Nicole & Mary Miles
“I admit I was a bit nervous and scared,” recalls 31-year-old businesswoman Nicole Moody Harrison, as her labor pains intensified rapidly before giving birth to her first-born child. Within minutes of entering the Birthing Center of Northern Hospital of Surry County, Nicole’s nervousness was abated as her assigned care-team showered her with constant care, comfort, and encouragement until little Mary Miles decided to enter the world on January 24, 2017 – just 14 months ago.
“It was a great experience,” says Nicole, a lithe CrossFit enthusiast and runner. “My nurses were very caring and wanted me to be OK. They knew what I needed and made me feel I was doing a good job. Toward the end of my labor, as I was giving some final pushes, I told my nurse I wanted a Sprite or Gatorade. She said, ‘You just get this baby out and I’ll get you that soda.’ Sure enough, I got my soda immediately afterward!”
With her newborn daughter snuggled safely in her arms, the exhausted but jubilant Nicole gently caressed and dutifully counted fingers and toes while her husband Skyler Harrison, a well-regarded local investment manager, looked on with pride. As the newly-expanded family of three settled comfortably in the Birthing Center suite assigned to Nicole for the duration of her stay, the new parents prepared to welcome the many relatives and friends who were eager to stop by and catch a glimpse of the 6-pound/11-ounce beauty who had already stolen their hearts.
“There was plenty of room in my suite – so much so that my husband was able to move a chair and set-up a temporary work-station,” she says. (Nicole took a brief “maternity-leave” hiatus from her busy executive position as Vice President of Moody’s Funeral Services, Inc.)
“Everyone was amazingly kind and considerate – from the doctors to the nurses and the aides and housekeeping staff,” she adds. “I never once had to push the call button to ask for someone or something — they were there when I needed them, but also considerate of my privacy. At one point, even my husband asked out loud, ‘Why can’t everyone have this same wonderful childbirth experience?’”
Optimal Birthing Experience
For Cade Wright, MSN, RNC-OB, providing an optimal birthing experience is the goal for all women who choose Northern Hospital’s Birthing Center – where, on average, 375 babies are born every year.
As Director of the Birthing Center & Women’s Services, Wright is committed to running a patient-focused facility that meets or exceeds the medical necessities and personal expectations of patients and their families. Since bringing her nursing leadership skills and clinical know-how to Northern Hospital a little more than four years ago, Wright and her tightly-knit team of obstetrical nurses have introduced new and/or updated policies and protocols to ensure that patients have an optimal birthing experience. At the same time, they have respected and maintained those traditional, tried-and-true values and practices of the decades-old Birthing Center – which has served as the official “birthplace” for generations of Mount Airy residents.
“We do things differently here,” says Cade succinctly, in helping to explain why Northern’s Birthing Center is so appealing to both first-time and “veteran” moms. “From the moment an expectant mom enters our facility, we build a bond and develop a trust with her,” says Wright. “We create a continuity of care that is enhanced by having the same team of nurses remain with each patient throughout the entire birthing process — from labor to delivery to recovery and the post-partum period.
“Giving birth is a most private and privileged time in a woman’s life – and we recognize that each birth is different,” she continues. “We take pride in helping our patients have their own birthing experience; not the one that we may have had. We want them to leave here and say, ‘They let me do such-and-such’ rather than ‘They told me to do such-and-such.’”
“We also don’t make patients move from one room to another like some other hospitals do,” she explains. “Instead, patients remain in their own private suite for the duration of their stay with us – which typically averages two days for a vaginal birth and three for a C-section.”
Jodi & Kazleigh
“I don’t care what you do to me; just get my baby out safely!” cried 28-year-old Jodi Gunnell to her obstetrician after many hours of exhausting labor and a continual monitoring of her unborn baby’s heart rate – which wasn’t returning to a normal pattern as promptly it should after each contraction. But Dr. Michael Gentry, the newest member of Northern Hospital’s obstetrical staff, had a more comprehensive plan — one that encompassed the health and safety of both his patients – mother and baby.
Jodi’s labor started about one week prior to her scheduled due date. After checking-in to the Birthing Center, she was immediately surrounded by her nursing team who helped her manage her ever-escalating contractions while continuing to dilate. “I remember being very tired and that Dr. Gentry kept a close eye on everything – constantly checking me and the baby,” says Jodi. “He explained what was going on with my baby’s heartbeat and eventually determined that he would need to get the baby out. He was right by my bedside the whole time – and was very patient, understanding and reassuring. You could tell he knew what to do and really cared.”
Following an emergency C-section on December 29th, 6-pound/8-ounce Kazleigh Jewel greeted her mother and father, 26-year-old Blake, a strong and hardworking forklift operator and production specialist for a local foam company. “Once she was out safe and breathing, I could relax,” says Jodi. “Dr. Gentry had told me everything was going to be fine, and it was!”
For the next several days, as the proud new parents hosted their family and friends in their private Birthing Center suite, Jodi’s nurses attended to her every need … and that of her baby’s. “The nursing care was phenomenal and very personable,” said Jodi, who was also very appreciative of the extra attention and instructions she received about breastfeeding.
