Local midwife finds her calling

STRASBURG – Doran Richards, a certified midwife, said she felt the call to midwifery while attending a group meeting at her local church.

Her intuition then took her to North Carolina, where Patti Barns, a certified professional midwife and author, gave a lecture on her book “Ministry in Midwifery,” a Christian midwifery manual.

“We all gathered and listened to Patti explain how birth is a normal life process and we should educate ourselves as such, “ Richards said.

Statically in the United States, she said less than 2 percent of families participate in out-of-hospital births.

“We spend the highest amount of money on technology, but yet our statistics show that our maternity care system is not best suited for all women and babies,” she said.

Richards credits this lack of care to unnecessary high-risk situations and obstetric doctors’  training, particularly in surgery.

She also credits her own life experiences: both positive and negative.

“My own home births were night and day from the hospital births,” she said.

The education was just the beginning. Over the years, Richards has attended many births and continues to learn as much as she can. She first became a certified doula and was also director of a state midwifery group. After battling cancer, she took a step back from the limelight but never forgot her calling. She said more than anything she wants women and families to understand that midwifery is a real option.

Midwives follow a model of care that includes monitoring the physical, psychological and social well being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle. Richards prides herself on providing the mother with individualized education, 24/7 counseling and prenatal care, along with continuous hands-on assistance during labor and delivery, and postpartum support.

“A lot of women first think, ‘what will happen in an emergency?’,” Richards said. “Instead of asking, they assume the worst.”

Just like doctors, midwives or certified nurse-midwives are trained to see emergency situations. “We’re also trained to see them before they even occur.”

Midwives like Richards take a fundamentally different approach in prenatal care and labor and delivery than more commonly used medical models.

“Most of my patients are friends,” she said. “I get to know them as people. As families. They’re more than just a person sitting in a waiting room to me. You become lifelong friends.”

The relationship of a midwife and mother is more on the level of a friend talking with a friend, Richards added. The ultimate goal is to share a level of respect for all members involved, along with beliefs, religious views, and birth philosophy.

“I respect the decision every mother makes regarding their care,” she said. “Because I’ve been in their shoes too.”

Richards admits the hardest obstacle she’s faced is the misunderstanding of midwifery. Just like a doctor, midwives are licensed under the Virginia Board of Medicine. Another obstacle is health insurance. “There’s this misconception that health insurance companies won’t cover it,” she said. “But you won’t know unless you ask.”

When it’s all said and done, Richards just wants women and their families to make the right decision for themselves.

“Just because I had a terrible experience, doesn’t mean they will. I made a choice that was right for me,” she said.

Richards’ last piece of advice: “Even if you aren’t sure it’s the right step, at least consult a midwife to what all your options are.”

As a practicing midwife in Strasburg, Richards takes clients as they come. Her office is located next to her home, making it easy for her to meet with expecting mothers and their families. Richards is also a yoga instructor and founder of Blessing God’s Way, a ministry for women of all ages going through maidenhood, maternity and menopause.

Grace Midwifery is located at 460 Orchard St. in Strasburg.