Birthing center helps growing families

Northern Hospital of Surry County
Nicole and Skyler Harrison, with their baby, Mary. -
Jodi and Blake Gunnel with their daughter Kazleigh, shortly after her birth. -

This is the first of two articles bringing readers the stories of a few parents who have brought their children into the world at The Birthing Center at Northern Hospital of Surry County. The second part will be published Sunday, May 20.

Nicole and Mary Miles

“I admit I was a bit nervous and scared,” recalls 31-year-old businesswoman Nicole Moody Harrison, as her labor pains intensified rapidly before giving birth to her first-born child. Within minutes of entering the Birthing Center of Northern Hospital of Surry County, Nicole’s nervousness abated as her assigned care-team showered her with constant care, comfort, and encouragement until little Mary Miles decided to enter the world on Jan. 24, 2017 – just 14 months ago.

“It was a great experience,” says Nicole, a lithe CrossFit enthusiast and runner. “My nurses were very caring and wanted me to be okay. They knew what I needed and made me feel I was doing a good job. Toward the end of my labor, as I was giving some final pushes, I told my nurse I wanted a Sprite or Gatorade. She said, ‘You just get this baby out and I’ll get you that soda.’ Sure enough, I got my soda immediately afterward!”

With her newborn daughter snuggled safely in her arms, the exhausted but jubilant Nicole gently caressed and dutifully counted fingers and toes while her husband Skyler Harrison, a well-regarded local investment manager, looked on with pride. As the newly-expanded family of three settled comfortably in the Birthing Center suite assigned to Nicole for the duration of her stay, the new parents prepared to welcome the many relatives and friends who were eager to stop by and catch a glimpse of the 6-pound, 11-ounce beauty who had already stolen their hearts.

“There was plenty of room in my suite – so much so that my husband was able to move a chair and set-up a temporary work-station,” she says. (Nicole took a brief maternity-leave hiatus from her executive position as vice president of Moody’s Funeral Services Inc.)

“Everyone was amazingly kind and considerate – from the doctors to the nurses and the aides and housekeeping staff,” she adds. “I never once had to push the call button to ask for someone or something — they were there when I needed them, but also considerate of my privacy. At one point, even my husband asked out loud, ‘Why can’t everyone have this same wonderful childbirth experience?’”

Optimal Birthing Experience

For Cade Wright, MSN, RNC-OB, providing an optimal birthing experience is the goal for all women who choose Northern Hospital’s Birthing Center – where, on average, 375 babies are born every year.

As director of the Birthing Center & Women’s Services, Wright is committed to running a patient-focused facility that meets or exceeds the medical necessities and personal expectations of patients and their families. Since bringing her nursing leadership skills and clinical know-how to Northern Hospital a little more than four years ago, Wright and her tightly-knit team of obstetrical nurses have introduced new and/or updated policies and protocols to ensure that patients have an optimal birthing experience.

At the same time, they have respected and maintained those traditional, tried-and-true values and practices of the decades-old Birthing Center – which has served as the official birthplace for generations of Mount Airy residents.

“We do things differently here,” says Cade succinctly, in helping to explain why Northern’s Birthing Center is so appealing to both first-time and “veteran” moms.

“From the moment an expectant mom enters our facility, we build a bond and develop a trust with her,” says Wright. “We create a continuity of care that is enhanced by having the same team of nurses remain with each patient throughout the entire birthing process — from labor to delivery to recovery and the post-partum period.

“Giving birth is a most private and privileged time in a woman’s life – and we recognize that each birth is different,” she continues. “We take pride in helping our patients have their own birthing experience; not the one that we may have had. We want them to leave here and say, ‘They let me do such-and-such’ rather than ‘They told me to do such-and-such.’”

“We also don’t make patients move from one room to another like some other hospitals do,” she explains. “Instead, patients remain in their own private suite for the duration of their stay with us – which typically averages two days for a vaginal birth and three for a C-section.”

Jodi and Kazleigh

“I don’t care what you do to me; just get my baby out safely!” cried 28-year-old Jodi Gunnell to her obstetrician after many hours of exhausting labor and a continual monitoring of her unborn baby’s heart rate – which wasn’t returning to a normal pattern as promptly it should after each contraction.

But Dr. Michael Gentry, the newest member of Northern Hospital’s obstetrical staff, had a more comprehensive plan — one that encompassed the health and safety of both his patients – mother and baby.

Jodi’s labor started about one week prior to her scheduled due date. After checking-in to the Birthing Center, she was immediately surrounded by her nursing team who helped her manage her ever-escalating contractions while continuing to dilate.

“I remember being very tired and that Dr. Gentry kept a close eye on everything – constantly checking me and the baby,” says Jodi. “He explained what was going on with my baby’s heartbeat and eventually determined that he would need to get the baby out. He was right by my bedside the whole time – and was very patient, understanding and reassuring. You could tell he knew what to do and really cared.”

Following an emergency C-section on Dec. 29, 6-pound, 8-ounce Kazleigh Jewel greeted her mother and father, 26-year-old Blake, a strong and hardworking forklift operator and production specialist for a local foam company.

“Once she was out safe and breathing, I could relax,” says Jodi. “Dr. Gentry had told me everything was going to be fine, and it was.”

For the next several days, as the proud new parents hosted their family and friends in their private Birthing Center suite, Jodi’s nurses attended to her every need, and that of her baby’s. “The nursing care was phenomenal and very personable,” said Jodi, who was also appreciative of the extra attention and instructions she received about breastfeeding.

Meanwhile, four-month-old Kazleigh continues to flourish and take center stage. “She’s great, she’s growing, and she’s our whole world,” says Jodi. “She looks like her dad; but most people admit she acts like me — because she likes a lot of attention.”

For more information about Northern Hospital’s Birthing Center, visit online at or call 336-719-7374.

Nicole and Skyler Harrison, with their baby, Mary. and Skyler Harrison, with their baby, Mary.

Jodi and Blake Gunnel with their daughter Kazleigh, shortly after her birth. and Blake Gunnel with their daughter Kazleigh, shortly after her birth.

Northern Hospital of Surry County