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Home Deliveries and Water deliveries

The movement for natural physiological birth in Panama is irreversible.

IMG_7053The movement for natural physiological birth in Panama is irreversible.

This picture was taken by a very extraordinary American midwife. At that moment, we were in Arizona with the impressive Grand Canyon behind us. It was April of this year and we had been invited to participate at the Indie Birth national conference. The organisers were interested to hear first hand from us about our experiences attending mothers in Panama and promoting natural birth in both the hospital and home birth setting. We presented two lectures on our experience offering water and home births in our country. We were treated like royalty.

Last week, the private hospital where we have worked for the last 20 years, informed us that, as of that moment, we had lost our hospital privileges. We were effectively prohibited form continuing our work seeing patients and attending births in their establishment. In addition, the hospital administration contacted our patients individually and directed them to immediately change their doctor or hospital. The reason given was our non-compliance with hospital policy. In fact, they were not happy because our promotion of natural birth disrupts their 80% caesarean rate; an unacceptable number!

Who is being disrespected by the hospitals’ action? Us, no!

Thousands of women who are tired of being forced to birth by caesarean without legitimate reason, women who deserve the right to choose natural birth, who want to move freely and choose their own positions in labour and who are tired of being separated from their newborns’ at birth. Women who are tired of indiscriminate use of medications to accelerate and control their labour patterns, rather than trusting in the natural process. Women who deserve the right to have doulas to assist them in their labours and who deserve support breastfeeding. Women who are tired of having the sacred first 90 minutes after birth being disturbed. This essential bonding period is most important for the baby to smell the mother, to hear her mother and father’s voice, to look into each others eyes. These are only examples of a system that is not listening to what many women are asking for!

The natural physiological birth movement in Panama is irreversible!
What has been achieved in Panama so far is not our success, it is the achievement of women and their families to choose for themselves how they will birth. We have received hundreds of calls, texts and emails from women and their families supporting us and defending their rights.


Dr. Graciela Anhel & Dr. Rodrigo Aybar

Empowering! Empoderamiento!


Se avanza en Panamá!


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Over 9 months ago we were excited to find out we would be having a baby. Immediately we knew there were things we wanted to do differently than my first pregnancy/birthing experience which lacked human connection, magic and spirit. Early on we agreed we wouldn’t find out the sex of the baby and would wait till the end. What restriction, but as time went by it became less important. We also chose to keep the pregnancy humble and sacred which allowed us intimacy and for time to fly by. Our birthing however was still undetermined, until the day we found Dr. Rodrigo Aybar, after spending hours researching and reading the testimonials from his site we found our missing link, we were going to do a natural home birth in water. And so our journey began, the meditating, the visualization, hypnosis all to prepare ourselves for this moment in time. Here I leave for you a very special moment shared by my family, and hope you are able to get a glimpse of our efforts in 2015 come full circle. This was only possible due to the 38 weeks of backrubs I received from Miguel Hermoso III, conversations to my belly from Logan Alejandro Villarreal, and support from FLora Lostalo & Kattia Villarreal on birthday. Of course I owe this lovely, intimate experience to my fearless leaders in all this Rodrigo Aybar and Graciela Aybar for helping us manifest this dream of ours. By no way was it the easiest path, but surely the most fufilling. Sincere thank you to Roby for capturing this memory for us perfectly. We present to you Ezra Hermoso born on September 20th, 2015 at 7:35pm at home.
If it doesnt load, click the dots in the corner and choose the desktop version. Enjoy!










“I think she’ll be born next week,” said Dr. Graciela. At 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant, it wasn’t what I was hoping to hear. I had stopped working the week before, both my parents had flown in from Hawaii, baby’s room was clean and ready, and her newborn-sized onesies washed. My baby was prepared, too. Since week 20-something she had been in a head-down, anterior position.
To my surprise, I woke up the next morning, her due date, with bloody show. Not long after, I began to feel contractions. My husband and I started tracking them at 8:30 a.m. on December 6. At 11 a.m., we called our doctor to let her know they were consistently 10-12 minutes apart. I continued contracting into the afternoon, but continued my life as normal. I understood that contractions could stop, so I didn’t want to get too excited, but I asked my mom to take some pictures, just in case.

