This Baby Will Make Three

Hamilton couple plans birth at new St. Patrick Hospital Birth Center


This time, it will be different. When Ellen Marceau has her third baby in November, it will be with the confidence of a mother who has already had two very different birthing experiences. And this time, it will be at Providence St. Patrick Hospital’s new birth center.

“This baby, I don’t feel worried about anything,” Ellen said.

A registered nurse who does her homework and has strong opinions about how she wants to deliver her child, Ellen said her first two births were “fabulous,” but she expects her next experience to be the best yet.

Ellen describes the births of her daughters, Aliyah, 4, and Rowenna, 3, with a contagious laugh and a bit of humility, but also with the memory of universal concern among mothers: is everything going to be alright?

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Photo by ©Chery Sabol

While Ellen’s nursing background isn’t in obstetrics, one of her nursing instructors introduced her to the philosophy of natural childbirth and midwifery. “She really opened my eyes to it,” Ellen said.

And so, pregnant with Aliyah, Ellen sought the midwife services of Jeanne Hebl, certified nurse-midwife at The Birth Center in Missoula. She also teamed with Marlene Sampson, a birthing consultant and doula, who trained Ellen in diet, positioning, and other aspects of natural childbirth. Ellen speaks highly of Hebl and Sampson and the care she received from them. Except for a dangerous ambush by a kidney infection, Ellen’s pregnancy was a joy, she said.

Her delivery, though, was intense.

“My water broke at 7:30 a.m. All day, we were trying to get things going,” she remembers. But her pain never went above a 5 on a scale to 10, she had no urge to push, and by about midnight, her uncooperative cervix apparently decided it was time to close for the night. Ali’s pre-birth position, called a “brow presentation,” had halted Ellen’s labor and would require a Caesarean-section birth.

“Jeanne said, ‘I think we’re done here,’” Ellen remembers. The natural childbirth she and Joshua prepared for had slipped away. The couple drove about a mile to Community Medical Center, where Dr. Mark Garnaas was the on-call obstetrician.  By the time she was being prepped for a C-section, “I was mentally really out of it,” she remembers.

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Photo by ©Chery Sabol

“They did the C-section. Everything was fine,” she said. Her recovery was smooth, and Ellen and Joshua took little Aliyah home, even though her arrival was not in the way they had planned.

In retrospect, Ellen said, it may be a good thing. Such an advocate of natural childbirth, if she hadn’t personally experienced disappointment, she might have been too cocky, she laughed. “I might have thought,” that anyone whose plans changed, “just didn’t try hard enough.” Her warmth and evident humor belie that kind of judgment, but still, she has no regrets.

Nine months later, as she and Joshua adjusted to Aliyah’s joyful presence, a tiny fetus named Rowenna knocked on Ellen’s uterus. “Oh, you’re kidding me,” Ellen thought. That pregnancy was also a breeze, she said.

“Rowie was easy. Everything went super smooth.” And fast. Very fast, once contractions began. When they were 15 minutes apart, she called her midwife, who conferred with her and instructed, “Call me when they’re 10 minutes apart.” That never happened, because Ellen’s contractions immediately accelerated to 2-minute intervals. Her midwife instructed, “Get in the car. I hope your husband doesn’t mind speeding.” He didn’t, and the couple made their way from Hamilton to Missoula on a January night. They made it in time.

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Photo by ©Ellen Mareau

Despite her previous C-section, with the help of Joshua and her midwife, Ellen was able to deliver Rowenna naturally. “Joshua said it was actually fun,” she said.

Now, the two little girls keep their mother running while their father studies for his doctorate and tends to a silversmithing business. At an outing to Bonner Park in Missoula recently, Aliyah and Rowenna kept their mother in sight while they romped on the playground. Ellen was on-call and attentive, ready to rescue Rowenna when she climbed too high to get down on her own. Energetic and quick to smile, Ellen said her pregnancy is going well this time, too.

She’s excited to follow Dr. Mark Garnaas to the new Family Maternity Center at Providence St. Patrick Hospital, when it opens August 3. The facility boasts seven sparkling new labor/delivery/recovery/postpartum suites, including a comfortable bed for Joshua next to Ellen as they move through all four phases of introducing their next child to the world.

So, this time, it will definitely be different. And this time, it will be a boy!

This blog post is sponsored by #Providence as part of a campaign to raise awareness about their new, state-of-the-art family maternity facility at St. Patrick Hospital. All opinions are my own. #StPatsBabies


Chery SabolChery Sabol is a former journalist, freelancing in Missoula. Her own birthing experiences produced two remarkable children who are now grown and regularly beat her at Words With Friends, but are otherwise good and lovable people.