The Midwife Group, Women’s Health and Birth Center is the oldest free-standing midwifery practice for women’s health in the State of Georgia. The Birth Center provides the area’s only alternative to high-tech and high-intervention birth. Babies have been born into the caring hands of our Certified Nurse Midwives for over 30 years.
Education and Experience
Our Certified Nurse Midwives are graduates of accredited Nurse Midwifery programs. They hold a minimum of a master’s degree in Nursing and Midwifery and have a combined total of over 60 years of midwifery experience. Each midwife is licensed in Georgia as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and nationally board-certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB).
Practice and Collaboration
Our nurse midwives practice full-scope midwifery in collaboration with local OB/GYN physicians. They consult, collaborate, and refer to other members of the Healthcare team as needed to provide optimal health care. The Birth Center has been in existence for 30 years, and our midwives have had hospital privileges for over 16 years.
The Midwifery Model of Care
The Midwifery Model of Care is based on the premise that birth is a social event and a normal part of a woman’s life. Midwives see birth as a holistic process that can take place in familiar, comfortable surroundings, such as a home or birth center where decision making is shared between the mother and her caregivers.
Our Mission and Beliefs
The Midwife Group, Women’s Health and Birth Center developed out of the following beliefs:
- The care of the childbearing family is an integral and legitimate aspect of primary care. Women have the right to choose a Certified Nurse Midwife as their primary care provider.
- The best model of health care for a woman and her family promotes a continuous and compassionate partnership, acknowledgment of a person’s life experiences and knowledge, and includes individualized methods of care and healing guided by the best evidence available.
- Pregnancy and childbirth are normal, physiologic functions that are enhanced by excellent professional and self-care.
- Childbearing women and their families have the right to choose the setting from which they receive care and give birth.
- Low-risk childbearing women and their healthy newborns can be safely cared for in a primary care setting.
- A birth setting that is “low-tech” but “high-touch” enhances the dignity and inherent strength of the childbearing woman and her family.
- Nurse midwives can safely provide competent and compassionate care to low-risk childbearing women and their healthy newborns.
Rita Chesney, Director
RN, MS, CNM, Certified Nurse Midwife. BSN, 1988, Seton Hall University, South Orange N.J.; MS, CNM, 2001, University of Maryland at Baltimore; Lieutenant Colonel, Army (Retired) As a child, I always knew I wanted to be in the medical profession but it was the experience watching nurses take care of my father after an injury that started on my path toward nursing. Shortly after graduation from high school, the school nurse knew I was going to nursing school and asked if I would help her teach a Lamaze class over the summer. I watched these families learn about their pregnancy and birth and saw that with the information taught, they went from frightened to empowered and prepared for their births. I was hooked. (Thanks Mrs. Newfeld- you never knew what an influence you were to me) I joined ROTC in college and applied for a scholarship to pay for college. I was awarded a three-year scholarship to Seton Hall University. That was the best decision I ever made. I married my college sweetheart and shortly after graduation, we were commissioned and began a long career in the Army. The Army afforded me the opportunity to travel and advance my career both with experience as well as education. I worked at several different duty stations as a Labor and Delivery nurse and wanted more. I applied for and was granted a full scholarship for midwifery school at the University of Maryland at Baltimore. I received great training and even better mentoring with the Army midwives as I joined this small but proud group. I retired from the Army after 22 years and no matter where my path takes me or where I shall be planted, I will always carry a special place in my heart for service members and their families. I found my home atThe Midwife Group, Women’s Health and Birth Center after being contacted by Jill Whitfield asking me to consider joining their practice. I was unsure and a little apprehensive at first. Then it happened. I saw my first water birth. I had tears in my eyes. It had been a long time since I was so moved at a birth. I saw this beautiful woman and her partner in the most imitate situation. He was so attentive and holding her. She was so strong and smiling as she held her baby. The baby was quiet, alert and looking around. No one took the baby away to a warmer. No one pushed meds and mom easily walked back to her bed. It was truly beautiful. I was overwhelmed and in awe. I am glad no one could see I was crying because I saw how much I had been missing. I learned from wonderful midwives and physicians in my past but it was the strength and trust in her body that made this mom my hero. Nancy was the midwife attending and I watched, sat on my hands a bit but again was in awe of this art we call midwifery. So here I am, a few years later with the daunting task of continuing the legacy Nancy and Margaret started almost 30 years ago.
