For Kasie Harrington a Water Birth at The Birthplace Was "So Worth It"

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For Kasie Harrington a Water Birth at the Birthplace Was So Worth It

Kasie Harrington had heard from her sister-in-law that Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s Birthplace was “the place to deliver,” especially if she wanted a water birth and a birth plan that really resonated with her outlook as a mother. That was more than three years ago when she learned she was pregnant with her first child.

“Now all three of my children—ages 3, 1 ½ , and 4 months—were born in the Birthplace,” Kasie says. “The last two were water births. I wanted the first to be, but I ended up only laboring in the tub. It was still super helpful and comforting to have the water available during birth to use at my discretion.”

Kasie chose Pioneer Women’s Health to see her throughout her pregnancies and births – she loved the idea of a midwife-driven practice. Lead Certified Nurse Midwife Cate Kokonowski became an incredible mentor to Kasie. She delivered most of her care and was there for all three births. All midwives at Pioneer really get to know the mothers they care for, and Kasie grew a special connection with Cate that she feels really helped her comfort and confidence with each of her births, a component that really speaks to what Pioneer and its medical staff represent, including all the midwives.

“That’s the great part about the midwives at Pioneer Women’s,” Kasie says. “You might see several of them throughout your pregnancy and they all treat you with such incredible respect and care as if you are their only patient, which of course is an incredible piece to Pioneer because when you deliver, you’re likely going to know and be confident in the person taking care of you the day you birth.”

Kasie says what surprised people most was that she was willing to travel more than an hour to get to her appointments and eventually, the Birthplace.

“It was so very worth it,” she says.

The Labors and Births

During her first labor with her oldest son, Kasie labored in the birthing tub, getting in and out for a while. She says her son was “stuck on my pubic bone,” so it made it difficult for her to deliver in the tub, and though she was disappointed about that, she was happy with her overall experience.

“I was able to spend time in the tub laboring. When it came to pushing, I pushed for two hours and wasn’t making much progress. Cate, my midwife, suggested getting out of the tub and pushing in bed, which I did for another four hours or so. Cate helped adjust my body in a way that essentially ‘unstuck’ him from my pubic bone. I honestly don’t think my birth would have been so successful without a midwife like Cate. I ended up having a beautiful baby boy. Although I didn’t get to birth him in the water and it wasn’t exactly the quickest birth, I was still able to labor and experience all the benefits of a water birth and welcomed my first born into the world just how I imagined.”

A pregnant woman in labor during a water birth

With her second child, Kasie arrived at the Birthplace, got into the birthing tub, and an hour later delivered her daughter.

“I was 8 cm when I arrived, so they filled that tub and started monitoring me right away,” she says. “I changed into my bathing suit, got in, and it happened.”

Kasie says her water birth was comfortable – making her feel “light and at peace.” She says for her there’s just something about water.

Her third child was born this past January. Labor began at 4 a.m., she arrived at the Birthplace at 6 a.m., and he was born at 7:22 a.m. in the birthing tub.

“I actually labored outside of the tub because I knew I wasn’t ready to start pushing yet,” she says. “I was 20 minutes in the tub and he was here.”

Traveling More Than an Hour to Deliver

Kasie and her family live in Hindsdale, Massachusetts, which is in the Berkshires and a little over an hour from Greenfield. She says the drive was worth it, though.

“It crossed my mind a few times, especially after how fast my daughter came, that we were taking a chance coming from that far away, but they are excellent here.”

Kasie wanted natural births and wanted them in water, if at all possible, and she says the midwives do everything in their power to allow a patient to have the type of birth they want.

“I also wanted to go where I knew people who had had good experiences, good births,” she says. “It was a great experience for us.”

Why Water Birth?

“Water birth had always intrigued me,” Kasie says. “I felt so strongly about it, and Cate and the other midwives knew that, so they really worked to make sure I could do it. I wanted a natural birth.”

Kasie says at the very least she wanted to labor in water, as she saw it as a natural form of pain relief to birth. Working with the midwives was very collaborative.

“I knew it would be a nurse midwife and nurses there to deliver,” she said. “A doctor would be ready, if needed, so it feels very safe all the way around, and it gives you peace of mind that you can go into it the way you want, while getting the care you need.”

Kasie even considered having her last child at home, but she and her husband decided they’d get the best care at Baystate Franklin.

“There are just more people on hand there and ready to handle everything,” she says. “And they let you do your thing, as long as all is going well.”

Kasie says birth is such a “natural thing. We’re built to give birth. I was never afraid of pregnancy or birth; I embraced every bit of it. Some cultures give birth in water all the time – lakes, oceans, pools. Why not? The fetus lives in amniotic fluid for months, so why not be born into more water?”

Kasie says water birth feels “not so abrupt” for mother or baby. It’s a gentle way to birth, that unfortunately not all women are educated on.

“It wasn’t an option for my mother or other older relatives,” she said. “I wish they’d had the opportunity.”

The Birthplace Offers So Much More

Cate Kokonowski, CNM, says the Birthplace and its midwives are dedicated to supporting everyone who is giving birth and works with each person and family on their individual birth plan, whether it includes a water birth, patient-controlled epidural anesthesia, or whatever is wanted. They even offer “meet and greet” visits so potential patients can learn more.

Prenatal care is provided at Pioneer Women’s Health in Greenfield and Northampton, and the midwife-driven team offers safe and respectful care to both low- and high-risk patients. All midwives are certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board and have backgrounds in both nursing and midwifery. They work closely with obstetricians, who provide medical consultation and surgical care when necessary.

“We are all about compassionate care, and we have extensive training in obstetrics,” Cate says.

Many Birthplace nurses bring additional skills to work, including infant massage, lactation consultation, Maya abdominal massage, and aromatherapy – giving expectant and new mothers even more choices.

“We get to have the care and experience we want,” Kasie says.

Labor and Delivery Services in the Birthplace

The Birthplace provides a full range of obstetric amenities that include:

  • A spa room, where you can enjoy your own music and dimmed lighting while soaking in a Jacuzzi tub
  • Immersion tubs for laboring and water births with wireless, waterproof fetal monitoring
  • Pain management choices, including hydrotherapy, nitrous oxide, and patient-controlled epidural anesthesia or spinal anesthesia
  • Labor balls and squatting bars
  • A private suite overlooking Franklin County
  • A complimentary celebration meal with your partner
  • Interpreter services
  • Rooming-in accommodations for your partner
  • Room service
  • Flexible visiting hours
  • Family centered, gentle C-section
  • Supportive home birth back-up

Cate explains that vaginal births in a variety of situations—including prior C-section, twins, and others—are supported. The Birthplace also works closely with many local doulas. Prenatal care is highly individualized to meet the needs of each expectant parent and their family. The entire staff has gone through special training to make everyone welcome, inclusive of gender identity, sexual partnerships, or family structures.

“We offer so much to people starting or growing a family,” Cate says.

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