A midwife at your side: A nonclinical option for bringing a baby into the world

Dorian Richards, left, owner of Grace Midwifery in Strasburg, has her daughter Emily Potter, of Winchester, listen to the heart beat of her baby during a prenatal care visit. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – Doran Richards, a certified professional midwife, found her true calling after the birth of her third child. After two difficult experiences at two different hospitals with multiple doctors, she came to the conclusion that there had to be a better way.

“I was forced into thinking ‘what else was out there?'” Richards said.

After some soul-searching, she discovered midwifery and hasn’t looked back since.

“I was called to be a midwife,” said Richards, who owns Grace Midwifery in Strasburg.  “I just had these traumatizing experiences that made me realize there had to be a better way or women wouldn’t be having babies.”

Richards isn’t alone. Susan Greynolds, of Front Royal, said her second birth was awful. “I had a terrible doctor and very limited in choice of who I could see because of insurance.”

Greynolds said her doctor was belittling, so much so that she stopped attending her appointments. When it came time for the birth of her daughter, Greynolds said she was forced into a Cesarean section.

“When it came time for her birth after I had been in labor for about eight hours, the doctor said, ‘I would of expected you to of had this baby by now. We should do a C-section.’ I was floored and scared at this point.”

After a seven-hour delay, Greynolds said she still thinks the doctor scared the labor right out of her. For her six-week postpartum checkup, Greynolds said she asked her doctor what caused the emergency C-section. She was told to look at her daughter.

“I knew right then I didn’t want to experience this kind of care again,” she said.

After consulting a few close friends, Greynolds started doing her research into midwifery. By the time she was pregnant with her third child, she said she felt more informed than ever before. Greynolds welcomed her third child at home, during a home birth.

Jessica Jenkins, of Winchester, had a similar experience with the birth of her third child.

“With my prior births, I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything,” Jenkins said. “I was miserable and didn’t get the privilege of actually enjoying my baby at birth.” With Greynolds’ help, Jenkins discovered the midwifery model of care.

For Jenkins, this will be her first experience with a midwife.

“I’m not having a home birth,” Jenkins said. “But my midwife will be with me the whole time I’m in labor, unlike an OB.”

Jenkins added she likes knowing her midwife and doula will be available whenever she needs them.

You don’t have to have a birth at home to be treated with care and respect. Greynolds said.

Sarah Heselton, of Strasburg, didn’t want to feel like just a number.

“With my daughter, I was not heard and treated like I was just another number,” Heselton said. “I didn’t like that my visits were often only about five minutes long after being forced to sit in an office for upwards of an hour.”

Heselton said she felt discouraged because she had questions and concerns that weren’t being addressed. With the birth of her first child, Heselton said she induced at 39 weeks, even though her body told her she wasn’t ready. “I ended up having an unnecessary C-section.”

Like Greynolds and Jenkins, Heselton knew there had to be a better way.

“I knew there had to be something better that wouldn’t make me feel so clinical,” she said. “I started exploring.”

Heselton said her research led her to two midwives who she would later interview. She knew instantly that it was the right path for her.

“I wasn’t made to feel like my concerns weren’t valid,” she said. “It also allowed for water birth and I felt so empowered that I had some control over what my birth would ultimately look like.”

Jenkins said she would be using the birthing center set up at StoneSprings Hospital Center in Dulles. “There is a king-size bed in the postpartum room so that my husband can sleep comfortably with me and can be involved.”

The facility also has birthing tubs to help with contractions and offers a wide variety of educational tools.

Greynolds, Jenkins and Heselton all agree that understating what options are available for expecting moms is important.

Jenkins said she would tell anyone who is expecting to do a lot of research on all options before making a decision.

“It’s sad, but a lot of women have no idea what their options are,” she said.

Greynolds recommends that women need to educate themselves, “No matter what type of birth you’re having.”

Richards agreed.

“A lot of people have these misconceptions about doulas and midwives because they won’t ask questions,” Richards said. “I want to break those barriers and beliefs more than anything.”

Jenkins added that she feels that being a midwife is more than a job for them. “It’s a way of life.”