Special delivery: Midwife spends four decades in baby business

Jun 9 2010 - 8:48pm

Images

(Courtesy photo) Midwife Chris Miller congratulates Twyla Cluster, of Ogden, on the July 9, 2009, home birth of her fifth child, Boden.
(Courtesy photo) Anjie Hawks, of Pleasant View, labors at home in her bathtub with the help of midwife Chris Miller on Aug. 12, 2008. It was Hawks' second home delivery and first water birth. Hawks, who is a doula, is due this September with another child and plans to again have a water birth at home with Miller as the attending midwife.
(Courtesy photo) Chris Miller recieves her 'Midwife of the Year 2009' award from Krisi Ridd-Young, president of the Midwives College of Utah.
(Courtesy photo) Midwife Chris Miller congratulates Twyla Cluster, of Ogden, on the July 9, 2009, home birth of her fifth child, Boden.
(Courtesy photo) Anjie Hawks, of Pleasant View, labors at home in her bathtub with the help of midwife Chris Miller on Aug. 12, 2008. It was Hawks' second home delivery and first water birth. Hawks, who is a doula, is due this September with another child and plans to again have a water birth at home with Miller as the attending midwife.
(Courtesy photo) Chris Miller recieves her 'Midwife of the Year 2009' award from Krisi Ridd-Young, president of the Midwives College of Utah.

OGDEN -- When Chris Miller began her career as a midwife in California almost 40 years ago, she only had three children and thought her family was complete. She went on to have five more.

When her grandchildren were born, Miller didn't just attend the births, she helped deliver the babies at most of them.

"Out of 15 grandchildren, I caught all but two," she said.

Her first great-grandchild, a girl named Adelyn, was the first baby born on Jan. 1, 2009. However, because she was delivered at home, without hospital witnesses or personnel in attendance to confirm her birth time, her birth wasn't acknowledged as the first of 2009.

In addition to the eight babies of her own and 13 of her grandchildren, she's helped deliver an estimated 2,500 babies.

Miller's eagerness and determination to attend her patients' births means she must be ready to answer the call, anytime, anywhere. During her busiest years, she put so many miles on her car, she had to have the oil changed every month. She now limits her delivery count to five a month.

"I want to be available to the families I commit to. I did do about 25 (deliveries) a month in California. I had a full-time nanny then. After we moved here, I was very dependent on my husband and older children to manage the household when I was gone, sometimes for many hours. Being available for more than two to five births a month would have been too hard on them," she said.

Miller admits she doesn't keep detailed records of the number of clients served. The delivery count was estimated by others when she was awarded Midwife of the Year 2009 by the Midwives College of Utah.

"I really never expected to be given awards. To be given awards I think you need to make yourself somewhat competitive. I always wanted to just be the very best for the women I serve," she said.

While she doesn't keep a lot of detailed statistics, Miller said some delivery cases stand out. The most children she ever delivered to one mother is 10. During her busiest two and a half weeks in Utah, she delivered 16 babies.

Miller now works with several assistants and midwifery students along with a full-time partner, Melissa Mayo. Miller and Mayo have a lot in common.

"Melissa's been a midwife since the early 80s and is now catching her own grandbabies, too."

Miller moved from California to North Ogden in 1980. Had she stayed in California, she'd be delivering multiple generations by now.

Miller asserts most of her deliveries are without complications to happy mothers in clean, quiet homes. About 75 percent of the deliveries she attends are water births. When it comes to the setting or type of birth, Miller said she doesn't have a preference. Her main goal is simply to personalize the event according to the parents' wishes.

When faced with complications, her training, experience and expertise help assure a positive outcome.

"Childbirth doesn't always come with absolute perfect outcomes. It's important for us to recognize the need for appropriate care transfers in certain cases and work with other medical professionals in the community to secure the best care for every patient."

With so many years in the childbirth business, Miller has many interesting stories to share. Whether rushing to a birth, delivering babies in, at times, less-than-sanitary conditions, having to navigate her way through narrow paths created through hoarders' piles of stuff, or dealing with homes overrun by cats, Miller demonstrates her devotion by overcoming challenging circumstances to help mothers in need of her assistance.

She occasionally receives urgent calls for help from mothers in the advanced stages of labor.

"There are many ties for the shortest labor, but one stands out. I got a call from a woman who told me she'd had three contractions five minutes apart. She said I should come immediately, but she lived 40 minutes away. I made it to the closet to get my clothes when she called back to report that her water just broke and she was pushing. I stayed on the phone and helped her hubby catch the baby. I had a midwife friend visiting from Texas who stayed on the phone with them until I got there," she said.

Though she advertises only by word of mouth, Miller receives calls from expectant mothers, midwives, and midwifery students all over the country asking her for information, advice, and guidance.

With offices in Ogden, Logan, and Salt Lake, Miller puts in a lot of hours just driving. If everything goes as planned, she'll soon have a base office in Ogden, at a new center, Arrivals Birth Center. She hopes to work only from the center at some point, but with moms having babies up and down the Wasatch Front, she doesn't see major changes to her transportation routines any time soon.

Even with four decades of experience, Miller denies she's an expert and she says she's still learning.

"If you're stuck in one way of doing things, it means it's your own way. That's not what midwives are about."

With no plans to retire anytime soon, Miller said she'll continue to work hard helping bring babies into the world.

"When they hide my make-up and my car keys, I'll know I'm done."

For more information about midwifery, visit www.midwifery.edu. Miller can be contacted at midwife4newlife@yahoo.com.

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