Eau Claire (WQOW)- Many people's idea of a midwife may be the old, at-home alternative to giving birth in a hospital. But what you might not know is midwives are right alongside doctors throughout most Eau Claire hospitals.
Midwife is 'To be with woman,' both by definition and by practice.
"Freedom is a very good way to put it," said Shelly Esparza of Eau Claire. "That first appointment there was just that connection. You knew that every appointment that you came to you were going to feel the love, the care from the midwife."
As one of the first in the state, the midwife practice has been incorporated in to Marshfield Clinic Health System for about thirty years, but still remains a mystery to many.
"We're your provider, we know who you are and we're with you. And sometimes not good things happen during birth, you have an emergency c-section. You can't just ask your nurse, what happened back there? We can tell you because we were there," said Certified Nurse Midwife Janis Ray.
Esparza said six of her eight children were born through the care of a midwife at Marshfield Clinic.
"Just knowing that someone would be with me, the same person, throughout the whole process was like, I could build a connection with them," said Esparza.
"There's no other provider I know of that is with you during your hospital stay. When they're in labor, we're with them. We work 24 hour shifts and sometimes I'm with a woman that entire time," Ray said.
Ray has been a nurse midwife for 17 years and said more and more people are choosing this kind of care every year. Ray said midwives also have more freedom in the care they provide, like being able to perform water births or allowing mothers to stand or walk around.
"I think because we're committed to being with the woman during her labor and birth, they feel much more empowered, and we're invested in them as much as they're invested in us," Ray said.
"They were very thorough in explaining what they did and how my birth was going to go, and letting me know that it was my birth, I got to choose what I wanted," Esparza said.
After seeing the births of her siblings, one of Esparza's oldest daughters now has dreams of becoming a midwife.
"She's even said it's the connection that she saw between myself and the midwife," Esparza said. "If it made an impact on me and it made an impact on her, there's definitely something to say about midwifery, it's making an impact on people."
Staff said it's unclear if there is a cost difference for mothers when using a midwife versus an OBGYN, as most are dependent on insurance. Marshfield staff said the cost of midwives is generally cheaper for hospitals because the rate of c-sections and epidural use is much lower than the national average.
Aside from Marshfield Clinic, Mayo Clinic Health Systems also has a midwife program.