by Marie McAden
Photography by Christian Lee
You never forget your first one.
For Janna Jones Kersh, the birth of Avery, last summer, was one of those epic moments that will stay with you for a lifetime. “It happened so fast,” Janna recalled. “When she was finally out, I took a long, deep breath and just enjoyed the moment.”
The healthy baby girl wasn’t her first born. It was her first delivery as a midwife. “My whole life, from the time I was in high school, had been building to that moment,” she said. “When I laid the baby on her mother’s belly, it was such a great relief.”
Last month, Janna joined Beaufort Memorial Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialists as the hospital’s first certified nurse midwife. She is now delivering babies in the birthing center at Beaufort Memorial Hospital alongside board-certified OB-GYNs Drs. Christopher Benson, Gregory Miller, Berniece Redmond and Claude Tolbert. “We spent a year looking for the right practitioner who shared our philosophy of care,” Dr. Tolbert said. “Janna was the right fit.”
Originally from Gainesville, Ga., Janna was introduced to midwifery as part of a high school mentoring program for honor students. Watching her first birth was both mind-blowing and life changing. “I didn’t understand the full birthing process and that the placenta was going to be expelled after the baby was born,” Janna recounted. “I was a 16-year-old high schooler and wasn’t prepared for all the blood.”
After getting past the momentary shock, she found herself overwhelmed by the magnitude of what she had witnessed. The experience set her on a course that would lead to her life’s vocation. She went on to study child and family development at the University of Georgia, where she was exposed to midwifery for a second time. The guest speaker for a human development class was a midwife. “I decided then, that’s what I wanted to do,” Janna said.
After earning her Bachelor of Science degree, she was accepted to the Vanderbilt University Nursing School, one of the top-ranked midwifery programs in the country. Her clinical experience as a graduate student included primary care in rural health facilities, labor and delivery at Vanderbilt University Hospital and the full scope of midwifery care at a Maine OB/GYN clinic. She also was among the first students to participate in a new volunteer doula [also known as birth companion] program at Vanderbilt.
Now in her new role at Beaufort Memorial, Janna will offer patients a more holistic approach to the birthing process, intervening when necessary. “A lot of women have the misconception that midwives are just for hippie chicks and granola girls,” she said. “While the practice has its roots in natural childbirth, midwives can provide pain control and write prescriptions. If a woman decides she wants to have an epidural, I can make sure that happens.”
Like a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, Janna collaborates with the practice doctors in the care of her patients. Should a complication arise, one of the four physicians can assist at a moment’s notice. “Historically, midwives were delivering babies long before doctors,” said Dr. Tolbert, her supervising physician. “We’re a very busy practice and Janna can provide routine pregnancy care and delivery, freeing us up to spend more time with high-risk patients.”
Janna also will increase access to patients needing gynecological and primary care services, including contraceptive counseling, family planning, gynecological exams, menopausal management and counseling in health maintenance and disease prevention. “I don’t just deliver babies,” she said. “I can provide care to a woman throughout her lifespan—from adolescence to beyond menopause.”
Janna interviewed all over the Southeast before deciding where she wanted to start her career as a midwife. She chose the BMH practice after meeting with the physicians and spending a weekend with her husband in the historic seaport city.
“We fell in love with Beaufort,” she said. “It’s such a cool town. We could see ourselves being happy here.”
Married: One and half years to Andrew Kersh, who she has known since high school. The couple lives in the Mossy Oaks neighborhood in Beaufort.
Other Family: Scout, a golden retriever puppy named after one of the characters in her favorite novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Summer Reading: Go Set a Watchman, the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird
Outdoor Fun: Hiking, kayaking and “throwing the ball endless hours for Scout.”
Favorite Football Team: Her alma mater’s Georgia Bulldogs. “It consumes our weekends in the fall,” she said.
Contact her: 843-522-7820