NORTH CONWAY, NH – The Town of Jackson recorded 816 residents in the 2010 census, but Certified Nurse Midwife Kathleen Mulkern can beat that and then some ... she recently surpassed her 1,000th baby delivery at Memorial Hospital. Mulkern has delivered virtually an entire village over her 15 years of service!
Mulkern has been caring for women and their babies for almost 30 years. She shared, “I was born and raised in the Mount Washington Valley, and was fortunate to be given the opportunity in 2003 of returning with my family to live, raise my children and work as a nurse-midwife.”
She originally wanted to be a nurse practitioner, but changed her mind when a nurse midwife gave a presentation in college. “And that was it.”
When asked what keeps her going, Mulkern states that it’s the appreciation of people, and how you touch their lives. “There are certain births you always remember. It’s the relationship and the trust between you.”
In emergencies, that trust has made all the difference. Mulkern recounted one incident where the mother’s water broke and four loops of umbilical cord came out prematurely. “I called the surgeon but we needed to act immediately. I made eye contact with the mom and told her to push, and she trusted me. The baby was born safely.”
Much has changed with midwifery since she first started her practice. “There’s a lot around ‘skin to skin’ contact between moms and babies right after the birth. The culture has changed based on research – it results in better transition, better breathing and better bonding.”
Other changes to the practice include delayed cord clamping, which lets baby get extra stem cells and oxygen; and encouraging the breast crawl, where the baby is given the opportunity to find their mothers’ breast on their own and to decide when to take the first breastfeed, resulting in better breastfeeding initiation.
Breastfeeding support has become de facto for new moms and babies too. “Many midwifery concepts have become the norm now, they’ve gone mainstream compared to when I started. Midwives can change the culture of a hospital. Doctors have adapted a lot for those that are low-risk. Doctors here have embraced it. So we only offer interventions for those that need it or want them.”
Unwelcome changes have come as well, with mothers and babies being impacted by the opioid epidemic. “When I started delivering babies, (opioid abuse) was rare. It was hardly anyone. Now it’s about 10% of our population. With programs like our New Life prenatal substance abuse treatment program, women can turn their lives around,” Mulkern stated.
With the 1,000 baby milestone behind her, she plans on continuing to add to the population of Mount Washington Valley one person at a time. “The practice of midwifery fulfills my desire to connect with the women I see and to make a difference in the world, one woman and one birth at a time. It is my goal to empower women to become healthier, mentally and physically, to better care for themselves, their families, and their communities.”
For more information about midwifery services at Memorial Hospital or to make an appointment with Kathleen Mulkern, call 603-356-9355. You can also learn more online at www.memorialhospitalnh.org.
About Memorial Hospital
Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit 25-bed Critical Access Hospital located in North Conway, NH, and is a member of the MaineHealth family. Its hospital services include a 24-hour emergency department, surgery center, clinical laboratory, heart health & wellness programs, imaging services, cardiopulmonary care, family birthing center, oncology, chemotherapy and infusion services. Practices include primary care and family medicine, and the Miranda Center for Diabetes, behavioral health services, women's health, and orthopedics. The Merriman House, a 45-bed nursing home specializing in Alzheimer's and other memory disorders, is also located on the hospital campus.