Walking with Women in their Own Advent Journey
During Advent, we often think about angels, a new couple, shepherds and wise men bringing gifts. But we don’t always think about Mary’s pregnancy and birth or the discomfort she must have felt as she traveled all the way to Bethlehem and then gave birth in a stranger’s barn. It’s perhaps the most famous unconventional birth story.
This season, many women will choose to give birth outside of the hospital and in the comfort of their own home. Although they share in Mary’s labor pains, they have angels of a different kind: certified nurse midwives like Story Jones ’04 who do their part to create a more comfortable environment (than, say, a barn) for bringing a baby into the world.
In assisting over 200 births, bearing five children, being one of nine siblings and working in a West African birth clinic during her junior year at Gordon, Jones is well acquainted with birth, particularly with birth in the home. Now she runs her own midwifery business, Fairfax Home Birth, in the state of Virginia.
When it comes to home births, says Jones, “The experience truly belongs to that family. It’s really their experience that you’re being invited into.”
In addition to providing care throughout the pregnancy, education is an important component of what Jones does. And that begins with helping a woman feel confident in her ability to give birth outside of a hospital.
Women have been giving birth in their homes for thousands of years, Jones notes. Given that nearly 99 percent of women now choose to have their child in the hospital, home birth can feel really foreign in today’s society. “I think we’ve over-medicalized a normal life process. And it’s stopping women from thinking they can do it,” says Jones. “When all your friends have birthed with an induction, an epidural or a C-section, you need to have a voice reminding you of what your body can do when properly supported, not pressured by time constraints or alarmed by strangers.”
Another part of Jones’ role is to familiarize the family with the birthing process, so they feel capable too. With children who will be present for the birth, she’ll talk through what kinds of sounds mommy is going to make when giving birth and what it looks like when someone is doing something that’s really hard. “It is fun to show kids a baby doll, complete with the umbilical cord and placenta, after letting them operate the doppler when we listen to their baby sister’s heartbeat,” says Jones.
From the children to the mother, Jones endeavors to care for the whole person. When Jones talks with her clients about their health and their baby’s health, she is not afraid to talk through spiritual matters. Whatever her client’s belief system may be, she says many are still interested and willing to consider their spiritual wellbeing as an element of their health, in addition to diet, sleep, exercise and time outdoors.
“Sometimes [conversations about faith] are not going to be deeply spiritual. Sometimes, I encourage a client to pray for guidance about a decision,” Jones says. “Or [to] read something that is spiritually uplifting to her.”
Even if Jones cannot have deeply spiritual conversations with every client, the process of going through labor with another person reveals more about God to her, especially in the Advent season.
“Last year, I had the privilege of attending a birth on Christmas night. Our God who ‘came to visit us in great humility,’ as our Advent prayer says, [came into being] through the very same lowly means as each one of us, gives me gratitude,” Jones says. “That our God, who feeds us of his own body and blood, allowed himself to be fed from the breast of his mother should make us pause and think.”
By Veronica Andreades ’20, English language and literature
Photos courtesy of Brook Flanagan Photography, Miley Kay Laufer and Linnea Farnsworth