Around 6 p.m. Dr. Graciela came by to see how I was doing. “You’re at 1 cm,” she said. “I’ll be back later.” From the beginning, I loved Dr. Graciela’s calm yet confident nature. When my husband and I were window shopping for obstetricians, she was the first we met. I had found her website when we were just a few weeks pregnant with the search terms “home birth Panama”. In a country where the c-section rate in private hospitals is 8/10, I was determined to have a vaginal birth, and it seemed like a home birth was just the ticket, and Dr. Graciela was just the person for the job. Actually, she was the only person for the job. She and her husband are the only doctors in Panama who do home births.
At 11 p.m. Dr. G came back. “You’re 6.5 cm. I’ll set up the pool.” I was elated. 6.5! That’s practically 7! I’m almost there. When the pool was set up, Dr. Graciela invited me in. I was in darkness, in my daughter’s room, contracting in the warm water. In the living room, my mom and Dr. Graciela, along with her husband, Dr. Rodrigo, talked and looked at family photos. For the most part, my husband and I were alone in our little girl’s room, in the dark, waiting for her to come.

I was camped on the edge of the pool, arms hanging over the side, resting on my knees. When I got the urge to push, I told my husband, who alerted Dr. Graciela. “Push if you want to push,” she said. So I did. I pushed when I felt the urge to. I didn’t feel like I was making any progress, so I thought that maybe I was misreading my body’s cues. Still, I pushed when I felt the urge to. I pushed with my whole body.
Dr. Graciela came to check me and said that there was something preventing me from being fully dilated, and that it was preventing my baby from being able to come down the birth canal. I’m actually not completely sure what she said, as Spanish is my second language and I was in labor, but that’s what I understood. She finished breaking my water, which had partially broken while I was on the bed earlier.
Though I was not aware of the time, it seemed hours passed. The sun began to light up the room. “December 7th,” I thought, “My daughter’s birthday will be December 7th.” Dr. Graciela insisted that I drink some juice. “You need energy,” she said, “Take a sip.” I refused. “Take one sip. Now another. And another. OK, finish the cup now.” I didn’t want any of it. All I wanted was to finish the job. Dr. Graciela was right, I lacked energy. But I did not lack determination.
Dr. Graciela encouraged me to feel for my baby. “How many knuckles in?” she asked. I love that instead of checking me herself, she empowered me and made me feel in charge of my labor. “Two,” I responded. After several pushes, we were still at two knuckles. What am I doing wrong, I wondered. I’m doing everything I can.
At the insistence of my mom, my husband Jose got in the pool with me. My tired body rested in the arms of my husband, who sat behind me. With each contraction we pushed together, his hands gripping my legs and giving me strength. Soon some black hair emerged. It was at this point that the pain of the contractions were matched by the pain of my daughter’s head grinding my tailbone as it curled back inside me post-contraction. I don’t know what was worse, the pain during a contraction or after a contraction.

I remember my contractions pausing for some time. When they came back, I pushed with everything I had while my cheerleaders coached me in English and Spanish. I was so caught up in pushing that I hadn’t realized the progress that I had made. “Look down,” my husband said, “Look at her face!” As soon as I looked down she was already swimming out of me like a little fish. Dr. Graciela got her, unwrapped her umbilical cord from her waist and leg, and handed her to me.

Lilia Marie was born with her eyes wide open at 8:30 a.m. on December 7th. 7 lbs, 2 oz and 19 inches long.

I didn’t think much of the unicorn shape of her head then. I knew babies’ heads were funny-shaped when born, and I was more taken by her beautiful face, her precious hands, and her full head of hair than the shape of her head.
When Dr. Graciela came back the following day to check on Lilia and me, she mentioned the obstetrician books say Lilia’s type of birth, brow presentation, is not possible vaginally. I didn’t understand then what I understand now. The diagram below is helpful. The most common presentation is A. Lilia’s brow presentation .

I had quite a long recovery due to Lilia’s presentation, however I cherish the opportunity I had to labor in the comfort of my home, surrounded by my family and two extraordinary doctors, Dr. Graciela Anhel de Aybar and Dr. Rodrigo Aybar.





Nisla !!




