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Monday, September 1, 2008

Town Branch neighbor in the news

Ozark Profile : Creel intertwines her life with process of birth
BY DUSTIN TRACY Northwest Arkansas Times
Posted on Monday, September 1, 2008
URL: http://www.nwanews.com/nwat/News/68701/
Apositive aura glows around Jennifer Creel. This is a woman who’s spent her existence bringing new life into the world. This is a woman whose passion is empowering other women in the birthing process. Most of all, she’s a woman who wants women to have the choice to give birth the natural way.

“ I see myself as a protector of natural birth, ” Creel said.

Creel was born in Dalton, Ga., and spent most of her childhood and teenage years in Franklin, Tenn. It wasn’t until college that she found herself in Fayetteville. In 1993 she came to the University of Arkansas to play soccer and major in zoology.

“ I was a goalie, ” she said. “ It was short lived. ”

Creel found out she was pregnant with her first daughter in 1995 and made the decision to move home to have the baby. It was nine months later that she had her first experience with childbirth at a hospital in Nashville.

“ I felt like I was completely informed. Of course, when you don’t know all your choices, you have no options, ” she said.

Overall, Creel described the birth of her daughter Greenley as a very painful experience with echoing negative effects on her body. Creel said she felt like she had no control over the decisions the doctors made, what medications they gave her and what procedures they did during labor.

At that point, Creel’s new life began.

She joined the Northwest Arkansas La Leche League, a support group for breastfeeding mothers and after discussing her childbirth experience with a few other new mothers she found that there was an underlying connection.

“ A lot of them had home births, ” she said. “ They didn’t have the same feelings of pain or loss of control. ”

Creel went back to the UA and started to research the concept of home birth. She found that a lot of countries, especially Scandinavian ones, preferred home birth to hospitalization, which pushed her further towards her ultimate decision.

While at school finishing her zoology degree, Creel had another realization. She said she was a single mother, and she just didn’t see herself working away in a laboratory.

“ It didn’t have much contact with people, which I love so much, ” Creel said.

In 1998 during her last semester at the UA, she started an apprenticeship with the Arkansas Midwives School and Services. During the two-year program, Creel married Curt Richardson and eventually had her own home birth.

“ It was just an awesome experience, ” she said. “ I was able to do it uninhibited. It really solidified in my mind that I could facilitate empowering safe births for families. ”

Creel said the program wasn’t easy. In fact, she said the very first home birth she attended, she beat her mentor to the scene and was worried that she’d have to deliver the baby on her own.

“ I was 22; (the mother ) was in the bathroom. When I walked in, she looked at me very calmly and said, ‘ The head is right here, ’ and then she showed me, ” Creel said with a chuckle.

After that, Creel was sold. She passed her certifications in 2000 and went from there. But it wasn’t a simple task. Creel said she delivers about four to five babies per month and most come in the same week.

“ They don’t like to be born in the nine-to-five hours, ” she said laughing.

Creel now has an apprentice of her own, Maria Chowdhury, and together they run the Birthroot Midwifery organization in Fayetteville. Creel has delivered more than 250 babies.

One family even flew Creel to Japan to help them out. She said she’d helped the mother give birth to her first child, and that when she was contacted by the family to help them deliver the second child, she began her normal nine-month monitoring process. Unfortunately, the father’s job transferred the family across the Pacific Ocean late in the term, and the traditional Japanese midwife would not take such a late-term newcomer.

“ So they called me and asked me if I would fly out, ” Creel said.

There were a few clients she was looking after, but Creel said she could help if those babies came quickly, which they did. Suddenly she found herself on a plane to Japan.

“ I traveled for 36 hours, and when I got off the plane and saw (the mother’s ) face, I said to her, ‘ I got here just in time, ’” she said.

Ten hours later the baby was born.

Creel’s journey has not been without difficulty. Three years ago in July, she lost her second child, Elleya, to a sudden infection. Creel left midwifery for 14 months and debated even coming back to the profession. She called her decision to come back the dividing point in her career. She said when she first became a midwife she felt love and joy for the experience. After her tragedy Creel said she could really see what drove her to do what she does and be who she is. She can even remember one of the first births she delivered after she came back.

“ The mother was siting on the toilet backwards. She looked at me, and she calmly said, ‘ I’m having really strong contractions, ’” Creel said. “ Then she quickly stood up and gave birth to a beautiful baby. It was really overwhelming. Coming back to work and getting to be part of another positive life experience was a good thing. ”

Creel’s family often gets the brunt of her profession. She said long days with birthing mothers leave her kids with their father to cook for them. She said when her oldest daughter, now 13, hears her mom leave in the night she stops her and asks for cooking ideas once her dad’s standard two-meal rotation is over.

“ Apparently breakfast for dinner gets old, ” Creel said with a laugh.

Creel said other tough parts about her on-call job include missing school events, birthdays and family get-togethers, but her husband said that’s just something the family works through.

“ It’s part of our family life, ” Richardson said. “ If our babies were still nursing when she left, I’d have to go find out where she was and bring the nursing baby. ”

Aside from the hectic nature of the job, Richardson said he’s nothing but proud of his wife.

“ I think she just has a complete understanding of the process of birth, ” he said. “ It’s her gift. ”

Creel said midwifery has just taken over who she is. She said her house is right next to her office, and the profession has taught her to be a strong, resolved woman. She enjoys every second of it.

“ Getting to know the families and getting to witness the birth of the family, it’s positive pain working towards a positive experience, ” Creel said. “ Being fully present for your life experiences, whether they are joyful or painful, is the most fulfilling way to live. ”

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