Ephrata Hospital is Zero, Lay Midwife is Hero - Natural Birth in Lancaster County

Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

I promised I would post on my blogs the full story of our natural childbirth, in the hopes that this account will encourage mothers to explore their alternatives and beware of the medical establishment's malpractice-avoidance agenda.

The background: My wife, Susan, had 2 boys in 2001 and 2002.  Both were born in Newport Beach, CA and both were delivered via cesarean section in a hospital setting.  Our first experience was soured by a prognosis of "failure to progress" by our OB which led to the operating table.  With Daniel, our second, we had made a (flimsy) effort to learn natural birth principles because of our disappointment with our first unplanned c-section.  We did not, however, attend any formal training and (looking back now) were not ready to tackle any snags in the birth process.  Eventually we were at the hospital again and the spectre of "failure to progres" loomed over us, deflating Susan to the point of another surgical option for Daniel, our second.

Fast-Forward to 2007 and our third child, a girl.  Susan & I spent twelve weeks doing 12 classes in intensive training with the Bradley Method of Husband-Coached Childbirth.  The classes were taught by Kelly Cassidy in Lancaster City, and our class consisted of 4 couples.  Susan & I were truly empowered!  We learned time-tested ways to jumpstart labor, control pain through deep breathing and massage, how to understand and interpret medical birth protocols & terminology, and much, much more.  I was certified by the Bradley people as a birth coach.  Susan was set upon a positive, healthy diet & exercise plan

We completed our training in mid-March of 2007.  Our due date was June 26th.  We had called many friends and contacts about selecting an Obstetrician who would support our right to a natural childbirth.  By the way, the term VBAC is used to describe the process of having a non-surgical birth after one or more cesareans.  We found that the overwhelming majority of OBs would not support this choice, but would urge us to have the third c-section planned.  The reasoning was that there is statistical evidence that the uterus could rupture in labor, and the doctors were concerned about "the safety of the mother & baby".  We heard that a lot.  When we asked about the actual numbers, we got different answers ranging from .5% to 3% probability of uterine rupture.  Obviously, the medical establishment was managing to the risk...to the malpractice, that is.  Well we found a Dr. who was in private practice after becoming sick of the politics at the biggest birth hospital near us. Apparently he received flak for allowing VBACs and other "high-risk" patients.  He had priveledges at Ephrata Community Hospital and told us that they would allow us to labor there.  We were preregistered in March 2007 and visited the hospital for a maternity ward tour.  So far so good...

Then, in early May, our OB dropped a bomb on us.  He had decided to close his practice by the end of May, electing to return to his home state in the south to practice medicine.  The reason?  His annual malpractice premium of $80,000!!.  I couldn't argue with him on that one...but he knew we would have trouble finding another OB who would support our right to a natural birth experience.  Susan suggested another OB, a woman at another small practice nearby.  The doctor agreed that she would be the best option for us and arranged the transfer.  We met for about two months with this new OB, who was supportive but cautioned us to keep "the safety of the mother & baby" in mind.  We had developed a written birth plan which outlined our preferences, which the OB signed off on. 

All this brings us to the last week of June.  We were understandably nervous, but confident.  I had packed the car and my coaches bag - ready to go.  I got the first inkling of trouble when my email request to Ephrata Hospital for confirmation of our preregistration status went unanswered for a few days the prior week.  A representative finally got back on Monday the 25th to tell me that we were good to go.

I was at Party City on June 26th, about 2pm getting a "welcome home" banner when Susan called me to say that our OB had called.  Ephrata Hospital had contacted her THAT DAY to tell her that they had reviewed our file, and realized that we had 2 c-sections, and that their policy did not allow them to admit us for a non-surgical birth!  I was stunned, to say the least.  Susan said that our OB had been very apologetic and would try to get us into Womens & Babies Hospital at the last minute.  She had said that, worst-case, we could go into W&B emergency room if we went into labor!  I continued to be stunned by this turn of events.  I kept thinking "how could Ephrata Hospital do this to us without so much as an apologetic phone call?"

