Birth Options: The Farm Midwifery Center
(WHNT) – Douglas Stevenson came to The Farm with his wife in 1973 – eager to live in an eco-friendly, sustainable community and to start a family with the help of the now-famous midwives of The Farm Midwifery Center.
“The midwives are part of what brought us here,” Stevenson said of the decision.
The Stevensons had two beautiful babies on the farm. Now, decades later, women come from all over the world to have natural, drug-free births in cabins nestled amid the trees of the property.
Visitors to the non-profit Midwifery Center just northwest of Pulaski, TN will notice examination rooms that look a lot like a typical OB/GYN’s office. There are many of the same tools for routine health exams, blood pressure checks and urine samples. Blood work is taken and shipped to a lab. In addition to the medical instruments, there are also unique artworks of mothers and babies hanging on the walls and ample seating where midwives can talk to expectant parents.
"We like to get to know our moms," explained Pamela Hunt, one of the Center's founding midwives and director of The Farm's Midwifery Education Program. "Women are so strong and so amazing and so brave when they're giving birth."
Hunt, along with Ina May Gaskin - a world-renowned Certified Professional Midwife who has published several celebrated books on midwifery - began delivering babies in 1970 during a cross-country caravan. They had no experience at the time but once settled at The Farm, quickly dove into education and trained with a local doctor.
Today, the Certified Professional Midwives or CPMs of The Farm - still work closely with medical experts to rule out women who might not be suitable candidates for out-of-hospital births.
"We talk to the doctors," Hunt explained. "We don't try to handle something that's above our level of expertise."
When a healthy mom is ready to deliver, the parents and midwives set up shop in one of The Farm's many birth cabins. Midwives help the moms work through pain using various labor positions, massage, bathtub soaks and most of all - encouragement.
When unexpected trouble does arise, moms are whisked to the hospital. "Our transport rate is about three percent," Hunt said, emphasizing that the majority of babies are born healthy, without the interventions that are common in modern hospitals.
That may be due in large part to the experience and training of The Farm midwives. They are registered with the North American Registry of Midwives - an organization which requires continual study, written and practice exams and delivery observations for certification. The Farm midwives also work closely with Vanderbilt's neonatology unit.
So why choose a natural birth in such a rural setting? What sets The Farm experience apart from others?
Although legal in Tennessee, Hunt realizes a midwife-attended birth may not appeal to everyone. She recommends research.
"You have to make your own decision," Hunt said. "Some women are not gonna feel comfortable in a birth center. They're going to feel comfortable in a hospital."
Stevenson and his wife Deborah were more than comfortable and in fact, Deborah was so moved by her powerful, natural birth experience, she decided to help other families achieve the same. She is now one of The Farm midwives herself.
Birth on The Farm is based on a sliding payment scale with a top cost of about $5,000 per delivery. Insurance companies do not typically cover birth on The Farm.
To learn more about the community & The Farm Midwifery Center, feel free to explore the links below:
The Farm - Click here to learn about The Farm, an intentional community of families and friends living on three square miles in southern middle Tennessee.
The Farm Midwifery Center - Click here to learn more about the midwives, planning a birth on The Farm, plus workshops and training.
Ina May Gaskin - Click here to learn more about the founder and director of the Farm Midwifery Center, as well as her many books on natural childbirth and midwifery.
If you missed any of our other Birth Options reports, you can find them here!