Plano Birthplace Birth Center
The only birth center in Plano, Texas, serves the greater Dallas community. Laura Levitan of Mod L Photography sits down with Jeannine Tate to talk about the goals of Plano Birthplace. Newborn Photographer Laura blogs about other businesses in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex who serve the same clients that she does. Her goal is to provide a resource to her clients and connect with other businesses in an effort to build community and better understand the needs and interests of families with young children here in Dallas.
Is a Birth Center right for me?
Laura: If you have anything to tell people who might be interested in a birth center experience, as opposed to the hospital experience, what would it be?
Jeannine: That it’s OK to interview more than one provider. It’s OK to go to different birth centers and hospitals and tour the space and get a feel for what they think would be a good place to birth. What’s most important is that women find a provider they feel a connection to, they trust, and find a safe space.
Every woman’s safe space is about what’s right for them; for many women a birth center is where they feel safe – where they’ll be supported. There are some women who wouldn’t feel safe in a birth center. All women should birth in the space that feels best for them.
It’s OK if you have a provider and you’re halfway through the pregnancy and, all of a sudden, you feel like it’s not the right fit anymore. If there are things in your mind telling you that this isn’t the correct fit, it’s OK to change- to listen to that little voice in your head that is telling you that you need to find a better place to birth.
Find a place that makes you comfortable, safe and vulnerable but not scared. That’s really what I think it comes down to when finding the best place to give birth: where the mother feels safe. Birth is about letting go, being vulnerable enough to let go and let your body do what it needs to do. The only way for a woman to birth empowered is to be in a space she feels safe and allows her to let go.
What is your most important goal at Plano Birthplace?
Jeannine: A safe place to birth is #1. However, the midwifery model of care is vital to ensure that the mother feels confident and empowered to birth. We are going to provide supportive and respectful care where the mom is the leader in her own health and care. The mother can birth the best way for her because we’re going to protect her space. I’m an advanced practice nurse so I’m will make sure I keep her safe if any complications come up, but I will also protect her from unnecessary medical interventions.
How did you decide to open Plano Birthplace?
Laura: How did you get started in the birthing industry?
Jeannine: I grew up in Plano where my dad was a builder. He actually built the building where Plano Birthplace is now located. At Florida State I majored in psychology. I got married after I came back to Texas, and worked as a real estate agent. At some point between our marriage and having 5 kids, we moved back to Plano.
I was working on my masters in psychology and realized it just wasn’t the right fit for me. Counseling didn’t come easily for me. My mom is a psychologist, but when I was young she worked as an ICU nurse. When questioning my degree I thought, “I want to be a nurse” and so I called up my best friend at Florida State (she is a nurse) and I said” I want to be a nurse.” She said, “No, no, no. You don’t get to do that; you need to go somewhere, be around nurses and really figure out if this is the right fit for you.”
So I went and got a job as a secretary at Presby Plano, and went to nursing school. I loved being with nurses, I kept thinking, “I want to be a nurse, I want to be a staff nurse, I have got to do this.”
“Who would be crazy enough to get pregnant in nursing school?”
At the time we were struggling with getting pregnant, I had given up. I thought, “I’ll just go back to school.” In my final year in nursing school at TWU I got pregnant. I went directly to the midwife teaching the Women’s healthcare course and said, I am the girl that said, “Who would be crazy enough to get pregnant in nursing school? That’s way too hard!” Yet, here I was – pregnant!
In my OB women services class I was taught by Certified Nurse-Midwives. Even though I grew up in an affluent neighborhood, and considered myself to be well educated, I had no real understanding of birth. I truly thought pregnancy and birth was dangerous and deserving of medical interventions. We already had our first son, but I remember sitting in that class learning about midwives and the evidence that good outcomes do happen where the mom was respected and empowered. I remember getting goosebumps and thinking to myself – this makes sense.
Even though I didn’t have a traumatic or bad birth experience. I was a person that didn’t do her research and as a result it was like birth happened to me instead of me being actively involved in the birth process. It was the old motto “healthy baby, healthy momma is what really matters.” Well – over the past 13 years I have learned it is so much more!
The midwife talked about how women deserved to be treated with dignity and respect, that they can control their birth.
I thought “Wow, I want that if I ever get pregnant again.” And then I was pregnant.
So I went to that midwife and talked with her, starting my research into my birth process. In the meantime I went to my OB because I wasn’t quite convinced about the midwives. I was still a little nervous at ten or eleven weeks, and he said, “I’ll never let you go past 39 weeks because you have big babies.”
However, I was a nursing student and by finals I was going to be 40 weeks. My goal was to make it through finals. I told him that he wasn’t the doctor for me, and I left. There is a lot of psychology involved in pregnancy. My midwife helped me with a tactic I tell my clients. I thought “Stay in, stay in.” Then after I completed my finals I thought, “Get out, get out.” Because I could only get to 42 weeks.
So at 41 weeks I was panicking, but when I went to my midwife she was calm. She said, “You know what I envision? That you miss your pinning ceremony and they announce that you had your baby at home at that pinning ceremony,” and that’s what happened.
