Midwife and patients

Midwife Sarah Craig, left, visits with Mikayla McCormick and daughter McKinley, 2, during mom’s check-up Thursday morning.

There may be no greater, joyful experience than holding one’s newborn baby. Child birth is a natural process, and in an age with many technological advantages to monitor a pregnancy and birth, some think there’s still nothing like the personal attention of a health care practitioner, especially a midwife.

Midwifery is a woman-centered, empowering model of maternity care that is utilized in all countries of the world, according to Midwives Alliance North America, at mana.com

There are about 15,000 practicing midwives in the U.S., and slightly more than 10 percent of births in the U.S. are attended by midwives. These are done in private homes, clinics, birth centers, and hospitals.

In most countries, midwives are primary health care providers and the central pillar in maternity and women’s health care, according to www.babycenter.com. Advantages to certified nurse midwives include fewer interventions – such as continuous electronic fetal monitoring, epidurals, and episiotomies – and women who opt for midwifery care tend to have a lower rate of cesarean sections. Often, these practitioners are more likely to take a holistic approach to care and to see birth as a normal process, intervening only when necessary and not routinely.

Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital and Northeastern Health System have midwives.

“My calling to midwifery was brought to light for me late in the ‘90s while working with Linda Roberts, who at the time was a new graduate registered nurse in labor and delivery at Baptist Integris Hospital in north Oklahoma City,” said Sarah Craig, an advanced practice registered nurse.

A nurse for 29 years and a midwife for 16 years, Craig practices at NeoHealth obstetrics and gynecology, providing full scope women’s health care, maternity care, and delivery for women and babies at NHS-Tahlequah.

“We quickly became friends and I was intrigued by the way she labor managed patients, the calmness she had with laboring mothers, the different positions she pushed in, and her general overall approach to maternity care,” said Craig. “I found myself more and more drawn to the practice style of midwifery and all it encompassed. I feel like my medical background in hospital nursing, in addition to my out-of-hospital midwifery training, have allowed me to offer a diverse level of care to the women and families I care for now.”

Craig’s midwifery background is diverse. She did clinical/birth training at an out-of-hospital, free-standing birth center in OKC. In Houston, she joined a group of midwives at the University of Texas Medical Branch based in Galveston as an adjunct faculty member, working closely with medical students, physician faculty, medical school residents, and aiding in training an assortment of other mid-level provider students. In 2006, she joined Dr. Wallace Champlain at NeoHealth.

“I feel my diversity in work and training allows me to make a connection with women and their families at an assortment of levels. Clinically it prepares me to care for a diverse population of patients in a collaborative setting. I believe midwives play an important part in education and encourage patients to be responsible for their health care needs,” Craig said. “I believe midwifery is a holistic approach to health care encompassing all aspects of a woman’s life.”

Bobbie Christie was working at W.W. Hastings as a registered nurse when she became certified as a nurse practitioner in 1976.

“There were only six of us in that class – a new program at the University of Oklahoma,” said Christie.

That summer, there were no OB doctors until students graduated, so they hired a nurse midwife who could do clinics, see patients and deliver babies, according to Christie.

“That gave us some relief. We were seeing about 80 kids a day and about 100 prenatals in clinic,” Christie said. “We ran seven maternal child health clinics in four and a half days so well, pregnant women weren’t exposed to ill patients.”

Christie said she loved working with nurse midwife Becky Stephenson.

“Becky is a really good midwife, she worked real hard and was the only one here for five years,” Christie said.

Becky Stephenson was a CNM for 32 years, and retired at the end of December, with plans to volunteer as president of the board of the Tahlequah Men’s Shelter. She’s been a registered nurse since 1969.

“The continuity of care and being able to follow through their pregnancy let me develop a relationship with the patient, and following them after they had the babies and for subsequent pregnancies,” Stephenson said, is what appealed to her. “A patient I delivered all four of her babies sent me a thank you card saying, ‘Thank you for teaching me everything I know about by body.’”

It’s part of the whole life cycle to deliver a baby, she said. She enjoyed seeing pictures of the children as they grew.

A midwife is very education- and health-centered, according to Stephenson.

“We are from a background in nursing, so we support wellness and teach women how to participate in their care,” she said. “A doctor is geared around pathology and complications that can arise rather than the healthy normal process of having a baby. There’s a whole obstetrical staff at Hastings I worked with who are geared at working together to accomplish the delivery of healthy mothers and babies.”

Stephenson shared a special experience for a medical student interning at Hastings. She invited the young man to spend a night in labor and delivery when she was working, and the first birth he experienced was in the exact room he was born in – with the CNM who had delivered him in 1988.

Cheryl “DeNese” Scaff always dreamed of helping women with the birth process, and has done so for 29 years as a labor and delivery nurse, childbirth educator, lactation counselor, and certified doula, completing her training as a certified nurse midwife in 2013.

Scaff said she became a midwife to help “each woman to have a birth process that empowers them to be the strong maternal force they were created to be.”

A midwife supports and stands with women through all stages of life to accomplish a holistic supportive network. It facilitates a positive healthy lifestyle, and respects and dignifies the woman’s own natural ability to listen to her body and give birth as she feels is most appropriate, according to Scaff.

“Midwives do not look upon birth as an abnormal medical condition that requires medical management and intervention in order to occur safely,” Scaff said. “We have the skill and ability to recognize and manage the medical care for those women whose birth can result in a complicated medical condition requiring medical management. Midwives do so in a manner that successfully accomplishes a positive birth outcome. Midwives are skilled at knowing the difference between these needs and facilitating the least amount of intervention necessary in each situation to yield that safe rewarding outcome for mother and baby.”

Upon graduation, she looked for a community that revered birth as a sacred rite of passage and a community – and nation-building event.

“I found Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital. It is one of the best models of practice in the U. S. because of midwives like Becky Stevenson and Peachie Daughtery and the supportive patient OB-GYN physicians here at Hastings,” said Scaff.

Cherokee women have always been the leaders of their homes and families, said Scaff, and the midwifery/OB-GYN care model at Hastings facilitates the type of birth process that continues the tradition of the Cherokee woman’s role as leader within her home and family.

“When I saw this in action, I knew this was the type of birth care the rest of the nation needed, and the kind I wanted to be a part of. In my efforts to be a part of this positive birth place, I moved a family of seven more than 1,000 miles just to work here. It is an awesome program being preserved for a reason,” said Scaff.

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