- Associated Press - Monday, April 27, 2015

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - The look on a mother’s face during childbirth when she finds out if she has a baby girl or boy is best thing about Tera Smith’s job.

“Capturing that look on her face, that’s my ‘aha’ moment,” she said.

Smith is a certified professional midwife, one of only two in the entire state. Her certification, obtained from the North American Registry of Midwives, allows her to assist only with at-home births. Most midwives in the state are certified nurse midwives and work under obstetricians at hospitals.

Smith has been assisting with home births in South Mississippi since 2011. A California native, she became interested in midwifery in 1990 when she chose to have her first daughter, Codie, by water birth. Her second girl was born with a push onto a protective pad on the floor, she said.

“There are no constraints where we are from,” she said. “That got me interested in it.”

Twelve years ago, she moved to Ponchatoula, La., and then to Florida. In 2011, she let her husband pick their next move, and he chose Pass Christian.

“I was never going to do this stuff again. I wanted a 401(k) and a retirement plan,” she said.

She said she started getting phone calls and inquiries about home birth through word-of-mouth advertising and social media. And just like that, she was at it again.

“I don’t know how it happened,” she said. “It just pulls you into it.”

Smith’s visits with her clients entail many of the same things that happen in prenatal doctor appointments. She checks for baby’s weight gain and mother’s weight gain.

However, a midwife’s appointment doesn’t end after that — it gets much more personal, she said. Because at-home births can occur only for no- or low-risk mothers, midwives need to know everything about a mother’s lifestyle.

“Any kind of stress affects the baby,” she said.

Smith said water birth is her speciality, but the beauty of a home birth is the mother gets to choose how she wants to have her baby.

“It’s not my comfort. It’s the mom’s comfort. What do they want to do?” she said.

A home birth can go quickly or last for days, but the process is never rushed. And Smith is there through all of it. She books only two births a month in order to give undivided attention to each of her clients.

The newborn never leaves mother’s arms except when she is moved from the birth site to her bed. Smith does the infant’s postnatal exam in the same room as the parents. At some hospitals, the child is taken to a separate room.

“That baby’s away from its mom, the only voice that it’s known,” she said.

As long as there are no complications, Smith will also let fathers catch their bundle of joy entering the world.

Smith charges $3,200 per delivery. She said insurance and Medicaid doesn’t cover the cost in Mississippi.

She said she tries not to turn anyone away because of cost, and she often provides payment plans to families who want home birth.

About a month ago, Smith and Weinkauf opened Luna Babies, a retail shop and education center for mothers and families on Pass Road in Gulfport.

Smith, who used cloth diapers for all of her children, used a diaper-cleaning service in California. When she arrived to the South and got pregnant with her now-10-year-old daughter, she realized that wasn’t an option.

She ordered diapers online, and she and Weinkauf wanted to open a shop where local mothers could buy cloth diapers and other organic products in person and not through a website. The store also sells wraps, stainless-steel bottles, nipple covers and lactation cookies.

Weinkauf and her mother also host seminars on parenting topics and plan to host “Mommy to Mommy” groups where moms can meet and talk about parenting. “Daddy Boot Camps” are also in the works.

“The retail part is to keep the lights on,” Smith said.

Smith, who described herself as a hippie who’s into wearing Birkenstock sandals, said she loves calling South Mississippi home. “I love it. It’s beautiful. I never expected it to be this pretty,” she said.


Information from: The Sun Herald, https://www.sunherald.com

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