Karen’s Story: Midwifery Care and a Wish Come True

Karen and Ben Matthewson at CHRISTUS Children's holding newborn baby Luca.

After years of hoping for a child, Karen and Ben Matthewson were overjoyed to discover they were expecting a baby boy in early 2023. It was a wish come true and just as Karen had always imagined it, but halfway through her pregnancy, the couple had to relocate to San Antonio. Finding a new health care provider at 20 weeks presented a significant challenge, especially since Karen, with her background as a birth doula, was committed to evidence-based midwifery care within a hospital setting. She prioritized finding a certified practitioner who had hospital rights, aware that such providers might not be readily available in their new city.

After doing some research, however, Karen was connected to Jana Sullivan, MSN, CNM, the director of Midwifery Services at CHRISTUS Children’s and head of the Center for Midwifery and Women’s Health. Comprised of highly trained hospital-based certified nurse midwives who collaborate with obstetricians and a wide network of maternal-fetal specialists, the center provides comprehensive, high-quality care to women throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.

At their initial appointment, Karen and Ben were immediately reassured that they had found the right provider to deliver their son and care for Karen during the rest of her pregnancy.

The appointment was right at the end of my second trimester," Karen said. "Jana had a clear and open communication style. I could tell immediately that she was no-nonsense—she was going to give it to you straight, which I really appreciated.

Center for Midwifery

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Center for Midwifery and Women's Health

CHRISTUS Children’s in San Antonio has a team of hospital-based certified nurse midwives who are devoted to providing compassionate and holistic care throughout your pregnancy journey.

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Leaning on Expertise and Research

Over the following months, Karen visited Jana regularly for checkups to track her baby's heart rate and growth. She valued Jana's readiness to listen attentively to her concerns and provide detailed explanations on various subjects. Jana also went the extra mile by providing Karen with research and literature on topics of interest, catering to Karen's desire to understand the evidence and sources behind their discussions.

When we talked about an epidural, she sent me studies which were really informative, Karen said. I really liked that—it was clear that she wanted me to make my own decisions, but that she was going to be there to give me her opinions and tell me the truth about different options. I never felt like she was trying to push me in any direction, but I did very much feel like if I had questions, she would answer them in a very straightforward way and let me come to my own conclusions.

Karen was also impressed with Sarah Wheeler, MSN, CNM, CLC, who practices with Jana and who would be the provider to step in if for any reason Jana was not available when it was time for Karen to deliver her baby.

When your use a practice, you have to be comfortable with all the providers because of course there’s a chance a different provider could have to attend your birth, Karen said. I found Sarah to be an excellent caregiver. She was kind, informative, and professional when I saw her the few times that I did. It was clear that both she and Jana were committed to evidence-based care, and I felt fully comfortable having either of them deliver my baby.

The Big Day

On November 8, as Karen went into labor, she applied the strategies Jana had coached her on, staying at home until the labor advanced significantly before heading to CHRISTUS Children’s to give birth. Upon arrival, she was 5 centimeters dilated, already in active labor and experiencing intense back labor, which she found particularly painful. Initially resistant to the idea of an epidural, Karen had communicated her preference for minimal medical intervention to Jana. However, as her labor progressed and the pain intensified beyond her threshold, Karen reconsidered—especially when her labor began to stall.

Jana, respecting Karen's initial wishes, carefully confirmed her decision to proceed with the epidural, emphasizing the importance of Karen's comfort over any feelings of guilt or perceived failure. Her support was instrumental throughout, especially during the challenging back labor, where she provided hands-on assistance, pressing on Karen's back during contractions and offering constant reassurance. Karen's husband was also present, actively participating in the process and supporting her throughout.

Jana would stand in front of me and put pressure on my hand and tell me to focus on that pressure, Karen said. Even more, whenever Jana had to attend to another patient, she made certain that a capable provider or nurse was right there to take her place. It was such a personalized experience, and I never once felt like I was alone.

As the moment to push arrived, Karen's fear of tearing was at the forefront of her concerns, a fear she had shared with Jana beforehand. In response, Jana adopted a highly careful and supportive approach during the pushing phase, having previously provided Karen with specific stretches to perform in the weeks leading up to delivery to minimize the risk of tearing.

The pushing process was intentionally paced to ensure Karen's comfort and safety. Jana monitored the baby's heart rate and overall condition throughout, and with all indicators showing that the baby was doing well, she encouraged Karen to proceed at a natural pace that felt right for her, ensuring a supportive and patient environment for the birth.

Finally, at 7:07 p.m., baby Luca was born, weighing 7 pounds, 2 ounces., and measuring 20.25 inches long.

I ended up having the tiniest little tear, but didn’t even need a stitch, and I really believe that was because Jana was so patient and coached me through it, Karen said. The whole experience was honestly so positive. Even though it was horrifically painful pre-epidural, I came away feeling like I made the decision myself, and I felt good about my decision. I felt like I was allowed to take control of my own birth—it was empowering.

Comprehensive and Patient-Centered Care

Baby Luca Matthewson is in mom's lap and resting their chin on mom's knees

Karen said that in addition to Jana’s care as a provider, she was extremely satisfied with her overall experience at CHRISTUS Children’s, particularly valuing its designation as a baby-friendly facility. This designation highlights the hospital's commitment to educating mothers on feeding options, empowering them to make informed decisions best suited for themselves and their babies, and equipping them with the skills to feel confident in their choices. She also appreciated policies such as rooming-in, where the baby stays in the room with the mother, immediate skin-to-skin contact, and the option for delayed cord cutting.

CHRISTUS Children’s has a great reputation, and my experience supported that, Karen said. The nurses were all exceptional, too. They were cheering me on the whole time, and they were engaged and fun.

Following Luca’s birth, Karen wanted to breastfeed, a choice supported by the comprehensive care at the hospital. To ensure a smooth start to her breastfeeding journey, Jana coordinated with the hospital's lactation consultants to be readily available for Karen throughout her stay. These specialists provided personalized guidance, demonstrating techniques for effective latching, addressing any breastfeeding challenges, and offering support to build Karen's confidence in her ability to nurse Luca.

The hospital experience around breastfeeding was really positive, Karen said. Everyone was supportive, and they made sure my first night nurse was a nurse who also had her lactation consultant certification. The lactation consultant I worked with in the hospital even texted me a week after we got home to make sure things were going well and to see if I had any questions, and then she also checked in several times after that.

Now back at home, the Matthewson family is navigating the joys and challenges of life with a new baby. Despite the inevitable adjustments, they are filled with gratitude for the wish that has finally become their reality. Karen and Ben feel well-prepared for the journey of parenthood, buoyed by the support system established through their experiences with Jana and the team at CHRISTUS Children’s.

We are so thankful for the entire experience and for the ongoing care we have access to, Karen said. We have felt supported every step of the way and are so grateful for Jana and everyone at CHRISTUS Children’s.

Click here to learn more about the midwifery services offered at CHRISTUS Children’s.

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