Dear Baby and Co,
I’m devastated by the news of your closing.
On July 3, 2018 I labored at home for nine hours, then walked through the doors of the Charlotte center, my belly swollen and round. Women I came to know over the past several months greeted me excitedly. I didn’t think I could do it. In that moment I thought laboring in a birth center was certainly my worst idea yet.
When a friend later asked how much of my labor was mental versus physical I responded 80% mental. When given the opportunity to think back on my labor I realized just how essential my midwife and nurse were. From the time I stepped into our room from the time our daughter was born I begged my midwife to pull her out somehow. I told her multiple times that I didn’t think I could do it anymore yet through every contraction she calmed my nerves and told me I was so strong. She placed her hand on my trembling legs and told me gently that it was all normal, that I was ok and that my body was just reacting to all the hormones.
I wanted to give birth in a birth center because I longed for that golden hour after birth where my husband and I would be able to bond immediately with our baby, so long as everything was ok, and never have her leave our sight. I wanted to be as comfortable as possible and I wanted to have minimal people entering the room. More importantly I believed that my body knew how to birth a child and because I was fortunate enough to be a low risk mother the birth center most suited my needs.
I looked to my nurse Janelle thinking surely they’d cart me off to the hospital by now and say “This woman has no idea what she signed up for.” But they didn’t. They knew that I was in good health, that my baby was safe and that my body knew exactly what to do. They sat there at the edge of the tub. My husband sat behind me whispering that I was doing an amazing job. My midwife, my nurse, they noticed when I peaked my eyes open between contractions. They empowered me. Something in their eyes told me to hold on a little longer. I wish I could describe to you what their presence brought to my birth but there’s no way I can put it into words.
Janelle whispered that I was doing great. Wringing out a cool washcloth, she pressed it on my forehead. “You’re so strong mama.” she said.
They monitored my baby. They monitored me. They knew every word I needed to hear to press on and keep pushing.
“Come on mama.” they said. And all of a sudden my midwife Briana was lifting my big 9lb 2 oz baby out of my body and onto my chest. Janelle was smiling ear to ear as she covered us with warm blankets.
We bonded as a family in those first few moments with my daughter on my chest and then watched her at the edge of our bed as Briana ran her tests. She was a sweet healthy baby girl.
Since that day I joined a new mom’s group at the center where every week we sat on yoga mats and pillows with our brand new infants. Our teacher Genia asked us how we were and what we were doing for ourselves. To this day when I feel overwhelmed, when I feel like I’m doing too much and not taking care of myself I hear Genia’s voice asking, “Hey mama, what did you do for yourself this week? It’s ok to brag on yourself. What are you doing well?” In a world full of mommy guilt these words breathed life into me. Sometimes we laughed at the oddities of newborns. We shared tips and tricks, mostly we listened, loved, and cried together. We grew as women and it is because of Baby and Co.’s mission. Every time I drive by the center a smile floats across my face. “I can’t wait to have our next child there.” I’ll think to myself. I can’t wait for another beautiful intimate experience inside those walls. I can’t wait to bring another child into this world with the help of a midwife in that peaceful, safe place. Baby and Co. is so much more than a birth center. It’s where I became a mother. It’s where dozens of women have stood alongside each other supporting one another, loving on one another during a time this day in age that seems to want to do the opposite.
Since the announcement of your closing the mothers in my new mom’s group and I have been beside ourselves. Sharing memories of our birth stories, wondering where to go from here as we continue to grow our families. Worried about having any other experience that may be out of our control. I hate that now we seem to be left without similar options.
As if postpartum hormones weren’t difficult enough to manage, the announcement of your closing has made me feel deeply heartbroken. I wish there was something I could do. Pre-mom me might have been someone who said oh well, but motherhood has made me more bold. My birthing experience in particular has made me feel like I can do anything. That me says there’s got to be something that can be done. Please somebody save this center. Everywhere I go I tell people about my amazing experience. I stop women in the parking lot who have a baby and co. sticker on their car so we can share our experiences. I often thought about how excited I am to birth our next children there. Surely every mother who has cherished their experiences as well wants to stand on the rooftops with me and shout, “Please don’t go. Please stay Baby and Co. We Charlotte mamas love you. Continue encouraging women, continue bringing our babies into this world with your tender, caring hands. Show our daughters what strong women look like. Please don’t leave us.”
I understand I’m just one small mama and if you have to go I want you to know that you changed my life completely. You saved me in those postpartum days by encouraging me, loving on my baby, loving on me and creating a community of mamas for me to do life with. May the work you have done these past few years be recognized and celebrated. Thank you for having the courage to believe in us and do all that you did in this community.
With a heavy heart,
Natalie & Felicity