Due to her desire for a physiological, unmedicated birth – and her fiancé’s celebrity status – Kristen Lehman sought out a birth center that could provide peace, privacy, and a dedicated care team that followed her lead. With the support of her partner, Kansas City-based rapper Aaron Dontez “TECH N9NE” Yates, Lehman chose New Birth Company for her perinatal care and the birth of her second daughter, confident that the focus would be on their family, rather than their fame.
“The situation that was offered to us through New Birth brought us so much power – it changed our lives,” Lehman said. “I really appreciate them and the work they put in for us. I put the same work in, so I know they appreciate me too. I wouldn’t ask for it to be any other way, I got exactly what I wanted.”
“[New Birth] was the exclusivity we needed as there was nothing but their wonderful team of midwives, our amazing canna doula [Aarin Blount], and a few family members at the facility assisting my strong and fearless fiancé [Kristen Lehman] while she delivered Alina Denae Yates divinely in 2.5 hours. WOW! So blessed to have witnessed this heartfelt moment,” Yates shared in a Facebook post on March 6, 2023.
Midwifery: Improving Maternal Health
New Birth, located in Overland Park, Kansas, is committed to creating a new paradigm in childbirth, rooted in the belief that natural childbirth is a physical, emotional, and spiritual experience. New Birth enhances the birth experience through the utilization of midwifery services, expertise, and scope of care.
Kendra Wyatt is CEO and co-founder of New Birth alongside Cathy Gordon, the “grandmother of midwifery” in the area. Between the birth of her first and second children, she traveled to several countries including Haiti, where she visited a birth center founded by her colleagues. It was here where she first learned about Gordon. “The first time I had heard of midwives and birth centers was because I was in Haiti, it wasn’t because of my own backyard,” she said.
Wyatt experienced a severe culture shock surrounding the birth experience in America compared with Haiti, Rwanda, and other countries, and upon returning home she changed her prenatal care over to Gordon and her nurse and midwife team at a birth center in Kansas City, Kansas, where she gave birth to her second son.
Wyatt’s experience with her first birth, having opted out of the epidural so she could remain in control — much to the surprise of her care team — influenced the eventual creation of New Birth. Throughout her prenatal care with Gordon, the two’s conversations focused on how maternal health care systems are designed to fail. They saw an opportunity to change that through midwifery and doula care and opened New Birth together in 2011.
“I believe women need options,” she said. “I believe they need informed consent. I believe they need shared decision-making, and they certainly need world-class outcomes, which we do not have in this country right now.”
New Birth Co. Offers Peace and Privacy
Lehman was concerned about the privacy (or lack thereof) a hospital could offer for her birth, having had negative experiences with hospitals previously due to her fiancé’s fame. When her sister recommended New Birth, having enjoyed her own birth experience there, Lehman knew the center’s dedication to mothers and midwifery would be the right fit for her.
“We’ve never had a good hospital experience, even when we just go for illness,” she said. “I really wanted it to be about the birth and the pregnancy and about us, and not so much about all the fame, so that really helped a lot – the fact that there was just a few rooms in there and it was a very personalized and private setting – that really is the reason why we chose New Birth.”
New Birth offers three birth suites, all featuring a large birthing tub, warm lighting, one-way privacy windows with forest views, a family-size bed, a seating area, and a kitchenette. Each suite has its own unique design and mothers are encouraged to choose the suite that most strongly resonates with them and the environment they want for their birth.
Because New Birth is rooted in traditional midwifery, they use natural pain management techniques, rather than an epidural or other medications. Instead, they offer a wide variety of natural pain and stress relief that are available to mothers throughout pregnancy and labor, including essential oils and diffusers, birthing balls and stools, among others.
Having been medication-free for several years, Lehman knew New Birth would allow her to have the physiological birth she wanted. “I know that’s where midwifery comes in, is they help the mother get what they want out of the situation as opposed to what the medical field wants,” she said. “I was really excited to have more control over it.”
Though many women across both sides of her family had undergone unmedicated births, not everyone was as quick to understand and support her decision. At first, Yates was nervous, frequently asking “what if” about the possibility of something going wrong. Ultimately, though, he knew it was Lehman’s decision to make.
“It was actually really nice to watch him change his mindset and to understand and respect my choices and let me lead in this situation because it was my body. . . like, you’re not the one going through it, just let me do this,” she said.
