Enriching the childbirth journey

Tiffany Townsend’s midwifery practice provides an alternative to the hospital environment.
Left to right: birth assistant Cassandra Narvaiz-Stott, owner Tiffany Townsend and birth assistants Brittany Carmona-Holt and Mariah Eldridge sit together in De la Flor Midwifery's office space. Photo by Quinn Kirby

Tiffany Townsend is the certified professional midwife behind De la Flor Midwifery. Her foray into the craft began when she herself was searching for a midwife and couldn’t find what she was looking for.

“In my own experience when I started looking for a home-birth midwife, I was looking for someone who I didn’t have to explain my ‘isms’ to,” Townsend said. “I couldn’t find a Black midwife here that offered home birth, so I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ I was already doing doula work, I was already teaching lactation and things like that in the community — holding support groups for Black and Latinx communities, and that’s what brought me to serve in my community in this capacity.”

In addition to prenatal visits, home births and postpartum care, De la Flor Midwifery, 3737 Lake Eastbrook Blvd. SE, Suite 113, offers clients lactation support, fertility counseling, pap smears and other unique services.

“I offer placenta encapsulation, which helps with the production of oxytocin, it helps decrease stress hormones, it helps with iron levels,” Townsend said. “I’m a Reiki master, too, so, it depends on who I’m working with and what they need. It’s hard for me to put into words all the things that I offer because sometimes things just come up and I’m like, ‘Oh, hey, yeah, I know how to do this, and it seems like you would benefit from that, so let’s incorporate that into your care as well.’”

The fear of complications during a home birth is not unusual in midwifery, but Townsend said complications actually are pretty rare. Still, she comes prepared — equipped with everything she needs to handle an assortment of situations. Her priority is providing the best care possible.

“Midwives see pregnancy as a normal, physiological process that is spiritual, emotional and physical, and so in the care that they give, they’re addressing those things.”
Tiffany Townsend

“A lot of the fears are, ‘What if something bad happens?’” she said. “What I usually tell people is, the biggest complications that we see in birth are hemorrhages, babies that need to be resuscitated and shoulder dystocia. I just talk them through my personal experience, I let them know that I do carry medications — the same ones that the hospital carries for hemorrhages — and I can do a shoulder dystocia management with my eyes closed because I just have a lot of experience,” she continued. “I bring resuscitation equipment — oxygen for mom and baby — and we’re prepared for the emergencies if they happen, but the reality is that 95% of the time, they don’t.”

Townsend’s midwifery practice focuses on treating the whole person, in addition to caring for the baby. She engages on a personal level with expectant mothers to ensure they feel supported and heard.

“The reason some people use midwives over physicians is because first and foremost, OB-GYNs are surgeons, and there’s a certain level of care that a surgeon is able to provide, but they’re ultimately surgeons,” she said. “Midwives see pregnancy as a normal, physiological process that is spiritual, emotional and physical, and so in the care that they give, they’re addressing those things. ‘How are you coping, how is your stress level, do you feel ready to adapt to a new baby?’

“A lot of OB-GYNs don’t have the time or capacity to have those kinds of conversations because they’re in high-volume practices that really allot for them 15 minutes or so to see a client.”

Tiffany Townsend takes first-time mother Teiah Faulk’s pulse before checking fetal health. Photo by Quinn Kirby

In the era of COVID-19, opting for a midwife might be the more attractive option for couples who want to experience their pregnancy together without having to navigate the restrictions the virus imposes on health facilities.

“With the state of the country with COVID, the biggest thing that is turning people away from the hospital is that they’re like, ‘Hey, this is my first pregnancy, and my partner can’t come into the visits with me, and I don’t want to do this by myself,’” Townsend said. “In my practice, they are able to bring their partners because if they live together, they’re not bringing additional germs into any setting.”

Her position is clear on stigmas and assumptions — giving birth at home isn’t exclusive to any one racial, ethnic or social group. It’s an option for anyone who wants to experience it.

“To say that home birth is only for a certain demographic like, ‘Home birth is only for rich white people’ — that’s probably the most common thing that I see and hear, and that’s just not the case,” Townsend said. “Most of my clients are not rich. I work with white, Black, Asian, Latinx communities — the clients that I serve are really diverse and they come from all kinds of socioeconomic backgrounds. Home birth is not just for hippies, it’s really for anybody who wants to experience birth in a different way.

No matter what you decide, Townsend said knowing your options is key to having the kind of birth experience that’s right for you.

“Home birth is a safe alternative to the hospital, but regardless of your birthing space, whether home, hospital, birth center or in your backyard, it’s really important for people to be educated and know that they have autonomy over their birth and that they should be really well-informed about the decisions that they make and understand what it means to make certain decisions,” she said. “I don’t think that home birth is the only right way to birth. There might be somebody that needs to be in the hospital, so they should be able to have the loving, comforting, nurturing experience that you have at home at the hospital as well.”

This story can be found in the April 2021 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox each month, subscribe here

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Ever since Pasha Shipp could talk, she's been dreaming up colorful stories. Fantasy creatures, mysterious kingdoms, enchanted forests, you name it. As she reached adulthood, she decided to take the magic out of her head and put it down on paper. Pasha has been writing for Grand Rapids Magazine since November 2015, and has loved every minute of it. She has a master's degree in Communication and a bachelor's degree in Film Studies from Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University respectively. When she isn't daydreaming and writing stories for the magazine, she's exploring the many hidden treasures of Grand Rapids with her fiancé.