Human birth has been occurring for untold millennia, long before it became de rigueur for women to have their babies in a hospital. For many women today, the idea of a stay in a medical institution to give birth is unappealing. Women from all walks of life are choosing home births with the help of a midwife like Genesee County–based Jill Roper of Compassionate Hands Birth Services. Roper has helped hundreds of mothers through the birth process, both here in Michigan and in Haiti, since 2013.
“Birth is normal,” Roper says. “Interference is risky.” She explains that midwives believe in supporting women’s choices. “When a woman goes into the hospital to have her baby, she loses all of her rights. She could be bullied, or not told what she will be doing. Women should be able to take responsibility for their own pregnancies.”
Roper says she believes the medical establishment takes control away from women in the birthing room. “A doctor admitted honestly to me that everything that happens in the delivery room is due to lawsuits, not evidence-based best practices,” she explains. “Midwifery is an alternative for a mother who wants control. When you go to the doctor, it’s easy to get flustered and not ask the right questions. I teach people, and point them to books and other resources.”
Many women, according to Roper, say they are intimidated by male doctors. “I’m thankful that there are surgeons,” she says. “But I think most obstetricians are surgeons first and foremost. They don’t do what midwives do. I delivered a baby in the office of a doctor who was in private practice for 35 years and her nurse stood there in shock because she had never seen a totally natural birth. Of course, I am thankful that when a woman needs a C-section there is a trained provider to do it.”
“I see the human body as a true miracle.”
– Jill Roper
Roper creates a peaceful setting for birth. “Most of the babies I deliver are born in water, and the mother is encouraged to eat, drink, and walk around and have the people she feels safest with there. It is a powerful experience for a mother when she’s allowed to give birth instinctually. You don’t have to tell them what to do. I also believe in chiropractic care and I want it to be readily available to my clients,” she says. “I partner with local chiropractor Dr. Nancy at Keep Moving Chiropractic in Flushing.”
Perusal of Roper’s website reveals that her spiritual beliefs are the root of her practice. “I am a believer in God,” she says. “I’m saved by grace, not perfect, but I feel called to do this work.” One of the most spiritually significant aspects of that work involves helping Haitian women give birth.
“I first went to Haiti four years ago,” she says. “I always had a heart for missions and did foster care for 20 years. In Haiti, I fell in love with the country, the women, and their babies. In some ways it’s a miserable place. There is garbage everywhere, but when you look up, you see beautiful mountains on the horizon. I just love it there, and it gives me wonderful skills. I learned neonatal resuscitation, how to deal with breech births and the special needs of twins. I don’t get to do that much at home because we have more normal and healthy pregnancies here with fewer complications.”
Serving on the board of the organization MamaBaby Haiti, Roper found herself in charge of all the volunteers. Supplies were expensive – one piece of 4-by-4 sterile gauze, for example, cost $3. Roper says that in Haiti, she delivered 40 babies in two weeks, whereas in the States it is more like four births per month. Now she is trying to raise funds for more supplies for Haitian women.
“It’s important to give back to those who cannot give to me because of the gift God has given me,” she says. “I see the human body as a true miracle. I serve women of all faiths. I believe this is where God wants me to be – giving women a voice. I did not have a voice when I was a child and I know how important that is.”
To learn more about Compassionate Hands Birth Services, visit compassionatehandsbirthservices.com or call 517-899-8869.