For Yates, the lack of medical interventions throughout their perinatal care journey sometimes felt like not enough was being done. However, for Lehman, this lack of interventions had the opposite effect; she felt surer about her and her baby’s health because there were so few interventions.
In addition to the birthing suites, New Birth also houses a clinic where patients attend routine appointments throughout pregnancy and postpartum. The main purpose of the appointment is for patients to have a conversation with their care team about how they feel, what help or support they are needing, any concerns they have, and any changes to their care plan.
“Our first visit is an hour, and our first visit, is, ‘Who are you?’” Wyatt said. “Pregnancy and birth is not just a physical event, it’s a spiritual one and a knowledge event. We’re also very upfront about, don’t come here if you’re not going to invest in yourself, because you can’t dial it in here.”
According to Wyatt, New Birth is transparent about the fact that they aren’t right for everyone, for various reasons. Because New Birth only facilitates unmedicated, physiological birth, patients must meet certain criteria to be able to give birth at the center.
Patients may be immediately identified as high-risk, or rather, better suited for a more traditional or medical setting. Some patients simply prefer the hands-off experience of giving birth at a hospital. Regardless of the reason, these patients are still able to utilize the clinic’s resources and birthing classes and are warmly referred and handed off to a different provider or facility.
Though Lehman knew there was a risk she could suddenly be ruled out and need to be transferred to a hospital, this was something she decided she’d worry about if and when she had to. Though she understood her partner’s fears about the possibility things could go wrong, she also asked him to consider that everything could just as easily go right.
“I think the challenges are small compared to the reward of having control over your birth and the personalized care they give you,” she said. “If I had another baby and I had to have a birth in a hospital, I would still get all of my care at New Birth because of how personalized it was.”
“I like that they’re inclusive like that of other people,” she continued. “Even if you have a different mindset and you want to have a hospital birth, they don’t judge it. They’re just offering resources to help people have the best situation possible and that’s important to me. The care is a big deal.”
Aside from her own strength and tenacity, Lehman champions her dedicated care team for their role in her having a positive, powerful birth. As a cannabis user, it was important to her to continue using, safely, and be her authentic self without having to feel ashamed or hide what she was doing. Through family and friends, she was connected to Aarin Blount, a local canna doula who educated and supported her on how to safely and appropriately dose.
She utilized small doses of cannabis or CBD to manage various pregnancy symptoms including heartburn, nausea, problems with appetite, pain, anxiety, and stress. She compares the use of cannabis while pregnant to being utilized by cancer patients for the same symptoms, pointing out the hypocrisy of accepting one situation while judging the other.
“Any of the symptoms of pregnancy go hand in hand with cannabis,” she said. “I want to help people to understand that it’s okay and that there are benefits to the situation and that it can help you. I had no medications during my whole pregnancy, not one. I don’t understand the thought process behind not accepting that.”
Though she would take small hits or use CBD-heavy tinctures, most often she took edibles that are slow-releasing and help to calm the body. As a personal trainer who is used to being active, using cannabis allowed her to slow down and rest, which is crucial throughout pregnancy.
“While you’re pregnant, you can’t do as many things, you just can’t,” she said. “I’m used to go go go, running my business, doing my workouts, and I had to adjust to this stillness. This was the best way to relieve some of the energy I had. It really helped me be able to not get into a depression because I was still, but to sink into it and accept that this is the next stage of my life and calm down a little.”
Even now, in the postpartum stage, using cannabis to relax ends up helping more than just her. When she’s exhausted, her family is gone, and the baby is crying, she can step out for a quick hit that helps her access a calmness that allows her to face the day.
“I’m not so anxious and so stressed about what’s going on,” she said. “It’s more relieving for her, I’m sure, because my energy is going to affect her. I’m definitely happy I found a canna doula.”
Doulas Turn Chaos to Calm
In addition to cannabis education, Lehman valued her doula for the support she offered not only her but her family as well. Regardless of how much she’d researched each stage of pregnancy, her canna doula verified information, helped ease anxiety, and served as a bridge of communication between her, her family, and the rest of her care team.
While New Birth patients are pregnant, they routinely meet with each member of the midwife and nursing staff so that regardless of who is on staff during their birth, they are familiar with everyone. However, they strongly encourage the addition of a doula to the care team and offer events and resources to connect patients to local doulas who offer a variety of services.
