassie said.
Dr. Stroud designed the Holy Family Birth Center to feel “like somebody’s home that you are just borrowing to have your baby, and then you go home — your home — with your baby.”
“One of the beauties of the birth center is you get to get out of here essentially when you want to,” Dr. Stroud said. “Our goal is to have people ready and feeling good in about six hours.”
“Most of our patients don’t really want to stay six hours,” he said. “They love the idea they don’t feel drugged. They feel great. Mom and baby have a wonderful herbal bath together in the tub, maybe have a meal and go home.”
“No drugs make it so you feel strong, you feel healthy, you feel good, you’re ready to go and they have help at home as well,” Marianne said.
“From a Catholic perspective,” Dr. Stroud said, “we see a lot of patients who are authentically Catholic, and they probably choose us for that reason. We see a lot of patients who are very interested in minimal intervention. They are pretty natural-minded, and they don’t want a bunch of technology unless they need it.”
“I don’t think we planned it this way,” Dr. Stroud said, “but it turns out those two groups have a lot of overlap. So people that really understand the beauty of creation and that we are endowed by our maker to do this happen to also be people that are interested not putting a lot of chemicals in and not using a lot of unnecessary drugs and interventions.”
“There’s definitely a sense of powerful accomplishment,” Marianne said. “We like to call it the ‘I did it!’ look” on the couples’ faces. “You can capture a picture of mom holding her head back, holding her brand new baby, that maybe she helped deliver herself, and that look on her face is absolutely beautiful and she is saying, ‘I did this. I accomplished this.'”
Tim Johnson is an editorial assistant at Our Sunday Visitor. He writes from Indiana.
|Faith and fertility|
A big part of Dr. Stroud health professional energy goes into fertility and natural family planning methods, all in compliance with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Stroud’s OB/GYN associates may comprise the largest group of certified physicians in the Creighton method outside of Omaha.
“I like to say to women,” Dr. Stroud said, “‘You, unlike me, are designed to be pregnant. If you are not pregnant, it means there is something wrong.’ My job as a NaPro surgeon is to find out what that is and then fix it. And then you are open to pregnancy. And then you and your husband and God decide if you are going to be pregnant or not. My job is to not make you pregnant, it’s to make you whole.”
“People are longing for that,” Dr. Stroud said. “They just want an answer. They don’t want to choose between their faith and their fertility when they’ve been told in vitro fertilization is their only option.”
“We stand there in the breach, so to speak, and say you don’t have to choose between your faith and your fertility; you can be faithful, and we can solve what is wrong,” he added. “If you are called to parenthood, we can help you become pregnant, and then you can come here and have your holy baby.”