Celebrating 100 Babies and a Contrasting Birth Culture

Gregg and Tara Garner had their first daughter, Genesis, in 2002. Tara’s due date was Christmas Day, but was recommended by her doctor to schedule an induction so that she could bring her home for Christmas. Lacking the education and support system that mothers in our community now have, Tara and Gregg went with the doctor's suggestion. The lack of compassion and informed consent that the Garners were given at Genesis' birth was the beginning of Tara's journey to learn about what a healthy birth experience should be like for women, and putting in the necessary work to make that happen. Within 3 years, Tara became a childbirth educator, doula, birth photographer, and the Director of the Childbirth Education Certification Program at the Institute for G.O.D. International. This program has produced 15 birth workers and partnered with 5 others, many of whom advocate for immigrant and refugee mothers birthing in Nashville. In addition, Tara is the Director of NOVA Birth Services, which offers education, advocacy and birth services to couples throughout the greater Nashville area.

Gregg and Tara Garner had their first daughter, Genesis, in 2002. Tara’s due date was Christmas Day, but was recommended by her doctor to schedule an induction so that she could bring her home for Christmas. Lacking the education and support system that mothers in our community now have, Tara and Gregg went with the doctor's suggestion. The lack of compassion and informed consent that the Garners were given at Genesis' birth was the beginning of Tara's journey to learn about what a healthy birth experience should be like for women, and putting in the necessary work to make that happen. Within 3 years, Tara became a childbirth educator, doula, birth photographer, and the Director of the Childbirth Education Certification Program at the Institute for G.O.D. International. This program has produced 15 birth workers and partnered with 5 others, many of whom advocate for immigrant and refugee mothers birthing in Nashville. In addition, Tara is the Director of NOVA Birth Services, which offers education, advocacy and birth services to couples throughout the greater Nashville area.

From Genesis to Mayzie

Last month we welcomed the 100th baby born into our community!  As we take in such a wonderfully historical moment, with grateful hearts, we recognize the immense blessing and responsibility God has gifted us in these precious little lives.  The Lord has seen each mother, and every baby, through their pregnancy, birth and postpartum recovery time.  From my little Genesis (who is now 11 years old!) to our newest little girl, Mayzie (born to Brynn & Mitch Buchanan) God, the giver of life, has been faithful to guide and keep us!

Personally, having witnessed myself the grand majority of the first hundred babies born, I am compelled to share how the faithfulness of God has been demonstrated towards us through the outstanding birth outcomes that make up our community’s blossoming story. Now, let me assure you, we’re not just concerned with the birthing of babies; we’re also compelled to raise them to become fearless forces of life, healing and redemption in a world that needs light.  This is no small feat, but we believe it’s actually one of the greatest efforts anyone could ever participate with God to accomplish.  This next generation holds our hopes, dreams and prayers for fulfilling God’s desire to have people who can image his Son and give hope to a world in need of good examples, inspirational leaders and impassioned activists!

Brynn Buchanan is our newest community mother. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Mayzie, at the hospital, attended by midwives. NOVA Childbirth Educator and Doula Megan Fleeman taught childbirth classes for Brynn and her husband, Mitchell, and was a tremendous support before, during and after her birth.

Brynn Buchanan is our newest community mother. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Mayzie, at the hospital, attended by midwives. NOVA Childbirth Educator and Doula Megan Fleeman taught childbirth classes for Brynn and her husband, Mitchell, and was a tremendous support before, during and after her birth.

It is an ever-driving conviction of the G.O.D. community to do our best to reflect the character and the desires of God in our world as he teaches us all to do in his Word.  Like a city on a hill, we work, study and serve to shine our light before anyone watching so that we could be that blessing to all peoples, even the nations, that God promised through Abraham.  We strive to see this overarching vocational responsibility permeate our occupational efforts as childbirth educators, doulas, and midwives.

A Glimpse of Birth in The U.S.

For some context, the U.S. ranks 50th in the world for maternal mortality. In the most powerful and richest nation in the world, the U.S.A., women are the least empowered during childbirth - meaning we are losing more moms from childbirth related complications than 49 other developed nations. Despite the U.S. government spending the most money, 98 billion dollars a year, on hospitalization for maternity care, a laboring woman is more likely to die in during childbirth in America than in any other developed country, including some underdeveloped countries (i.e. Albania). 49 nations do a better job of keeping new mothers alive! (1) Another assessment concluded that the U.S. maternal deaths could be 200 percent higher than reported! The U.S. maternal mortality rate has doubled in the last 25 years! Even more disturbing is that African-American women are 3.2 times more likely to die from pregnancy or birth related complications than white women. 1.7 million women each year experience a birth complication that negatively impacts their health. (2)

One contributing factor to such outcomes could be that birth, a physiologically normal process for 75 percent of pregnant mothers, has become overly and unnecessarily medicalized in our nation.  Compared with physician-attended low-risk births, midwife-attended low risk births have 33 percent (one-third) fewer deaths among newborn infants. Furthermore, midwife-attended births have 31 percent (nearly one-third) fewer babies born too small, which means fewer retarded and brain-damaged infants. (3) According to Dr. Marsden Wagner, perinatologist and perinatal epidemiologist and former director of Women’s and Children’s Health in the World Health Organization for 15 years, there is not a single report in the scientific literature that shows obstetricians to be safer than midwives for low-risk or normal pregnancy and birth.