We felt our world closing in around us.  Susan expressed her deep frustration at being marginalized by the medical establishment, not because of her condition (which was perfectly normal) but because of a malpractice-centered risk aversion mentality.  That night, I fired off a testy but polite email to Ephrata Hospital's staff, asking for an explanation of their abandonment of us right at the threshold of our birth.  Why had no one offered to help us find other accomodations?  I put myself in the maternity director's shoes - what ever happened to customer service?  I was (and am) perplexed at the poor response on their part.

Well, on the morning of the 27th we had other things to worry about.  Susan began early first stage contractions about 5am.  By 10am, we had still not heard from our OB about getting into another hospital.  Then, just before noon, she called.  No other hospital would take us given our "situation" - especially on short notice.  She suggested a few out of the county hospitals, but the only viable option was Lebanon Hospital.  When I called them the OB group there informed us that they would not even do a VBAC!  We were crushed.  I'll never forget noontime on the 27th.  We were having a perfectly normal pregnancy & birth, even better due to Susan's top physical and mental readiness.  Yet no medical facility would accept us

Our OB suggested that we come into Heart of Lancaster for an exam to see if we were actually in labor with our water broken.  I knew, I just knew in my heart that if we did that we would go down the same road we did with the first two, that the establishment would jam a c-section down our throats.  Yet, we saw no options and set up the visit for about 2pm.

At that point divine providence stepped in.  About noontime I had put out an email requesting prayer to our church group of families that we belong to at Calvary Church.  At about 12:30pm, while Susan was getting ready to go, I received a call from a "friend of a friend" who had heard about our situation and offered the name of someone who had had a VBAC with a local midwife. (I should point out that we had explored the midwife option 2 years ago and found at that time the same resistance to a VBAC home birth, which led us back to a doctor/hospital paradigm).  I called the contact, and made about 3 more referral calls to people who were suggested to me.  Each time I explained our predicament and asked for help.  My calls took me from Lancaster to Missouri, to Chester Springs and back to Lancaster.

Finally I got a name of a local lay midwife who might be able to help us.  At this point I was desperate for a second opinion and some sort of option!  The midwife, who is well-known in natural birth circles it turns out, was completely free that afternoon - and her attending nurse was with her!  What a miracle.  They were at a party in their honor, put on by some Amish families near Strasburg.  She conferred on the phone with us and agreed to visit.  We decided to put off the hospital visit until we had the midwife's opinion.

At 4pm the midwife was at our home and examined Susan.  Turns out she was 90% effaced and the baby had dropped down into station.  We were excited!  This was way further than we had gone in the last two births.  The midwife then said that, although she never downplays risk, that there was no reason she could see why we could not have this baby at home!  She had a connection at a Harrisburg hospital if we wanted to go that route, too.  We talked about it and the decided to go with the home birth.   In her over 5,000 births, she had never had a uterine rupture from a VBAC, and she'd done natural births for women with 5 c-sections!  That was enough for me - we would go forward.  We told our OB, who cautioned us against using an "unlicensed" birth attendant.

Our new midwife left us with some exercises and positioning to do to help the baby rotate naturally inside Susan.  It's not a "complication" to have a slow or stalled labor with a baby out of position - for centuries midwives knew the body could use some help aligning the baby for best position to give birth.

The day progressed slowly with no increase in labor, and I dozed off in the late evening.  Susan woke me, however, about midnight to say that the baby had indeed moved and contractions were coming hard.  Our Bradley Method training went in action for about 2 hours of active labor and transition stage.  When the midwife returned with her nurse Susan was ready to push.  At 2:35am Carys Victoria Geoghan was born without incident.  The midwife and nurse were a blur of activity, multitasking on a level I could appreciate from my real estate business.  As I coached Susan through pushing, they prepared the area, took notes for documentation, massaged Susan and held a mirror for us to see.  Incredibly professional.  The actual birth and following hours seemed anti-climactic after the stress of the preceding days...

