Today we’d like to introduce you to Kaitlin Gauna.
Hi Kaitlin, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
Growing up, I would have told you I wanted to be an entomologist, to study insects. My childhood was spent observing every bug I could catch. By the age of 20, I was in the middle of India surrounded by bugs, but I was not an entomologist. I remember being in a hospital, sitting between the legs of a worn-down woman who had just given birth. Mice were scurrying by. Flies were buzzing around my head. My lunch had been served with a mosquito smashed on the plate. As I sat down to mend this woman’s gaping lacerations, a cockroach crawled out from the wound. I hardly reacted, except to sweep it away with my elbow to try to keep my hands as clean as possible. How did I get here? How did I transition from catching bugs to catching babies?
I was partially influenced by the fact that my mother had an unassisted home birth with me, the youngest of her six children. I became an aunt at a young age and was always welcomed to attend the family deliveries. I witnessed my first birth at the age of 10 and continued attending the family’s births all through my teens. I loved birth, I loved the process, and I found myself feeling jealous when the midwife would get to “catch” the baby.
When I learned about a school specializing in midwifery care for developing countries, I realized immediately that this was my calling. I worked hard to earn the funds for the trip and completed every pre-requisition for the school. In just a few years, I completed the course for midwifery care in Australia, and from there, I was sent to Tanzania, Zanzibar, and India to practice as a midwife.
During my travel, my perspective of birth changed dramatically. What I had seen while attending the deliveries in America was nothing like what I saw daily in these countries. Similar to what I witnessed with my family, delivery here was empowering and often achieved without interventions. However, unlike America, this was sometimes because access to needed interventions was limited or completely unavailable, so situations could quickly turn fatal. Death was as normal as birth. There was a table for the deceased newborns and a table for living ones, right next to each other. Some days the table for the deceased ones exceeded the live ones, and some days it wasn’t just the baby that didn’t make it, but the mother too.
After returning to America, I found comfort in supporting families during their deliveries as a doula, offering comfort and emotional support during labor. The medical management was left to the midwives if it was a home birth and physicians if it was a hospital birth. It was like culture shock seeing what we had access to in America, even simple things like having actual cord clamps instead of ripping the rubber “wrist” out of my gloves to tie off a cord. Yet, there was also an imbalance. Overseas there wasn’t access for families to make choices, yet under the care of physicians in America, there were so many options. However, I repeatedly witnessed that instead of educating families, the decisions were always made for them. Either way, it was the same. Families weren’t allowed to make crucial decisions surrounding their care, whether they had access or not.
I witnessed many families being pushed into unnecessary interventions. I wasn’t against interventions, and I fought for access to them many times. But now, I was finding the opposite. Every intervention has risks, and when a patient didn’t want it, it was often forced on them. I was once with a patient threatened with a c-section if she didn’t deliver but could not go to the restroom because they were concerned that the baby would fall out.
I found myself getting angry with our hospital systems here, just as I did overseas. The statistics became clear why America can spend more on healthcare than any other first-world country. Yet, we have almost the worst infant and maternal mortality rates in comparison. Why were we using and abusing resources when they weren’t even necessary and against families’ wills? There had to be a balance, and there had to be options. The very interventions created to save lives are also unnecessarily used, often creating traumatic experiences and complicated recoveries.
I’ve found that balance in midwifery care. Being a midwife requires the knowledge to know what to do and when not to do anything. I spend the pregnancy educating families on their choices and supporting them in their decisions. While I specialize in providing medical care for home births, the real foundation is supportive care for all families. There is no such thing as a no-risk pregnancy. Every decision a family makes has risks and benefits, and I believe they should get a say in those decisions. I also think that this exercise in decision-making is foundational for parents, as they will have to make decisions and weigh risks and benefits in every aspect of their child’s life. So, my work is to act as a guide for their options and provide a supported experience in any setting. While I hope each of my clients can have the birth of their dreams, it is not my number one goal for them. My goal as a provider is for my clients to feel respected in their care, empowered in their decision-making, and safe during their most vulnerable moments.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
As a teenager, the thought of having any career didn’t feel like a possibility. I had a very rural upbringing, was unschooled, and had severe dyslexia. I was still struggling to read at the age of 16. The experience of going overseas was so challenging that it was a “make you or break you” type of experience, but it made me. Not only did I learn I was capable of saving lives, but I was also capable of a career.
While the work is gratifying, the burden is heavy, not only for me but also for my family. As the sole provider for my practice, I develop deep and personal relationships with each family, so decisions regarding their care are not taken lightly. If the outcome isn’t what they had hoped for, I feel their pain with them. Coming home from each delivery requires time to recover physically and mentally.
Additionally, my family’s schedule is entirely dominated by my clients coming first. I always have to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, and there is no way ever to know how long I will be gone. It is difficult for my little ones to understand this. It also makes it very difficult to find childcare.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
While pregnancy care is on a similar schedule to that of obstetricians, it is approached differently. I take on a limited number of clients to ensure an adequate amount of time for each family. Clients are welcome to bring spouses, children, or even concerned or questioning family members to their visits. Visits usually are 30 to 60 minutes each, spent entirely with me, and we discuss the pregnancy and personal matters, such as access to healthy foods, support at home, and any situational stress.
I also prefer to offer an all-inclusive service. I include all of the standard labs as part of the care. I am partnered with a sonographer who does their ultrasounds in their own homes. And, I provide a doula (birth coach) who gives them comfort and encouragement during their labor. Lastly, there are also supplies and equipment for water birth included for every patient.
Before we go, is there anything else you can share with us?
I can run my own practice because of the strong connections I have made with local birth professionals who have been incredible examples and allow me to learn alongside them. So, even though I am the only provider for my practice, I am certainly not alone in my journey, and I am so grateful for the wonderful midwives in the community who provided emotional support to me through two miscarriages and care and safety during my own two home births.
- All inclusive service: $6250
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: https://www.momentsmidwifery.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/moments.midwifery/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/momentsmidwifery
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCq_kLjtKmbZ9mohVMsQ_dKg