For some of us, the term midwife may conjure archaic images of exhausted women in labor and soft-spoken attendants who dab foreheads and hope for the best. In reality, nurse midwives are skilled, compassionate professionals who prescribe medications and often collaborate with other medical experts.
In many cultures, nurse-midwives are highly respected, valuable members of the medical field. That has not always been the case in the United States. Fortunately, perceptions and laws are changing, and as of this year, nurse-midwives are now able to practice independently in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This month, we meet a few Certified Nurse-Midwives, as well as moms who have worked with them during the most important events of their lives.
Bonding with Your Nurse-Midwife
Pat Collier, CNM, Provides Follow-Up Care & Friendship
When Surry resident Jordan Berryman found out she was pregnant with her first child, she knew she wanted a female provider. “I was going to a practice in Suffolk, and all of the doctors there were male,” Jordan said. “They told me I could see the nurse-midwife.” Jordan met Pat Collier, a Certified Nurse-Midwife, at her next visit, and they bonded almost immediately over gardening and agriculture. “I’ve never known a doctor to talk to you as much as she did,” Jordan said. “I really appreciated that level of attention.”
Jordan saw the nurse-midwife for all of her pregnancy check-ups and necessary ultrasounds. She was especially impressed with the amount of time Pat spent with her at each visit. She planned for Pat to deliver the baby at Obici, but after an epidural and six hours of pushing, Jordan knew things were going to go a bit differently than she hoped.
“Pat did everything she could, but Jake was stuck. She went to get the doctor on call and scheduled a C-section,” Jordan said. “But what I really appreciated was that she didn’t bow out. She stayed and was still part of the delivery.”
Naturally, when Jordan conceived her second child, she wanted to continue working with Pat. They had established a relationship, and Jordan felt very comfortable with her. “She came out to the farm one day and was interested in what we did,” said Jordan, who together with her husband owns and operates College Run Farms, a pick-your-own produce farm in Surry.
“She asked how I was doing after my C-section and answered a few questions,” Jordan recalled. “It made me feel special that she came out.” Jordan’s boys are now 15 and 12, and Pat returns to their farm every so often to pick strawberries, blueberries, and pumpkins.
Nurse-Midwives Help Moms Feel Empowered
Three Rivers Midwifery Service Provides Safe, Accessible Care
Cindi Wylie is a Certified Nurse-Midwife and Advanced Practice Registered Nurse with Three Rivers Midwifery Service, PLLC, in Hampton Roads. She attended nursing school, knowing she wanted to be a nurse-midwife, but also realizing that some of the laws could make her job difficult to navigate. “As of this year, nurse-midwives have gained independent practice in Virginia,” Cindi said. “It’s starting to unfold now, and we are no longer required to have physician involvement.”
Through her own birth experiences, Cindi became even more passionate about this line of work and particularly that it is focused on the whole person. “My nurse-midwife spent time with me and got to know me as a person,” Cindi said. “And that’s huge when we’re talking about something as life changing as birth and motherhood.”
One of the main focal points of Cindi’s work is empowering mothers throughout pregnancy and delivery. “There is a lot of fear in our culture. Delivery is viewed as scary, dangerous, and painful,” Cindi said. “Women are in a position where the power is taken away from them and they have to do what the doctors say. That’s not how we treat other medical issues in this country.”
Cindi encourages her patients to find their own paths—to wear what they want and do what they want during delivery. Then when a new mom holds her baby for the first time, she can reflect on the fact that she helped her child make a gentle entry into the world.
Cindi’s practice operates mostly on referrals at this point. “Our practice was the only one in Hampton Roads doing home births for a while,” she said. “We started the practice in 2017, and since 2018, we’ve been mostly booked every month.” Cindi typically cares for between four and six patients per month and has always prided herself on being accessible to those in her care. “I sometimes have to work at finding the balance in my own life,” she said. “But yes, every patient has my phone number.”
With the exception of women who have complications and high-risk pregnancies, working with a nurse-midwife is a viable and safe option. “We are very skilled,” Cindi said. “We are regularly trained within the obstetric community, and we believe that more collaboration means a better outcome.”
Cindi would like to help clear up some of the misconceptions about midwives that seem to still linger in places. “We aren’t a bunch of crazy renegades out there kumbaya-ing our way through delivery,” she said. “Well, maybe we Kumbaya, but we also have oxygen and medications.”
Nurse-Midwives Let Moms Chart Their Own Course
Amy King and Mary Williams Provide Professional and Personal Services
Meredith Blythe is a mom of two who resides in Surry. She was already seeing Amy King, a Certified Nurse-Midwife at Specialists for Women in Suffolk, so working with Amy and Mary Williams, another CNM at the practice, for her first pregnancy was an easy decision. “I love who they are both professionally and personally,” Meredith said. “That’s what matters to me.”
She also appreciates that Amy and Mary care enough to comment on her children’s recent photos and share their own news and stressful days. “I walk in the office and hear ‘That picture you posted was so cute,’” she said. “They make an effort to get to know me personally, and we make connections.” Meredith says her nurse-midwives even supported her school’s fundraisers.
“If I feel you are investing in who I am, what is important to me, and my life in general, then I know you also want what’s best for me medically,” Meredith said.
Both of the CNMs Meredith has worked with treat her as an equal, and they are able to talk as friends. “I chose to work with them because of that established relationship and trust,” Meredith said. “I knew I could count on them to help me have a safe delivery, but also take my preferences into consideration first.”
Meredith didn’t want the “white-coat-syndrome” feeling with her pregnancies. She wanted to be able to laugh, vent, cry, and receive advice without fear of judgment. Working with a Certified Nurse-Midwife provided her that opportunity, as well as the ability to “drive her own vehicle” with their assistance and support, of course.
“They asked me what I wanted, instead of telling me how things would be,” Meredith said. “They answered my many questions, explained to me what to anticipate, and I feel that if it had been medically necessary, they would have intervened.”
Meredith doesn’t care for business-like medical visits and wants to be seen as a person, not just a chart number. In terms of advice for expectant moms, Meredith suggests researching and getting opinions from past and current patients. “Understand that Certified Nurse-Midwives are fully capable of taking care of you and your baby,” she said.
Working with a nurse-midwife can often afford women more control and decision-making opportunities throughout the delivery experience. Women who return to CNMs for second and third pregnancies appreciate the connections and relationships as well as the wide range of support that extends after delivery. Today’s Certified Nurse-Midwives are equipped with skill and compassion, a perfect blend that allows women to feel more capable and empowered as they welcome new life into the world.