SALISBURY — To look at Kitten Panthera and midwife Lauren Olson Sidford today, one would never know they shared a life or death struggle only six weeks ago.
It was on Jan. 27, when Panthera's twin daughters made a month-early, impatient demand to be born, not in a hospital, not in a planned home birth, but in the tiny bathroom in the seaside cottage Panthera rents on Salisbury Beach. Destiny-Grace and Hope Panthera made their appearance with Sidford crouched beside Panthera in the bathroom and most of the day shift of the Salisbury Fire and Police departments in the small abutting kitchen waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
"It was a baptism by fire, absolutely" Sidford said recently. "I'd been a labor coach and birth assistant for about 20 years. But this is my first year as a midwife, and this was my first home birth on my own. Usually home births are attended by two and sometimes three midwives. Because I only expected to give Kitten a ride to the hospital for an ultrasound, I didn't even have my midwifery bag with me. I had no medical equipment." ....
With an ultrasound scheduled, Sidford found a third midwife willing to attend the home birth of twins, if the ultrasound showed the babies were fine and in a good position.
... Panthera, 38, has a strong spiritual belief and [is] "very much in tune with my body," she said, and took the fear out of the childbirth for her.
"Women have been giving birth since the beginning of time," Panthera said. "I know some people might think I was jumping out of a plane without a parachute, but God is my parachute. I knew in my gut everything was going to be fine and I didn't need to worry." ... [Speaking about the birth]: "The second baby was breech," Sidford said. "And not just a simple breech. One leg was down. It's called a single footling breech. I'll never forget it; it was the right leg."
With no other equipment but a single plastic glove passed to her by a firefighter, Sidford reached back to her training, both women trusted each other and nature, and Destiny-Grace didn't appear to know her life was in jeopardy. With the assistance of Sidford, two strong emergency workers supporting Panthera's weight, she delivered a healthy second daughter.
"The babies were beautiful," Sidford said. "They breathed and pinked up right away when they were born. They're thriving now; eating well, gaining weight." ....
It's amazing how well nature works, when we let it! For the majority of women and babies, birth is a normal, natural, healthy event, not a medical emergency.