When Roxanne Walsh’s son Van was born in October 2016, it could have been a difficult delivery.
The Pasadena woman was more than a week overdue when she gave birth to the nearly 10-pound boy after 64 hours of labor.
But there was someone by her side who helped make things much easier – her midwife Maria Mayzel, MSN, CNM, with Anne Arundel Medical Group (AAMG) Bay Area Midwifery.
“I felt like she just had a gentle, guiding hand,” says Roxanne, 30, a hairstylist at Studio Salon in Annapolis. “I loved my experience. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
AAMG Bay Area Midwifery is a freestanding birth center located on Anne Arundel Medical Center’s (AAMC) Annapolis campus. Staffed by seven certified nurse-midwives, the midwifery team takes a holistic, individualized approach to pregnancy.
“Just having a freestanding birth center in the state of Maryland is unique. We’re one of only two in the state,” says Maria, who has worked at AAMG Bay Area Midwifery for four years.
While moms-to-be can opt for unmedicated births in the birthing center, AAMG Bay Area Midwifery is still an active part of the hospital. Clients, like those who want pain management such as an epidural, can choose between giving birth in the hospital or in the birth center.
Clients who have high-risk pregnancies receive care from both the midwives and a team of specialists at AAMC. A seamless transfer system between the birth center and the hospital adds an extra layer of safety.
“Safety is always our number one priority,” Maria says.
READ MORE: The rising popularity of birth centers
Roxanne learned about AAMG Bay Area Midwifery from her sister, who delivered three of her four children there. She liked the birth center’s attitude toward pregnancy, especially the close interactions all patients have with their midwives. Roxanne’s husband, Shane, also liked the idea of a natural birth for their first child.
She remembers counting down the days until her first appointment, when she was eight weeks pregnant. But five weeks later, when she had her first sonogram, she learned some surprising news.
Roxanne has a bicornuate, or heart-shaped, uterus, a condition that affects about 1 percent of women and frequently causes complications during childbirth. Risks can include a higher risk of miscarriage, improper attachment of the baby’s placenta, excessive bleeding and premature birth.
Though Roxanne and Shane were concerned, the team at AAMG Bay Area Midwifery was reassuring.
“Our plan was to just take it as it came,” Roxanne says. “I felt very confident.”
As her pregnancy progressed, Roxanne held out hope that she would be able to have her baby in the birth center. But shortly after the 30-week mark, midwives told her she would be a better candidate for delivery in the hospital’s birth center, due to potential risks during labor.
“At this point, we didn’t know how far my uterus could expand,” Roxanne says.
Though she was disappointed, the partnership between the midwives and the hospital team comforted her. Plus, she would still be able to have one of the midwives by her side.
Maria says the goal is always to honor the family’s wishes, which is why it is important to start talking about their birth plan early on. Those conversations include the entire family, Maria says.
“The client’s family is the most important part of the birth team,” she says.
Shane said his main concern was the safety of his wife and child, and was happy with the decision to deliver in the hospital.
“It was just a change of scenery,” he says.
Roxanne went into labor at around 5 pm on a Saturday night, just as she and Shane were leaving a movie. At that point, she was more than 41 weeks pregnant. She called Maria, who told her to call back when the contractions were five minutes apart.
A day later, the pain was intense and the contractions were holding steady. She made an appointment for Monday, when she had a stress test and learned her cervix was just four centimeters dilated.
Maria says Roxanne was experiencing prodromal labor, which is when contractions happen for hours, even days, with no cervical change. After a day of therapeutic rest, Roxanne’s labor began to slowly progress. She returned to AAMC on Tuesday, and Maria — who happened to be on call that day — made a plan with Roxanne to proceed with labor induction.
Roxanne was still in labor when Maria’s shift ended.
“I was ready to lose it,” Roxanne says with a laugh.
But Maria stayed an hour and a half past the end of her shift to help bring Van into the world — an example of the close relationship the midwives develop with their clients.
“One of the biggest things we can offer our clients is more time,” Maria says.
Roxanne says she had the experience she always envisioned, complete with essential oils, flameless candles and music — lots of Alice Coltrane in particular, she recalls. Shane, a musician who plays in several Annapolis-area bands, used special headphones to play Alice Coltrane for the baby when Roxanne was pregnant.
Van came into the world happy and healthy, weighing nine pounds, 14 ounces.
An ongoing relationship
Today, Van is an active 18-month-old who loves to bang on his dad’s drums and play with blocks. And his parents couldn’t be happier with their family’s experience at AAMG Bay Area Midwifery.
“She was a calm force of wonderful energy,” Roxanne says of Maria. “I feel like a lot of people would have talked me into doing other things, but I had a midwife who advocated for me.”
Roxanne’s relationship with AAMG Bay Area Midwifery now continues through annual well woman visits.
“At my six-week checkup, I was so sad I was leaving,” she said. “So I was thrilled to learn that I could still receive all my wellness care from the midwives.”
AAMG Bay Area Midwifery midwives provide well woman and primary care for women throughout their life span, including family planning, Pap smears, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, breast exams and referrals for mammograms, referrals for mental health services, and menopausal care.
Roxanne says she will always remember the sense of community she felt throughout her pregnancy. She encourages any mom-to-be who wants a personalized birth experience to consider AAMG Bay Area Midwifery.
“You couldn’t make a better choice,” she says.