Nine years ago, with 4 children under 5 at home, I was 26 weeks pregnant and received a letter from my OB that he was going out of business. The cost of malpractice insurance was closing his single doctor/wife as his nurse practice, and he was joining a large practice too far away for me to drive. At the hospital near my home, so near I can see it out my window as I type, there were two other choices. They were both practices with multiple doctors I would cycle through, and it would be the luck of the draw who would be at my birth. I had been down that road with my first 3 births, and I didn’t want to do it again. That week another option came before me through friends: I could have my baby at home.

I began frantically researching all I could about home birth – reading stories, statistics, anything I could get my hands on. I brought the idea to my husband, and as my conviction that this was the right option for us strengthened, his determination that it was not did as well. We met with midwives, we asked questions, we discussed our concerns. Then, one night, when I was around 30 weeks, a decision had to be made. We stood in our kitchen and “discussed” until I pointed to the hospital across the street and said, “We cannot compromise here. We cannot meet in the middle (literally), and I give birth in the the street. It’s either there or here. Give me one reason other than fear why it can’t be here.” He could not, and so I called the midwife the next day. Both of us now credit that decision with my continued health, fertility, and the lives of 6 more children welcomed into this world, all at home.

Heidi (this is before there was “HeartSpace”) wasn’t my original midwife. She was actually the third string quarterback. The back-up to the back-up, as it were. She just happened to live close by in case, as they historically had, my labor was going really fast. My main midwife was happy to take me on as a client so late, with one caveat:  she was going to be out of town on my due date. No problem, I said, my babies always came late. Well, on my due date, after a day of yard work and a dinner of pepperoni pizza, my son bucked the system for the first of many, many times. I went into labor with one midwife 4 hours away, and the backup 2 hours away, but Heidi was on her way. When she arrived, Heidi knew exactly how to help me. She struck the perfect balance between absentee and interfering, allowing my husband and me to go through the labor together, but jumping in when I truly needed more or he needed relief. My son was born, in a pool covered with little neon fish, in my bedroom, with Heidi and my husband there to welcome him.

Since that day, I have been pregnant 10 more times. There are not many scenarios that I think Heidi, Maureen, Mary, and the others that have helped them through the years, have not gone through with me. Four of my babies were not made for this world, and when I lost them, Heidi and Maureen were there to hold my hand. They helped me find the coordinating care I needed, played interference with OBs and hospitals, sat with my husband while I was in surgery. When, after 6 healthy births, I had 3 successive losses, the OBs said, “You have a lot of babies, you lose a lot of babies.” Yet, Heidi knew better, she knew me, she knew my body, and she knew something wasn’t right. She encouraged me to seek help. In doing so, I was diagnosed with an issue that we were able to easily treat, and I’ve had 3 babies born with medical support since. Three adorable little girls, who would not be here otherwise, are here because she was willing and able to be truly present, listen to, and know me.

In the six births I have had with the HeartSpace team, I have amassed inumerable stories of their love, knowledge, patience, and humor. We have done this together so many times that Heidi can tell how far in labor I am depending on whether I am walking, folding laundry, sweeping, or swearing. We have turned transverse babies, dealt with high blood pressure, delivered posterior babies and a baby with her fist at her face (she’s still fighting the world, FYI), bent curtain rods, plugged holes in leaky tubs, had pepperoni pizza, bribed babies out with chocolate, told stories, listened to loud music, laughed when I swore like a sailor, and cried at the beauty of another little gift from heaven. In the midst of all this beauty, behind the scenes there was always also the gift of experience, knowledge, and prudence. We have had difficult conversations about “what-ifs,” they have had interventions ready if necessary, made arrangements for transfer. The ability to perfectly wed the medical and the maternal is where HeartSpace’s gift truly lies.

As I now await my seventh birth, God willing, at home with Heidi & Maureen, I am increasingly thankful for the gift they are in my life.