BSN, MSN, Certified Nurse Midwife. 1978 Diploma in Nursing, St Francis School of Nursing, Peoria, IL. 1986 Bachelors in Nursing, Bradley University, Peoria, IL. 1995 Masters in Nursing, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. I started my nursing career in Peoria, Illinois in 1978. As an RN I worked in the Pediatric ICU and then labor and delivery unit of a major medical center (L3 hospital). I would care for a woman for my 12-hour shift, share in one of her most memorable and intimate life events, and then never see her again. I yearned for continuity. At times, I watched that same woman be subjected to many unnecessary and dehumanizing procedures for the convenience of the staff and attending physician. I soon concluded that if I was to continue to care for the childbearing family I had to find a better way. So I went back to school to become a nurse midwife. My husband and I moved our family to Summerville SC to attend the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. I graduated in 1995. It was during the final semester of my senior year that I met Nancy Belin and Margaret Dorroh. From the minute I walked into the doors of the Birth Center as a student I felt as if I belonged. Upon graduation I moved to Havre de Grace MD and worked in a private practice, attending births in a small community hospital. And then 9-11 happened and my father died. Both of these events made me reconsider where I wanted my career to lead me and my family to grow up. I began looking for a new position and found that the Birth Center was hiring. I began working at the Family Health and Birth Center in Rincon with Nancy and Margaret in May of 2003. Again, commitment to family changed my career path. I left the Birth Center in 2007 to return to Peoria and care for my aging mother. Upon her passing, I again returned to the Birth Center in January of 2016. Midwifery embodies the “with woman” philosophy. I have worked the majority of my career in the hospital setting. I strove to provide to my clients what I witnessed missing as a labor and delivery nurse- evidenced-based care, shared decision-making, and family-centered care. It was an uphill struggle many days. The Birth Center is the home of midwifery. I’m thrilled to be back home.
CNM, DNP. Bachelors of Science in Nutritional Sciences, University of Florida. 2013 Bachelor of Science in Nursing, University of Florida, 2017, Doctorate of Nursing Practice in Nurse Midwifery, University of Florida. I saw a baby born for the first time when I was 15 years old and knew birth would be a part of my life for years to come. It took a while, 10 years to be exact, for me to figure out what that would look like. I had assumed the only way to start delivering babies was to become an OB/GYN. I met a midwife in 2010 who suggested I watch a documentary about natural childbirth and it rocked my world! From then on, I decided I didn’t want to focus on disease, as I would have in medical school, but on the normal, healthy process that pregnancy usually is. I couldn’t shut up about it! I loved the idea of helping a laboring woman be in tune with her body and in control of her environment. (Later, I found out that midwifery is in my blood. My great, great grandmother was a lay midwife in rural Georgia!) So, in 2012, I left my job as a research coordinator in geriatrics and started nursing school. I became a labor & delivery nurse soon after and although I adored that job, I wasn’t content with only having a 12-hour shift to make a difference. I went on to complete midwifery school as I had intended and what a crazy ride that was! I’ll never forget a patient who was so upset when I finished my second clinical rotation where I had been her student midwife. She said, “Ms. Stephanie! Who am I going to tell all of my business to now?!” Though it made me laugh, it made me proud. I was glad I could be a confidant. Whether it’s the happy occasion of new life in the world or the devastating occasion of dealing with a destructive relationship, I want to stand with women and their families, empowering them to empower others. I’m happy to be working at The Midwife Group and Birth Center, a place that has been serving the community for 31 years! I believe in this team and in this community. This three-time Florida Gator has a new home. Bring it on Georgia!
