Vermont and the northern New York region. Located in Burlington, Fletcher Allen is a regional, academic healthcare center and teaching hospital in alliance with the University of Vermont.
Vanessa's Birth Story
135, 137, 138 – the numbers on the fetal monitor flash the rhythm of life as the whoosh and thump of a heartbeat fills an otherwise quiet room. In the dim light, Nurse Midwife Marti Churchill gives Vanessa Melamede Berman a sip of water while Vanessa labors in the birthing tub.
Vanessa and her husband David came to Fletcher Allen on Sunday, June 15 – Father's Day -- knowing what kind of birth she wanted: a birth without drugs; a birth in which she had the consistent, hands-on support of the midwife; and, finally, a birth where, as she says, "I would feel comfortable in my decisions and my birth experience, supported by staff who were nurturing, patient-centered, experts in their field, and who viewed pregnancy and birth as a natural and healthy experience."
On that long Sunday afternoon, the hours slid by, through the evening, deep into the night, and finally into the early morning. Vanessa moved around freely, in and out of the soothing warm water of the birthing tub, in the shower, on the bed, encouraged by Marti Churchill, then Nurse Midwife Krista Nickerson, who provided support, massages, and a light touch throughout. "The midwives really provide a seamless continuity of care," says Vanessa. "Even at the most difficult moments, I felt confident and secure."
Still, there were a few anxious moments. At one point, the baby's steady heart rate dipped, and the silence in the room deepened. Krista suggested that Vanessa change position, and within minutes, the numbers on the fetal monitor bounced back up.
Later, it was discovered that there was meconium (the baby's first bowel movement) in the amniotic fluid -- another potential complication. But Vanessa and David were reassured by Krista that all would be well, and the hard work of labor continued.
By 10:30 Monday morning, after 12 hours of hard labor, Vanessa had finally dilated to 10 centimeters and was ready to push. But the baby's head was in the posterior position, facing up rather than down, with the bony part of the baby's head pressed against the bony part of Vanessa's pelvis, making progress slow and painful. Still, the steady beat of anticipation filled the room.
Vanessa pushed for five hours. Finally, at 3:20 p.m. on Monday, June 16, Samara Gwen Berman was born, weighing in at 7 lbs., 11 ounces. She has a thatch of black hair, wide-set eyes and a perfect little round head. For their part, Vanessa and David are thrilled and amazed that she is here, still in a bubble of happy disbelief that the hard work of labor is over and the hard work of parenthood just beginning.
They are also very happy that they chose Fletcher Allen's nurse midwives. "In spite of the challenges and pain during labor, I felt relaxed and confident the whole time," says Vanessa. "I had the type of pregnancy, labor and delivery that I had hoped for. I didn't want an epidural or other interventions – I wanted to feel empowered by my birth experience. And that's what I got, thanks to the nurse-midwives."