CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Searching for a non-traditional medical career, she found her niche as a certified nurse midwife. She embraced the concept of experiencing one of the most natural processes known to humanity in the most natural of all surroundings -- the home.
Last month, WV FREE honored Angelita "Angy" Nixon with the Helaine Rotgin Champion for Choice Award. No choice warms her heart like deciding on normal, drug-free childbirth in the familiar comfort of home.
She's the last word in home delivery, the highest-qualified home birth guru in the region.
An Indiana native, she has orchestrated more than 600 home births since arriving in West Virginia in 1999. She worked first at Family Care and, in 2003, started her own practice -- Scenic Drive Midwives in Teays Valley.
Her most important qualification might be her demeanor. There's a serenity about her, a calm, reassuring presence that likely means more to her laboring clients than all those academic credentials put together.
"I grew up in Indiana, the oldest of three daughters. Our family had a four-generation newspaper business, Nixon Newspapers, a small chain of small-town papers, 12 or 13 across Indiana, Illinois and Louisiana. I was a newspaper carrier when I was a child, my part-time job for seven or eight years.
"I first thought I would be a veterinarian. I loved animals. We had pets, and my mom grew up on a farm, so I always had that romantic view of going back to the farm.
"I wasn't very successful at rehabilitating animals the cats had caught. I didn't know if that was a sign that I wouldn't be such a good vet.
"What I really liked about what vets do is, they can sense or perceive the ailments animals have without language. For a health-care provider working with healthy women, a lot of it is that subtlety of picking up on very small clues.
"In college, I was studying psychology in Minnesota. I wanted to study abroad. I lived in Norway for a semester. I also did pre-med thinking I would go to medical school next.
"I thought I would be a non-traditional physician. I had a few exposures to midwifery that intrigued me. A close friend decided to plan a home birth. She told me midwifery was illegal in Indiana.
"I didn't understand what would be illegal about having a home birth. I didn't know there were different kinds of midwifery, and her midwife was practicing without a license. She wasn't a nurse midwife.
"Nurse midwives are licensed and regulated in every state and to practice in other countries. There is a direct entry midwife, a different track, more clinically based, not a nursing pathway.
"A lot of the direct entry midwives are trained through apprenticeship. In the craft world, apprenticeship is the highest level. You study with a master. If you are a silversmith, that's the best way to learn. If you are a midwife, there is a certain amount that is university-based. My education was very academic, a prestigious nursing program.
"I remember from childhood, my aunt was the quintessential woman to me. She was very beautiful. Everything she did was my ideal of what people should be and do. She planned a home birth, so that intrigued me from a young age. It was very uncommon at the time. This was 1977.
"I was born by forceps in a hospital, and my mother was drugged. So I was the typical pre-revolution birth experience.
"I was applying for medical school and volunteering in a family planning clinic in Ohio. Several of the clinicians were nurse practitioners and asked why I didn't think about becoming a nurse practitioner. I had no interest in that at all. I never had any role models in nursing.
"I learned about a doctoral program in my community in nursing and one of the tracks was midwifery. Midwifery was one of the advanced practice nursing specialties and one of the more competitive programs in the school, and that appealed to me.
"Once I met the other students in the school, there was a cohort of us interested in midwifery, and we did a lot of work together. We trained ourselves as doulas. That's a support person. The doula doesn't have the clinical or health-care responsibility. It's strictly for informational support, education, guidance about options, kind of like a labor coach.
"A lot of times, a dad functions as a labor coach, but men don't always have the intuition, so the doula can round that out. It gives the partner the opportunity to be there and maybe back off a little bit.