This birth took place in Bergen County and my Northern NJ Birth photographer photos and Tanja's story were featured on Orgasmic Birth.
"My Dream Team" Backstory by the Mother, Tanja
At the beginning of February 2016th, we found out that I am pregnant. Thrilled with the news, I visited my obstetrician, but my appointment did not go how I expected. I did not feel informed enough about my pregnancy process and different testing that kept being required and never explained; my questions were at times answered in a tone “not a big deal” or “you should know that”; and I was slightly ridiculed when I mentioned that my job (teacher for 2 to 6 year old children) is getting a bit demanding for me in my new condition. It took me few months to admit to myself that I deserve better than that and to start the research for new care-provider, preferably midwife this time. My husband suggested to call each hospital affiliated with midwifes and ask them for their names and phone numbers. First on my list was Hackensack UMC Pascack Valley in Westwood, NJ. They gave me quite a few names so I called each and every one of them. My husband, who was helping with the research, said: “Check this one out, I think you will like her, Donna Tabas.” I did as he said and felt that she is THE ONE! And that is how I started forming my DREAM TEAM.
Now I will tell you more about each and every team member.
First and most important one is MY HUSBAND, of course. The one I took longest time choosing, only little bit over thirty years! And even that was not my choice, I believe, it was God’s preordained plan for us and I am so thankful for him in my life – the most loving, caring, kind, and gentle person that I know of. And he only confirmed all that through my pregnancy and birthing journey. He was by my side when I was doing the pregnancy test – we cheered in amazement together to my pregnancy and our parenthood that was starting; he was researching and letting me know each week what is happening with our baby and what parts of its body is developing at the moment; he supported me when I needed to stop working unexpectedly at three months of my pregnancy due to challenging requirements of my teaching job; he was by my side when I was changing from obstetrician to midwife and did research with me and helped me find the right person for us; he read the books that were teaching him how to help me during the pregnancy and birthing, he coped as a champ to my occasional emotional outbursts of tears and such; he loved me through each and every pregnancy or just womanly tantrum; he was there to not let me give into my sugar cravings at times; he was by my side at the ultrasound exams watching in wonder with me our son growing in my belly; he supported me when choosing the doula; he worked hard after work on our baby’s room fixing the walls with contractor, painting, putting the trim; he was kissing our son each and every morning and night for both of us with such joy and gentleness. He is the love of my life, my rock and my stronghold. I hope that most of the ladies reading this have such support, and that the men will be inspired to be such a support.
The most important medical support that thought me so much about everything that I ever needed to know about my pregnancy and birthing was DONNA TABAS, CNM. I still remember our first meeting and her gentle and calm, yet strong and confident demeanor that won my adoration. Even before we decided to work with her, my husband and I learned so much from her. “SHE IS THE ONE!” we agreed and our real pregnancy journey began. First thing that Donna did was give me the booklet of about two hundred pages that she created that covers all possible questions that a pregnant woman will ever think of asking: from dietary requirements and how much weight I should gain to all the changes my body and mind can possibly experience during this process, and more. She also explained to us what is the difference between medicated and unmedicated birthing and why the first one ends up with C-section in 40% of the cases when the real emergencies are actually only 10%. As I mentioned before, Donna is very gentle but very open and persistent as well - she will do everything in her power to help you birth in the most natural way without distressing you or the baby and only in the real emergencies go for other alternatives. In order to do so, her goal is to keep mother as healthy as possible. In my case that meant – stay away from sweets and watch your weight because it was high to begin with. When Donna faced me with that in her direct but kind way, I was a bit hurt deep down inside. “Well, I was not that much overweight anyways! I am doing my best. I am not even eating the whole chocolate bar a day!” deceiving justifications went on and on in my mind until all of a sudden I realized: “Donna is not my enemy nor will she gain one ounce of anything if I do listen to her or not. The only advantage from her advices will come to me and my child. So, what am I fussing about?!?! Donna is trying to help me and it is up to me if I am going to listen to her and now help myself! And I AM!” So, I took all the paperwork about food that Donna gave me and worked diligently on following the food chart and food intake that was suggested. Whenever I had sugar craving I followed Donna’s advice and took some protein (nuts, egg, piece of whole-wheat something) instead. Little by little my sugar-cravings eased of. Thanks to Donna I concord the reality and the myth of my cravings.
Donna also kept saying: “If you want to have natural vaginal birth you have to have doula, have to have doula, have to have!” Oh man! Coming from a country where that did not even exist yet and where just few decades ago my grandmothers gave birth wherever they happened to be around the house at the moment due to a lifestyle in the countryside, I thought that Donna is surely overreacting about doula. Nonetheless, I decided to find out for myself what that doula really is. After the research, I concluded: “Doula means having a private masseuse at the birthing, and this strong Serbian girl does not need that for sure!” And if Donna did not gently persist, I would live to learn how wrong I was. To find out more about Donna and her wonderful work, please visit her website www.northjerseymidwiferycare.com.
My husband and I decided to research still more the doulas in our area. Once we gathered all the information needed, I started contacting different doulas and I must say that I came across many nice ones. However, some were not available, some were over our budget, some were having clients at the same time as our due date… I managed to interview few still and things just did not feel right with them, until I met HOLLY GRAFF! She came ready in each and every way – she was present, very sensitive to my nature and needs, surprisingly knowledgeable not only about basics but about all different approaches, techniques, and exercises that I was interested in and she was able to do it with me on the spot. WOW! Thank you, God! I really liked her and felt comfortable having her in our birthing room, so I asked her to come again and meet my husband. She won my husband’s heart in a beat also with easy going conversation, but even more so with gentle instructions about his role before, during, and after the birthing process. It was very important that two of them bonded and had good communication, because they would work as a team in helping me go through my highs and lows at birthing. As a person of excellence, which Holly Graff certainly is, she came again to visit us and teach us how to properly do certain exercises that our midwife asked us to do during the last weeks of my pregnancy. Thank you, Holly! If interested in contacting Holly, please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
RACHEL CONNOLLY KWOCK is professional doula and photographer. She came unexpectedly into our lives, again through our midwife, Donna Tabas, and at the last minute almost, but we are so grateful that she did! I fell in love with her writing while browsing her adorable website. She shared her deepest self in many of the stories which I consider very brave and admired her before we even met. When we did meet, her calm and soothing demeanor, none intrusive but gliding curiosity, and gentleness in manner won both me and my husband and we agreed to have her on board of what is to become my dream team. During my birthing, I was ever grateful for that decision, because she was not only completely invisible and quite so I did not even notice that she was photographing me, but she was also invaluable part of the team contributing with the ideas for new positions during my waves, reminding the team that they need to eat to keep the strength, and keeping positive vibe. Thank you, Rachel! If you want to see more of her mastery, please visit her website and enjoy yourself!