Doulas offer wraparound support both inside and outside of the facility, before and after birth. Though patients meet with every midwife, having one constant person attend every appointment and be a part of every conversation can help ensure there are no gaps in the care plan. In the event of an emergency, doulas are also able to transfer with patients to a hospital, whereas New Birth nurses and midwives cannot.
It was important to Lehman to be able to call her family members to celebrate moments of joy, rather than constantly ask them questions or obsess over something being wrong, which her canna doula gladly helped with instead. It also worked the opposite way: if her family noticed something felt off, or didn’t understand her behavior, they could ask the doula rather than asking her and risking it coming off negatively.
During a particularly rough period of pregnancy when hormones were affecting her, Lehman’s family was able to consult with the doula about what was happening, why, and how they could support her. This also took the burden off Lehman to have to navigate these challenges while simultaneously educating those caring for her, allowing her to simply focus on feeling better.
“It’s important to know that [doulas] are there to be the calm,” she said. “That’s the person that you lean on, and they help everybody. We built a friendship and relationship, and it took that load off my whole family. I think that bridge in communication is 100% what got us through the situation so peacefully and now she’s here still – before and after.”
Toward the end of her pregnancy, Lehman and her doula worked together to identify measures to help manage labor: what she wanted to eat to maintain her strength, what positions were most comfortable, what kind of pressure could be added to reduce pain, etc. The doula also worked with Yates, as well as Lehman’s teenage daughter, to ensure they played an active and supportive role in the birth as well and were prepared ahead of time.
“She made it to where he could really help me and be there, and my daughter, because they knew what to do, they knew what I needed, and she would redirect them,” she said. “It was probably the best communication piece that we could have possibly added to the situation.”
Her care team and the coaching they offered her and her family, as well as the ambiance of the room, created Lehman’s ideal environment and offered the sense of peace and control she was looking for. “The tools, the resources, and the people that were present, it did not feel like I was going into a situation that could be stressful,” she said. “I never felt uncomfortable.”
When her daughter later asked about the vulnerability of the situation, if she felt weird being naked in the tub in a room full of people, Lehman responded that she didn’t — not only because she knew and was comfortable with everyone in the room, but also because she felt so calm, in control, and at peace that she hadn’t even thought about it.
“New Birth just has a very natural organic energy, and you can tell the women there are really serious about keeping midwifery alive,” she said. “They really do care; it doesn’t feel like anything I’ve ever experienced.”
Lehman knew Grace Gilroy, a midwife at New Birth, prior to her birthing journey. Because she felt comfortable with Gilroy, she requested her presence as often as possible throughout her pregnancy, which New Birth happily accommodated when possible. To her added benefit, after beginning labor at home, she arrived at New Birth immediately after a staff meeting, resulting in the entire staff being present for her birth.
“I got the whole staff as my care team, and I was so lucky to have that,” she said. “I have seven midwives in the room, my doula, and my family. It was powerful. I know it doesn’t happen like that for everyone, but it was magical. I was so lucky to have all those women there and so much support. That was special.”
The midwifery model of perinatal care at the core of New Birth’s practice uses a dedicated team of nurses and midwives to remind women of their power and ensure they are leading their care and their wants for birth. They also offer preconception care as well as well-woman care.
New Birth also offers prenatal and birthing classes covering a variety of topics, from nutrition to managing chronic disease and related risk factors, to pain management and laboring techniques. These classes have high engagement rates from patients’ partners and support people, who are considered and welcomed along every step of the journey.
“The medical model assumes you don’t have any autonomy over your own decisions,” Wyatt said. “The medical model doesn’t value the fact that we can teach women. It’s about that family unit, and the magic and the power of those pheromones that happen at birth are so powerful, and the medical model really robs you of that.”
Managing the Mindset
As a personal trainer who has worked in the health field for nearly a decade, Lehman understands the power of a mindset and how high mental strength translates directly to physical strength. Part of New Birth’s focus on informed consent and decision-sharing is respecting the patient’s right to decline interventions that may be otherwise routine in a traditional setting.
In hospitals, women in labor are encouraged and sometimes simply told to have routine cervix checks to determine how close they are to delivering. However, as labor moves differently for every person, this is often not a reliable way of establishing proximity to birth and can instead be painful, triggering, or otherwise distressing.
