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Ancient profession alive in Libby

| September 13, 2006 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

Joyce Vogel knows all about delivering babies.

She's had 11 of her own and is now helping others deliver theirs.

Vogel, 44, recently opened a birthing center at 516 Louisiana Ave., one block from St. John's Lutheran Hospital. She's believed to be Lincoln County's first certified midwife.

A midwife attends to childbirth for uncomplicated pregnancies, provides support during labor and delivery, and supervises the general care of women and children after the birth.

"We spend way more time than a doctor would, and do a lot more talking and teaching," Vogel said.

She became a midwife when she found a need to get a job.

"I have always loved being pregnant, and at one point, I needed an income," Vogel said. "If I had to get a job, I wanted to do something I love."

Home births are nothing new for Vogel and her husband, Rick. They had six of their children in the hospital and five at home.

"Each birth was a unique experience," Joyce Vogel said about her children, who range from 7 to 27 years old.

To become certified, Vogel graduated from Association of Texas Midwives School in Tyler and began her midwife training in 2002. She has been licensed to practice midwifery in Texas since August 2003.

In Montana, she is a licensed apprentice under the Board of Alternative Health Care. She has been practicing under the supervision of Drs. Greg Rice and Jana Peters of Libby.

A resident of Libby for 13 years, Vogel saw a need for a midwife here. The closest midwives are in Kalispell and Bonners Ferry.

Vogel so far has been involved with 150 births, including 50 where she was the primary caregiver.

She delivers babies at the center or in homes.

Jenny Stanfield of Eureka chose a home birth with Vogel's assistance.

"I always wanted to do it at home. It just seems that's the way it's supposed to be," Stanfield said.

The 34-year-old on July 6 had her daughter, Selah, in the presence of her family.

"My mom was there, a friend and my husband," she said. "My dad was in the other room. The whole time we had friends coming by."

"The atmosphere of the home birth is totally different than the hospital," Vogel said. "You have a much more relaxed atmosphere, peaceful and calm. We do as little interference as we possibly can yet keep it safe."

The training for a midwife includes recognizing problems during childbirth and when to transport a patient to the hospital.

"Ninety percent of the time, birth is no problem," Vogel said. "We are trained for what to look for."

Mary Epperson, 22, of Plains chose a midwife because she wanted a more comfortable setting for the birth of her first child on July 25. Bethany Epperson was born at the birth center in Libby with Vogel's help.

"It was really nice," Epperson said.

Vogel's services include prenatal visits; childbirth classes; labor, delivery and immediate postpartum care; a home visit to new mothers and babies two days postpartum; and two- and six-week postpartum checkups.