Birth in our modern day culture has become less about better outcomes and more about convenience and booming business.  On average, more than 60% of a hospital’s revenue comes from its obstetric care and maternity services.  One third, 32.8% and rising, of all births end in a high-risk, surgical procedure, a cesarean section.  According the World Health Organization, for optimal and safest birth outcomes, the cesarean section rate should never exceed 15 percent.

The difference in cost between a cesarean delivery and vaginal delivery on average is $4,500. (4) An uncomplicated vaginal delivery in New York hospitals rose, on average, to nearly $7,400 per discharged patient in 2013, from $5,600 in 2009. At the high end of the scale, payment for an uncomplicated cesarean-section delivery leaped to more than $14,100 in 2013, from about $10,800 in 2009. (5) Even birth location makes a difference! The National Birth Center Study provided evidence for increased access to midwifery care and birth centers by showing that women who receive care at midwife-led birth centers incur lower medical costs and are less likely to have cesarean births compared to women who give birth at hospitals. (6)

Surrounding Amanda to welcome baby Lenore is Tori Roufs (doula), Elise Buckner (apprenticing midwife), and Celesta Bargatze (newly certified midwife)—all of G.O.D. International—her primary midwife, a Licensed Certified Professional Midwife was also in attendance (not pictured). This picture speaks to the bond created and compassionate support a new mother can, and should, experience from her support team.

Surrounding Amanda to welcome baby Lenore is Tori Roufs (doula), Elise Buckner (apprenticing midwife), and Celesta Bargatze (newly certified midwife)—all of G.O.D. International—her primary midwife, a Licensed Certified Professional Midwife was also in attendance (not pictured). This picture speaks to the bond created and compassionate support a new mother can, and should, experience from her support team.

“Because of its obstetric-intensive maternity care, the U.S. spends twice as much per capita on maternity care than any of the other countries with lower mortality rates for women and babies around the time of birth. By changing to a far more modern, more scientifically based maternity care, the United States could save $13 billion to $20 billion a year.” (7)

Researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health found that doula support reduced a woman's odds of giving birth via cesarean section by more than 40%. They also found a decrease in preterm births of almost 20% in the doula supported group. Further research has shown that doula support results in other positive birth outcomes, such as an increased initiation and duration of breastfeeding, shorter labors, less need for anesthesia or analgesia, fewer vacuum and/or forceps births, higher APGAR scores, better mother-baby bonding, and less postpartum depression. In other words, doulas supporting families in birth is a win-win, resulting in happier, healthier mothers and babies and less federal tax dollars wasted! (8)

I know I just unloaded a lot of information, but wouldn’t you agree such data should be highly scrutinized and exposed for the sake of the preservation of life?  The seasons of pregnancy and birth are some of the most vulnerable and impactful times in a woman’s life, filled with memories and experiences that she is left to live with forever, and often dictating the way she mothers and views herself as a mother.  In light of this, every woman deserves maternity care that acknowledges that reality. What should be a very compassionate, humanizing field of healthcare has become a risk-taking, scientifically unfounded moneymaking industry that capitalizes on the health of those it exists to serve - mothers and babies.  As a woman of childbearing age, I find these realities appalling, and worth exploiting for the sake of working towards safer birth outcomes.

This is where we come in.

Doing our Part

In our community of about 140 adults, we have over 20 childbirth workers. We have a unique team dynamic that allows us to offer full spectrum care for families – everything from education, to prenatal support, doula support and postpartum care. In addition, we are involved in about 100 births a year, on average, in the local Nashville area, outside of our community. Our services have helped women in our community, as well as women outside, including refugees and immigrants who most often are misrepresented in these fragile situations. God is raising up more midwives in our community, not only to help uphold the work of competent and holistic midwifery in the U.S. but also to help very poor families in the developing world; places like Sub-Saharan Africa where 1 out of every 16 women who give birth, dies. (9)

The childbirth workers of G.O.D. are striving every day to meet the growing needs of the expecting families we serve.  We take very serious our calling to educate and empower families to make informed decisions so they could have the most healthy birth experience possible for their individual situation.  As the midwives of the Exodus story exemplified, we have taken on the responsibility to ensure that the preservation of life trumps over any other agenda that disregards the value of the mother and her baby. It is our aim to guard pregnant and birthing women against disruptive, entrepreneurial agendas that rob their experience. We are here to make sure they know they deserve to be treated respectfully and holistically by their caregivers. To do all this, God has blessed us with incredible educational classrooms, office spaces, and conference rooms, all filled with the appropriate technology, visual aids, and teaching tools necessary to accomplish the task.

