Catherine O’Brien knew from the time she was in elementary school that she wanted to help deliver babies when she grew up.
“There was no second choice,” she said.
The midwife, who started work at Good Shepherd Women’s Center on Nov. 1, got a running start on her career when she started nursing school at age 17. She went on to earn a Master of Science in Nurse-Midwifery and a Doctor of Nurse Practice.
O’Brien had been working in Spokane, Washington but was looking for a more rural setting to practice in when she saw the opening at Good Shepherd. The women’s center had brought on its first midwife only a few months before.
She said early in her more than 30-year career she worked at large hospitals in San Antonio, and was shocked when she moved on to a much more rural area and realized how many resources were simply not available to patients there. She said she loved providing services to women who would not otherwise have access to a midwife.
“I said, ‘I can’t go back to a big city. They don’t need me there,’” she said. “They have everything because everyone wants to work there.”
She eventually made her way to Spokane, but didn’t feel it was rural enough. She didn’t want to uproot her twins — currently sophomores in high school — so her husband is staying with them while she lives in Hermiston and visits on days off.
“Luckily I have a car with good gas mileage,” she said.
At work, O’Brien cares for women through the stages of family planning, pregnancy, labor and postpartum care. She said she works to understand their needs and wants concerning their birth plan, and provides education and emotional support. Everyone’s idea of a “perfect” birth is different, she said.
“I don’t force anything on them,” she said. “I’m basically listening to their concerns. Nine times out of 10, they’re going to steer you in the right direction.”
She said most pregnant women have a lot of questions and concerns about what is best for the pregnancy, and it’s important they discuss those with providers during their appointments.
“People get lots of well-intentioned but crappy advice from family members and the internet,” she said.
Women will come in falsely believing they can’t eat certain foods, she said, or that they can’t take any medications at all while pregnant. A midwife can help patients sort out exactly what is considered safe or unsafe for the baby and mother during a pregnancy.
Patients at Good Shepherd Women’s Center are encouraged to have appointments with all providers during pregnancy, so that they will be familiar with whoever is on call when they go into labor. Other practitioners include Dr. Diana Edenfield, Dr. Leila Keeler, Dr. Allison Khavkin, Angie Hays, ARNP, and Kelli Stephenson, CNM.
O’Brien said so far in the two months she has worked there, she is highly impressed with how well-run the clinic is and how supportive the staff are to patients and each other.
“I’m very recent, but I’ve been here long enough to know that I love it,” she said.