Home Oriented Maternity Experience was a growing national organization of women like me who felt compelled to help other women give birth with joy and dignity. I believe that no matter where a child is born, a baby deserves to be nestled in the arms of its mother right after birth. A home oriented maternity experience can occur even in a hospital if the caregivers respect the sacredness of the mother/father/infant bond, And, I do mean right after birth, not several hours later when imprinting never got a chance to occur.
H.O.M.E. (Home Oriented Maternity Experience) was born in April of 1974 when a group of mothers from the Washington D.C./Maryland area conceived of the idea of an educational organization for couples needing information and support for home birth. Expectant couples, friends and family, and any interested persons were encouraged to participate in a series of five classes held once a month. What H.O.M.E. offered was a logical outgrowth of the “natural childbirth” movement. Couples with a heightened awareness of the importance of the birth process were in increasing numbers assuming the responsibility for full participation in non-medicated labors and births.
H.O.M.E. classes cover
The advantages of home birth
Equipment & procedures.
Psychological aspects of childbirth.
Medical considerations of home birth.
Location: Your Home or Venue
Limit: 3 Couples Per Class
Offered: 5 days per week, 7pm-10pm (or until all questions have been discussed)
Cost: Each Session:
-$100 per person or
-$125 per couple
Many couples came to these meetings as a result of having had unsatisfactory prior hospital experiences. Their instincts, intelligence, and feelings had been totally ignored in deference to the rules and regulations of the hospital. H.O.M.E. recognized, as I did, that birth has the potential of being one of the most meaningful events in a couple’s life. It cements the bonds of family love. We had a deep and abiding commitment to those who came to us for help, information, and support. We hoped that their own positive experiences would, in turn, lead them to help others.
I began attending more and more home births as these monthly meetings grew in numbers.
The sudden increase in home births (from 20 to 60 that year) began to cause some concern in the medical community in Las Vegas. A meeting was initiated at the Clark County Health department, presided over by its’ head, Dr. Otto Ravenholt. He had invited me and a few doctors from the county hospital to this meeting so that we could discuss what the hospitals could do to make them a more desirable place to give birth in. We discussed what parents were looking for, which led to Dr. Wixted establishing a birthing room at Women’s Hospital. The county hospital followed his example resulting in most of the rooms becoming both labor and birth rooms in place of the sterile delivery rooms of the past.
As all this was taking place, I was contacted by the local established group of childbirth educators who felt threatened by the way I was going about making changes. I, in turn, felt that they were too complacent in maintaining the status quo to the obstetricians for their “business”- the birthing couples who the doctors referred to them for classes. They invited me to attend a meeting with them at the public library on Flamingo Road.
There were ten women sitting in the library waiting for me when I arrived. I could see by the expressions on their faces that they weren’t pleased with me and my independent attitude. I had tried earlier to get involved with their group, but it was an elite group and, like a secret club with a secret password, I wasn’t invited to join. However, this wasn’t a game we were playing. Lives could be changed by what we could teach and do for others. I felt the message was too important to be put on hold, so I did things as I thought best- catch babies and educate through H.O.M.E.
The ladies at the meeting were polite to me at first, but they couldn’t contain their true feelings about what I was doing. Irate, one lady began, “Do you know how hard it has been for us to establish credibility with the medical establishment here in Vegas?”
“Yes,” added another woman, “The doctor’s trust that we will teach their expectant mothers what they need to know without being rebellious. It takes time to convince the doctors that there are certain procedures that need to be changed. You’re interfering with what we’re trying to accomplish!”
“Oh?” I said, with a raised eyebrow. “Perhaps some of us are tired of waiting for change! Do you honestly think that you’re going to get anywhere with that attitude? The doctors stay complacent when you don’t demand change. When do you think that change should come about? Our babies are being born right now, not ten years from now. We women have a right to get what is rightfully ours anyway. Doctors have no business denying us anything that strengthens us and our families!”
“We agree,” a few muttered in response, “but, we still think you’re going about it all wrong. What do you know about being a midwife anyway? What you do is dangerous!”
“How do you know what I do?” I asked, beginning to get irritated at their judgmental attitude.
“Well,” asked one, “What qualifies you to be a midwife? Are you a nurse?”
I answered, “No, I’m not a nurse. Just being a nurse doesn’t qualify one to be a midwife. Nursing is a curing profession, whereas midwifery is about being “with woman” during a completely natural function of her body, mind, and soul during pregnancy, labor, birth, and parenting. When it deviates, of course, a good midwife will transport the pregnant woman to the hospital for further care from a doctor.”
“By the way,” I added, “I didn’t call myself a midwife until I had delivered at least 100 babies. Even now, I’ll grant you that my experience is limited, but where else do we start from?”
“Are you prepared to handle emergencies?” asked another.
I replied, “I don’t provide my clients with prenatal care. They go to doctors for that. I go to them when they call me in labor. My contact with them is through the monthly H.O.M.E. meetings which I conduct. If someone is high risk, they don’t opt for a home birth. And should I encounter a problem, I immediately send women into the hospital when their labors cease to be normal. It doesn’t take a genius to know when things are wrong. The idea is to have joy, not a disaster. As a matter of fact, I send more women in than I need to because I acknowledge my limitations at this point.”
The women were softening somewhat in their approach to me as they listened to my answers. I knew they basically just wanted what was best for all women. Their point of view was just different from mine.
“Don’t you understand that these women are going to birth at home whether I help them or not? Don’t you think that it’s better for me to help them than leave them entirely on their own? I know how that feels because that happened to me and I don’t think that’s fair to women.”
It was hard for these women to accept my reasoning, but in the end they had to agree a little bit with my philosophy. It was time for a change and we were all in agreement with that fact. In time the childbirth education group disbanded, but the home birth movement kept growing. We became the subject of much attention, not just with the doctors, but with the news media as well. AM/PM Magazine filmed a story about me and home birth in Las Vegas in 1982. Television channels Three, Five, Eight, Thirteen and PBS also did documentaries on my midwifery. I was also featured in both the Las Vegas Review Journal and in the Sun newspapers. The papers and television were bringing home birth to the attention of the public to the point where I was getting more and more requests for assistance at home births. I needed help because I couldn’t handle it all by myself as I had been doing until now, so I began teaching/apprenticing several women whose babies I had delivered to assist me. All in all, I’ve apprenticed approximately 13 other women, some who are now actively practicing midwifery.