Shenandoah Women's Healthcare Celebrates 20 Years

Jul 17, 2019

Shenandoah Women's Healthcare in Harrisonburg is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Credit Bridget Manley

As midwifery grows in popularity among expectant mothers locally and nationwide, one practice in Harrisonburg is celebrating its 20th anniversary, as well as recognition for being one of the first.  WMRA's Bridget Manley reports.

[Sonogram sounds]

The sound of a sonogram is unique. It’s beautiful, it’s weird, it’s…loud. Lots of emotions - as well as that cold, sticky gel - are part and parcel of the experience. Hoping for good news, a midwife says…

MIDWIFE: Wow, baby is moving so much… [Laughter]

The midwives and doctors at Shenandoah Women’s Health in Harrisonburg are well versed in all the feelings attached to the sound. Celebrating twenty years in service to women in Harrisonburg, they are one of the first practices to merge the services of midwifery, obstetrics and gynecology in the valley. 

Caitlin Berkey with her daughter Heidi, delivered by midwives at Shenandoah Women's Healthcare.
Credit Courtesy Caitlin Berkey

CAITLIN BERKEY: It doesn’t really feel like you’re meeting with a doctor, that’s what I always say. It’s so funny. It feels like you’re meeting with your sweet aunt.

Caitlin Berkey has three children and is currently pregnant with her fourth. She switched to Shenandoah Women’s Health after the birth of her first child, when a friend told her about how the midwives had helped her through her pregnancies. 

BERKEY: You are just given this extra time, and it was such a gift. I never feel like I’m rushed when I’m there, I’m always in fact encouraged to ask more questions. You know, they will come up with things that I haven’t even thought of, which will prompt good discussions. And it’s just really a different feel about the whole place. 

When Shenandoah Women’s Health began back in 1999, midwifery was not as prevalent as it is today. Since then, the practitioners there have watched as the practice has gained traction and become a popular choice for women during pregnancy and beyond.

MELODY MAST:  We really try to educate people so that they are educated in what choices they have, and what are the safe choices that they have.

Midwife Melody Mast checks a pregnant patient.
Credit Bridget Manley

Melody Mast is a full scope certified nurse midwife and nurse practitioner. She has been at Shen-andoah Women’s Health for more than eleven years.  She believes that offering the care of a mid-wife while giving birth in the hospital is the best way they can serve the needs of both mother and baby. 

MAST: We don’t have - like, you have to have a birth a certain way to have a satisfying birth, or to be happy with your birth and trusting your birth process and trusting your body, you don’t have to have an unmedicated vaginal delivery. That’s not the “best birth” to have, the best birth is the birth you feel empowered to be a mother. 

Dr. Leonard Aamodt began the practice back in 1999. After working around the country as an OB-GYN with various perse populations, he felt that it was important to marry the services so that birthing mothers received the best of both worlds.

LEONARD AAMODT: And so I think it’s the collaborative relationship. And that’s the word we like to use - a collaborative relationship between the midwives and the physician. 

Tammie McDonald-Brouwer is a full scope certified nurse midwife and nurse practitioner. She’s been at Shenandoah Women’s Health for ten years.

TAMMIE MCDONALD-BROUWER: We and our doctors are usually there all the time during the whole pushing process. Our doctors check in, but we sit at the bedside. When things become towards transition and towards the birth and even after, we stay in the room with the woman the whole time. Unless we have somebody else that does the same thing in the next room next door - then we go back and forth. But for the most part, we just stay with women when they really need us. We coach them through it and give them suggestions and help with that. So that’s the biggest difference.

(L to r) Midwives Kaya Norton, Tammie McDonald-Brouwer, Melody Mast, and Bobbi Cherrywell
Credit Bridget Manley

Bobbi Cherrywell is a full scope certified nurse midwife. She has more than 22 years experience, and joined Shenandoah Women’s Health last October.  She still remembers the first time she helped a mother bring a baby into the world. 

BOBBI CHERRYWELL: My daughter was delivered by a nurse midwife. I was a single parent, she helped me through a lot of stuff, she sat and listened to me. And then I went on to go to nursing school, graduate nursing school, work in OB. And I worked in a hospital where we had OB residents. And a patient came in, unregistered, meaning no prenatal care, so the residents were going to deliver her. She showed up completely dilated, and the resident let me deliver her baby. I couldn’t drive home, I sat in my car, in shellshock. And when I got home I called my midwife, and I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth. I said ‘Pat’ - I just kept saying Pat - she said ‘you delivered a baby, didn’t you?’ I said ‘yeah’ - and she said ‘what are you going to do?’ I said, ‘I’m applying to go to school today…’ [Laughter]