The Women Who Are Ushering Midwifery Back into the Mainstream — 069

Aug 6

In today’s episode, we speak with three women who were instrumental in establishing midwifery into traditional, bustling, hospital settings. Between them, they have over 50+ years of birth work experience and they continue to mentor, teach and serve women in the midwife community and beyond.

Nell assisted her mother in the birth of a sibling at age three. The baby was stillborn. This left a lasting impression on her. After countless babies appeared in her life, she knew she should follow the path to midwifery and has dedicated her career to creating a homebirth model in a small hospital setting. She currently mentors and teaches midwifery to midwives in rural Maine.  Nell has pioneered many revolutionary practices in midwifery and is well known for her contributions.

Denise is a midwife in a hospital in The Bronx. She assists women from marginalized areas of society gain access to a midwife in high-risk pregnancies. She works to build trust with doctors who may not understand the role or purpose of a midwife and with the patients who come from various cultural backgrounds.

Sharon is Chief of the Midwifery Division and oversees a midwife education program at Baystate Medical Center. She works with women who need care but have barriers to getting it. She helps women of all backgrounds to make informed decisions about their pregnancy with the goal of removing the anxiety and judgment sometimes related to the birth process.

We sat with these women and heard their powerful stories and now share their power with you.

*This is our second session of recordings with women who serve as midwives from the Motherbirth booth at the American College of Nurse-Midwives Annual Conference.

In This Episode:

  • The importance of relationships

  • The similarities of Midwifery in rural and urban environments

  • Integrating the homebirth model into a hospital setting

  • How midwives can decrease the level of trauma during birth

  • Changes in midwife care since the 1970’s

  • The continuity model of care

  • Eliminating the judgment women have about their birth experience

  • Building access to midwife care for women in marginalized communities

  • Making doctors aware of the role of a midwife

  • Prenatal and postpartum emotional support

  • The need to reduce anxiety in expectant mothers

  • Allowing the body to follow its natural birth process

  • The father’s experience of childbirth

  • Using crowdfunding to save for future college expenses

Show Notes:

American College of Nurse-Midwives Annual Conference

Listen to Episode #68 — “Peyote In Labor, Feminism, and Running Away From the Army”

The Midwives Voice on Facebook

Nell Tharpe on YouTube

Sharon L. Holley on Google Scholar

College Backer – Listeners of Motherbirth receive a $10 match contribution with this link









About Our Guests:

Nell Tharpe, MS, CNM, FACNM is an independent Perinatal Consultant committed to optimizing physiologic transitions as the basis of quality health care. She became a Certified Nurse-Midwife in 1986, and has been actively involved in women’s health care since 1977. She has been a childbirth educator, a birth photographer, a labor and birth nurse, a nurse-midwife, and a maternal child health consultant in public health. Nell’s passion is bridging the gap between clinical practice and emerging evidence, with a focus on quality improvement. She is the original author of the Clinical Practice Guidelines for Midwifery and Women’s Health. Nell currently teaches and writes about midwifery and evidence-informed practice, with a goal of fostering the highest quality care for birth and women’s health in every practice setting.


Denise Wharton has been a staff midwife at North Central Bronx Hospital since 2001. Prior to that she was an RN at Elizabeth Seton Childbearing Center, Metropolitan Hospital and Bellevue Hospital. She is a graduate of Hunter College and SUNY Downstate, where she now gets to come back and teach the Midwifery students a few times a year. She is very committed to precepting students and new midwives and is rarely without one! When she is not catching babies or teaching future baby catchers, she is mom to an amazing 13 y/o roller derby girl!



Sharon L. Holley, DNP, CNM, FACNM is the Chief of the Division of Midwifery at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts where she oversees several clinical practices as well as the Baystate midwifery educational program. She is an Associate Professor with the University of Massachusetts Medical School-Baystate, and adjunct faculty in the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in Nashville, Tennessee. She serves on the American College of Nurse-Midwives Committee for the Advancement of Midwifery Practice and is the Vice-Chair for Midwifery Business Network. 

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