...The rest of the story is still happening, as Susan, Nathan, Daniel & I enjoy our new addition and get used to a new routine in our home!  We owe a huge debt of thanks to our midwife (whose name I am not publicizing because she is busy enough already and only needs to work with referrals).  They put the medical establishment to shame, in my humble opinion. 

Shame on Pennsylvania for not doing something about malpractice reform - its a scandal that is driving good doctors out of the state.  Shame on Ephrata Hospital for dumping a patient along the side of the road - get some training on what constitutes good customer service.  Shame on all the hospitals and OBs who won't take the time to open their eyes to the natural childbirth revolution that's sweeping the nation.

I hope you've learned something from our experience - that was my goal in writing this.  If you are pregnant, don't accept what your doctor says at face value.  Do some research.  Consider taking the Bradley course.  Above all, don't allow yourself to be labeled "high risk" without a good explanation based on facts.  Consult a midwife - ask questions.  Remember, you have a choice!  Thanks.


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Jeannie Kontis
Lancaster, PA

First of all --- CONGRATULATIONS!  What a wonderful turnout to what seemed to be a very unnecessarily stressful situation.  And a beautiful baby to boot!  Congrats to the whole family!

Secondly, good for you for posting such helpful and supportive information!  I can only imagine the stress you were both going through, during a time that should have been filled with joyous anticipation. 

I'm so glad everything turned out great for all of you.

Now, Get some rest -- you'll need it!

Jul 10, 2007 04:41 PM #1
Mary McGraw
GLREA - Rockford, MI
2015: Solar Energy Is Still A Simple Machine!

Jeff - what a miraculous family you have! I must say - the doctor's are not all at fault for all the malpractice problems they have - mistakes of a few have warranted a cloud above many -

I do applaud you and your wive's initiative and courage to seek out what you felt best for your family. I'm am so happy to see the pictures you have posted!!

Congrats! I know you will share many special moments together!!!

Jul 11, 2007 06:05 PM #2
Stacey Champion
Champion Indoor Environmental Services, LLC/Champion Indoors, LLC - Phoenix, AZ


That is a great story!  Our family experienced a "similar" situation, though not with a VBAC.  I had my son naturally at a hospital 8 & 1/2 years ago, so was familiar with the territory.  When I got preganant this time around, I was shocked to find out that our insurance didn't cover maternity.  We started out with the OB who delivered my son.  We were told the hospital charged $3000.00 - $5000.00 for the delivery.  I spoke with several people at the hospital to try and get the breakdown of costs as I wanted to have a natural childbirth.  They wouldn't give them to us and we were told it would be $7000.00 - $12,000.00, and that we would have to put $5000.00 down just to get registered. They were rude and unhelpful.  They argued with me over my proposed birthing plan, what I needed and what I didn't.  I think they forget that they are performing a "service." 

We then decided to go the home birth route with a midwife.  They accepted us as clients and we went to see them for a few appointments.  By this time I was almost 7 months along.  We got a phone call late in my 8th month saying they had been discussing my medical records and could not keep us on as clients.  I had been "diagnosed" with epilepsy after having some seizures while living in our "sick" house a few years prior.  When I explained the history to the midwife (again) about my exposure, how I hadn't had a seizure in over 2 years and how I had been off anti-seizure medication for that long as well, she told me they were not willing to risk it  and they would feel more comfortable if I were still on anti-seizure meds (even though the medication can cause serious birth defects and is toxic to your liver).  They said there was a 1% chance that I could have a seizure while in labor and they basically didn't want to get sued.  I informed her that there was a 1% chance pretty much anyone could have a seizure in labor - including the dad, then hung up thankful (but scared) that they had cut us free.

