When I first met Yvette and Tamer Ibrahim in December, it was in the living room of their cottage deep in the woods a half-hour north of Grand Marais, Minn. I was there to hear the story of the birth of their now 2-year-old son, Zein.
Because the nearest hospital in Grand Marais had stopped deliveries, they endured a harrowing four-hour drive through a blizzard to a hospital in Duluth.
Their story is growing increasingly likely to repeat itself as rural hospitals shut down their obstetrics units for a variety of reasons, primarily involving financial constraints and quality of care concerns.
• Minnesotans share their stories: Traveling for labor and delivery services • Rural hospitals retreat from delivering babies: Small towns pay the price• Share your story: What are the challenges of pregnancy, giving birth in rural Minnesota?
The Ibrahims wanted to avoid their initial nightmare with their second baby's birth.
So, they devised a plan that would allow for a home birth in Duluth, a short drive from a fully equipped obstetrics unit.
It didn't turn out that way.
Check out this Twitter thread for the story:
📻 If you’re listening to MPR News right now, you’re probably hearing a familiar voice.— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019
Remember Yvette and Tamer Ibrahim and their harrowing, 4-hour drive through a snowstorm for the birth of their first baby? https://t.co/y1WWmCotow
When we last heard from them in January, they were preparing for their second baby's arrival. pic.twitter.com/y7EfWuynAo— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019
They live off the grid, north of Grand Marais near the Canadian border. And they wanted to have a home birth, but also wanted to be near a hospital, just in case. pic.twitter.com/OMEr1lByt5— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019
The hospital in Grand Marais no longer offers obstetric care, and only delivers babies in emergency situations. It's a part of a larger trend that's left rural clinics and small-town leaders frustrated across Minnesota -- and across the country.— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019
Between 2000 and the beginning of 2015, 15 of the state's rural hospitals stopped delivering babies -- a nearly 38 percent decline.— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019
So what does that mean for pregnant moms in rural Minnesota? pic.twitter.com/rdvi5gm0nv
For Yvette Ibrahim, it meant planning -- lots of it.— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019
This time, they figured, things would be different.
And at first, they were.— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019
They arranged to deliver their new baby at a house in Duluth, not far from the hospital.
Their own midwives would join them, and they'd all leave for Duluth as soon as Yvette was in labor. pic.twitter.com/8Siu6Jq9cJ
But labor can be unpredictable.— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019
Yvette said she'd twice gone into false labor in the weeks leading up to her second son's birth, so it made deciding when to leave for Duluth confusing.
When they finally did leave, they made it as far as Grand Marais to the midwife's house. Yvette said when she got there, she walked in, kicked off her boots and said, "I'm not going anywhere."— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019
Baby Fen, a boy, was born healthy and without complications about an hour and a half later in her midwife's house. If they'd left for Duluth, they likely wouldn't have made it. pic.twitter.com/4juDlDTp3D— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019
Yvette said in some ways, this delivery was less stressful than her first, even if things didn't go as planned, because they ended up being so close to home. pic.twitter.com/ctHKm4p2UC— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019
And as for their older son Zein, Yvette and Tamer say he's pretty excited to be a big brother. pic.twitter.com/rof7BlhjAY— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019
When reporter @CatRichert first reported the Ibrahims' story in January, lots of other moms across the state told us their own stories: of endless searches for midwives, of preparing for the possibility of a roadside delivery, of planning and logistics https://t.co/7q0BQ0C8Xk— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019
And if the trend continues and more rural hospitals close their labor and delivery services, it's likely more parents in more rural parts of the state will have similar stories to share.— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019
Did you opt for a home birth because you live far from a hospital? Why and what was that experience like? As @CatRichert continues to report this story, she'd love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019