JoAnne Burris describes the first time she gave birth as painful and traumatic. She had chosen not to have an epidural, and during the birth of her daughter in 2005 she was told she could not move or change positions.
The stressful experience wasn’t the birth she knew she could have, she said. When she became pregnant with her son three years later, she began looking for options other than a standard hospital birth with a physician.
After extensive research, Burris chose a nursing midwife to help her through the pregnancy. The difference between giving birth to her daughter with a physician and to her son with a midwife was like night and day, she said.
“I felt heard, listened to,” Burris said about her experience with nursing midwife Melissa Courtney. “I felt supported, understood, validated and had a beautiful experience.”
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UK HealthCare recently purchased Womankind Midwives, a clinic owned by Courtney offering midwifery care. At the UK Midwife Clinic, Courtney and Burris — who became a certified nurse midwife after she had her son — will be two of the four midwives working to provide women with midwifery care and services to create a positive experience and “offer patients the kind of care they deserve.”
The clinic sees around 30 births a month, which typically averages out to about one per night, Courtney said. Other services include general obstetrics and primary care.
Burris believes a lot of pain in childbirth comes from fear. In everyday life, Burris explained, pain is scary because a person may not know why she has that pain or how long it will last.
“Pain in childbirth is very different,” Burris said. “We know why it’s happening, we know we’re going to get the best reward ever, so if you can change your perception you can change the way you feel.”
After researching various birthing techniques, Burris settled on hypnosis when giving birth to her son. Though she acknowledged many people “get weirded out” by hypnosis, Burris said Courtney was supportive of her decision from the beginning.
Burris practiced self-hypnosis every night for six weeks during her pregnancy, and when it was time to give birth, she said she was “laughing and chatting pretty much through the whole thing.”
An important part of midwifery care is helping to not only educate and prepare the patient to give birth but to help her feel strong and empowered, Courtney said.
“Melissa offered nothing but reassurance, so I knew that I was OK,” Burris said. “I felt no pain. I just felt nothing but power.”
Burris experienced giving birth as a “duality” of vulnerability and power, she said. She wanted to be able to help other women tip the scale in favor of power, so she returned to school to become a certified nursing midwife.
“Watching women realize they can do far more than they ever realized they could do is a really rewarding way to spend your day,” she said.
Courtney is pleased for WomanKind Midwives to now be affiliated with UK. On the clinic’s Facebook page announcing the change she wrote: “We are excited to be a part of the university setting where the resources are present to grow and continue a nurse midwifery practice indefinitely. We will also be a part of teaching our future obstetricians and show how to integrate midwives into the system of care.”
Having a positive birthing experience sets women up for a positive mothering experience, whether it’s a natural, unmedicated birth or one with an epidural, Burris said.
“You can feel powerful by feeling heard and supported and making decisions based on good information,” Burris said. “I think that’s a really important part of midwifery care.”
Emma Austin: (859) 231-1455