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Mothers and midwives: Experiencing the miracle of birth personally and professionally

Midwives provide a personalized, specialized care for new mothers.

omc midwives
Allison Welle (left) and Amy Ntoburi are mothers and certified nurse midwives at Olmsted Medical Center in Rochester.
Contributed / Olmsted Medical Center
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ROCHESTER — Mothers and midwives have one absolute thing in common: knowing the true intimacy of birth.

For Allison Welle and Amy Ntoburi, as both mothers and midwives, witnessing the miracle of birth didn’t begin or end after their own children were born.

Welle is mom to a baby born in January, and Ntoburi has two girls. It’s fitting that all were born with help from midwives.

Welle became a midwife in 2018. She’s worked at Olmsted Medical Center for about three years, where Ntoburi is also a midwife. Ntoburi became interested in midwifery after OMC reinstated its nurse midwifery practice in 2013. She “jumped at the opportunity” and became a midwife in 2014 after being a women’s health nurse practitioner since 2004.

“I think I always wanted to be a midwife,” Ntoburi said. “It was the push I needed to follow my dream.”

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Midwifery has existed in the United States for hundreds of years, when women would help each other with childbirth, as they understood the process better than any male doctor. But, by the early 1800s, middle-class families started using doctors for childbirth. Doctors attended about half of the nation’s births by 1900, around the time anesthesia became more widely used.

The economic boom in the 1920s saw middle- and upper-class families giving birth at hospitals, instead of with the “lower class” midwives. Midwifery didn’t gain popularity again until the 1970s during the second wave of the feminism movement.

Today, midwifery feels like it’s going through a boom of popularity, though certified nurse midwives only attend about 8% of births in the U.S.

For people like Welle, midwifery became an area of interest after working as a labor and delivery nurse, where she “saw a lot of really biased care providers.”

“I knew that there’s got to be a better way to provide maternity care, and that’s what led me to midwifery,” Welle said.

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Ntoburi said the midwifery philosophy of care is that pregnancy is a normal, natural process of life. Midwives tend to low-risk, healthy people and are trained to treat and care for minor issues. The idea is to partner with mothers and families to guide them to a healthy birth, Ntoburi said.

There is a lot of misunderstandings surround midwifery, like not being able to get an epidural or midwives can’t do an induction. They can do both of those things. Welle said midwives also provide care to women throughout their whole lifespan, not just pregnancy.

“A pretty common misconception is that we only care for labor and birth and pregnancy, but really we’re primary care providers too,” Welle said. “We can provide care throughout a woman's life.”

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Because of this, midwives form tight relationships with patients, helping them through various stages of life.

“That’s really, really special, and what I was missing in labor and delivery nursing,” Welle said. “That’s the most rewarding part.”

Welle is still adjusting to being a midwife and a new mom, but she thinks it provides “a whole different perspective.”

“I think the biggest change is going to be how I’m checking in with people postpartum, after it being a lot harder than I originally thought it was going to be,” she said. “Just the empathy and knowing what was helpful for me, especially words of affirmation. Knowing you’re not the only one who feels like this and your feelings are validated.”

Ultimately, midwives provide a personalized care that’s a comfort to patients.

“It’s such a special model of care,” Welle said. “My biggest hope for the people that I know and love is that they’re able to have that kind of care throughout their lives and that they feel so comfortable in their provider. I want everyone to have an experience like that.”

Abby Sharpe joined the Post Bulletin in February 2022 after graduating from Arizona State University with a sports journalism degree. While at ASU, she created short- and long-form stories for audio and digital. Readers can reach Abby at 507-285-7723 or asharpe@postbulletin.com.
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