On Tuesday, March 22, students, faculty and staff gathered in the Center for Women’s Studies for a brown bag titled, “Birthing Stories.” Four members of the Colgate community shared their recent experiences of giving birth. Most of the participants brought their infant children to the discussion.
With her small child on her lap, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astrology Rebecca Metzler was the first to share her experience. This was her first time giving birth and she was told that it was a high-risk pregnancy. Metzler explained that she thought she had felt pain before, but childbirth was unlike anything she had ever endured. In total, Professor Metzler underwent six hours of labor to give birth.
Director of Residential Programs Kerra Hunter told her story next. Similarly to Metzler, Hunter is a first-time mother. Hunter explained that she had been scared of childbirth. A month before her due date, Hunter had an asthma attack and was rushed to the hospital. After that health scare, she had regular hospital visits to monitor her lungs and heart until her due date. When the time finally came to give birth, the doctors were concerned with Hunter’s low fluids and asthma so they proposed a caesarian. Although nervous about undergoing surgery, Hunter said she slept through the surgery.
“The pain was ridiculous, like nothing you could imagine, but I don’t remember what it felt like. I just remember this wonderful thing,” Hunter said, motioning to her child that sat on her lap.
Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Susan Woolley shared her story detailing the birth of her twins, who were conceived through artificial insemination. Woolley discussed some of the conditions of being pregnant with twins. She explained that her goal from the beginning of her pregnancy was to fatten them up and keep them in her womb as long as possible, as most multiples are born prematurely. Woolley and her partner were able to plan a caesarian birth and she gave birth to healthy, fraternal twins.
Program Coordinator in the Center for
International Programs Aaron Solle spoke about the birth of his two children. He admitted that he and his wife, Assistant Professor of Sociology Alicia Simmons, had prepared much more for their first child than their second, as they learned from experience. Solle pointed out that birthing facilities are not available at Community Memorial Hospital. The closest facility is Syracuse Hospital, almost an hour away. Solle explained that his wife underwent labor for 24 hours before giving birth to their first child. In comparison, labor for their second child lasted only six hours. Solle proudly stated that Simmons submitted her dissertation for her PhD in the month before having their first child.
One student in attendance asked how the panelists felt about Colgate’s maternity leave policy. Currently, Colgate policy follows the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid family or medical leave per year.
Metzler explained that she knows colleagues at other universities who have no maternity leave, so she feels fortunate in comparison. However, she also acknowledged that when she returned to Colgate, it was difficult to teach three classes on three hours of sleep.
Hunter received eight weeks of maternity leave for a caesarian birth, for which she expressed gratitude. However, when it was time to return to work, she found it challenging to get childcare and started bringing her infant to work with her.
Senior Sylvie Lauzon, a certified doula, attended the discussion. A doula is someone who undergoes professional training to provide continuous emotional, physical and informational support for the mother throughout and after pregnancy.
Lauzon spoke about the decision to become a doula.
“I’m really interested in women’s health and I think doulas are a great way to facilitate a positive birth experience, especially in Hamilton, N.Y. where there isn’t a lot of access to medical care,” Lauzon said.
Sophomore Claire Foussard explained what she took away from this discussion.
“Their stories are a testament of the necessity for all women to have the right and ability to make their own choices as they bring new people into the world.”