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A Journey through Motherhood and Midwifery

By Dawn Cockrell
Odessa TX USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 4, July-August 2005, pp. 158-159

In 1991, my husband and I expanded our contract cleaning company. I worked with him cleaning houses and businesses until 1994 when I gave birth to my daughter, Summer, at home with a midwife. My husband and I both loved the idea of birthing without drugs and interventions that were unnecessary. My pushing stage was a grueling ordeal. Breastfeeding was a struggle. For close to six weeks, I nursed Summer despite the pain.

Then, one day, my husband, David, brought me the phone. "Here, it's for you," he said. I was surprised since I hadn't heard my phone ring. He explained quickly that he had called La Leche League. I spoke to Susan, who explained how to breastfeed properly. After more telephone conversations, I eventually went to my first La Leche League meeting. Susan led the meeting with the warmth and understanding I'd yearned for. She gave wonderful suggestions and I was able to share my birth experience with women who struggled with the same disappointments. I look back now and see how my nursing relationship may have ended without my husband's phone call to my local LLL Leader. I remained very interested in birth and I became a childbirth instructor. Six months after giving birth, I began teaching classes. My first class of three couples graduated and two had natural childbirths, but one did not. I decided I wanted to have even more to do with helping women give birth.

My husband and I discussed the midwife lifestyle. Because of our growing business, David arranged to hire employees to do the work so that he could be home to help me while I studied. He offered to come with me on out-of-town births, to get hotel rooms to relax in, and to bring me my nursling(s) as they needed me

There were no midwives in my area, so I called several within a two-hour radius asking them where I should begin. This was a huge challenge because many did not take apprentices with nursing children and urged me to focus on mothering instead. The midwife who had delivered Summer offered to help, though, and my midwifery education began. I enrolled in a small midwifery school in 1995 and a larger one, The Association of Texas Midwives Midwifery School, in 1998.

During this time I trained with other midwives in Waco, Texas, USA, where my mother lived. These wonderful women took me in and understood that my nursing came first, allowing me to attend prenatals and births with my small nursling in tow. When Summer was two, I was happy to find out that I was pregnant with our second child. I continued to nurse and apprentice, enjoying my life very much. I gave birth to Brytton in warm water and had a wonderful nursing beginning with him. I took 12 weeks off of my apprenticeship, enjoying the fascinating world of tandem nursing. I was never engorged!

My apprenticeship continued, slowly. Eleven months later, we discovered that we were going to have another baby! I nursed throughout the pregnancy and Jaxon was born November of 1999. In 2000, my parents allowed me and my nurslings to live with them for three months at a time during my cross training apprenticeship with a midwife in Waco. David traveled back and forth twice a week (a six-hour trip one way) to run the business. My mother provided childcare, sleeping with my little ones when I ran out to help at a delivery.

The following May when Jaxon was eight months old I attended the birth center Casa de Nacimiento's internship program. Although interns usually stay in the birth center 24 hours a day, seven days a week, my family and I lived in an extended-stay hotel so that David and the children could be within nursing distance. I wore a pager so that I could be reached for a nursing. David would bring the children, page me, and I would step away to nurse. I informed all my fellow interns and midwives what I was doing beforehand, and they were wonderful, taking up the slack when needed. During a birth, David and I had agreed that I would not be available. It was a limited time and included a two-hour postpartum timeframe where I was unavailable for nursings. Although this happened a handful of times, the planning we had done smoothed the way for the whole family.

I graduated from Association of Texas Midwives Midwifery School in August of 2001, becoming a Certified Professional Midwife that November. Brytton had weaned, but Jaxon continued to breastfeed on demand. Soon after, I discovered that I was pregnant again. I wondered how I was going to start a midwifery practice and take care of my little ones and give my self-sacrificing husband a break. When David has cause for complaint, he always approaches me in a tender way, seeking a solution to the problem at hand. He has never asked me to abandon my goal.

Fortunately, I only had two clients that first year. This was in an underserved community two-and-a-half hours south of my home. I brought my whole family to most of the prenatals, as the clients were eager to meet and enjoy their company and it made nursing Jaxon easier. Jaxon decided to wean two months before the birth of my fourth child. My daughter, Raven, was born just six weeks before my first client delivered her baby.

I love delivering babies at home. I am in my fourth year as a Certified Professional Midwife. In June 2004, I celebrated my 10th year of nursing (with a two month hiatus when Jaxon weaned). David and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary soon after.

What a journey. Although it has been a struggle to meet everyone's needs, including my own, I've been able to continue my journey through breastfeeding. I was helped tremendously by many people: my best friend and husband, David, my mother, and the wonderful and giving community of midwives willing to work with a nursing mother. Ultimately it was La Leche League that started me on my path to find a better way to nurture myself and the families around me. But this is just my side of the story. For my husband's, see the "Focus on Fathers" column on page 160.

Editor's Note: Midwifery licensing laws vary from state to state and country to country. The state of Texas allows those with the Certified Professional Midwife certification to assist at births.

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