RN, MS, CNM, Certified Nurse Midwife. 1980 Associates Degree in Nursing, Broward Community College School of Nursing. 1992 BSN Florida International University, Miami Florida. 1997 CNM Frontier School of Nurse Midwifery and Family Nursing, Hyden, KY. 2001 Masters of Science Philadelphia University, Philadelphia, PA. My first calling to women’s health was the birth of my daughter. I was a 20-year-old new mother absorbed in learning about pregnancy and birth. I had no interest in health care at the time, however, it seemed the right path to expand my knowledge. I enrolled in a nurse’s aide vocational program and started working in the newborn nursery, later, transferring to Labor and Delivery. The nurses I worked with there were amazing because they trained, educated and even supported me to further my education. After the birth of my second child, I began nursing school. I was lucky to be hired in Labor and Delivery at the same hospital my husband and children were born. At that time I was caring for high-risk mothers. I loved caring for the high-risk moms- the more technology the better. Occasionally we received transfers from attempted home births and I cared for them like any other patient but underneath did not understand how or why they would not want a hospital birth. I soon learned about a free-standing birth center an hour away. I planned a visit, was met by a nurse midwife who gave me a tour and she enlightened me about out of hospital births and midwifery. The center was gorgeous and cozy. She changed my professional direction and I returned to the hospital with new vision. This led to my questioning those “routine, what ifs” used to justify the concept that all pregnant women were walking time bombs. So back to school I went. First, my BSN then graduate school. I love tradition so my choice was easy. The first American midwives road horseback in the Appalachian mountains to care for Moms and their families by way of Frontier Nursing Service. Coming from a long family of horsewomen, I again felt this was my calling, So off I went to Hyden, Kentucky. An experience I will never forget. My first midwife job was in an upper-middle-class neighborhood with a great group of traditional medical management doctors. They soon learned my desire to offer different approaches to birth. I asked, and they agreed to offer water births in our practice. For 15 years, I attended over 3000 in hospital births. The hospital setting was restrictive but over the years, staff and administrators provided options for women who desired more control over their birth experience. Professionally, I still desired more. January 2017, I found The Midwife Group and Birth Center. After meeting the amazing staff, touring the site, hearing about the 30-year history, I was anxious to be a part of this fantastic community resource and honored to be a part of this Southeast Georgia tradition.
APRN, CNM, Associates Degree in Nursing, Midway University, 1996. Masters of Science in Nursing, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, University of Kentucky, 2004. Post Masters Certificate Nurse Midwifery, Certified Nurse Midwife, University of Cincinnati, 2008. I knew at a very early age I wanted to work in the healthcare field. I started my path getting my registered nurse degree and felt my interest was to work in labor and delivery. It was after being in labor and delivery that I felt the need to not stay working as a RN but instead to become a provider where I thought I could make more of a difference in improving patient care experience/outcomes. I feel it is an honor and privilege to care for women of all ages. I feel confident I am following my calling by practicing midwifery. I believe women and their family’s entrusting their care to me is such a sacred choice and should be revered as such. I love the honor of celebrating with families in their happiest of moments such as birth, but I also feel humbled to have the honor to walk through and support families through their saddest and most difficult moments too. Also, besides being a midwife, I am the mom of three now grown children that I would like to think still need me on occasion to be their mom. I recently moved here to beautiful Savannah with my husband after living and practicing in Kentucky most of my life and career to work at the birth center.
Karen T. Baker, M.D.
BS, 1996, University of Florida, MD, 2000, University of Florida College of Medicine, OB/GYN Residency, 2000-2004, University of North Carolina, Assoc. Professor of OB/GYN, 2004 – 2011, University of North Carolina College of Medicine, Assist. Professor of OB/GYN, 2012 – present, Mercer University College of Medicine, Board Certified OB/GYN, 2006-present, Fellow, American Congress of OB/GYN, present Memorial University Medical Center Medical Staff, 2012-present
Marion Marsh, PhD
University of Rochester, Bachelor of Arts 1966, University of Cincinnati Doctor of Philosophy 1972.
Sonographer. RT, RDMS.
Our Nurses assist the midwives in the office, draw blood, and do newborn screenings and testing as well as patient teaching and lactation support. These dedicated nurses may also be your Birth Assistants during your birth. Our birth assistants are the lifeblood of our practice and an integral part of your care team.
The Midwife Group has a fabulous, customer service driven team to ensure all of your needs are met from the moment you walk in the door. This team of knowledgeable professionals are passionate about our mission and commitment to the families we serve….they know the unique care offered by the Birth Center and The Midwifery Model of Care not available elsewhere. They will make sure your questions get to the right person in a timely manner. They will also make sure that you have all your questions answered about insurance, benefits, ensure confirmation calls before each appointment and make your appointments when you need to get into the office. They are your first impression of our practice and they strive to make sure that impression is a good one.