Bringing babies home

Stephanie Soderblom, a Mesa mother of five and homebirth midwife, founded Nurturing Hearts Birth Services to help Arizona families have healthier and more peaceful beginnings.

How did you become interested in pregnancy and birth?

I think the desire was always there. Asking what made me want to be a midwife is like asking what made you want to be a mother. It’s something inside of you that you can’t really explain that is driven toward that goal.

How did you get into midwifery?

I started attending births as a doula right after my first child was born. Then I became a childbirth educator and it wasn’t until after my second child was born that I actively started doing midwifery as an apprentice midwife.

How long does a midwife apprentice?

It varies. I had a few babies [myself] so I had to take some time off. From the time I first started my apprenticeship until I was actually licensed was eight years but I would say that the average apprenticeship runs three to six years. It depends on what’s going on in your life, the practice you’re involved in, how much time you have to give…you don’t get paid, you are volunteering your time. Instead of paying thousands of dollars to a school, you are paying for your experience with your time — being at births and prenatals and stuff.

What is a midwife?

I am somebody who is trained medically as a low-risk pregnancy specialist. So, basically my job is to do everything that I can to work with families, give them my knowledge, information and the tools to keep the pregnancy as healthy as it can be and to identify early when things are not healthy and either work with the parents to make them healthy or make appropriate referrals.

I do want people to know that we are medically trained and come with a lot of equipment and a lot of supplies. A lot of people think we aren’t trained to handle things that come up but we are. Other than IVs, there’s nothing at the birthing center that we don’t bring into your home.

How is a midwife different from an obstetrician?

Oh, the philosophy is completely different. It’s a totally different approach. To explain, I’m going to use this example: We live in a country that prides itself in a judicial system based on the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty. If things were reversed we would live in a very different society. Those are two very different approaches with different outcomes. A doctor is trained to deal with everything that goes wrong. The obstetrical model of care is: What can go wrong will go wrong, unless it doesn’t. The only way you will get a diagnosis of a healthy, normal pregnancy is retrospectively.

In midwifery, the pregnancy is innocent until proven guilty. We treat you like you are going to have a perfect pregnancy, birth and baby… unless you don’t . And we respond appropriately to issues as they come up. We are assuming that the birth will be a normal, natural event. Also, we spend a full hour with mothers during prenatal visits, when most OBs can only afford four to five minutes. We talk about how you’re feeling, how you’re sleeping, your nutrition, how you are relating to your partner. We’ll discuss with him how he’s feeling about becoming a dad. We deal with the emotional aspects of pregnancy instead of just the physical ones. We build a relationship. That’s one of biggest differences.

Do you ever catch your breath? I’ve noticed on Facebook that you’ve had births at least every other day.

This has been my busiest month ever. I’ve had six births in the last 10 days. Almost all of my mothers for the last few months delivered in the last week and a half. It’s unpredictable though. In October I have, like, one person. I’m planning on taking October to catch up.

Tell me about Nurturing Hearts.

At our office we have a chiropractor, Jenny Dubisar, D.C., who comes in twice a week. She specializes in pregnancy. We have a phenomenal massage therapist, Amy Hatch, who was coming in twice a week but she just had her baby this week so she is on maternity leave for a while. This was her very first homebirth. Also, we have an aesthetician who just joined the family in the office three days a week. She does facials, massages and all kinds of treatments. We have our own spa room. Also, we have the childbirth classes that are offered there and a variety of other classes including breastfeeding classes, adult and infant CPR and a “basic training for new dads” class. We also have really good relationships with several doulas we love to refer [people] to. We also train and certify doulas and childbirth educators.  Also, we’re very, very proud because the Arizona Birth Network has chosen our site to have their monthly birth circle meetings.

How do you juggle caring for five children and delivering babies?

There is only one way for me: My husband is a computer programmer and has telecommuted for his job for the last 11 years. He works full-time at the house, so if I get called away or when I am doing prenatals, he is actually with the children. I can’t imagine the challenges that other mothers face who are called to do this and don’t have that [support]. I don’t know what I would do if we had a different set-up. So, my children have never had to be at daycare and I have the freedom to leave at a moment’s notice whenever I am called, for as long as necessary.

What is the best part of your job?

Wow! There’s so much. That’s a very big question. I love helping families discover their own inner power. I love when families feel respected along the process. I love watching that baby slip into world and before he’s even taken a breath he looks into mom’s face like he’s thinking, “Hmmm. This is weird!” I love when I see babies two weeks, two months and two years down the line and mom, dad, and baby are all so happy and healthy. The best part is that this family gave me the honor of helping them along that journey. That’s their gift to me.

What is your biggest challenge?

I care too much. I want so much for the birth to be exactly what they want so if there is any kind of deviation it breaks my heart. I’ll go home and cry. I don’t always have the power to give people perfection. Sometimes things are out of my control. We keep an eye on things every step of the way. I give them all my information, my love, my care but at the end of the day there’s a higher power that determines the way things are going to go. If there is an issue, I want nothing more than to fix it but it’s not always fixable. Sometimes we seek out a hospital, sometimes they will need a Cesarean, sometimes the outcome is not what they wanted and that is very, very hard.

What advice do you have for other moms who are interested in going into midwifery?

Educate yourself. Study. Learn as much as you can. It’s great experience to become a doula for a while and see if you can live the lifestyle. Unlike most jobs, this is a lifestyle. You never know when you are going to be called away and for how long. You can’t plan ahead. A lot of people find that the idea of midwifery is much more suited to them than the realities. Get a taste of the lifestyle to see if you can do this job and make this commitment.

Then I would say just follow your heart. I tell my kids: If it’s a true dream and it’s a calling, it’s never a failure, it’s a setback. Just keep doing whatever you need to do to achieve your dream.

To learn more about home birthing check out Britney Walker’s article Birthing at Home.