Above all, he has provided us with the most invaluable presence of skilled human resources.  He has connected us with a vast network of world- renown birthing experts, whom we are constantly learning evidence-based practices from.  We have received apprenticeships alongside incredibly skilled and seasoned midwives and the Midwives of the North American Alliance has even nationally recognized our very own midwife, Heather Munoz! God has been the source of our equipping! He has been watching over our efforts and I am thrilled to share with you the outstanding outcomes of our first 100 community births, contrasting the dominant culture of medicalized birth today.  I hope you celebrate with us, and pray for us, concerning the good work God is doing amongst us, a good work that glorifies our Father in heaven!

Over the last decade, 100 children have been born to participants in the G.O.D. Int’l community, 48 of them boys and 52 of them girls.

54% of these babies were born in hospitals (compared to 98% of U.S. births, CDC 2012).

34% of these babies were born at home (compared to 0.9% of all babies born at home in the US, CDC 2012).

12% of babies were born at birth centers (compared to 0.5% of U.S. births, CDC 2012).

In the US in 2012, Doctors of medicine attended 85.8% of all hospital births, certified nurse midwives (CNMs) attended 7.6%, and doctors of osteopathy 6% (CDC 2012). In our community, and with the following results, 89% of births were attended by midwives, and only 12.3% by OB/GYNs.

In our community, we have a vaginal delivery rate of 89%, with 79% of them being unmedicated.  In contrast, only 34% of women in the US forego epidural analgesia in labor. (10)

The World Health Organization states that if the cesarean rate exceeds 15%, maternal mortality and morbidity also increases. Though the WHO recognizes the danger of making cesarean section the norm rather than the exception in case of emergency, the U.S. cesarean rate is 32.8% on average, with some hospitals being as high as 70% (according to the CDC 2011 study). Our total number of Caesareans is 10 out of 100 births, or 10% -- 5% below the WHO recommended average, and 23% below the national average in the US.

Though many, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, recognize that vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is both possible and healthy, the U.S. VBAC rate is a mere 10% after an initial cesarean--that is, 9 out of 10 women who have cesareans go on to have all future babies by cesarean. In contrast, our community completely flips the statistic.  9 out of 10 of our women have had successful VBAC births--a 90% success rate!

Amanda Davis and Lyssa Loeffler delivered breech babies vaginally, making our average for vaginal breech delivery 66.6%.

Amanda and Michael Davis, and their babies, have overcome a myriad of birth-related complications. Their first birth was a scheduled cesarean section because of a breech position. Their second daughter, presenting in the most challenging breech position was, against all odds, safely delivered vaginally, with midwives in the hospital. Her third, a son, was delivered at home with a midwife (not pictured here). Her fourth, another daughter, was born at home last summer, also attended by midwives.

Amanda and Michael Davis, and their babies, have overcome a myriad of birth-related complications. Their first birth was a scheduled cesarean section because of a breech position. Their second daughter, presenting in the most challenging breech position was, against all odds, safely delivered vaginally, with midwives in the hospital. Her third, a son, was delivered at home with a midwife (not pictured here). Her fourth, another daughter, was born at home last summer, also attended by midwives.

Even in the face of medical complications, we have endured. Heather Munoz birthed her premature twin boys vaginally in the hospital.

Although preterm births have occurred by unforeseen circumstances, they have not risen above 3%, compared to the national average of 11%.

Out of the 100 births in our community, 90% of mothers were accompanied by doula support in labor.

We believe our community’s statistics can stand as a sign to the world that the projected birth outcomes for American women do not have to make their way into our lives.  I believe that our birth outcomes speak of the faithfulness of God through His people who have partnered with Him to enact justice in this most important arena of human living.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Mathew 5:14-16

Written by Tara Garner 

(1) The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 24 Aug. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/24/maternal-mortality-rate-infographic_n_1827427.html>.

(2) "Technology in Birth: First Do No Harmby Marsden Wagner, MD." Technology in Birth: First Do No Harm. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/tech

(3) "Technology in Birth: First Do No Harmby Marsden Wagner, MD." Technology in Birth: First Do No Harm. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/tech

(4) "New Research: Doula Support Reduces Odds of Cesarean Section by 40%.”  "Choicesinchildbirths Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <http://choicesinchildbirth.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/new-research-doula-support-reduces-odds-of-cesarean-section-by-40/>.

(5) "Birthing biz booms for hospitals." Latest from Crains New York Business. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014. <http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20140309/HEALTH_CARE/140309897/birthing-biz-booms-for-hospitals>.

(6) "New Research: Doula Support Reduces Odds of Cesarean Section by 40%.”  "Choicesinchildbirths Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <http://choicesinchildbirth.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/new-research-doula-support-reduces-odds-of-cesarean-section-by-40/>.

(7) "Technology in Birth: First Do No Harmby Marsden Wagner, MD." Technology in Birth: First Do No Harm. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/tech

(8) "New Research: Doula Support Reduces Odds of Cesarean Section by 40%.”  "Choicesinchildbirths Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <http://choicesinchildbirth.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/new-research-doula-support-reduces-odds-of-cesarean-section-by-40/>.

(9) "Maternal Mortality." unicef.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2014. <http://www.unicef.org/specialsession/about/sgreport-pdf/09_MaternalMortality_D7341Insert_English.pdf>.

(10) "BJA: CEACCP." Epidural analgesia in labour. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014. <http://ceaccp.oxfordjournals.org/content/