By Lenora Nepper, CNM APRN
As I stand outside 912 Burnett Street and look up at this beautiful building, I can’t help but think how blessed and how fortunate I am to be a part of the Wichita Falls Birth and Wellness Center! When I started midwifery school in the 1900’s (well…1997 to be exact!), we were required to complete a birth center project. Basically, it was a “How to Start a Birth Center” project which included conducting community focus groups, creating a business plan and budget, and developing a building design. From that project, I had a dream. I knew that 1) my community needed and wanted a birth center, and 2) I wanted to be the midwife to provide this service! I spoke with the local obstetrician who said he would be willing to support me, so everything seemed to be in place. Closer to graduation, I began to make solid plans to obtain a space and be ready to open my birth center. This dream was shattered when the obstetrician remarked, “I NEVER said I would support your midwife endeavors!” Of course I was devastated, but within a year, my husband took another job, we moved out of state—Dream left behind!
In 2008, I moved to Lawton/Fort Sill to become the first certified nurse midwife to work at Reynolds Army Hospital. Initially, it was difficult to practice midwifery in the hospital the way I envisioned. The midwifery model of care was new to the doctors and the nurses. I met resistance in allowing laboring women to get out of bed, assume positions for their comfort, have more than ice chips. After some time (and the addition of a second midwife), resistance began to fade, some hospital policies were changed, and the nurses actually began to support women desiring unmedicated births! I became “comfortable” in that environment—I could serve the women as a midwife (as best I could in the constraints of hospital policies)—and life was good. I loved my job, I loved my church, I had great friends. I planned to stay at Reynolds until I reached retirement age.
Fast forward to 2013. I was working in labor and delivery. One of the laboring women was accompanied by a doula from Wichita Falls and the doula mentioned that there was talk of opening a birth center in Wichita Falls. Could it be possible that I could be a part of that birth center? —Dream sparked!
Over the next 2 years, I didn’t hear anything about the birth center in Wichita Falls and that “spark” of my dream faded. Many changes took place in my job: Reynold’s closed their labor and delivery unit, and ultimately closed their obstetric department. All pregnant women were referred off post for prenatal care and birth. My “comfortable” job dissolved right out from under me! I started looking for a new job and I was willing to move anywhere. At the same time, unknown to me, a group of dedicated women were working diligently to finalize their dream of opening a birth center in Wichita Falls. In 2016, these women approached me about becoming the midwife at their birth center! Wow! Was possible that I could be a part of a birth center? It did not take long for me to understand that God had a plan all along—one door closed and another swung wide open. And the rest is, as they say, “History”! Here I am: proud and honored to serve the families in Wichita Falls and the surrounding communities as a midwife at the Wichita Falls Birth and Wellness Center—Dream fulfilled!