For more than 12 years, certified nurse midwife Margaret Truyens has been keeping track of how many babies she’s delivered.
There’s the baby girl born in the back of a small car in the Howard County General Hospital parking lot.
There’s her nephew, whom she helped deliver in his Canada home, greeted by the joyful tears of his father and the curious stares of his older siblings.
And there’s the first son of mine, delivered by Truyens on Nov. 18, 2010, a natural birth, an uneventful birth, but one that changed me forever, ushering me into motherhood with a belief that I am strong and I can do anything.
Truyens, 58, on Monday, said she has delivered 997 babies. She agreed to do an interview with me the before she hit the milestone of 1,000 births. The following is an edited transcript.
Why did you decide to become a nurse midwife?
When I was pregnant with my son and delivered him, I was totally enthralled with the whole process of pregnancy and birth. I just wanted to help women through the process.
Tell me about your background – how did you get to where you are, at Signature OB/GYN in Howard County?
I received my bachelor of science in nursing from Georgetown University and then I spent 17 years as a labor and delivery nurse. I received my post-graduate degree from the Frontier Nursing University. My first job as a midwife was in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I then worked for a birth center in Annapolis. I also worked in Providence Hospital in D.C. I came to Howard County in March of 2008
What births stand out for you in your memory?
Well, there’s the birth I did last Thursday in the back seat of a small car in front of the hospital entrance.
She lived across the street, thank goodness. I was talking to her aunt [on the phone]. She said, ‘Her water broke.’ Then she said, ‘No, the baby’s coming! Oh, I can see the head!’
I booked it running down the stairs. By the time I got there, she was starting to crown. And she delivered a baby girl. She did very well.
Any other births that stand out for you over the years?
I did happen to deliver my nephew at home in Canada, and that certainly was a star in my crown.
It was special. It was just my brother and sister-in-law and myself in the room doing the birth.
After he was born, my little nieces came up and got to meet him. The older of the two girls was reading him a story right away as he was lying in her lap.
And my brother, who had been there for the other two births, there, but not a big part of it, he just cried when Carter was born.
I can’t imagine it’s always easy. What creative ways have you helped women over the years?
There was one at the birth center in Annapolis. She was having her sixth baby and was having a long, long kind of labor and she couldn’t let herself go -- and we were dancing together – and finally she could let go.
I always think it’s so fulfilling for me to help women to do that, to find their strength. And they feel so victorious. What a great way to start parenting, through that position of strength.
What do you learn about people, about families, through your work as a midwife?
You are a facilitator. ... You need to facilitate women where they are at. Some want epidurals and so you help them through that. Whereas others, you can help them facilitate a natural birth.
What qualities do you think a good midwife needs to have?
Patience. Sometimes you have to just allow a woman to do what she does. There was once a woman laboring in a jacuzzi tub. In between contractions, she would go down into the water, until it was just her nose out, and she would get a contraction and rise out of the water. Then she would sink back down in the water. It was so neat to watch.
How have you changed as a midwife?
As long as everything is normal, I have a lot of confidence in the process. I also have a realization how much emotion plays a part in [childbirth.] It’s such a vulnerable part of our life. It can bring back memories of other vulnerable times.
Sadly, not all babies survive. How have you dealt with that?
Certainly I’ve dealt with some, where the baby has died in utero and during the process of the birth – still trying to make it as special as it can be. I always make a point of telling them, ‘Even thought the baby’s life is short, it still had a purpose.’
How do you feel about hitting 1,000 births?
The whole process of birth—it holds me in awe. It’s still incredible to me how it all happens. You look over and see this baby. … it’s all such a miracle.