When Kristy Stark welcomed her first child into the world, her experience in the delivery room wasn’t quite what she’d envisioned.
Upon finding out she was pregnant, Kristy—like most first-time moms-to-be—dove headfirst into learning everything she could about what to expect throughout her pregnancy. As weeks passed, Kristy came to a conclusion. She decided to go the route of a natural birth plan.
But her natural birth plan didn’t go as naturally as planned when delivery time came. After 36 hours of labor, she yielded to her healthcare provider’s recommendation and received an epidural. And for Kristy, although the pain faded away moments after the injection and her first-born son, Gabriel, arrived healthy and happy shortly thereafter, she couldn’t help but feel a sense of defeat.
“I hated the feeling of the epidural,” recalled Kristy. “Then and there, I knew with my next child I wanted to do everything in my power to make it to the end as naturally as I possibly could.”
A Second Pregnancy—a Second Chance
A few years later, Kristy received some great news—she was pregnant with her second child. And with the perspective she gained from her first delivery, she immediately set out to find a more natural childbirth option. Kristy knew she didn’t want to have to worry about drugs during delivery and was determined to find a healthcare provider who would respect her wishes. After some initial research, she began to think perhaps a midwife could provide the birth experience she wanted.
A quick Google search revealed Holy Family Memorial’s Leslie Bolander as the only certified nurse midwife (CNM) in Manitowoc and Sheboygan County. With another quick search, Kristy found out what makes CNMs so unique. Unlike traditional midwives, CNMs are defined as primary care providers under federal law with prescriptive authority in all 50 states, and are required to hold a master’s degree in nursing along with at least one year of specialized training in labor, delivery and well-woman care. In short, Leslie was a midwife who—as a CNM—could admit and deliver in a hospital.
“I wanted care and delivery with a midwife, but the thought of a homebirth was too overwhelming for me,” explained Kristy. “The option to have a midwife birth in a hospital setting with a CNM seemed to be the perfect solution for what I was after.”
Meet and Greet Magic
Kristy took advantage of the free, 10-minute “Meet and Greet” session HFM offers for all of our providers. And within a few minutes of meeting Leslie, she was sure she found the right fit for her birth plan. “I called my husband as soon I as I got in the car and told him this is who I’m going with and you’re going to love her, too!” recalled Kristy. Through a little research and one quick meeting, the Starks had found a provider who would take the time to listen to their concerns and respect their decisions. With their son Gabriel already seeing HFM pediatricians, it was a natural transition to shift Kristy’s care to HFM’s Women’s Clinic.
With each appointment leading up to her due date, Kristy reaffirmed her decision to choose Leslie to provide a personal, natural experience. The appointments never felt rushed and Leslie always took the time to answer questions and go over the next steps in her care plan. Kristy and Leslie were in sync.
Next came time to select the due date. As luck would have it, the date landed on Black Friday. For Kristy—who works in retail—she took it as a sign that her busiest workday of the year was going to be the day her labor would begin.
The option to have a midwife birth in a hospital setting with a CNM seemed to be the perfect solution for what I was after.
A Black Friday to Remember
Like clockwork, at midnight on November 27, Kristy went into labor. The pain and contractions weren’t bad at first, so she decided to tough out her 12-hour Black Friday shift as planned. By the end of her shift, her contractions became stronger and more frequent. Still, she pressed on and even went home to clean her house and check in on Gabriel one last time as a parent of a single child. Around 9:30 p.m. that night, Kristy and her husband headed to the HFM Medical Center to check in.
The staff at HFM’s Women’s & Children’s Center welcomed Kristy and her husband and encouraged them to walk around and take advantage of the amenities offered in the state-of-the-art birthing suites. Kristy’s birth plan had already been shared with the staff, who all respected her wishes for a natural childbirth. At Kristy’s direction, the staff never offered medication. As her contractions grew stronger, she was able to help manage the pain by relaxing in her birthing suite’s whirlpool bath.
Nearly 24 hours after her labor started, Kristy was wearing down. She turned to Leslie and told her she needed something to ease the pain. Leslie took that moment to remind Kristy how determined she was to have a medication-free delivery. And during their heart-to-heart, Baby Stark decided the wait was over—within minutes, a healthy baby entered the world—medication-free.
Payoff to Last a Lifetime
The personal attention Leslie was able to devote to Kristy throughout her pregnancy paid off. She was able to experience her ideal, natural delivery and was grateful that Leslie stuck to the birth plan—even when she almost broke down. “Leslie felt bad for holding off on medication, but in the end I thanked her so much,” shared Kristy.
“I knew I didn’t want anything and Leslie knew I didn’t want anything. I would’ve been beyond upset had I gotten something.”
Holding back tears, Kristy remembers the moment that Leslie made the delivery extra-special. The Starks had decided to wait to find out the sex of their baby. Rather than announce it to the couple, Leslie took a different approach to create a moment for mom and dad to experience together—and never forget. She wrapped the new bundle of joy in a towel and set the baby on Kristy. After a few minutes, the couple lifted the towel to reveal they had a baby girl—Gracelynn. “I loved that she wasn’t the one who told us,” concluded Kristy. “It was amazing for us to be able to lift the towel together and see we had a baby girl—it was incredible.”