BILLINGS — If you don’t believe in fate, maybe this story will sway you.
A Lame Deer woman gave birth to a healthy new baby boy Monday after an extremely coincidental - or perhaps, fateful? - series of events.
"I woke up and thought, ‘Oh no. Is my water breaking?’" Misty Pipe said to herself around 2:15 a.m. Monday.
It was news Pipe really didn’t want, at least not this week, during Montana’s first Indigenous Breastfeeding Counselor Training course.
"I heard about the course over the summer and knew I had to take it," Pipe, a licensed Indigenous doula, said. "Sunday, I came up here and said, ‘Ok, I have no early signs of labor. This is good.’”
But she had a feeling Sunday night's full moon was too much to overcome. "Those full moons will get the pregnant ladies," she said.
Sure enough, Pipe went into labor at just 38 weeks. Her husband was back in Lame Deer taking care of their six other children, so she was all by herself.
"So I called the front desk at the hotel and asked, 'Do you guys just give rides to the airport?'" she said. "He said, 'Where else do you want to go at 2:30 in the morning besides the airport?' I said, 'I'm just wondering if I could catch a ride to Billings Clinic because I think I'm in labor.' He said, ‘Oh my goodness, yes! Come down now!’”
The driver took Pipe to Billings Clinic to meet her trusted midwife Chantielle Blackwell. What happened next was an experience Pipe will never forget.
"She told me, ‘You’ve done this six times before. You know your body. You can do this,’" Pipe said of Blackwell's advice. "So when he started coming out, I reached down and got him out. Then I said, ‘I don’t have anybody to cut the cord.' She said, 'You're going to cut the cord.'"
As if the story wasn’t good enough, Hoksila Jr. was the first indigenous baby born on Indigenous People’s Day at Billings Clinic this year. It also happened to be Pipe and Hoksila Sr.'s 12th anniversary. But all she could think about was getting back to the training course.
"I said, 'If you discharge me, I can still make it,'" Pipe recalled. "She said, ‘You need to quit it with that conference. You're making it to that conference. You need to stay here for 24 hours.’”
Pipe stayed at the hospital Monday, but both she and Hoksila Jr. were back Tuesday for the 45-hour week-long clinic crucial to rural reservations.
"It’s a system that has neglected a lot of our indigenous families for decades, and the result of that is extremely low breastfeeding rates," said Camie Goldhammer, co-founder of the clinic.
Organizers say breastfeeding is 10 percent less prevalent on reservations (82.5%) than the Montana state average (92.2%). They’re hoping to change that as Pipe and 32 others bring back the knowledge and certification to their own community.
"Kim and I are two of about 20 native lactation consultants in the U.S. and Canada," Goldhammer said. "That’s out of 20,000 total."
"This course provides the participants knowledge they can take back to their community and share," said Kimberly Moore-Salas, the clinic's other co-founder. "Share and support women that look like them, that believe the same culture perspectives as them."
"I successfully breastfed my six other children, and he latched right on," Pipe said. "When a woman calls me at 3 a.m. and says, 'I'm just going to give them a bottle and do formula feeding,' I'll be like, 'No you got this,' and coach them through it. It's really important to bring that back into our community."
It’s not the only important thing she’ll be bringing back.
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