Tina Hayes is both OB/GYN nurse and midwife. The difference between the two, she said, is “everything.

“As an OB nurse, you’re there during labor to provide support,” said Hayes, who has a master’s in nursing in addition to her midwifery degree. She works at Novant Health Carmel OB/GYN in Charlotte. “But as a nurse-midwife, you can be with a patient practically her whole lifetime – from adolescence until past menopause. I provide well-woman care for girls who are 12 and 13 up to women in their 80s.”

A nurse-midwife can be a woman’s primary care provider – long before she thinks about having a child and long past her child-bearing years.

Hayes worked as an OB nurse for 10 years before going in 2001 to Frontier Nursing University in Kentucky to become a midwife. She worked in Charlotte as a board-certified nurse-midwife for 20 years before joining Novant Health in April 2017 to build a midwifery practice. Novant Health recently hired a fourth nurse-midwife, and Hayes is working to hire a fifth one.

Midwifery has been a profession since at least 1900 to 1550 B.C., when ancient Egyptian women helped other women calculate their expected due date and find the right birthing chair for delivery. “Midwife literally means ‘with woman,’” Hayes said. “We partner with women and become part of their families.”

‘She knew my body’

The three Dorr sisters – all exceptionally close – and their husbands consider Hayes part of the family. Hayes has delivered seven of their eight children – Dixy Kee’s four, Amy Messer’s two and one of Katy Dorr Manzano’s two children.

Kee was the first to discover midwifery. Hayes delivered her boys, who are 7 and 6, and her girls, who are 4 and 10 months.

Kee and her husband, Michael, wanted to deliver her first naturally, but there were complications. She had been in labor for 29 hours when Hayes suggested an epidural. The doctor who’d gotten involved in the delivery wanted to do a C-section, but Kee was reluctant. “Tina told me, ‘If you’ll just trust me on this and let us give you an epidural, your body will be able to deliver without surgery,” she said. “She was right. She knew my body, and she knew my birth plan.”

“We follow best practices for safe and healthy births,” Hayes said. “But we’re also there to make sure the woman can do whatever feels most natural to her. Some women want an epidural. Others want a natural childbirth. Our job is to support them in whatever decision they make.”

Hayes doesn’t suggest one way over another. She listens to what her patients want, and – together – they form a plan.

During the first quarter of 2018, Novant Health midwives delivered 72 babies. Fifty of those moms had an epidural; 22 were unmedicated. In the second quarter of this year, 43 percent of women were unmedicated during childbirth.

It’s all about what makes the mom comfortable. “During my deliveries, Tina would suggest that I lie on my side or get into other positions,” Kee said. “She knows women’s bodies and what they are created to do.”

‘Gave me confidence’

Amy and Brad Messer have two boys – a 3-year-old and a 7-month-old – both delivered naturally. “After our first was born,” Messer said, “I even called and texted Tina in the first weeks to ask, ‘Is this normal? She kept reassuring me I was a good mom. She gave me confidence.”

Manzano said it was the knowledge of sister Amy Messer delivering her first child naturally that gave her the peace, strength and faith for God to also give her all the abilities she needed for natural child birth.

Like her sisters, Katy Dorr Manzano and her husband, Moises, wanted a completely natural birth. In fact, Manzano would have preferred not going to a hospital. “If I could’ve legally given birth in my living room, I would have,” she said.

“Tina understood what I needed – and what I didn’t need,” Manzano said. “I was adamant about not having an epidural.”

Manzano’s mom, Linda, is a big believer in God, prayer and essential oils, and Hayes was onboard with her being in the delivery room and using oils to calm her daughter. Manzano’s husband and her father were also there. “There’s a beautiful intimacy when the whole family wants to be part of a birth,” Hayes said.

Manzano laughs now about her thoughts on what delivery would be like: “I thought I’d go into labor and shoot out a child.”

She learned otherwise. Hayes recommended Pitocin to move things along. Manzano trusted her enough to say “yes.” She needed not one – but two – epidurals. By that point, Manzano knew if Hayes was recommending it, then it was the right thing for her and her baby.

Nathaniel Manzano, now 16 months old, has a 5-year-old big sister, who’s the only Manzano child not delivered by Hayes. Manzano marvels at how Hayes was able to provide each sister with exactly what she and her husband needed during childbirth. “We sisters are a lot alike,” she said. “But we’re not identical. Tina customized our birth plans to what we each wanted.”

‘Calm ... relaxing’

There’s something else special about a midwife birth – something Hayes can’t pinpoint.

“Nurses will tell me: ‘Your births are so calm,’” she said. “I’m not sure what’s different, although we work to make sure the woman’s wants and needs are taken care of. One woman delivered her baby and placenta on her side because that was the most comfortable position she found. Another woman was on her hands and knees because that’s what felt right to her.”

Dixy Kee, mother of four, said the environment in the delivery room with Hayes is – here’s a surprise – “relaxing.” Kee and Manzano were in the delivery room for one another’s childbirths. “It was so special,” Manzano said. “When you’re the one giving birth, you don’t see what’s happening. It’s miraculous to be witness to it.”

Motherhood is sacred, and no family knows that better than the Dorrs. “I believe Jesus led me to Tina and had her fall in love with my family so that I could love and trust her to deliver my other three children and possibly more in the future if the opportunity presents itself,” Kee said. “Tina allows me to feel the freedom to pray or have members pray while in the delivery room and gives me a peace to play worship music during my labor and delivery because that is what helps calm me.”

Kee wanted many of her family members in the delivery room with her. “A lot of doctors wouldn’t allow that,” she said. “But Tina understood it was important to me and made it happen. My husband and I joke that if we couldn’t have Tina deliver our babies, we wouldn’t have had another after the first one.”

The maternity specialists at Novant Health are here to ensure you and your baby get the personalized care you need from prenatal care to delivery — and beyond. Your journey starts here.

Photo, L-R: Everest Messer, Amy Messer, Indiana Messer; Isaiah Kee, Elijah Kee(standing in white shirt) , Dixy Kee, (green dress) is holding Rebekah Kee, Tina Hayes(center) with Aydah Kee, Nathaniel Manzano (red shirt) and Katy Manzano.