DOCTORS CARRIE WERNER, left, and Sarah Ackerly, naturopathic midwives at Northern Sun Family Health Care in Topsham, traveled through a blizzard to Mechanic Falls Tuesday to deliver a baby boy.

DOCTORS CARRIE WERNER, left, and Sarah Ackerly, naturopathic midwives at Northern Sun Family Health Care in Topsham, traveled through a blizzard to Mechanic Falls Tuesday to deliver a baby boy.


Katie Boyd may have been one of the only Mainers quite oblivious to and unconcerned about the blizzard raging outside last Tuesday — she was more focused on being in labor and, well, the pain that accompanied it.

At approximately 2:46 p.m. Tuesday, she gave birth to a baby boy during Winter

Storm Juno at her home in Mechanic Falls. Baby Sawyer was due Jan. 14, so Katie was 13 days overdue when her son decided to enter the world during a blizzard. And she was anxious to make the birth happen.

The contractions had started Monday night and naturopathic midwives Sarah Ackerly and Carrie Werner, with Northern Sun Family Health Care in Topsham, got phone calls at 4 a.m.

While they have a birthing center at their facility, roughly two-thirds of patients opt for home births. The women will travel within a 60-mile radius of Topsham. They make sure mothers have all the supplies they need and visit the home at least once so they know how to get there. The challenge for this delivery was getting themselves to the Boyds.

Werner and Ackerly met in Topsham at their Main Street center and headed for Mechanic Falls. What is normally a 45-minute drive took closer to 90 minutes. Not sure what they would find, crews had plowed a good portion of road in the white-out conditions. They drove at a distance behind plow trucks and navigating around snowdrifts in howling winds. Just getting out of the car and through the snow to the house was a challenge, Ackerly said.

“Most midwives have fourwheel drive who live in Maine,” Ackerly said.

The midwives arrived by 8 a.m. The plow crews “did an incredible job,” she said.

Was it nerve-racking for Boyd to be in labor during a blizzard that her midwives would have to traverse to reach her?

“I just knew whatever they had to do they’d do because they were awesome,” Boyd said. “I was just really kind of relaxed.”

She didn’t anticipate the level of pain she had and epidurals can’t be administered for home births. But the midwives suggested she get in the water, kept at body temperature, in her inflatable tub. Her mother and husband rubbed her back. The water helped control the pain, which Ackerly said they call a “wet epidural.”

They have several “tricks” they use to manage pain. Creating that personal connection with mothers also does wonders. As a midwife, they support the mother, rub their back and let them know they’re OK, Ackerly said. It’s amazing how wiping a brow with a cool cloth can mitigate pain.

Boyd and her husband Scott decided to have a water birth at home. They had talked to other people about their experiences with home birth and hospital birth, she said, “and decided we’d like a more private and intimate time to bond with Sawyer.”

There were multiple advantages, she said — cleanliness, healthiness, privacy and a more personal experience.

Ackerly and Werner specialize in naturopathic medicine and midwifery, and deliver between 40-60 babies a year. Mothers see them for all their prenatal care, Ackerly said. To help keep midwifery alive, both women teach at a midwifery school in Bridgton, which graduates 15-30 students a year who are trained to become a certified professional midwife — a national credentialing that oversees the regulation of midwifery.

Ackerly hopes the state will license midwives as some other states do, so health insurance would cover these births as well as Medicaid. It would be great for women to have that option, she said, because there is significantly less cost involved in a home birth or birth at their birthing center.

Home births and the use of midwives is on the rise nationally, according to Ackerly, particularly with some national personalities doing it. It is an option both for people who don’t want to be exposed to germs in the hospitals or subject to the restraints, as well as the cost factor.

There is research, Ackerly said, showing low risk births out of hospital are safer, when you look at risk of infection for mom and baby, “so it’s nice to have confirmation that with someone trained to do this, it’s actually very safe.”

More women all the time are opting to come to their birthing center where there is a comfortable room with a bed as well as a Jacuzzi for water birthing. Northern Sun Family Health Care and Birth Center just received national accreditation at the birth center by the American Association of Birth Centers, which has very stringent criteria.

Their blizzard birth will make a good story, Boyd said. The midwives had all the supplies she could need, even food and there was a lot of comforting, then cheers when Sawyer was born Tuesday afternoon. Scott had jumped in the birthing tub several times to support her back and helped deliver their baby.

Sawyer was placed on her chest and “that moment when our hearts connected, when I held him for the first time, was an unbelievable experience for me.”

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