We finally found our perfect midwife who ironically lived right down the road from our old house.  She trusted in the fact that I trust my own body and knew what I was capable of.  It was such a beautiful day!  I woke up at 4 am in labor the day after Christmas.  We called the midwife around 11am.  My partner, my best friend and my son were all amazing.  It was so mellow...  Zoe was born at 4:55 pm without a hitch.

My midwife made us a slideshow of the birth which has been viewed by 20,000 people on youtube.  I feel that if it will inspire just one woman to recognize birth as a beautiful and natural event - versus a medical one in most situations, it will be well worth having people see me fat!  Er...  I mean pregnant.

Bravo to you and your wife!  Bless your family and enjoy the new baby - we understand how fast the time flies...  Thank you for sharing your family's story and helping people recognize what an awesome experience homebirth can be!


Jul 20, 2007 08:07 PM #3
Jeff R. Geoghan
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Lancaster, PA
REALTOR, Marketing Manager
Thanks for your comments, all.
Jul 21, 2007 04:07 PM #4
Melody in Missouri

Jeff & Susan,

I'm so thankful that it all worked out so beautifully.  I'm amazed how God worked it so that I (a-friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend) could encourage and pray for you.  We certainly understood most of what you went through since our stories are similar and I pray that others will be encouraged by your story and even motivated to find ways to stop this kind of treatment.  It always amazed me how much the doctors pushed the risk of uterine rupture, but avoided the fact of complications for mom and baby are greater for c-sections (especially repeat c-sections). 

Hurray to midwives that are taking "career risks" to help women in the natural process of childbirth and may more in the medical field see childbirth as Dr. Bradley did.  Enjoy your special added blessing to the family.  We are praising God for His care for you through all of this!

Jul 30, 2007 03:19 AM #5
Brian Schulman
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552

What a story, Jeff!  It's a shame that our country is ruled by malpractice lawyers instead of good medical practice and freedom of choice.  Doctors and hospitals are more concerned about being sued than with patient preferences.

I'm glad everything turned out well for you and your family.

Dec 11, 2007 09:12 AM #6

How amazing is this! Loving it so much. I am still trying to find someone supportive for a vba2c. I am due in May. Even finding a lay midwife has been difficult with the outrageous situation and charges being brought forth for no good reason. Thank you so much for sharing your triumphant birth experience!

Many belated congratulations :)

Jan 28, 2008 09:39 AM #7
Wow Jeff! What an awesome birth story. I cannot even imagine having to find a care provider while in labor. I want you to know that the thing that touched me most is YOUR commitment to this birth! It is rare that a husband will be so dedicated to natural birth that you made this happen while your wife labored. Thank you for sharing your story and thanks to the ICAN member who gave me the link.  God Bless you and your family.   Kim
Jan 28, 2008 12:59 PM #8
Jeff R. Geoghan
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Lancaster, PA
REALTOR, Marketing Manager

Dear Pam - I appreciate your congratulations but I must defer to the Lord who "delivered" us from that crazy situation.  I cannot encourage you enough to stay the course and pursue the VBAC!  What state are you in?  We've joined a brand-new organization Called Pennsylvania Families For Safe Birth, which will advocate for the inclusion of lay midwives and home birth.  We are also supporters of SaveHomeBirth.com, which is a southeast PA initiative to support Diane Goslin and home birth in general.

I would also advise you to connect with the folks at Bradley Birth, which is the method my wife and I worked with that was wonderfully succesful, even under our circumstances!  They can point you to a local instructor who in turn should know some pro-natural birth OBs and/or midwives.

Thanks again!


Jan 29, 2008 12:19 AM #9
Jeff R. Geoghan
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Lancaster, PA
REALTOR, Marketing Manager

Kim - Thanks so much for your good wishes.  Carys is doing GREAT at 7 months.

I took this photo of her goofing off during a photo session this past weekend.


Jan 29, 2008 12:25 AM #10
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