Nuestros partos naturales.




































































Tessie’s Testimony

We had the most amazing experience in our lives, thanks to the wonderful people and great OBGYNs, Dr. Rodrigo Aybar and Dra. Graciela Anhel-Aybar

The Doctors here in Canada, at least most of them; they see and treat you like a file number. It’s not a nice feeling at all. When I found out that I was pregnant, I started thinking about what my husband had always said about the medical system here in Canada and how nice it would be to have an intimate home birth. A home birth felt instinctively natural to us.

Sounded like a very nice idea but we didn’t know anyone who had done a home birth.

WHEN I WAS 4 MONTHS PREGNANT, we decided to embark on an adventure and to take off for a month to travel through Costa Rica and Panama… our last trip as a couple before we had a child. As Fortune would have it, during the tail end of our trip we met Sara Zomer, a prenatal Yoga instructor and doula. While I was checking her website, I saw articles about Water Births. I got all exited. This is a sign I told my Husband. Last day of our trip, Sara made sure that we had an appointment with Dr.Aybar.

He was great; he took the time to know us and had a genuine interest in how my pregnancy was progressing (actually, I had a very good pregnancy from the beginning until the end). He took time to answer all our questions with much patience. Everything he said resonated with me!!!
After our experience with Dr. Aybar, deep down we knew that we were coming back to Panama for the birth of our child, but we nonetheless took a wait-and-see approach when we returned to Canada. In Canada, the Doctor’s appointments became less and less pleasant. DURING MY 31st WEEK appointment, the Dr. told us: “We should do a C-Section at 38 weeks because the baby is too small and in breech position”. I almost cried, maybe I did.

As soon as we returned home, I sent an email to Dr. Aybar in Panama for a second opinion! The answer came in less than an hour: “It’s too soon to make decisions about C-sections or about the baby’s size. The baby will grow. You are a small person and you don’t need a big baby. It may yet turn, and even if it doesn’t, a birth from breech position is possible and natural.”

That was it: my husband and I decided to go to Panama! I know some people thought we were crazy to go to a foreign country where we know no one to have a home water birth with a doctor that we had met only met once? And this, to have our first child? Of course, these people wanted what’s best for us but their reactions were coming from fear (victims of the system) and from unawareness about natural births, home births or water births.
We were glad that both our moms believed in us and supported our decision!  We knew that we are doing the right thing! We felt it! We are people who trust our instincts and our instincts told us to go to Panama and Dr. Aybar.

AT 35 WEEKS, ON MAY 1st, slightly more than a month before my due date (which was June 9), we flew to Panama, rented a nice apartment in Casco Viejo (Old City) and made sure we had time enough to make it feel like home before our baby arrived. And very soon felt like home.

Marie –Andre and her husband Ricardo, who both live and work in Casco Viejo and who also helped me to find our apartment, made us feel very welcome in Panama. They shared with us their water birth experience with their 3rd child, Manolito, and had nothing but the nicest things to say about Drs. Graciela and Rodrigo. I was amazed from their story and I told her that I wish to have such a wonderful experience as hers. Then we met our lovely friends Michelle Toose and her husband James and little Alex, they were there for us from the beginning.
WE HAD REGULAR DOCTOR APPOINMENTS at Dr. Aybar’s office but some of the appointments were in our home. We were looking to see if the baby would turn. My husband wanted to try a version . Deep down, I didn’t feel that the baby needed to turn for me to have a natural birth.
Drs. Aybar and Graciella managed to turned the baby but only for a few seconds, because it turned back to its original breech position. “Terca”, Dr Aybar exclaimed! Terca, I found out meant “stubborn” in Spanish. My husband was worried when the baby turned back to breech, but Dr. Aybar told us that “we need to trust our baby. If she returned to breech position, it is because that is what she wants and that there is a reason for it. WHEN THE TIME COMES, MUM AND BABY KNOW THE WAY. IT’s NATURAL, IT’S HUMAN NATURE.” and he was right.

