Welcome to the “Ask Her Anything” Series at The LightHouse Birth Collective!
(Spoiler Alert: It’s the most fantastic Interview Series you’ll ever read. I’m just telling you now.)
“Ask Her Anything” is the fresh, brutally honest cousin of ‘The Boring Old Interview.” In this unprecedented opportunity, The LightHouse is merging nearly three whole centuries of our Members’ combined birth experience with the chance for prospective clients to be brave and ask the questions that are really on their minds.
One by one, our Midwives, Doulas, and Birth Photographer are answering all kinds of questions that were submitted by our followers – real reader questions that deal with pregnancy, partners, childbirth, and beyond. The questions are intimate, they’re vulnerable, and they’re raw – much like the childbearing year itself – but if you know “birth folks,” you’ll know that they love a good challenge, and our Members didn’t hesitate to tackle even the toughest questions.
A practicing midwife for 25 years (and one of the very first to be licensed in Delaware), Susan DiNatale, CPM-DE, VA is a Nationally Credentialed Certified Professional Midwife serving Delaware and Virginia families from her home in Kent County.
In this intimate and touching interview, Susan shares with us a snapshot of her life as a midwife – from nurturing bereaved parents and the importance of sharing bad news with love, to knowing when to transport a baby and attending births ‘off the grid,’ and even how to mourn the loss of a sister midwife with grace.
1. When a woman you’re caring for has a miscarriage or a stillbirth, what are some of the ways that you and your students provide support? -KL
One of my first catches as a midwife was a Trisomy 18 baby. (That date is embroidered in my brain; I still call the family every year on the anniversary of her birth and death – I still feel connected to the family.)
As midwives, when we attend a miscarriage or stillbirth, we do what needs doing – we stay with them as long as we are needed. We listen to what they say – and what they are not saying. We pray for them, and with them, if they desire that. We remind them about things they may want to do, like take pictures. We provide resources that help them feel supported and nurtured in every way that they need. We take care of them clinically, of course, but we also cry with them, and for them, and we hold them.
As a midwife, I also remind bereaved parents they are not alone in in their grief, and to lean on each other for support and comfort. I don’t nurture them in exactly the same way that I would a healthy postpartum mom, because while a bereaved mother may have many of the same issues physically, emotionally she’ll be struggling with navigating a much sadder experience.
I encourage both parents to find close friends and confidantes with whom they can continue to talk it through – if possible, people who have been in their shoes. I share my own stories of loss, if they ask. As a care provider, I’ll come by or call daily, and my clients know that they can call me anytime – day or night.
2. If you could add one superhero ability to your ‘midwifery bag,’ what power would it be, and why? -RF
This is a tough question – there are so many options running through my head! I think the hardest thing that I have to do as a midwife is share bad news. In those scenarios, no words ever seem quite right, and it’s so critical to come from a place of love. So, I would want the ability to speak from my heart always, and in a manner that is comforting and helpful.
3. When was the first time you ever needed your neonatal resuscitation training? What happened? -HB
A baby born perfectly pink started to have difficulty breathing after about 30 minutes. We tried clearing his airway and stimulating him to breathe better, but he was still not doing as well as he should have been. I could hear Karen Strange* in my head, asking, “Did you bag the baby?” We proceeded to successfully perform Neonatal Resuscitation. He came around in about 2-3 minutes, but his pulse-ox was lower than we wanted to see. We decided to transport the baby, and it was a good thing that we did, because he was diagnosed with Transient Tachypnea. He is a perfectly healthy older boy today – and all those drills for Neonatal Resuscitation really paid off!
(*Karen Strange is a world-famous instructor of the AAP’s Neonatal Resuscitation Program who trains and certifies out-of-hospital maternity care providers. -SC)
4. It seems like there are very few home birth midwives that have partners – I noticed that everyone seems to work alone. Is that just a coincidence, or is there a reason that CPMs (not just in DE, but most places) really seem to avoid having partners? What happens if you need to go out of town, or on vacation? -JY
I’ve had partners in the past. I love and miss having a partner.
However, there’s something to be said for continuity of care and developing a strong one-on-one relationship between the midwife and the client. If you hire me, you should be relatively confident that I’ll be the one showing up at your birth.
I do usually have a few weeks a year when no one is in their due-month and I’m not on call, so that’s when I go on vacation. In all my years as a practicing midwife, I’ve only had to call in another midwife one time, when my father passed away.
5. What is the most primitive or off-the-grid environment in which you’ve ever attended a delivery? -SW
A yurt in the woods of Vermont! No electricity or toilet, but it was fun anyway. Very warm and cozy.
6. What Sister Midwife do you look up to the most? -DG
There are quite a few midwives who I really admire – my preceptor Heather Laier, ‘Heart and Hands’ author Elizabeth Davis, and ‘Ancient Art Midwifery Institute’ founder Carla Hartley.
The midwife who I look up to the most, though, is my former partner Lori Serabo. She worked as a midwife through the first five years of her cancer treatment; Lori never missed a prenatal visit, postpartum visit, or a birth, until the progression of her breast cancer made serving as a midwife impossible. She was my sister in every possible way except by blood – the person I could say anything to. I remember so clearly the first, and the last, birth we attended together. She was so strong – a truly intuitive, skilled midwife. I miss her. She truly was my sister.
Susan DiNatale, CPM-DE, is the Owner of Kindred Hearts Midwifery and a resident of Dover. Susan has many years of experience serving both Amish and ‘English’ families, and you can learn more about her professional philosophy and midwifery practice on her profile page here at The LightHouse Birth Collective.
In her personal life, Susan is a mother, a grandmother, a native New Englander, and even spent many years living in Italy. A Board Member of the Midwifery Advisory Council, Susan was an important part in the reform of midwifery licensing and has long been a cornerstone of the home birth community in Delaware.
Give her a call if you’re interested in setting up a consultation – and tell her you found her at The LightHouse!