The Big Picture

Documenting one family’s home birth experience

Home births aren’t for everyone. But for Ashley Bennett, having her second child at home in Medford was an opportunity to be encouraged and supported at a time when she, and many women, feel at their most vulnerable. The birth plan gave Ashleyand her husband, Mike, an array of delivery options, but, as always when it comes to birth, circumstances were unpredictable. The night Ashley went into labor, their toddler, Marin, came down with a fever. And Ashley’s dreams of a water birth — in a giant portable tub — dried up when the new addition to the family, Isaac Douglas Bennett, arrived before the tub was filled. Besides doula Catherine McKeown-Lindsey and midwives Tara Kenny and Audra Karp, the Bennetts allowed Globe photographer Jessica Rinaldi to witness the family’s private moments.
1
At her four-month checkup, Ashley Bennett's 2-year-old daughter, Marin, leaned over to give her a kiss as she lays on the couch at her midwife's home in Cambridge. When Ashley first became pregnant with Marin, she made calls to both a hospital and a home birth midwife to see about setting up a prenatal appointment. While the ObGyn's office was informal telling her when and where she would deliver, the midwife first asked how she was feeling. "The idea that someone who didn't know me cared how I was feeling and doing as a person may seem trivial, but it was such a stark contrast to my first prenatal call at the hospital that I was instantly touched by her intentional care for me," Ashley said. "As much as I read with our first baby on birth, that initial call spoke volumes and solidified this path for me. I cancelled my prenatal at the hospital and I never looked back." (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
2
Midwife Sarafina Kennedy measures Ashley's belly during a checkup at Ashley's home in Medford, Sept. 25. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
3
Ashley chose two midwives Sarafina Kennedy (C) and Tara Kenny (R) who took turns alternating checkups during her pregnancy. As the due date grew near, they met at Ashely's house to discuss her birth plan on Oct. 23. When she made the decision to give birth at home Ashley said, "It came down to knowing I was in the hands of people I trusted - trusted to know what I wanted and to tell me if I needed more. I didn't want to rely on the opinion of someone I just met or who doesn't know me on the day I give birth, but instead, people who've been committed to the health and safety of my baby since the first time I spoke to them." (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
4
In Massachusetts home births are typically not covered by insurance companies. Ashley filed an appeal and spent weeks trying unsuccessfully to lobby them to cover her birth. A note circled about following up on an insurance claim is seen on Ashley's already packed calendar. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
5
Ashley's first child, Marin, was exceptionally late and came at 43 weeks. Because of that first experience, Ashley had expected that the birth of her second child would take a long time. She waited to call the midwives until what would turn out to be less than an hour before the baby was born. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
6
As their due date arrived with no sign of the baby, husband Mike Bennett and Ashley made a cast of her belly as a way to celebrate the occasion on Nov. 20. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
7
Throughout her entire pregnancy Ashley would joke about her love of water births saying that she didn't know how people gave birth on land. But less than 15 minutes before the baby was born, the birthing tub was still being filled with water in the living room of their apartment. Her two midwives were still battling traffic when the baby arrived. Luckily, Ashley's doula Catherine McKeown-Lindsey was also a trained midwife and was there to deliver the baby. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
8
Part of what made giving birth at home attractive for Ashley and Mike was that he could play an integral role in their birth. Ashley rested her arms around Mike as she labored on an exercise ball in their bedroom on Nov. 25. When asked why she chose to give birth at home Ashley said, "I wanted to matter to someone, when I was my most vulnerable and weakest - when the littlest phrases or touches could make all the difference." (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
9
Mike holds his newborn son, Isaac Douglas Bennett, as his wife Ashley is tended to by her doula, Catherine McKeown-Lindsey, in Medford on Nov. 25. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
10
Midwife Audra Karp gives Ashley an herbal remedy for contraction pain after giving birth to her son as husband Mike hands her water. "I think it's amazing to know the lengths to which your body can be pushed, " Ashley said, "For some people that's a marathon- and for me, it's birth." (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
11
Isaac Douglas is laid on a blanket that a midwife will attach to a hand-held scale used to weigh him on Nov. 25. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
12
Mike brings Marin in to see Ashley after she delivered Isaac, as the midwives examine the placenta. Ashley and Mike had wanted Marin to be present for the birth, but the night Ashley went into labor Marin came down with a fever. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
13
Five hours after arriving, midwife Tara Kenny takes off her gloves as she prepares to leave with fellow midwife Audra Karp. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
14
Mike holds his newborn son, Isaac Douglas, as his wife recovers from delivery in their bedroom of their apartment. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
In this blog: Big Picture
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.