My first interaction with the Midwives Exclusive brand was with Heather, at a chilly morning netball match where our daughters played together. At that point, I only knew her as “Emma’s mom.” I had my 4month old strapped to me in a baby wrap and fell into an easy conversation with Emma’s mom, and upon hearing she was a midwife, I told her how my baby was delivered by a private midwife, in a calm, natural birth. Heather let me know she realized that before I’d ever even said hello. Upon hearing more about Midwives Exclusive, I joked with Heather that I would consult with the practice if I ever got pregnant again.

Fast forward a year plus later, Heather and I cobbled together a joint birthday party for our netball girls. Before wrapping up, Sr. Christel joined us for a debrief with Heather regarding some birth issues. My immediate impression of Christel was that she was calm, capable and kind.

Fast forward another year plus later- I was pregnant. After making it safely through influenza and the first trimester scan, I asked Heather if I could be seen by the ME practice. To my surprise, she told me that only she and Christel had any availability. She also let me know if she had to select any midwife to work with me, it would be Christel. We agreed that I’d see Christel for a first visit. I walked in to formally meet Christel for my appointment and was immediately set at ease by her warmth, gentleness and easy going nature. She was encouraging, open minded and exuded quiet competence. I texted Heather later that Christel was my number one pick to guide me through my pregnancy and birth.

Throughout our antenatal visits, Christel demonstrated an uncanny ability to be both thorough and casual. She took her time with me, never scolded me for tardiness or rescheduling, never pressured me. Any time some hiccup occurred that required further probing or investigation, she handled it and advised me without making me worry or underestimate myself. I left every single visit feeling renewed and reassured.

Sometime in my third trimester, I told Christel about a video I’d seen of a mom self-delivering her baby in water, with her midwife and husband standing close by. Christel sensed how much I’d love a birth like this, and simply asked me “Shall we go for it?” I was again astounded by her ability to be so open and positive, encouraging and welcoming my birth preferences.

As my pregnancy progressed, I worked up to my due date and then finally got some time to rest. Christel met with me a few times in week 40-41 and fully supported my continued desire to have an intervention-free, induction-free labor and delivery. One day before the 41-week mark, Christel and I realized that baby Neo would be coming soon as I was dilating but without labor. She saw me twice that day, reassuring me that Neo was healthy and safe despite my amniotic fluid starting to leak. Contractions started and stopped, so we planned to monitor intermittently for the time being. We decided to forego a late night appointment as I wanted to rest at home and try to sleep. Christel asked me to contact her within an hour and warned me not to delay too long before coming to the Birth House. That last chat was at 11pm and I didn’t contact Christel again til 4am. I never felt so guilty, realizing she was waiting on standby for news from me. Lo and behold, I simply slept the whole time, not in active labor at all. As I was getting anxious that an intervention to help me progress was imminent, Christel agreed that I should come to the BH to see where we were and make a plan. Through all the ups and downs, she was as steady as a rock. This was exactly what I needed to help ground me and keep me focused on my intentions.

I arrived at the BH at 6am, experiencing only 1 contraction in the previous 2 hours. Christel greeted us at the car in the cold, dark morning. She was dressed in scrubs for the first time in any of our appointments, signaling me that this was quite a different visit. She made no indication of any irritation I’d caused by being out of contact overnight; on the contrary, she was pleasant, warm and welcoming. She put no pressure on me, but just allowed me to get settled and get into whatever labor zone I could muster. Upon our (or at least my!) surprise, when she checked me an hour or so later, I was 7cm dilated and fully effaced. I will never forget her words at the time: “Great! Now all we need is some contractions!” This again signaled me that, although unusual, my labor was progressing and I was safe; my vision of an intervention-free birth was still attainable.

I got in the bath and my contractions finally kicked in at around 7am. Although Christel had often explained that second babies delivery more quickly than the first, I steeled myself for a full day of labor. Christel monitored Neo and I, continually noting how great we were doing and how all was well. Her calm reassurance was the most motivating part of my entire labor. As I watch the video now, Christel’s words were perfect, “Good Mary, you’re doing it, that’s it!” She also told me that my membranes and fluid were still intact and reminded me how this helped make delivery even more comfortable for both of us. The most amazing words she said to me were right in the height of labor after checking Neo’s heartrate, “This baby is so strong, just like her mom.” This simple sentence refueled me to no end. I could only think that if this strong, capable midwife thought of me as a strong person, I had no choice but to prove her right. Just as Neo crowned, her membranes broke and Christel encouraged me to “breathe her out”. This was the best advice possible, as it allowed me to dig into my primal self and help deliver Neo, just as I had wanted to.

Over the course of Neo’s birthday, first month, and first year, Christel has continued to be a warm, encouraging, knowledgeable resource to us. She is one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever known, and it is my privilege to have received her support and wisdom.