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Birthing the natural way

When Amy Flowers gave birth to son Henry Rosato about three years ago, she did so from the comfort of her Issaquah bedroom, with licensed midwife Lisa Boyd by her side.

Now, living in North Bend and four months pregnant with her second child, the bedroom she shares with husband Tony Rosato in her new house is again her ideal place to give birth, again with Boyd's aid.

Flowers is part of a number of women who are giving birth at home and/or in the care of a midwife rather than in a conventional hospital setting with a doctor.

Nearly 2 percent of all births in 2004 (the most recent numbers available) occurred at a birth center or in the mother's home, according to the Washington State Department of Health. That number is consistent with prior years (at least as far back as 1998). The percentage of births attended by midwives has remained relatively steady, fluctuating between about 9 and 10 percent from 1999 to 2004.

Boyd said she personally has seen interest increase over the years, both locally and in surrounding areas.

As a licensed midwife for almost 10 years who owns Ten Moons Birthing Services in Snoqualmie, she said she has seen her clientele increase steadily, as well as general interest and comfort levels with the idea of home births with only midwife care.

"Home birth with a licensed midwife is as safe as a hospital birth [for a normal, healthy pregnancy]," Boyd said.

"Pregnancy is a natural, normal process. The less you do to intervene, the more successful you are," she said of her approach.

"The most important thing is providing an environment that is safe and honoring the process of birth," she added.

Flowers, a former fashion school teacher, always had a mild interest in alternative medicine. So, when she became pregnant for the first time in 2003, she thought her best option was the combination of midwife care while in a hospital setting.

"I originally thought it was the best of both worlds," Flowers said. "I found it wasn't much different [than a traditional hospital birth experience]."

Six months into that pregnancy, she and Tony began to consider the midwife and the home-birth option.

"We thought, 'Let's try something else,'" Flowers said.

Then she found Boyd on a friend's referral.

"We went to meet with Lisa and we were like, 'Oh my God, this is what we were looking for in a caregiver," Flowers said.

Ten Moons offers personalized prenatal, birth and postpartum care, Boyd said. Mothers have the option of giving birth at home and/or in a water tub, or at the Puget Sound Birth Center in Kirkland.

Along with Boyd, licensed midwife Colette Lescantz is present at each birth to provide assistance.

Home birth and/or midwifery is covered by most insurance companies in Washington, though Boyd advises those interested in either to contact their providers beforehand. She also offers free consultations.

For those curious about home births and/or midwifery, Boyd suggested interviewing and researching to learn about the various choices available.

"I see time and time again when [pregnant women] intuitively know something's not right for them ... but I think a lot of decisions are based on fear," Boyd said.

"Births are so primal," Boyd said. "As long as a woman's pregnancy is fine and there's no concern and we are monitoring her as healthy, it's just so normal and natural [to give birth naturally]. It's the way things happen."

Educated in midwifery at the Seattle Midwifery School, the Canadian-born Boyd is state licensed to work with families prenatally, to attend births and to manage postpartum care.

"I really find my role is to protect the normal, healthy pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience," Boyd said.

Boyd first became interested in midwifery while working with the Peace Corps in Africa during the 1980s. Pregnant at the time, Boyd not only gave birth to her own baby with the help of a midwife, she assisted midwife with other births.

In the early 1990s, she and her family moved to Snoqualmie and she studied midwifery in Seattle. She worked for various birthing and education centers before founding Ten Moons in 1999.

Midwives are trained for normal, healthy pregnancies, Boyd said. They are able to assist in emergency situations as appropriate and would otherwise transfer the mother and/or child to a hospital as needed.

"Ninety-eight percent of the time, it goes normal," Boyd said.

"Midwives don't use pain medications, don't perform Caesarean sections [if one is needed, the mother would be transferred to a hospital] and we don't want to," Boyd said. "When I see a mom that needs help, I'm so glad to be able to transfer her."

Boyd said that often hospital birthing experiences lack a personal connection between doctor and patient, and that sometimes arguably unnecessary tests and procedures may be done.

"I understand ... they are coming from a good place," Boyd explained, noting doctors also have to contend with the constant possibility of a malpractice suit. "They also see a zillion people instead of really paying attention to individual care," she said. "They have to follow their protocol."

Though Boyd noted that midwives have a protocol of their own, a midwife may also provide an intimate connection during what is often considered an intimate experience.

"With this pregnancy, I feel like I just don't have to worry," Flowers said. "There are few times in life when you don't have to make decisions and you can just go through the process."

This is one of those times, she added.

Flowers said she is healthy and, for this pregnancy, has a better understanding of her body and how to read it.

"I am really comfortable with it, but you never know quite what to expect," she said.

Last time, her baby was two weeks overdue. While she was being carefully monitored, Flowers and Boyd decided to let nature takes its course until Henry was ready to come out on his own.

If she had gone to a hospital, they would have, most likely, induced labor or given her a Caesarean section, Flowers said, which was something she wanted to avoid.

"My feeling is that there are very very few emergencies [Boyd] couldn't handle," said Flowers, who experienced too much blood loss during her labor and had to be treated by Boyd with fluids.

Seven hours later, 10-pound Henry was born. Tony was the first person he saw, Flowers said. And he was placed right into her arms.

She said having her child at home made all the difference in her relationship with Henry.

"It took me a while to go against the grain," Flowers said of her decision to have a home birth. "But never have I made a better decision than to do what I did with Henry's birth. It couldn't have been more perfect."

Ten Moons Birthing Services is located at 8110 Falls Ave. in Snoqualmie or at 26405 N.E. Valley St. in Duvall. For more information, call (425) 831-5123 or (206) 715-6123 or visit www.tenmoons.net.

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