Giving birth at home with the help of a midwife is becoming increasingly more popular as a safe, viable option in the last 10 years.
“It was the most beautiful experience of my life; it was very empowering,” said Anahola resident Nalani Cummings, adding she was “very shocked” at how safe it was to have her children at home — and how quickly and smoothly it went.
Kawika, born underwater in March, was Cummings’ second child. His three-year-old sister, Emma, was also born at home, though not underwater.
“There are hundreds of Home Birth Kaua‘i babies on the island now, from Wainiha to Kekaha,” Sharon Offley said.
She and Colleen Bass said they are the only certified nurse midwives on the island. Together with Nicolette Aguinaldo, they own Home Birth Kaua‘i in Kapa‘a, providing pre-natal and post-partum care, as well as a wide range of services for women.
“We also provide gynecological services, pap smear, annual exams, screening for cervical cancer, breast cancer,” Bass said. “We can take care of women through their whole lifespan.”
Soon, they’ll rename the business as Hua Moon Women’s Health, hoping it will bring more awareness to all the services they offer.
In 1900, almost everyone in the United States was born at home. By 1969, only 1 percent of the population was being born outside a hospital. That percentage continued to decline until 2004, when the number of home births took an upturn, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In Hawai‘i, the CDC estimates between 1 and 1.5 percent of births are outside a hospital.
Home Birth Kaua‘i went through a reshuffle recently, moving to an office space from a home facility in January, in order to continue what certified nurse midwife Claudia Brown started a few years ago.
Brown was a midwife at Wilcox Memorial Hospital in Lihu‘e. About five or six years ago, she returned from a work-related trip to Africa to find out the hospital had done away with having certified nurse midwives.
“So she came back to no job, and she said, ‘Why don’t I offer this at home?’” Aguinaldo said.
In the first year, Brown performed eight deliveries. Aguinaldo said if families couldn’t afford, Brown would do deliveries for free, and sometimes would trade work, such as a new paint job for her fence. She would let people use her car and invite them for dinners, treating them like family.
The business grew after the first couple years, and Brown hired Offley, Aguinaldo and Bass.
Last September, Brown lost a battle against cancer, but her work continues.
“This was a huge dream for her, she has four living children and this was her fifth child,” Offley said.
She and Bass said they perform about 85 deliveries a year, and now offer very similar services that a hospital does, minus blood transfusion, epidural and C-section.
They are also set up to accept health insurance from most providers.
Pre-natal care includes lab work, ultrasound, genetic screening and other services.
During labor, they bring IV, oxygen, resuscitation equipment and medication, but will only use it if it’s needed.
Cummings, who is also a nurse and is familiar with hospital deliveries, said her friends and family told her she was crazy for having Emma and Kawika at home. But to her, she knew it was the best decision.
“No fear; don’t be afraid,” said Cummings, laughing.
Offley said out-of-hospital midwifery care is ideal for healthy and low risk women. When a mother-to-be comes in, they take their entire medical history. As the pregnancy unfolds, if they learn there may be some complications, she said the hospital might be a better setting.
Sometimes, mothers choose to have prenatal care at Home Birth Kaua‘i and then move to the hospital in the last month.
In few cases, laboring mothers were transferred to the hospital, but Aguinaldo said they never wait until it escalates to an emergency.
“Our ultimate goal is a healthy mom and a healthy baby; if there are concerns, we transfer them (to the hospital),” Offley said.
Aguinaldo said home birth is just another option, and this was exactly what Brown wanted — to provide a choice for women on Kaua‘i.
The building where Home Birth Kaua‘i operates also houses an array of healthcare practitioners, all of them women, including mental-health practitioners, a naturopath physician, an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner and a massage therapist.
“Women can come here and see us, but really obtain this holistic care in this integrative center,” Offley said. “There’s nothing like this on Kaua‘i”
Aguinaldo, whose children were delivered at home, said it’s not everyday that you can shake someone to their soul and make them feel absolutely happy and proud of themselves.
“You don’t get that often,” she said.
Home Birth Kaua‘i is at 4-1558 Kuhio Highway in Kapa‘a, and can be reached at 639-9722. Visit homebirthKauai.com for more information.