Where did you go after nursing school?
When I graduated from nursing school I went over to Presby Plano. I was looking for an internship with Labor and delivery. I was convinced at this point that I wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse. I worked at Presby Dallas for many years as a labor and delivery nurse; it was a great place for me to learn. I was there from 2008 through 2012. The volume was high and I learned a great deal about the medical aspects of birth. However, there were no midwives practicing at that time in the hospital at Presby Dallas.
Then in 2012 the women’s health director went to open Baylor Mckinney, where CNMs were allowed to have privileges! They were allowing water births. They had equipment where women even if needing to be closely monitored- could labor outside the bed and even walk the halls. A place where even if the mother chose not to get the epidural she had other “tools” she cold utilize to help during labor and birth.
I decided that I really wanted to be at a hospital where midwives had privileges! So I helped open that hospital. To this date, a lot of great midwives practice there. I went back to school to be a midwife, because I wanted that connection to my clients. My goals was to be able to support them while their body did what it knows what to do. I wanted women to be able to birth in the hospital setting or out of the hospital setting with a midwife that believes 100% in birth being normal. And I wanted women to chose where and with whom they felt most comfortable birthing.
Why is prenatal education so important?
Jeannine: There are a lot of moms that feel that becoming a mother has been hard on them; moms that have done everything right but still have guilt about their birth process, like having an epidural. I say, “Guilt should be reserved for the things that you did wrong and should change!” You did the best you could with the information that you had at the time. Often times when women birth in the hospital setting the only tool they have to cope is the epidural. The epidural isn’t the issue. Sometimes an epidural is actually a great solution.
Where the system has failed women is in that they feel sadness, regret and shame if they chose an epidural. I find it sad that the medical community has set women up to need the epidural and yet they are lead to believe it makes them lesser, and weak. That somehow they are weak because they “gave in and got the epidural.” No! Women aren’t weak! It is the system that has set women up to feel they can’t tolerate birth.
If women were encouraged to eat in labor, to walk around, to birth upright (not on their back), to use hydrotherapy, music, doulas – then they would feel empowered and strong during birth. When we know more we do better.”
“When we know more we do better.”
However, I think it’s a very valid feeling that these mothers have. Even in my own experience, my first birth was nothing like my last two births, when I birthed at home with midwives. The first step in overcoming the guilt these mothers have is to have them process what they would do differently if they could. You have to process the situation, and then move forward.
Laura: Letting bad experiences, that you don’t feel you had enough control over, go.
Jeannine: Exactly. Epidurals are not the problem. What’s important is that you feel empowered during the birth, and that you feel that you are in control. There are many partners who feel like they’ve failed their spouses. Because they watched the mothers have an epidural, C-section, what have you, and didn’t know how to support.
Why are doulas so important?
That’s why doulas are so important. Whatever the safe space is, the mother needs support. Doulas are taking off now, because women are more educated and want to understand and control their birth process and the evidence shows when a woman is supported in labor and birth by a doula – she has good outcomes.
The birth community has exploded. In the past couple of years it’s been expanding, whether it comes to birth photography or doulas, we’ve got so many people that have learned that women out there are willing, and want to, have a complete experience with different professionals coming in.
Laura: I honestly think that’s wonderful.
What can mothers do to influence their birth experience?
Jeannine: If you want to have a successful birth there are two things that are important to me. The first is to pick a provider that you trust and are comfortable with. Someone you can stop and say “I’m a little bit nervous about this,” and they will listen to you. They let you be a part of the decision making process so that you can make informed decisions.
The second is to have a safe space to go, wherever that safe space may be, and walk in in active labor; not being induced. A mother’s chances to have a C-section dramatically decrease when she is allowed to go into labor naturally. So I say “wait, do not get induced. Do not be convinced unless it’s a medical reason. Then you can go for plan B. As a mom you do what is best for your baby.”
When women go into active labor you know that’s the way its supposed to happen. I think that it’s very important the community knows that you don’t have to be induced at 39 weeks. There are many women, including myself, who were induced at 39 weeks because they didn’t realize that they had other options and didn’t know what induction and a C-section would do to their birth.
It can feel threatening when doctors say things like “99th percentile”, or “You’re not going to be able to do this.” When it comes to a mom protecting their baby, she will do whatever it takes. Even if it means going against her own body.
What can mothers do to enhance their birth experience?
Jeannine: I believe in birth photography, especially for a woman who has had a bad birth, or a dissatisfying birth. Because she can go back and look at her birth, and process it privately when she has pictures to look at of the birth. Having the pictures doesn’t mean she has to publish them. Though I find women are so proud of that “I did it” moment they often do chose to share those priceless pictures. Those pictures tend to go viral. No kidding, people love to see a women in that moment when she sees her baby for the first time after she birthed like a boss!
With my son we didn’t take pictures of the birth, but now I’m seeing why women are doing it. They can look back on it and be proud of what they did. I also give all of my clients a journal. Research shows that journaling helps process the situation, and encourages self-esteem.
Thank you so much Jeannine for meeting with me and allowing me to learn more about Plano Birthplace and why you do what you do!