Cheryl Means was tired of the merry-go-round of doctors she and her unborn child met with each month.
To her mind, it was a good idea gone wrong.
â€œEvery visit that you have every month, you see a different doctor, and the idea is that when you give birth there will be a friendly face there waiting for you at the end.â€
Means was drained from explaining the same things to different doctors.
â€œI started to feel like I was the only one who knew what was going on from visit to visit, and had to repeat my story over and over,â€ she said. â€œI started to look around at options to have more of a one-on-one experience.â€
That experience led her to Deb Oâ€™Connell and her newly opened Carrboro Midwifery practice. She was in transition to Oâ€™Connellâ€™s practice when her water broke 10 weeks early. Means called her doctorsâ€™ office, and the doctor on call wasnâ€™t even from the same office.
She ended up seeing yet another doctor sheâ€™d never seen before. And once that doctor got her stabilized and shipped to Duke, Means delivered with four more doctors she had never met.
The system didnâ€™t work for her.
Means now goes to Oâ€™Connell for her post-labor checkups.
Kara-Ann Henseyâ€™s situation is different. Sheâ€™s 34 weeks pregnant with her third child and has decided sheâ€™d be most comfortable with a home birth after two pregnancies with midwives at a birthing center.
Sheâ€™s low-risk and experienced with birthing.
Means and Hensey are two of Oâ€™Connellâ€™s first patients at Carrboro Midwifery, tucked in beside Carrboro Pediatrics on Fidelity Drive. After working as a midwife at UNC Hospitals for three and a half years, Oâ€™Connell is exploring her passion for midwifery and home birthing on her own turf.
Oâ€™Connell has been a nurse since 1996, and said that after attending a midwifery presentation she found her calling. She graduated from midwifery school at Stonybrook University in 2001 and has been practicing in some form ever since.
Her first experience came while she was a student, with the Amish community in Lancaster, Pa., and her journey has now brought her to practicing home births on her own in Carrboro and surrounding areas.
Home birthing with a midwife is an alternative to what 99 percent of women in the U.S. choose to do â€“ have their babies in a hospital.
â€œThe women that tend to choose home birth are women that are really committed to child birth and feel for themselves that their home will be the place they feel the safest,â€ Oâ€™Connell said, â€œand for a woman in labor, thatâ€™s huge, because it can really impede a womanâ€™s progress in her labor if she doesnâ€™t feel safe.â€
Both Means and Hensey say that trust and relationship building were primary considerations in their decisions to opt for a midwife.
â€œOne of the benefits of having a home-birth practice is getting to know your clients, and they do really need to get to know you, because itâ€™s such a professionally intimate relationship,â€ Oâ€™Connell said.
She said not all women are suited, mentally and physically, for home birthing â€œIf youâ€™re committing yourself to a home birth, you have to be committing yourself to a natural childbirth,â€ she said.
Oâ€™Connell is required to meet certain qualifications and requirements to ensure home birth is appropriate and safe for a woman. She is also required to have physician backup.
Safety concerns keep many women from choosing to home birth: If something goes wrong during delivery, there might not be enough time to transfer the woman to a hospital.
In fact, this happened when Oâ€™Connell witnessed her first home birth. It did not scare her away. Oâ€™Connell has now attended more than 800 home births, and only once â€“ during the first one she ever attended â€“ has something gone terribly wrong.
â€œIf anything, it gave me a stronger sense of respect for the birthing process,â€ Oâ€™Connell said of that first experience, â€œand that bad things do happen, but they happen to women in hospitals just as much, if not more.â€
Means said she wasnâ€™t comfortable telling friends and family about her decision to go with a home birth, out of concern that theyâ€™d be scared for her safety.
â€œI knew theyâ€™d flip, she said. â€œWe were going to tell them afterward.â€
Hensey said she didnâ€™t have any fears, and her friends and family didnâ€™t either.
â€œOnce you have one pregnancy, they sort of know what you need, when you need it; so I think they trust the woman to know when something is wrong,â€ she said. â€œThe only thing Iâ€™m worried about is that Iâ€™ll have the baby before anybody gets here, because Deb lives in Carrboro and I live in Raleigh.â€
Which helps explain why Oâ€™Connell will be hard pressed to find vacation time in the near future â€“ sheâ€™s always on call. Itâ€™s a bit different than her days in hospitals; but itâ€™s her passion and her calling. Vacations will have to wait.