Though New Birth’s staff did periodically check with Lehman about whether she’d like to be checked, they respected her firm “No.” Understanding the power of a mindset, she knew she would feel defeated if her body “reported” something different than what it “should.” Instead, with the support of New Birth, she trusted her body and felt confident things would happen when they were supposed to.
“Your body does it, it’s going to do it,” she said. “If you let go of fear of what’s going to happen, it just happens. It’s all about your mindset. When you go toward it with the power, rather than try to shy away, it’s way more smooth.”
Since giving birth, Lehman has faced tension regarding her choice to go unmedicated. Though people will compliment her strength, the comments come off almost back-handed, as if her physiological birth puts her on a pedestal that looks down on women who choose or need to have interventions or hospital support.
For her, understanding how the cascade of interventions directly contributes to high rates of complications and poor health and birth outcomes drove her decision to have a natural birth. With the support of her doula and care team and the information they were able to provide, Lehman only confirmed her decision.
At first, she was uneasy about the unique clinic visits and low-intervention birth plan. But the more she learned about how many exams, procedures, and interventions are unnecessary, and actually work against the mother, opting out of these and having less hands-on care allowed her to trust her body to do what it was meant to do.
“When you’ve only done a hospital birth and then you go to a care that’s a little less hands-on, it can be kind of scary,” she said. “The hard route actually is easier, and that’s what I’m trying to get people to understand.”
Because keeping a strong mental state is important to her, she especially investigated how the lack of interventions would support her through the postpartum period, also known as the fourth trimester. Strong pain medications, such as an epidural, and complications such as surgery add to recovery time, as well as bring about additional health concerns. Creating a birth plan that also considered her goals for postpartum helped keep her feeling positive and in control.
“It’s really about how you want the process afterward to be because I feel like sometimes, when people go through the surgery aspect, like a C-section, or don’t get the birth they thought they were going to get or wanted, it causes more depression in the long run,” she said. “If you feel like you really have that control, it gives that power to have a different mental state, and that’s the most important part to me.”
Postpartum: The Fourth Trimester
New Birth’s low-intervention care continues into the postpartum period, with frequent routine checkups beginning immediately after birth to assess the mother and baby’s health and especially the mother’s mental health.
Lehman, having already experienced the ups and downs of the postpartum period with her first child, knew she would need more support in the fourth trimester than she may have needed during her relatively comfortable second pregnancy. In addition to appointments at New Birth, she continued care with her canna doula.
In addition to providing education and communication support, her doula assists with childcare, running errands, cleaning, doing laundry, and simply providing social interaction through her visits. As a result, Lehman is able to focus on celebrating with her loved ones, maintaining her mental and physical strength, and keeping up with her self-care.
Keeping a routine postpartum has been vital to maintaining her mental health. In addition to an intense routine of natural supplements, supported by a functional doctor, she also prioritizes remaining active, social, and keeping up with hygiene. A key factor is making this routine work for her and her new baby, even if that means asking if accommodations can be made – for example, simply because she asked, she is currently able to have her lash appointments done at home.
As an independent and self-identified “bossy” woman, Lehman can sometimes struggle to ask for help, worrying that her genuine requests for support may come off as nagging to her loved ones. In contrast, she also notices how easy it is to become frustrated when people in her village aren’t available to help, even if they genuinely want to.
This is, again, where doula support comes in. Like during pregnancy, her doula warns family members and friends about what to expect during the postpartum period and what support she may need. If they have questions or concerns, they can come to the doula to better understand what is happening and how they can help – or if they need to get out of the way.
“Those moments are so important because you’re not sitting there thinking about the things your family is not doing,” Lehman said. “That part can happen when you’re in postpartum. Someone will help you if you have that help hired. It’s a big deal. People need to know that it’s an option, it’s a resource, and not to feel ashamed to want to use that.”
In addition to the peaceful environment, the care team surrounding Lehman and Yates made all the difference in the birth of their daughter, with New Birth helping to facilitate a peaceful, powerful experience from pregnancy through postpartum.
“I think the challenges are small compared to the reward of having control over your birth and the personalized care they give you,” Lehman said. “New Birth provided us with an experience I didn’t think was possible any longer. I truly appreciate all of the ladies and staff support.”
“The atmosphere, the care, the teamwork of the midwives, and the exclusivity of New Birth was second to none,” Yates added. “I’m so glad this is the way we chose, a spiritual experience for sure. I appreciate you all.”