ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, midwifery has become an increasingly popular route for expecting parents. However, especially in rural West Texas, the importance of having available midwives is growing exponentially.
A normal day at the office for many consists of clocking in, sitting behind a desk, grabbing lunch, and clocking out. However, for Sabrina Elliott, her everyday job as a licensed midwife consists of holding and caring for young babies, new or expecting parents, as well as helping deliver a child in a pool at a client’s home.
Elliot said it was her God-given calling to work with families, and especially babies. She started out as a doula, coaching expecting mothers through the ebbs and flows of childbirth. But after one encounter working with a 14-year-old pregnant refugee girl here in Abilene, who passed away days after she delivered the child, she knew she had to do more.
Helping mothers learn more about their bodies, giving birth, and the health of their babies in a calming, personal way was Elliot’s goal, and it came in the form of midwifery.
“When I first started home midwifery, I would have one client a month, then it went to three and now I’m doing five a month,” Elliott said.
Soon-to-be-parents began searching for midwives in the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, after hospitals began increasing restrictions throughout, including labor and delivery. Elliot said in her experience, families were wanting to have their children in the safety and peace of their own homes, leading them to midwives.
Unlike large cities like Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio, here in West Texas, finding enough midwives for the interested parties can be tricky, especially in the smaller communities.
“So many [communities] have had closures of labor and delivery wards, and midwives are the ones having to take up and serve those counties,” explained Elliott.
But the struggles are amplified in some of the more rural parts of West Texas. Elliott detailed, “Last month, I did a birth of a couple from Brady, Texas that ended up coming to a hotel in San Angelo to give birth to their baby in a hotel because there was no hospital near them, and they didn’t want a home birth.”
While Abilene has a fair share of midwives, places like San Angelo only have one, and it’s Sabrina Elliott. However, according to the World Health Organization, the global shortage of midwives reached 900,000 – roughly a third of where that number should be worldwide – in the spring of 2021.
For mother of two Tiffany Fullerton, she said she began searching for a midwife pre-COVID-19.
“It was a very foreign thing,” Fullerton said. “Most of my friends that I talked to about it were concerned I was considering having [a baby] out of the hospital.”
While Fullerton gave birth to her daughter in the hospital, she and her husband said they wanted to try something different for their son, Micah, who is now six weeks old.
Fullerton interviewed Elliot before COVID hit, finding a lot of similarities between the two and, ultimately, developing a great relationship together. After 13 or 14 one-hour sessions with Elliott prior to giving birth, she was ready to have an at-home delivery.
“By the time I got to the scary part of having a baby, I felt safe with her and comfortable,” said Fullerton with relief.
Micah was born safely and securely, and two ecstatic parents were in awe of their new child. All the while, Sabrina was working.
“A few hours later, Sabrina tucked me into bed. She was doing my laundry for me, and she made sure I had dinner,” Fullerton listed. “Maybe hours after I delivered the baby, they were gone, and my husband and I were lying in bed with this beautiful, sweet new family member.”
While the modern delivery of her daughter was great and Fullerton said she isn’t opposed to another hospital delivery, she said her first choice is going to be midwifery unless a situation needs immediate medical attention.
“We have such wonderful midwives as an option here in Abilene,” bragged Fullerton. “I think it’s really cool that people are starting to consider it as an option.”
While midwives create lasting bonds with their clients, even lifelong friendships, Elliott said she is also working to change the outlook of how midwives are viewed.
“I want midwifery to not seem like it’s the old-school way of doing things,” Elliott encouraged, “but make it so there is a way to feel like you’re doing the new, ‘in’ thing that gives you more knowledge and freedom of the things you’re doing. Your baby, your birth, and your own body.”
Elliott explained it is a tough field to get into, having to take three years of rigorous schoolwork and two years as an apprentice, to become officially licensed in the state of Texas, but said seeing parents with their children makes the whole process worth the work.