As one of 10 children, Sherah Albright, certified nurse midwife, has been familiar with maternity care from a young age.
“I have seven younger siblings, so my mom was pregnant or nursing for a lot of my childhood. I was always fascinated with the whole process and would ask my mom to let me be there for her labor and birth. When I was 12, I was able to be present for my youngest sister’s birth and it changed my life. It was truly amazing to witness, and I decided I wanted to be involved in that in some way.”
Prior to pursuing a career as a midwife, Albright planned to go to medical school. While attending a conference for prospective medical students, she attended a workshop devoted to midwifery and instantly knew this was the path she wanted to pursue.
Albright made the switch to nursing school and completed both her undergraduate (BSN) and graduate (MSN) degrees at the University of Indianapolis. Following graduation in December 2014, she took her state board exams in March 2015.
Her journey at IU Health began when she assisted with the birth of her older sister’s child at Arnett Hospital in Lafayette in October 2014, just before her graduation. Her sister’s midwife, Anne Mishler, saw that Albright was a natural at midwifery and suggested that she apply to Arnett upon graduation. Seeing how important this practice is to the community and that IU Health’s values toward birth matched up with hers in many ways, Albright knew this was the place she wanted to be and joined the midwifery team at Arnett in 2015.
Early days of midwifery at Arnett
The midwife program at Arnett would not be what it is without Sharon Smith. In October 2009, Smith, a certified nurse midwife, joined the Clarian Arnett (as IU Health Arnett was previously known) Obstetrics and Gynecology team as one of the first midwives at Clarian and the only nurse midwife in the area to be licensed to deliver babies in a hospital.
Smith came to Arnett to provide women choices in their birthing experience. She built the practice from the ground up, working solo for the first 15 months, being on call 24/7 year-round. She retired in fall 2021, but not before playing a significant role in the growth and sustainability of the hospital’s midwifery program.
Moving forward with care
Today, there are four full-time midwives on the Arnett staff, as well as several pro re nata (PRN) staff who work on a temporary/as-needed basis, and the program is searching for more midwives, shares Albright.
“Our hope is to have five full-time midwives. Recruitment has been a little difficult, especially with Covid. It’s made it difficult to get the candidates we’re looking for.”
Albright believes that five full-time midwives would allow IU Health Arnett to offer services to more women and reach the team’s goal of delivering over 300 babies each year.
This fall, the team will celebrate 12 years since it was established, and the Arnett midwifery program has a lot to celebrate. In addition to providing more labor and birth options for women seeking fewer interventions, the practice has facilitated low c-section rates, high rates of success for Vaginal Births after Cesarean (VBACs), and an overall increase in the number of babies delivered per year.
When asked how impactful this program is for women, Albright shares, “This practice is important to the community because we give women more options for labor and birth including support during natural childbirth and water birth. We also have the time to really get to know the women and spend more time with them in labor. We often feel that we get to become a part of their family as we walk along the journey of pregnancy and birth with them.”
Albright herself has delivered over 500 babies in this community, and she’s getting ready to deliver her most significant baby yet: Her miracle IVF baby is due in August 2022, conceived after a nine-year struggle with infertility.