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October 06, 2020

IU Health midwifery practice invites women to “call the midwife”

IU Health Methodist Hospital

IU Health midwifery practice invites women to “call the midwife”

In a nod to the popular PBS television series “Call the Midwife,” four IU Health nurse midwives dress in period costume to mark National Midwifery Week.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Last week, a quartet of strong women seemingly straight out of the popular PBS show “Call the Midwife” turned a few heads at IU Health Methodist Hospital.

The four women represent IU Health’s new midwifery practice, and what better time to introduce the squad than National Midwifery Week (Oct. 4-10).

Dressed in “Call the Midwife” costumes were Darla Berry, Victoria Floyd, JoAnn Peistrup and Tina Doyle, all with decades of midwifery care under their belts.

Berry, manager of Nurse Midwifery Services for IU Health, “caught” the practice’s first baby back in January, but since the hiring of the three additional nurse midwives, 54 more babies have been delivered into the waiting arms of this team of IU Health midwives.

The connection to the TV show seemed only natural, said Berry, who loves that the series depicts birth as it is: “both amazing and incredible, and scary at the same time.”

“I love that it shows the world what midwives do,” she added. “That midwives value the personal relationship with each woman, regardless of circumstance; that we care for the whole person, looking not only at the physical symptoms but also the social situation.”

A LITTLE BIT OF LONDON IN INDIANA

While “Call the Midwife” is set in the 1950s and ‘60s in London’s East End, the similarities to today’s midwifery care are remarkable, Tina Doyle said, as the four women posed for photos in a courtyard outside Methodist last week.

“What’s interesting about the show is they actually dealt with the same situations back then that we deal with today,” she said. “We may be in different times with modern technology, but the family dynamics are the same. Not just the patient’s medical issues but the whole family situation.”

Doyle, a mother of two, has been a nurse midwife since 2004, living and working in the Washington, D.C. area, San Francisco and, most recently, Hawaii. The Evansville native returned to Indiana from the Aloha State when she heard IU Health was launching a midwife practice. She wanted to be a part of it.

A former member of the U.S. military, she was cared for by a midwife at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center two decades ago.

“That’s what made me want to be a midwife,” she said, “but they really weren’t very popular here yet. In bigger cities, nurse midwives are a big part of the healthcare system. I think people don’t realize that we are advanced practice nurses and primary care providers for women from 14 to 114.”

Midwives care for women throughout life, for all their healthcare needs, not just pregnancy, she said.

“Being a midwife, being ‘with women’ is a special relationship we get to have with patients – the way you care for your sister, your mother, your friend. And that’s what makes the difference. We create a friendship for life. That’s what I love.”

FORMER RILEY NURSE NOW A MIDWIFE

Victoria Floyd joined the midwifery practice last March, “right before the world turned upside down,” she said.

It’s not her first time working in the IU Health system. Years ago, she was a neurosurgical nurse at Riley Hospital for Children.

“I just loved Riley. I worked there from the time I graduated nursing school to the time I decided to go back and get my advanced degree.”

The mother of four operated her own midwifery practice in Carmel, then opened a birth center on the Westside, before getting the chance to join the IU Health practice.

“Coming back to IU Health was a no-brainer for me,” Floyd said. “I’m really excited about the practice Darla is building, and with four midwives, we can really give full-scope midwifery care and be with women here.”

The World Health Organization designated 2020 as the “International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife,” in honor of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth. But the year 2020 will also be remembered as the year of COVID-19 and its shattering impact on the healthcare system.

Still, the pandemic hasn’t changed the birth process.

“When you’re with a woman during her labor and birth, you’re there and you’re singularly focused on her and supporting her,” Floyd said.

The virus has had an impact on the growth of the practice.

Early on, COVID restrictions forced the new midwifery team to decrease the number of visits they could schedule, as well as the number of clinic days.

“But women are still finding us,” Floyd said. “Our practice is definitely growing. We’ll be meeting our goals for the number of births for this calendar year in spite of this.”

2020 OUTFITS INCLUDE FACE MASKS

A longtime fan of “Call the Midwife,” Floyd describes it as a “fun and sweet snapshot into midwifery and the process women go through to give birth.”

“It’s also another time and place,” she said, “and the outfits are super cute.”

She and Berry, both knitters, made the caps the four women wore for the photos last week. The rest of their costumes came by way of Amazon.

One deviation from the starched uniforms worn by the women in the show and those today would be the ubiquitous face masks of 2020, required in all IU Health hospitals and, in fact, mandated throughout the state to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus that has killed nearly 210,000 Americans.

Moving during a pandemic is hard, and launching a new medical practice during a pandemic is hard. JoAnn Peistrup, a midwife for 25 years and a mother of four, did both, moving with her family back to Indiana earlier this year from Nashville, Tenn., to join the IU Health practice.

“It’s been interesting because so much of midwifery is about good marketing and outreach and having groups of birth workers and women meeting in close proximity,” she said. “And midwifery is a touchy-feely experience, so it’s changed how we interact with people. But the four of us work well together. We’ll get through it.”

The women now see patients by appointment out of the Coleman Center for Women at IU Health University Hospital five days a week. Of course, you’ll find them assisting with births at all hours in Methodist’s labor and delivery unit.

Berry, a mother of four herself, had an obstetrician deliver her first two children, then delivered her next two at home with a midwife. She describes the moment when a woman meets her child for the first time as sacred and believes everything should be done to protect that moment.

“We are here to ensure that every woman knows she has one person … in the medical arena who will listen to her.”

Just as there are four primary midwives in the TV series, Berry said, there are four midwives in IU Health’s practice, “so this seemed a natural way to tie in to the show and encourage people to call the midwife!”

Call the IU Health midwives at 317-944-8231.

Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org

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