Guided by certified nurse-midwives, Tracy and Erin start a family with confidence

When they decided to grow a family together, educators Tracy and Erin Almelien, of Washington, Iowa, became students again.

They were eager to find helpful information and guidance on pregnancy, birth, and raising a child. They hoped to connect with other expectant parents for support and advice. And, as a same-sex couple, they wanted to be sure their providers and any support communities they joined would be inclusive and respectful of all of their choices, unconditionally.

They found what they needed close to home at the University of Iowa Health Care Midwifery Clinic in Washington.

Over several years, through the challenges and joys of two pregnancies, Tracy and Erin relied on the clinic and its prenatal support and education program to help them welcome babies Anders and Ellis into their lives.

Erin and Tracy photo
UI Health Care certified nurse-midwives provided Tracy and Erin with the “initiation into motherhood” that helped them grow their family.

“We thought this would be a safe place, free of judgment,” Erin says. “And that’s what we found—a lot of people who were respectful, accepting, and welcoming. We never felt out of place.”

‘Exactly what we needed’

Tracy was the first to get pregnant.

“I didn’t know a whole lot about pregnancy, about having a baby,” Tracy says. “You don’t even know what questions to ask.”

Her research into nearby obstetrics providers led her to a video about the UI Health Care Midwifery Clinic and its program.

“The video specifically said they welcomed same-sex couples,” Tracy says. “And it was in the evening so we both could attend. We knew it was exactly what we needed.”

The program offers education and support in a group setting, says Laura Dellos, ARNP, the certified nurse-midwife who led Tracy and Erin’s group and served as Tracy’s midwife.

“While the group care is great for first-time moms, it is great to have some experienced moms in the groups, too,” Dellos says. “They bring strong credibility to those first-time moms. It’s awesome to see them share their experiences. And if a mom is new in town and doesn’t know anyone, this provides immediate support.”

Group setting builds confidence

In the prenatal group, Tracy and Erin found a space where they could share what they were going through and listen to others describe their lives during pregnancy. Those interactions went beyond what they could expect to gain during one-on-one meetings with a health care provider.

“All of us were due in June,” Tracy says. “We talked about all the weird things happening to our bodies. It was very informative. Sometimes you don’t know what questions to ask a doctor, and it can be uncomfortable. But this group made it easy.”

Erin connected easily with the dads to get multiple perspectives on supporting a pregnant partner.

They came away from the experience feeling informed and prepared.

“I learned a lot,” Tracy says. “All first-time mothers are apprehensive, but with the program, I felt confident going into my delivery after so many weeks of education.”

In control of their birth experience

Dellos says a certified nurse-midwife is trained to provide guidance to help expectant mothers navigate pregnancy and childbirth on their own terms as much as possible.

I want mothers to feel empowered by the experience, to know that they are strong and accomplished an amazing feat—growing a human and giving birth. I want them to feel in control of their experience, as much as they can be in control, and feel strong even when things don’t go as they planned.

Tracy knew she wanted an epidural childbirth, and the support Dellos offered made that decision simpler.

“She didn’t try to discourage me,” Tracy says. “She presented me with information on my options and was very respectful of my choice.”

The birth of her son Anders went smoothly at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

During emergency, UI midwives and doctors work as a team

Three years later, their focus turned to Erin’s pregnancy.

Because they were juggling jobs and parenting, having their visits at the UI Health Care Midwifery Clinic at Washington County Medical Center saved them having to take off more time for appointments in Iowa City.

For the first 30 weeks, Erin had no morning sickness or problems.

“Then it hit me,” she says.

Two weeks later, her water broke. They knew they needed a specialist and headed to UI Hospitals & Clinics, where the midwifery team monitored her progress.

The next day, Ellis was delivered by cesarean section and was immediately moved to the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Within 24 hours, she had surgery to correct a serious complication.

“We’re so thankful for our wonderful surgeon,” Erin says.

‘Initiation into motherhood’

Midwifery care has taken on added importance as more babies are delivered by C-section. After a C-section, some women wonder if they could have done more to prevent the need for surgery.

Dellos says a certified nurse-midwife helps prepare mothers to better understand the likelihood of a C-section and the reasons for having one.

“In motherhood, you’re going to ask what more you could have done,” Dellos says. “But motherhood is just doing your best and surrounding yourself with supportive people. That’s what midwives do. We provide an initiation into motherhood.”

As they raise their two healthy children, Tracy and Erin appreciate the many ways that midwifery care guided them during the journey.

“They gave us all the support, education, and guidance we needed,” Tracy says. “They brought us into a network with some of the best medical specialists in the country. We recommend them to anyone starting a family.”