Born Free: Bonne Fete Maternity has found a new home in the heart of Shreveport

In Jaime Wessler, Louisiana Ladies by Lola Magazine

There’s this thing that happens when normal childbirth is left undisturbed. The deeper into labor a woman gets, the slower her brain waves get until she slowly withdraws from her surroundings to the boundary between the conscious and subconscious. She’s on a journey that only she can embark on – not quite here, but not quite gone, either. After she’s pushes her baby out, she will slowly return from this state, transformed, and greet her baby as they are both flooded with oxytocin and begin to fall in love.

As a midwife I’ve had the honor to witness this journey unfold countless times. The path isn’t always straightforward, and you don’t always end the journey in the place you thought you would. But one thing is true: when a woman is surrounded by supportive people on this journey, she will always find her way. I came to practice midwifery the way that so many midwives do, by way of my own traumatic birth.

At face value, I got the birth I wanted: I didn’t have an epidural and I didn’t have a cesarean. But what I did get was a heavy dose of bullying and mistreatment. One hour after his birth I was alone in my room shaking and sad – a darkness setting in that would last for the next several months. During these months I spent most of my time alone, crying, and trying desperately to breastfeed, but being so deeply depressed that I couldn’t see that my baby was literally starving. Looking back at this experience through my now skilled eyes, it is very clear to me now that I was suffering from severe postpartum depression. Yet, no one said a thing. I was offered no support. I was just alone.

Three years later, not quite emotionally over my first experience, I found out I was pregnant again. My second pregnancy lit a fire in my belly. I determined that this time would be different, and I would never allow myself to be treated the way I had been before. I took all the classes, I read all the books, and I found a maternity provider who didn’t balk when I said I wanted to be able to move in labor – a midwife just over the border in Texas. During this birth I got to experience my own journey and return. And at the end, as I came to, I realized I was joyfully laughing.

Allow me, if I may, to say that this birth wasn’t just an incredible experience, it was downright healing. Over the course of this pregnancy, my provider talked to me. She listened to me. She heard my concerns and gave me space to have them. Never once did anyone roll their eyes at me, try to talk me out of what I was feeling, or laugh in my face (yes, this actually happened with my first). It was recognized and honored that even though she had the skilled hands in the room, ultimately this birth was something I had to do. I’d say she gave me power, but that would be wrong. What she did was remind me of the power I already had.

And so it began. When my second son was just 3 months old, I started my doula training. I spent the next several years learning as much as I could about physiologically normal childbirth, and hearing the birth stories of anyone who would share theirs. I learned how to hold space. I developed a deep respect and admiration for women’s bodies. Through this work I began to form my vision of my place in this work, and it didn’t take long to realize that I was meant to be a midwife.

Falling in love with birth work was easy, but becoming a midwife continues to be one of the hardest journeys I have ever taken. I’ve come face to face with the reality that the maternity care system as a whole doesn’t always help moms and babies. Higher cesarean rates, more perinatal mortality, and more maternal mortality plague our country despite technological advancements in medicine. Here in Louisiana we see some of the worst perinatal outcomes in the developed world, especially when it comes to women of color.

There’s a pervasive perception that midwifery is old and outdated. The reality is that what midwives know about childbirth is being supported by emerging scientific evidence over and over. We are learning that the introduction of all our technology didn’t improve outcomes. In fact they seem to have made them worse. It turns out, when you’re looking for a problem sometimes you create one that isn’t really there.

None of this is to say that there isn’t a place for technology and hospitals in childbirth. I feel blessed to have found my way to midwifery when I did. The system is opening up to what I do. We are seeing improvements in the way those who choose to have babies unmedicated are treated. There are more and more OBs who are supportive of a woman’s choice in her care. We are getting closer and closer to a system where midwives and OBs coexist to provide robust and supportive care for our communities.

I knew that a birth center was part of my plan at the beginning of my career. I had the vision of a multi-purpose building that could serve not only as a facility where I could attend births, but also a place for education, community, support, and perinatal exercise. For 3 years I searched for the perfect building, and in September 2018 I found the ideal building to begin the next step in my journey.

Bonne Fete Maternity has found a home in a 2400 SF building in the heart of Shreveport. We have two birthing suites with private bathrooms and beautiful birthing tubs. We’ve teamed up with Jessica Hunter Rivera, who specializes in pelvic health and restoration and offers the Hot Mama YogaTM methodology in the yoga studio. Our classroom space is a cozy room that is available for educational events, support groups, and professional meetups. Bonne Fete Maternity has grown into more than a birth center. Our team has come together to create a space where families in the perinatal period can come and find the support and community that they need.

When a woman has her baby, she ends a journey, but that’s never the end. That journey’s end will inform the path she chooses to take next, and so on, and so on. My own path has been a crooked one full of discovery. I am honored to bring this next phase in maternity care to our community. Our journey is just beginning.