If you ever find yourself in a Boston area supermarket, stopped in your tracks by a dozen shopping carts parading by, you may just be in the presence of the Ervin Family—that’s how many carriages it takes to feed a family of 12. Martin and Michelle Ervin are the proud parents of ten children, ranging from age 25 to infancy—son Reign was born at Tufts Medical Center June 22, 2016.
“I knew I wanted a large family early on,” says Martin. “There is no greater gift than a healthy child. We teach the kids nothing is more important than family.”
Michelle not only agrees, she seems built to carry and bear children almost effortlessly. “All of my births were very easy, right from the start,” she says. “My bounce-back time is very minimal. I am up and ready to go right after delivery.”
Born to Birth
The American Pregnancy Association estimates the average overall duration of labor somewhere between 11 and 19 hours. Mothers around the world will likely be green with envy to hear the rest, then: Michelle’s first three births lasted 90 to 120 minutes from the first (mild) contractions, culminated with just three minutes of pushing, and progressed so quickly, no pain medication was administered.
“The contractions, for me, are not too bad,” says Michelle. “The pushing is harder because of the size of my babies,” who have ranged from nearly 8 pounds to Reign’s 10 pounds, 5 ounces. Birthing big babies poses a challenge for any mama, but for a woman of 5-foot-1 (whose tallest son, incidentally, already measures a full 6 feet), even more so.
“I definitely prefer the epidural when it comes to pushing,” says Michelle, referring to the anesthetic the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists cites as the most popular labor relief method in the United States. “It just eliminates a little bit of stress,” relieves worries of impending pain, and allows for a more enjoyable delivery.
“A patient’s birthing experience varies greatly,” acknowledges Dr. Margaret Sullivan, Michelle’s Obstetrician and Gynecologist for the past nine years. “I've had moms be successful [managing discomfort] with hypnobirthing, others who get relief with a birthing ball, while others prefer epidural anesthesia when it is an appropriate time in their labor,” says Dr. Sullivan.
Second and subsequent labors, she points out, often “proceed quickly and smoothly.” For Michelle, the biggest hurdle has been precisely that speed with which her babies were born—particularly since she and Martin live 22 miles from Boston, in Hull, Mass.
Initially, this distance prevented Michelle from laboring at Tufts MC, despite the fact that it was already the longtime medical home of the entire Ervin family—where Michelle and Martin regularly traveled to see their PCP, Dr. Paul Duncan, the kids’ pediatrician, Dr. Mary Brown, and a slew of as-needed specialists, including ophthalmologists, otolaryngologists, orthopedists, and neurologists.
“I like the convenience,” explains Michelle. “You bring the kids to the doctors and everything you need is right there in that building. There are hundreds of patients that flow through Tufts MC, but they know us by name. They know my kids just by sight.” She laughs. “I just didn’t want to be on TV, delivering my 10-pound baby on the side of the road,” if labor kicked in during rush hour.
“We frown upon deliveries on the expressway,” jokes Dr. Sullivan. When they first met, given Michelle’s history of rapid births, she recommended induction after 39 weeks’ gestation.
Boston’s Best-Kept Secret
“We prefer healthy women to enter labor on their own,” she continues. “Unnecessary and/or unindicated inductions can increase a patient's risk for C-section. It's always about weighing risks and benefits to Baby and Mom. In Michelle's case, it was an easy decision, and provided a safe, controlled environment” to welcome her last several babies into the world at Tufts MC.
“I liked the fact that Dr. Sullivan was thorough,” says Michelle, “but also listened to me about my experiences prior to switching to Tufts MC—because of that, I have had several great deliveries at Tufts. She took my history of fast labors, no pain meds, and the size of my babies, and determined—with my input, of course—that inductions were a good option for me. I was able to deliver big, healthy babies, but was also able to manage the pain with medication.”
“Healthy Mom and healthy Baby are always my goal,” says Dr. Sullivan. “If that’s a natural birth without any intervention or medication, or a cesarean birth for whatever reason, we provide whatever is necessary to make that happen. Nobody wants to think they will need the NICU or assistance from our High-Risk OB team, but should the need arise, I can care for all of my patients at Tufts with the appropriate consultative services available at all times. I've had many patients refer to us as one of the best kept secrets in Boston!”
Martin loves the peace of mind. “I never worry when any member of the family is being treated at Tufts MC,” he says. “Their care keeps getting better because new doctors and nurses with fresh ideas and passion are being trained every day by some of the most experienced physicians in the world.”
Tufts for Life
High praise from a man who has witnessed the hospital’s operations both inside and out for a quarter century—Martin started his career at Tufts MC in 1990, moving through the ranks from IT, to registration, billing, and financial coordination over a seven-year period. “I was able to see first-hand what genuine care went into the treatment of each patient. I knew after my experience there that I would keep Tufts as my hospital and I have for more than 25 years.”
Though all 12 Ervins will frequent Tufts MC in perpetuity, there is one medical need they are striking from their docket. “No more children,” says Michelle. “We are content with 10.”
“This is it for us,” agrees Martin, who is delighted to fully focus his non-working hours on his brood and 9 Lazy Kidz, their eponymous line of gluten-free hot sauces which began as a hobby, but developed an enthusiastic following over the last few years.
“When I was a kid, I used to pray to be rich,” Martin muses. “I wasn’t specific with how I wanted to be rich…so God made me rich—but not monetarily.”