In April 2020, Ella Johnson arrived at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Cedar Crest in “rip-roaring” labor. Though she had been through childbirth once before, this time she didn’t know what to expect because she was delivering during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her husband couldn’t be by her side. Everyone would be masked during the delivery. There would be no visitors to meet her newborn baby. Johnson anticipated the whole experience to be lonely.
Instead, Johnson, a resident of Jim Thorpe, found the birth of her daughter to be incredibly intimate. She credits that feeling to the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) midwife she met that night.
Hope and reassuring support
Christina Felten, CNM, MSN, was the midwife on-call when Johnson arrived at LVH–Cedar Crest. Johnson’s labor was progressing quickly, and she was alone.
“We locked eyes, and I met her gaze with hope and reassurance,” Felten says. “I told her I wasn’t going to leave her, and that she wasn’t going to be alone. Which is exactly what I did.”
Johnson, who had an epidural with her first child, didn’t have time for pain medication. She began delivery within a half hour of her arrival at the hospital.
“Christine helped position me to best deliver the baby,” Johnson says. “She wasn’t controlling but offered the support and help I needed. Her energy and approach throughout the entire delivery was calming but empowering. I have never felt so safe, protected, taken care of and secure.”
What exactly is midwifery?
Nurse-midwives are medical practitioners educated and trained to care for women during prenatal care, labor and postpartum care. Certified nurse-midwives perform low-risk vaginal deliveries and work alongside obstetricians during vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). In addition to their medical training, midwives offer a supportive, low-intervention approach to pregnancy and childbirth.
“Midwives are a bridge between holistic care and medicine,” Felten says. “We take into account the whole picture, tailoring the delivery and the support we provide to the patient and her partner.”
While common myths suggest that midwives only deliver babies naturally in a home or birthing center, most work in hospitals, offering women the best of both worlds.
“I love practicing in a hospital,” Felten says. “I can support women the way I know how, but I collaborate with obstetricians who handle any complicated or higher risk situations.”