Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing this lovely lady. I’ve already worked multiple births with her, so I know what an incredible professional she is, and I am so glad to get to introduce her to you in her own words.
Deanna Norris is in her final semester at Midwives College of Utah, pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Midwifery (BSM). She completed her clinical requirements in December 2018. Deanna is currently transitioning from student to midwife, and plans to open her solo-practice in late Spring to early Summer.
I’m Deanna Norris of holistic birthing services. I’ve been a birth worker for about seven years and I’m just starting my own midwifery practice. This year.
In addition to just your basic midwifery training courses, I have taken advanced classes in things like genetics and embryology, chemistry, nutrition, racial justice, and evidence-based research. So it’s a really thorough and really in-depth degree. I’ve also apprenticed with five different midwives across the state and they all have solo practices. So I’ve been able to see a wide variety of skills and philosophies and practice styles and it’s just been a great experience to be able to say “OK, you know, tell me what you know about this and tell me what you know about this,” and kind of gather all that information and put it all into my own little system there.
When I first started on the midwifery journey I just knew that I was going to be that barefoot midwife in the middle of the woods catching babies in yurt next to candlelight. That was my calling, and I still very much am that midwife in my heart. But thankfully I’ve added a lot of the important things that you need to do to keep people safe, to be able to have that lovely experience. So I have changed quite a bit and there are definitely internal struggles that I go through because I believe that every woman should be able to birth however she wants. What I know to be true though, is that it’s not always safe. And then, (I’m asking myself) am I going to be that person that’s there supporting her, or am I just there to encourage her to to find her path? That can be really challenging for somebody like me, who really wants women to feel empowered and supported. Birth is transformative. And if you have one good experience, you’re a different woman the next day.
Birth is transformative. And if you have one good experience you’re a different woman the next day.Deanna Norris
I definitely have pulled from individual midwives the things that I’ve loved, and things that I’m just not comfortable with, or that just don’t flow with my philosophy of birth. I’ve kind of left those things on the table. I really love true informed consent and refusal, explaining to clients from an evidence-based perspective why we do what we do, what your rights and responsibilities are as the client, and kind of how we meet in the middle for that. I don’t ever want a client to come back and say, “well you never told me that. I didn’t know this.”
Midwifery is all about supporting those people where they are and loving them where they are and giving them the tools that they need to make those good choices for their family.
Most common questions
Most people want to know how much it costs and they want to know what labs and tests we require, and how often we see them.
And some people will ask about your experience — how many catches you’ve had, and how many years have you been doing this. Dads are pretty much always worried about, how much it costs, and how big of a mess it makes, and what happens in an emergency. And then moms are more into the nuances of how we are going to have a relationship as a client and a midwife.
For me, as far as labs are concerned, I have access to and do all of the lab work and screenings that you would get in a regular OB GYN’s office. A lot of them are optional. There are just a few things that I really feel help make sure that you’re safe and low risk for out-of-hospital birth, but we talk about it. It’s all about the education and what it means for you as the person.
Questions you should ask
A lot of people don’t ask about midwifery education and that’s usually because they don’t understand the different nuances of education that a midwife can get. There’s just a wide variety of it, and in a state like Oklahoma where midwifery is unregulated, there’s no clear pathway. You can have a traditionally trained midwife who has never gone to a brick and mortar school, who has never done anything outside of an apprenticeship, who is an amazing midwife. But then you compare it to a nurse midwife who has a master’s degree in midwifery, and those trainings look vastly different. My philosophy is: as long as you know and understand what you’re getting, then move forward with what feels comfortable to you.
Midwifery is all about supporting those people where they are and loving them where they are and giving them the tools that they need to make those good choices for their family.Deanna Norris
One thing that that often does not get asked is, if somebody has a grievance or would like to file a complaint against a midwife, where they can turn. In the beginning, when you’re interviewing midwives, it will be really helpful to ask if they’re part of a local midwifery organization. in Oklahoma we have two organizations: one is kind of for the eastern side of the state and one’s more kind of central and western, and a lot of us are members of both of them. The two organizations are the Oklahoma Midwives Alliance and the Midwive’s Society of Oklahoma. They both have web sites and they both have contact information on them. So if your midwife is a part of one or both of those groups, then you can rest assured that she’s going through those steps to make sure that she’s up to date on all of her practice guidelines and evidence-based care and is working with other midwives doing monthly or quarterly peer reviews.
Helping family get on board with out-of-hospital birth
The non-pregnant partner is generally more nervous about it than the pregnant person, and I look at that from the perspective of caring… like they’re concerned and caring. They just want their partner to be safe. They want their baby to be safe. They want to make sure that this is not hocus pocus, and that we’re actually legit. Once we cover the vast majority of questions—how how we keep you safe, what we bring to births, our equipment and our training and our skills, what happens in an emergency, why would we risk you out of care, and why would we keep you in care—generally that person is better. They’re not necessarily 100% on board, but they’re okay. They know you know what you’re doing. And that is usually just education.
As far as grandparents are concerned, that can be a little bit trickier. We do sometimes have conversations with families about how the energy you bring into your birth space affects your birth, and while we all want to have our moms or dads next to us when we’re having this beautiful experience, it’s not always the healthiest, safest feeling for the person who’s giving birth. So we kind of give them permission to only have people who are going to be supportive, encouraging, and and understanding in the house or in the room.
However on the flip side of that, if that family member is willing to come in and talk to us, and ask their questions, and get to know us the same way the family did and the partners did, then we’ll answer their questions.
My own birth experience
My first home birth was with my second son. He’s going to be seven soon, so even seven years ago there weren’t a lot of midwives to choose from. I got one name from a friend who knew of a friend who had used this midwife. She had a lot of experience, she’d been around for 20-30 years, and she had this very charismatic style, and I felt like everything was was going to be wonderful. You know my personal experience in labor and in delivering my own baby and everything was very empowering. And there were things along the way that my husband and I were kind of questioning. But we didn’t know, because it was our first experience, we had no idea if this was normal or not. My only other experience was the hospital and it was way better than that. So I was happy.
I never want a client to come back and say, “Well you never told me that.”Deanna Norris
But as I got more involved in the community and attended more births as a doula, I realized that maybe my intuition was right. And maybe everything that happened during my pregnancy and birth and postpartum wasn’t quite normal or up to par. So I was pregnant again, and again wanted to have a home birth, and and sought out a different midwife. I talked with her at length about my experience and I felt very supported by her because she confirmed that my feelings were correct and that I wasn’t getting the care that I deserved from (my previous) midwife, and and her care was completely opposite. We talked about every single stage of pregnancy: we talked about nutrition, we talked about how to take care of myself mentally, emotionally, spiritually. We talked about chiropractic care, and body work and testing and ultrasounds and screens, and holistic remedies. But we also talked about when western medicine was needed and why we would want that. I just so appreciated that she covered everything from a place of neutrality, like “I’m giving you that information and I want you to make the choice.” She wasn’t making it for me one way or the other.
What was interesting was that my first home birth experience was so far to the left of what I had experienced in the hospital, but what I later realized was that they were actually very similar experiences. Because my voice and my informed consent and refusal was taken away at the hospital, but it was also taken away with this midwife. I didn’t have any testing, or screenings, or ultrasounds, and my postpartum care was non-existent. It was the same, just in a different situation. So what I loved about my second midwife, who I still call my midwife even though I’m not having any more babies, was that she gave me all the information. She supported me in making the decision that was best for me even if she didn’t agree with it. And that’s the kind of midwife that I want to be. I want my clients to understand that I’m going to support you in this, and it might not be what I would choose but I want you to make this choice.