2018-05-10 / Life in Leelanau

An Ode to Moms

County moms share birthing experiences in time for Mother’s Day
By Jen Murphy
Of The Enterprise staff


LOVING SUPPORT. Suttons Bay resident Matt Dodson supports his partner, Elizabeth Channer, as she relaxes through her labor with her second child. The baby was born at their home on Setterbo Road. 
Photo credit Nicole Martin Photography LOVING SUPPORT. Suttons Bay resident Matt Dodson supports his partner, Elizabeth Channer, as she relaxes through her labor with her second child. The baby was born at their home on Setterbo Road. Photo credit Nicole Martin Photography The process may be the same, but the story is always unique.

With each child, the birth experience is different — some a little slower, some a little faster. Some arrive “on time,” while others are “late.” Some are born at the hospital, some at home and some at a place in-between.

But no matter where, when or how, a mother remembers her baby’s entrance into the world. That’s certainly the case for four Leelanau County women. Each of them shared the birth story of their second child.

One of these women just welcomed her second on Saturday. Cedar resident Stacey Wilcox said her labor started early Saturday morning around 2:30 a.m. Her son, Paul Andrew, was born at 7:36 a.m. The time may have been short, but it sure was exciting.


WATER BIRTH. Suttons Bay resident Elizabeth Channer holds her newborn daughter, Era Mae, just seconds after she was born in their home. 
Photo credit Nicole Martin Photography WATER BIRTH. Suttons Bay resident Elizabeth Channer holds her newborn daughter, Era Mae, just seconds after she was born in their home. Photo credit Nicole Martin Photography “We called in at 3 a.m., they told me to come in and then I called my doula,” Wilcox said. “I took some (essential) oils internally to move the labor along.”

After about an hour laboring in a room at Munson Medical Center, Wilcox said she knew it was time for the baby.

“I had only been there an hour, so nobody believed I was ready to rock and roll,” she said.

But Wilcox had a deadline.

“I kept looking at the clock,” she said. “My 6-year-old, Charley, had a play at 10 a.m. that he had been practicing for six weeks. I thought, ‘I have a window here.’”

She was determined to have a natural birth, with no medications or medical interventions, but that almost didn’t happen.

“At one point, the baby’s heart rate dropped down in the 50s,” she said. “There were 15 people in the room getting my IV hooked up and ready. I knew that many people in the room probably wasn’t a good thing. But it took six more pushes and we got him out safely.

“The experience overall was very quick, and I’m grateful. I am so looking forward to spending Mother’s Day with both of these boys.”

And she made it to Charley’s play.

Centerville Township resident Sarah Vanhaaren also had a quick experience. It was so quick, in fact, the doctor never arrived.

After waking up several times during the night, Vanhaaren said she realized she was in labor around 4:30 a.m.

“I woke my sleeping husband and told him I was getting in the shower,” she said. But she never made it into the shower because the labor was progressing so fast. “I cleaned up with a wash rag, put clean clothes on, kissed the kids and headed out the door with mom and husband in tow.

“On our drive my husband wanted to take some ‘shortcuts’ that were too bumpy for my circumstances. So I had him keep to the main roads in. With every mile, it became more difficult not to push.”

When she arrived at the hospital, her husband dropped her at the E.R. entrance and he parked the car.

The staff didn’t even have time to hook up monitors.

“I informed them we didn’t have time and I felt the need to push,” she said.

In the time it took for her husband to park the car, find her room and give Vanhaaren some words of encouragement and a kiss, Mia arrived.

It was 7:23 a.m.

But what about mothers who plan for a home birth?

According to the 2016 Michigan Resident Birth File, Division for Vital Records & Health Statistics, Michigan Department of Health & Human Services, less than 1 percent of women plan for a home birth.

Eighteen months ago, Suttons Bay resident Elizabeth Channer beat the odds.

Channer and her partner, Matt Dodson, planned a home birth for their now 18-month-old daughter at their home on Setterbo Road.

“It was a nice smooth birth,” she said. “I woke up that day and was supposed to go to work, but thought something was going on. I did stuff at the house to get prepared, and my water broke at noon.”

The baby, Era Mae, was the second child Channer had at home. She was born at 11:23 p.m. in a birthing tub the couple had set up.

“I think it’s nice to have some great hospital births, but home births are wonderful,” Channer said. “People always see birth as super scary, but it’s not. I literally didn’t have to push and she just came out on her own. It was very hard work, but it was good experience.”

Northport resident Amy Murphy is also a part of the 1 percent. Her second daughter, Amalia, was also born at home. When her labor first started, though, she wasn’t sure it was the real deal.

“I walked down North Shore Drive in Northport, and as I started to come back, realizing that this could be the real thing, I was contemplating which of my neighbors I could wake up to have them drive me up the hill to our house,” Murphy said. “I made it home just fine, and was still not fully convinced it would stick. I timed my contractions, which were not very far apart. Our midwife Kathy made it up from Traverse City in time to wash her hands and deliver a baby.”

Murphy has been grateful for this experience ever since.

“Motherhood is a beautiful and challenging state,” she said. “For me, it came along with huge blessings — safe, natural births at home, babies that took to nursing, and work situations that enabled me to take some time before jumping back in. Amalia’s birth came at a time when I was relatively new to this community, and the women and families around me took such care, feeding our family for weeks after she was born.

“I am ever grateful for the people that surrounded and supported me.”

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