Meanwhile, four-month-old Kazleigh continues to flourish and take center stage. “She’s great, she’s growing, and she’s our whole world,” says Jodi. “She looks like her dad; but most people admit she acts like me — because she likes a lot of attention!”
Coordinated Care: From OB/GYN Clinic to Birthing Center
Before arriving at the Birthing Center, expectant mothers are seen regularly at Northern Hospital’s longstanding OB/GYN Clinic, where their prenatal care is directed by obstetricians Druery DeVore, MD and Michael Gentry, MD. For the first eight months of pregnancy, patients are typically seen once a month at the Clinic site, and then weekly as they enter the final month of pregnancy. Clinic nurses and other caregivers, with whom patients develop a strong and trusting relationship, are instrumental in helping patients make a smooth transition to the equally competent care of the Labor & Delivery staff in the Birthing Center.
In addition to a core nursing staff and four full-time medical specialists, the Birthing Center boasts a half-dozen generously-sized patient suites, a Triage Station, a fully-equipped Operating Room (for C-sections and other specialty procedures), a Level II Neonatal ICU (for newborns requiring oxygen support and/or IV fluids or antibiotics), a centralized fetal-monitoring system, and eight gynecological patient rooms.
All Birthing Center nurses provide educational assistance to new or repeat moms in the areas of infant care, breastfeeding, and post-pregnancy dietary/health advice. Every effort is made to reinforce the importance of the mother/baby connection and ensure the long-term physical and emotional health of both mother and infant. “We encourage skin-to-skin contact between Mom and her baby immediately after birth,” explains Wright. “This is known as the ‘Golden Hour’ – where Mom and baby bond – and it improves the baby’s breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar.” Such mother/baby bonding also promotes the production of colostrum, a nutrient-rich pre-milk for breastfeeding — which makes breastfeeding more successful.
“We also delay the first bath – which not only helps stabilize the baby’s temperature, vital signs, and blood sugar, but also further promotes successful breastfeeding,” adds Wright.
Educational programs are also offered to expectant Moms prior to the birth of their babies. Led by Toni Christofferson, RN, one of the Birthing Center’s long-time dedicated nurses, all-day seminars are offered to help Moms prepare themselves physically and emotionally for the arrival of their babies. Information is provided about basic tools and techniques – such as birthing balls and relaxation and breathing exercises – that may help ease the pain of labor. Attendees are also informed about anesthesia choices and breastfeeding do’s and don’ts.
While the focus of attention is directed primarily to Mom and baby, Birthing Center specialists understand that having a baby is a family affair. To that end, every effort is made to accommodate the patients’ larger circle of family and close friends. “We are a family-friendly provider — and offer a number of amenities to help families enjoy and celebrate a new addition to the family,” says Wright. Visiting hours are flexible (although, for health and safety reasons, visitors are limited to three at a time); and an over-sized sleeping chair is provided so Dad (or another relative) can stay overnight with Mom and baby in their private suite. Hand-knitted hats and booties, soft blankets, and other seasonally-related gift items are presented to the new parents. A specially-engraved silver spoon, donated by the hospital’s Food & Nutrition Services staff, is also provided for each baby.
When hunger pangs strike, Moms and Dads can now request something to eat from the Birthing Center’s new “Room Service” program menu. “Our patients are young people – and they want cheeseburgers and pizza; not fish and succotash!” says Wright. And, within the next few weeks, the Birthing Center will also offer special coupons – made available through the generosity of the local Chick-fil-A eatery — for a bountiful “First Night Home” meal basket that new Moms can get after being discharged from the hospital.
Loren & Henry
If anyone can multi-task with equal measures of poise and aplomb, it’s Loren Belk — a busy mother of three who also works part-time as a pediatric Physical Therapist. Resting momentarily on the living room sofa of her new home, Loren cuddled her sleepy newborn son Henry as she promised to help her five-year-old daughter Kate find Barbie-doll accessories and kept a careful watch on the playful antics of her two-year-old toddler William.
When Loren and her family moved back to Mount Airy in September of last year, she already knew she would be having her third child at Northern Hospital. “We lived in Winston-Salem when I got pregnant, but I knew I wanted to have that one-on-one, personalized care that is the hallmark of the Birthing Center.”
Loren’s familiarity with Northern’s Birthing Center is, well, part of her family history. For starters, she was born there 31 years ago; and all three of her children have opened their eyes for the first-time in Mount Airy’s community hospital. “I had some complications with William’s birth, and it sometimes got scary for me – but my nurse never left my side the entire time,” recalls Loren. “And this time, with Henry’s birth, labor had to be induced since I was past my due date. But Dr. DeVore was wonderful and all the nurses were there for me, too — every step of the way.”
Shortly after giving birth to Henry (on February 15, 2018), Loren, along with her husband Brandon, a marketing manager, readied themselves for the steady stream of well-wishers who would begin making their way to the Birthing Center. “I was very grateful for the clean and spacious suite we had – especially since we have a large family and everybody came!” said Loren. “It honestly felt like being at a four-star hotel.”
“It’s a great hospital, with caring professionals and wonderful service,” said Loren. “When I tell my friends in Winston-Salem about the kind of personal attention I received, they’re all very impressed by the care I received.”