For Tracy Wells, who home-schools her children, another pregnancy was another opportunity for the family to learn.
While the children - Stephen, 12, Andrew, 10, Courtney, 9, Marilee, 7, David, 4 and Emily, 2 - learned about the baby developing inside their mother, Tracy and Rick continued to upgrade their knowledge about raising a family. For everyone, it would be a learning experience to watch Tracy undergo natural childbirth at the Family Health and Birth Center in Rincon.
"It's weird how they can live in water, then just come out and breathe in the air," said Stephen.
"It's not weird, it's amazing," said Rick, who believes parents have more opportunities with big families. "I think it's easier to be a parent after you've had a few children. You learn many lessons. The good thing is that when you learn how to raise a child, you're not done yet. There are more coming."
The Wells never planned on having a large family - but they didn't plan against it either. Tracy wanted 12 and Rick wanted none, so they compromised, he said.
"Now it's the other way around, I want more and she wants to stop," he said.
When the labor pains started and Tracy's water broke July 26, the entire family traveled to the plain-looking office building to find out just what Richard Jr. would teach them.
Leaning forward onto a counter in the waiting area, Tracy closed her eyes as the labor pains passed and Rick soothed her back with hot compresses. Emily came up, lifted her mother's shirt and pointed to the bulge. "Baby," she whispered, then smiled.
The birth center experience is one that promotes interaction and education by offering options different from those one finds at a hospital, Tracy said.
"There are just so many options of things you can do to distract your mind from the pain," she said.
Things such as talking to her children while in labor and letting them see her give birth, eating, drinking, walking, sitting in a hot tub and having someone rub her back.
"They're very supportive," Tracy said of the birth center staff. "I had Emily in the hospital because I wanted to be taken care of, but it was not what I remembered it to be. I thought about how nice it was at the birth center. They are attuned to you. I felt like I was the most important person there."
Tracy had Stephen, Andrew, Courtney and Emily in a hospital. Marilee and David were born in the same birth center as Richard Jr. In fact, Rincon's birth center is the only one of its kind in Georgia, according to midwife Nancy Beelin.
"In the hospital it's not bad care, it's just different," said Rick. "In a birth center things are a lot more unpredictable."
For example, women can choose to give birth in a tub full of water. The baby goes from one water-filled environment to another and breathes as soon as he is lifted into the air because of the atmospheric pressure change, Beelin said. Also, women are encouraged to give birth in whatever way feels most comfortable, which isn't necessarily lying on their backs, she added.
"Lying on your back can be a very unnatural position because you're tilted upwards and you're having to push the baby uphill, basically," Beelin said.
Women are never induced into labor and many children are naturally born during late night or early morning hours, Beelin said. Also, they cannot receive epidurals at the birth center.
"It's a lot of work and it's certainly a lot more pain, but I think the benefits of recovery and the satisfaction of completing the process are greater," Tracy said.
Allowing the other children to learn about birth and see the natural process, helped them to fully participate in the life of their sibling, Tracy said.
"They were already involved in praying and planning for the baby, so we gave them the option," Tracy said.
With intent concentration and questions answered by Beelin and the other midwives afterward, the children took away a shared experience from the birth. After a few hours of rest, both mother and baby were able to go home for the evening, continuing the process of learning from and teaching a new life.
"I home school my children to prepare them to be good adults and good parents," Tracy said. "It doesn't matter what they do in life, as long as they are good parents because society is based on strong families."
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