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Tales of a Midwife

From the Show: Naturally Savvy
Summary: Whether you're planning to give birth at home or in a hospital, a midwife can be an excellent option.
Air Date: 6/10/15
Duration: 10
Host: Andrea Donsky, RHN and Lisa Davis, MPH
Guest Bio: Patricia Harman, MSN
Patricia-HarmanPatricia Harman has spent over 30 years caring for women as a midwife, first as a lay-midwife, delivering babies in cabins and on communal farms in West Virginia, and later as a nurse-midwife in teaching hospitals and in a community hospital birthing center.

She spent over a decade in the sixties and seventies in her wild youth living in rural communes in Washington (Tolstoy Farm), Connecticut (The Committee for Non-Violent Action) and Minnesota (Free Folk). During the Vietnam years, she and her husband, Tom Harman, traveled the country, often hitchhiking, as they looked for a place to settle. In 1974 they purchased a farm with a group of like-minded friends on top of a ridge in Roane County, West Virginia. Here on the commune, they built log houses, dug a pond, grew and preserved their own food and started the Growing Tree Natural Foods Cooperative.

It was during this time that Patsy attended her first home birth, more or less by accident. "Some people are destined," she has written. "I was staying at a woman friend's commune when she went into labor and I ended up delivering my first baby." Soon after, Harman traveled to Austin, Texas, to train with a collective of home-birth midwives. When she returned, she became one of the founding members of The West Virginia Cooperative of Midwives. Her passion for caring for women and babies led her to become an RN as the first step in getting licensed as certified nurse midwife. In 1985, with her children, a yowling cat and her husband she traveled north, pulling a broken down trailer to begin her training at the University of Minnesota where she received her MSN in Nurse-Midwifery.

For the past 20 years, Ms. Harman has been a nurse-midwife on the faculty of The Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University and most recently West Virginia University. In 1998 she went into private practice with her husband, Tom, an OB/GYN, in Morgantown, West Virginia. Here they devoted their lives to caring for women and bringing babies into the world in a gentle way.
  • Book Title: Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey
  • Guest Twitter Account: @PatsyHarman
Tales of a Midwife
Related Article
If you're pregnant or thinking of having children at some point, you might not even know all of the options available to you during your pregnancy or when it comes time to deliver your baby.

The experience can be so much more enriching than a quick 10-minute check-up or having your doctor look in on you every 30 minutes or so to determine how much you're dilated.

One option, that's become a bit more popular of late, is to enlist the help of a nurse-midwife. These individuals follow the same safety standards as an OB/GYN, but they are trained to "teach." So, for example, they talk a lot about what's going on with the woman's body, and discover what she's afraid of and how she envisions the birthing process. Midwives also try to include the whole family.

Many docs are just too busy (or not inclined) to spend a lot of time with an expecting mother, which can leave you feeling neglected or overwhelmed with questions.

According to nurse-midwife, Patricia Harman, who has been delivering babies for 30 years, midwives have a higher rate of vaginal deliveries, partly because that's their specialty. They don't do c-sections, nor do they use forceps, so they get really good at getting the babies out the most natural way possible. 

What is the difference between a midwife and a doula?

Doulas are people who are specially trained to act as a support system, both pre- and post-birth. They accompany expecting mothers to the hospital when it's time to give birth; they just can't deliver the baby or order pain medications.

Home births are on the rise, but are they safe? Harman says that for the low-risk woman who can find a highly competent midwife, home birth is a wonderful option. But, she stresses they must be very low-risk.

Even though home births are becoming more popular, most midwives work in a hospital or birthing center environment. 

Will your insurance cover a midwife's services?

Insurance companies typically cover nurse-midwives, but, according to Harman, your insurance is more likely to cover the cost if your midwife is in a hospital or birthing center, as opposed to a home birth setting.

In the accompanying audio segment, Patricia Harman joins Andrea and Lisa to share more about her experiences as a midwife and why this is a wonderful option for mothers and families. She also talks a bit about her book, Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey.
Sylvia Anderson

Originally from Minnesota, Sylvia moved to California for the sun, sand and warm temperatures. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in English and Communications, both of which she has put to good use in her work with RadioMD as Senior Editor.