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Dianna He Murray and her husband Mike, both in their early 30s, were new to Elmhurst and excited to put down roots, with a baby a hopeful possibility for the future. As the couple began to explore prenatal providers and hospitals in the area, they scheduled a tour of Elmhurst Hospital’s Family Birthing Center.
“We were very impressed on the tour,” says Murray. “It felt like we were visiting someone’s living room instead of a medical facility.” They learned about the hospital’s private birthing suites, including comfort measures like a birthing ball, walk-in shower and whirlpool tub, as well as the freedom to room-in with your baby and get breastfeeding off to a good start.
After the tour, the couple stuck around to hear about natural birth options and learned of the Elmhurst Clinic midwife group. “Other people on the tour were seeing midwives and they said they loved it,” says Murray. She tucked the information away for when she may need it.
That day came on New Year’s Eve. After the Murrays visited Starved Rock State Park, Dianna found herself unusually tired and slept on the car ride home. Thinking she may be coming down with something, she took a pregnancy test — it was positive.
Murray knew right away who she wanted to call. She scheduled an appointment with Midwifery and Women’s Health of Elmhurst Clinic and met with certified nurse midwife Mary Saracco, CNM, MM, APN.
“I had a bunch of questions for Mary about their view and the different interventions available. I had an idea that I wanted a natural birth from the get-go. The more I read, the more I wanted to try for an un-medicated birth,” she says.
Murray says Saracco was patient and helpful. “I remember being in there for almost an hour and being surprised that Mary wasn’t trying to leave. I was asking so many questions and she just kept saying ‘what else?’ She was really patient. I never felt rushed.”
After that meeting, Murray knew she wanted to go forward with the midwifery group. “Midwives are trained to handle natural birth — that’s what they know best,” she says.
Throughout her pregnancy, she returned for prenatal visits and rotated through the different midwives in the group. She also had a few virtual visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would write down questions between appointments and they would answer patiently. I never felt like I was on a time clock,” she says. “I felt comfortable asking about anything. They wouldn’t dismiss me or get annoyed.”
In her third trimester, Murray says certified nurse midwife Tina Mingo, CNM, DNP, APN, joined the midwife group. “She was amazing and ended up with me on the day I delivered,” she says.
“All of the midwives were extremely supportive of what I wanted to do and non-judgmental. They didn’t try to push other views on me. They would bring the evidence-based information forward. I felt so safe and supported.”
By September, Murray was approaching 41 weeks and was scheduled to get induced, but in the middle of the night on Sept. 9, she began to feel lower abdomen cramps. Murray tried to sleep through it and the next morning, she called the midwife office.
She spoke with Mingo, who knew that she wanted to stay home as long as possible for several reasons, one being uncertainty about how COVID-19 would affect her ability to have her husband by her side. Mingo reassured her that she wasn’t in active labor yet and she could see how things progressed at home.
Murray made it through the day but by 3:30 a.m., when her contractions were closer together and getting longer and stronger, she knew it was time.
The couple arrived at Elmhurst Hospital and Murray was relieved to hear that she tested negative for COVID-19. By that point, she learned she was 5 cm dilated. Saracco was on call and set Murray up in the whirlpool tub. They closed the blinds in the room and turned the lights off.
“I had my eyes closed most of the entire labor. It was moment to moment. I was in the tub for a long time. I’m so glad there were no clocks in the room; that would have psyched me out.” After a shift change, Saracco left and Mingo took over.
During labor, when Murray’s contractions would become too intense, Mingo suggested different support techniques and comfort measures. Murray moved from the tub to a birthing ball, to the shower, to leaning over the bed, while her husband squeezed her hips.
She also used hypnobirthing, which she’d heard about from a friend and researched ahead of time. “I have never tried to be hypnotized, it was more for breathing and relaxation. It helped me stay focused and relaxed — in the moment,” she says.
During the long, intense contractions, Mingo suggested words that Murray could use as she was breathing, such as repeating “oh good” as she exhaled. “It sounds plain and simple, but it helps with the focus. It gives you something to say. It worked,” she says.
When it was time to push, Murray tried using a birth stool but it wasn’t enough leverage so she moved to the bed with her feet propped up. Mingo tied a bedsheet in a knot and had Murray hold the other end. Every time she pushed her feet against the bar, she pulled the rope.
“My husband and Tina, and my nurse Anastasia, were huge cheerleaders. I could not have done the labor and delivery piece without them. They were so positive and supportive throughout. Afterward, they told me I had pushed for two and half hours,” she says.
Around 2 p.m. on Sept. 10, 36 hours after it all began, the Murrays welcomed their daughter, Elizabeth (“Elly”) He Murray. She was 8 pounds, 11 ounces and 20 inches long.
Murray had made it through labor and delivery exactly how she wished, un-medicated, with the support of her midwives. She says she always had the option to use medication but she felt her body could handle it.
“Prior to pregnancy and during pregnancy, all signs pointed to me being normal and healthy so I thought that whatever sensations my body gives me, I should be able to handle it. I didn’t want to mess with nature,” she says.
Murray believed the less interventions, the faster and easier her recovery would be, which proved true as well. At her five-week check-up, she was all clear and her stitches had healed. At five weeks and two days postpartum, she went for her first run. “I feel like my recovery has been pretty great,” she says.
“Trusting in myself and my body throughout this whole process has been an incredibly empowering experience. It’s shown me how childbirth is just as much mental as it is physical, and therefore, how important it is to prepare both my mind and my body,” says Murray.
Before having her baby, Murray was commuting an hour and a half to downtown Chicago for work. She has since returned to work but due to COVID-19, she’s been able to stay remote for now, which enables her to breastfeed.
When asked what it’s been like to have a baby during the pandemic, she says Elly has only had a visit with her parents, and only after they had negative COVID-19 tests and quarantined for two weeks. “We’ve been hesitant to have anyone help, due to COVID,” she says.
As for her experience with the midwife group, Murray says she is grateful to the midwives for helping her meet her natural childbirth goals: “I would describe Tina (and all the midwives) as being solid, calm and confident. You could just sense that they operate from a foundation of knowledge and wisdom, and that they truly care about holding the mother’s vision and supporting it as safely as possible.”
The certified nurse midwives with Midwifery and Women’s Health of Elmhurst Clinic are advanced practice nurses who are nationally certified and licensed by the state of Illinois. They’re specialists in low-risk pregnancy, childbirth (including water births when appropriate), postpartum and women’s health, and they have experience in more than 2,000 births, with an 11% cesarean section rate, at Elmhurst Hospital. For more information about the midwifery group, call 331-221-9009.
Learn more about midwifery services at Edward-Elmhurst Health
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