Danialle Karmanos still gets teary-eyed thinking about the moment she laid in a hospital bed, pregnant with twins and facing complications, and listened to two doctors tell her that her babies might not survive.
“He said, ‘We’re going to do everything we can to hold onto these babies but it will be a miracle if they can make it to 30 weeks. Things aren’t looking good,'” she recalls. “They just stood there shaking their heads.”
But Karmanos, a philanthropist and community activist in metro Detroit, was steadfast.
“I had these two experts starting at me. I’m hooked up to IVs. I looked up at the two of them and said, ‘These babies are not coming before 36 weeks, and on top of that, I’m going to have them naturally,'” she says.
Karmanos and her husband Peter Karmanos, Jr., the former CEO for Compuware, went home and Danialle started what she calls “hardcore bed rest,” not even getting up to wash her hair. She went into labor at 36.5 weeks and was able to deliver both baby boys naturally.
“They are perfect and healthy and the doctor actually came to me after and said, ‘I’ve delivered over 12,000 babies and this is the best experience I’ve had,'” Karmanos says.
She remembers smiling through her labor – determined to prove the doctors wrong. No one thought a natural birth would be possible, she says.
“From the moment you’re carrying those babies, you’re their mom. You fiercely do what you need to do to have them,” she says. “My birth plan with the yoga and the music and all that didn’t turn out the way I thought it would in the first trimester. The thing is I actually don’t remember any pain through the labor because I was so determined to show these doctors that I could have these babies naturally.”
Karmanos switched to Beaumont for her next two pregnancies and worked with Dr. Mark Werner as her OB-GYN. She went on to deliver two more healthy baby boys – 9 pounds and 11 pounds – all naturally.
Advocating for natural childbirth
A year and a half after Karmanos delivered her fourth baby boy, Beaumont approached Peter and Danialle with the idea for the Karmanos Center for Natural Birth. The couple donated $6 million to build the center, which opened in 2014 and offers a safe natural childbirth experience for expectant mothers in a supportive and home-like environment.
“I couldn’t find that sort of environment when we were expecting each of our kids,” Karmanos says. “It gave Pete and I a really great opportunity to create a first-class environment for women who want this option, to have access to all of the medical care they need in case of an emergency.”
The private birthing suites feature queen-size beds, hydrotherapy tubs and high-end finishes and the center is staffed with caregivers trained in holistic birth approaches.
“My passion point, or one of the top passion points, was on education so that the entire team – the doctors and nurses who were surrounding the family – really knew how to support the birth plan to have a natural childbirth,” Karmanos says.
Planning your baby’s story
When Karmanos was pregnant with her twins, she remembers someone telling her, “I can’t wait to hear what your story is going to be.”
“That really stuck with me,” she says. “Everybody has a story that they hear from their parents, an aunt, a sibling every year on their birthday. Your story. I thought, through all of these experiences, I was giving my babies their story.”
She encourages women to advocate for the birth experience they want.
“You have to kind of lay out what you want your story to be,” she says. “I fought for what I wanted for our family. Be your own advocate.”
If you do go the natural birth route, remember this: “I tell people you can have the music and have someone rub your shoulders, do hypnosis … the thing is, it still hurts,” Karmanos says. “You just have to go in knowing millions of women have done this – you’re going to get through it. Know that there is an end in sight.”
At the end of the day, whether your plan doesn’t go as you hoped or you choose to have pain medication or a cesarean section, “nothing, nothing is more important than having a healthy baby.”
“There’s no shame, there’s no failure,” she says. “Having a healthy baby is the only thing that matters.”