My husband made sure that I have a Doula… my mom! My mom Despina came all the way from Kastoria, Greece to Panama city on June 1st! A great supporter and a huge help! I was so happy to have her with us and to share our life experience with her.
THE DUE DATE PASSED. Days were going by with no sign of contractions. I was feeling fine, going to the pool upstairs, walking almost 7 km every day, having nice dinners; we even went dancing, but nothing, I wasn’t feeling ready to give birth. All our friends and family waiting on Skype. No news 🙂  We asked Dr. Aybar how long we would wait? I was a week late but everything in the examination seemed perfect (we could wait). Baby was so comfy in my big belly that she didn’t want to come out.
Almost 42 weeks and still no signs that baby was ready to come out. It was Thursday morning when the Dr. examined her last and said that we could wait a little bit longer, but that if she didn’t come out by the weekend, we should do a C-Section.  I cried.
But that night, something amazing happened. I knew that I would be having a natural birth on Saturday night with the full moon and that it was going to be a girl, just like that Kuna lady predicted. There were still no signs, but I just knew. In the meantime, everyone around me was trying to help induce the baby naturally.
I don’t know what helped: Maria’s special tee (boil oregano in hot water)? Some lubricating concoction my husband went and bought? Positive thinking? Baby understanding when I was rubbing my belly and telling her that she is Safe and it’s time to come out because we didn’t came all the way to Panama to have a C-Section?
MY CONTRACTIONS STARTED EARLY SATURDAY MORNING. I called my Doctors and they told me when I have contractions 5min. apart, they will come. We went for a walk, came back home and waiting…waiting… During this time, Vasili and my mum were trying to make everything comfortable for me…My husband  prepare the house, the lighting, put some relaxing music and my mum massage my feet.
The Doctors arrived around 8pm. They checked on me and told me that I needed another 5 to 6 hours. They were very respectful, sat in the living room, reading books and they were there for me only if I ask them to be. We also joked and laughed at some point. I remember Graciela holding my hand. I mostly stayed in the bedroom with my husband, very supportive from the beginning till the end. He was giving massages and bringing me anything I asked for.
The Dr’s encouraged me to eat and drink water…. to move and do whatever I felt like.  I even took a shower… which relaxed me for a bit.  I meditated and made sure that my baby feels safe.  Around midnight (00:10am), the Doctor told me to get inside the birthing pool. Finally the time was coming.
When I entered the pool, the warm water was a relief. It relaxed me and my muscles; Vasili was holding my hand and bringing me tea with honey. The doctors guided me: How to breath, how to push and how to keep my energy for the end when it is really needed. While I was pushing suddenly I felt it, I put my hands down and I felt my baby. . her butt 🙂 and then she went right back inside.
But now I was happy; there it was! The reason I was labouring in pain for so many hours. _
I got my energy back! I knew the baby is coming!

Graciela offered to hold a mirror so I can see the baby coming out. I told her no. I just wanted to concentrate and just feel everything that was happening. Also my mum was there going back and forth, praying for a healthy and safe birth. At that moment my husband got into the pool for support.
On June 23rd, around 1:45am Sunday morning, under the big full moon which I could see from the living room balcony, another push and here she is, half way out! Legs and back were dangling out but the rest of her body was still inside. My next contraction took longer than expected. My baby was just floating there, very calm and relaxed. Me too the same, we knew that everything was ok. She didn’t even move, just floated there. I trust her and she trust me. It was after a minute when I hear the Doctor say: NOW, PUSH HARD and I did. and there she is!!!! All out.  She did it! she just knew her way out __
Rodrigo place her on my chest. OMG what a moment !!! She had eyes wide open and was so alert. She looked at us. She knew. She was the most beautiful baby ever 🙂
We couldn’t believe what just happened. It was a miracle!Me and Vasili kissed each other, amazed and bewildered. I remember Graciela telling me to talk to the baby , and I did… and I kissed her, we were all so happy !!!
I started breastfeeding her right away…she just knew how. After a while sitting in the pool, Vasili cut the umbilical cord.
After a little while in the pool, he gave Aliana(my  to Graciella for tests. She was 3.200 kilos (around 7 pounds) and 9/10 on the Apgar score. Dr. Aybar check on me, everything good! No tears, no stiches.
I took a quick shower, laid down in my bed and they brought my beautiful baby girl Aliana to me. My mum made sure to bring me plenty of water and Graciela showed me how to breastfeed. I just stay there with Aliana skin to skin, I think all night long, while everybody else, Drs included, were having a late dinner at 3am in our dining room! Next day, Doctor Aybar and Graciella came by to check up on us. Everything was perfect! _
Coming to Panama was the best decision we ever made!!!! The journey was wonderful thanks to all the nice people who met and gave us so much  help and support!
I encourage all the women out there to trust their feelings, to believe in themselves and to nature!!! _

Tessie Kalafatidou