Every birth journey is different. For Lauren Sledziewski this statement could not be more accurate. Sledziewski is a mother of three boys who were all delivered at Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) with the help of midwives and obstetricians. Her experiences with both of these care providers motivated her to volunteer as a patient consult for the new Alongside Midwifery Unit (AMU).

MSH’s vision for the AMU was to provide a stand-alone midwifery unit to give patients more choices when selecting their care provider for their pregnancy. What the AMU provides is the next natural evolution for the midwifery profession in Canada: an in-hospital unit that is governed and staffed by midwives. This model increases access to midwives and their model of while also allowing women access to other hospital services, which is exactly what Sledziewski wanted and needed for her birth experiences.

I felt heard throughout my labour and what I wanted was being considered every step of the way.

For the birth of her first child, Sledziewski researched different location and care provider options. She wanted to have a natural birth and was looking into the possibility of using a midwife.

“I had the misconception that if I went with a midwife, I would have to have a home birth and that I could not have an epidural,” said Sledziewski. “I knew I didn’t want that.”

At MSH women can choose to deliver with a midwife, an OB or a family physician who has access to deliver at MSH. For Lauren, MSH stood out as a hospital where midwives and obstetricians (OBs) work together to care for mother and baby.

Despite her planning, nature had other ideas and the birth of her first baby resulted in a caesarean section (C-section) after the baby was two weeks late and her labour wasn’t progressing.

“Even though it wasn’t the birth I planned for it was a very positive experience. I felt heard throughout my labour and what I wanted was being considered every step of the way. So when they suggested a C-section, I knew it was the right decision because I completely trusted my team and felt like they had both my baby and my best interests in mind.”

For her second baby, 18 months later, her goal was again to have as natural of a birth as possible. Because her first baby was born by C-section, she needed to consult with an OB to have a vaginal birth after caesarean. Her consulting OB worked with her and her midwife to help give Sledziewski the birth she wanted. When her second baby was once again two weeks late and her labour was progressing slowly, her midwife suggested a vacuum assisted delivery to help avoid another C-section. The procedure was successful and she ended up having her second baby with as little intervention as possible.

Each birth was a phenomenal experience and everyone at MSH put me and my care at the forefront.

“The amount of support and the teamwork between the midwives and the OBs was wonderful. I felt so supported throughout my labour. My experiences would not have been possible without this level of collaboration at the hospital.”

For her third baby, Sledziewski was able to have the natural birth she always wanted. She ended up having her baby exclusively with a midwife, without intervention and in a hospital setting.

“Each birth was a phenomenal experience and everyone at MSH put me and my care at the forefront. I never felt awkward for asking anything and my care team supported me and my baby through everything.”

Because of her positive experiences, Sledziewski was inspired to volunteer her time to help plan and develop the AMU. For three years Sledziewski provided a patient’s perspective to the AMU planning.

“As I walk through the new AMU, I see all the ideas we talked about three years ago come to life. We wanted the environment to feel different from a clinical setting and more like home. It was nice to see that those things stayed at the forefront and didn’t get pushed to the bottom as nice-to-haves.”

The birth of the AMU included renovations to the existing space and bringing in specialized equipment and furnishings to support normal birth in a family-centred, unique, holistic and welcoming space. This was made possible thanks in part to the generosity of donors from our community through the MSH Foundation.

“The AMU brings together everything that I needed for my births, but has the additional benefits of delivering on all aspects of midwifery care,” says Sledziewski. “I’m excited for all the families who will enjoy this space as they welcome new babies into their lives.”

Midwives have been part of the birth process at MSH since 1994. The AMU is the first of its kind in Canada and allows for truly enhanced collaboration between obstetricians and midwives. This partnership improves access to the right care close to home for our patients and their families.

Learn more about choosing your care provider.