Kathleen Goldschmidt was excited. She and her husband were expecting and—although it would be the couple’s third child—it was their first daughter.
Kathleen also learned that Denise Wilks, DNP, CNM, the midwife who cared for Kathleen during her first pregnancy, had recently returned to practice in Delaware County.
The Goldschmidts first met Denise in 2014, when they were preparing to become first-time parents. While Kathleen admits she was skeptical of midwifery at first—did she really want a birth without any medication to manage her pain?—she says any uncertainty or anxiety she had dissipated after meeting Denise.
“I talked to her and trusted her like I would one of my friends,” recalls Kathleen. “My appointments weren’t just routine medical checkups; she asked me about myself and how I was feeling and gave me a hug to end every appointment. Her care felt personal.”
Personalized care is a hallmark of Main Line Health’s maternity experience. From private patient rooms to skin-to-skin time between mom and baby to childbirth education for new parents, grandparents and siblings, our maternity team is committed to providing a positive, personalized and precious maternity experience. As a midwife, Denise knows how important a role she plays in delivering this experience to Kathleen and all of her patients.
“I want women to know that they can feel safe during birth, and that starts from the very first visit. I provide a lot of education and answer any questions, but I also take this time to get to know my patients individually and understand what their values and goals are related to pregnancy and childbirth,” she says. “My responsibility is to provide mothers with whatever support they need to feel physically and emotionally prepared for childbirth.”
An unexpected diagnosis
Kathleen was prepared for the ups and downs of pregnancy and knew what to expect from childbirth with Denise at her side. But during her first trimester, Kathleen was tested for and diagnosed with parvovirus. It was an unexpected complication but, as a mother and a teacher, it wasn’t a diagnosis that was out of the question. The easily treatable—easily transferrable—parvovirus is common among children but among pregnant women, its side effects and risks can be more serious.
“Parvovirus presents unique health risks for a pregnant woman and her baby. It can affect the red blood cell count in a fetus, which can result in low blood count or anemia. In rare and severe cases, this anemia has the potential cause miscarriage and stillbirth," explains Denise.
Kathleen was surprised and worried, but she put her trust in Denise to help her navigate her treatment and connect with a perinatologist and maternal-fetal medicine specialists who could keep her and her baby safe and healthy.
“When I initially found out about the parvovirus, Denise was very up front with me. She told me that she would need to work with other providers to treat me and that there was a chance that I might lose the baby, but I appreciated her honesty,” Kathleen recalls.
Denise began the work of connecting Kathleen with the specialists that would provide expert care and oversight for her and the baby. In conjunction with her midwife, this multidisciplinary team provided Kathleen and her baby the care that is the hallmark of care provided by Main Line Health.
“The wonderful thing about a collaborative care model and working at a health system is I that can connect my patients with physicians and nurses across Main Line Health,” says Denise. “Together, we all worked together to make sure that Kathleen got the care that she needed for a high-risk pregnancy but were able to stay true to the midwifery experience she wanted.”
“I had to go see other doctors, but she was always there for me to fall back on if I had a question or there was something I didn’t understand. Once again she proved to me that she was more than my midwife, she was a shoulder to lean on,” says Kathleen. “I needed to know that she was worried for me, for my baby—and she was. In our appointments and on our phone calls she was truly caring for me…human being to human being.”
As Kathleen's pregnancy progressed, her baby started to exhibit signs of anemia. Her perinatalogist referred her to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for further evaluation and an intrauterine blood transfusion. During the surgery, a perinatologist delivers a blood transfusion to the umbilical cord to replenish fetal red blood cells that have been destroyed by anemia. This goal of this transfusion is to keep babies healthy until delivery. While this development caused Kathleen and her husband increased worry, they knew they could count on Denise to provide them with support and answer questions.
Following a successful transfusion and recovery, Kathleen and her baby continued to be monitored and cared for by Denise. Follow-up testing continued and, while all results pointed to a clean bill of health, Kathleen knew that her pregnancy was still high-risk. So, when her water broke in early December 2019, she was ready to meet the daughter who had already defied the odds to make her debut.
She texted Denise, who met the couple at Riddle Hospital, part of Main Line Health. From there, Kathleen and her husband knew they were in caring, competent hands.
“Denise didn’t leave our side throughout the entire process,” says Kathleen. “She and I had a conversation during the entire time I was in labor and she did not leave the room until after my daughter was born and she had met her and made sure that I was okay. Having her there, knowing she was the one who was going to be delivering me…it gave me such a sense of relief and made a big difference.”
As the newest member of the Goldschmidt family—Veronica—approaches eight months old, Kathleen continues to talk about the lasting impact that Denise has made on her and her family. She has made recommendations to friends and family members to pursue midwifery or, at the very least, to learn more about it. “I want to get involved with midwifery however I can. Denise left such a lasting impression on me. She was always there when I needed her, and her support was different than what I could get from my husband or my parents. She was my midwife but, more than anything, she turned out to be a friend and a therapist for me during a difficult time.”
Riddle Hospital is proud to offer midwifery services to the growing number of women who prefer this option. Our certified nurse midwives, Denise Wilks, DNP, CNM and Marissa Sanner, CNM, WHNP-BC have many years of experience supporting women through birth. Learn more about midwifery services at Riddle Hospital.