Second Place Photojournalism II – Picture Story/Series
Second Place Photojournalism II – Picture Story/Series
Western Kentucky University
In the spring of 2019, Kentucky passed legislation offering Certified Professional Midwives a chance to practice home births legally. Kentucky law, last updated in the 1970s, states that all operating midwives must obtain a “permit” from the state in order to legally practice home-birth midwifery, but there haven’t been any licenses given in decades. Operating in this legal gray area has made home-birth midwifery difficult for many, and even now with new legislation set to be implemented over the coming years, the costs associated with obtaining a license is an obstacle for many. Tracey Moore is a certified professional midwife who has been performing home births for nearly two decades. Moore is one of few who practices home births in the Commonwealth, forcing her to travel all around the western and south central regions of Kentucky. She is based in Summer Shade, Kentucky, in rural Metcalfe country. Tracey Moore checks "baby noodle's" heartbeat in Rosie Hunt's belly in their living room in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Rosie and Alex Hunt didn't name their baby until after her birth, so they referred to their unborn child as "baby noodle."
Tracey Moore delivered June Hunt at 7:13 p.m. on Nov. 8, 2019, to Rosie and Alex Hunt on their living room couch. Over the two decades she has been practicing midwifery, Moore has helped deliver over 800 babies. "Babies are cute, but moms are amazing," Moore said. "I'm more interested in the mother and her ability, the strength she doesn't even know she has."
Moore’s priority concern is how a mother is treated during her pregnancy and birth. She distinctly remembers how her midwife made her feel when she was 16 and giving birth to her first child. “My neighbors in their 80s talk about their births. That was 60, 65 years ago,” said Moore. “I’ve had many women in their 60s, 70s and 80s tell me their birth stories. Birth stories matter. How you were treated during that vulnerable and sacred moment in your life sticks with you.”
Moore and her family moved into a "fall-through-the-floor kind of tobacco barn" in the 1990s. When they first moved in, the family had ten children and hand pumped all their water. David and Tracey longed for this kind of country life while growing up outside of Los Angeles. "It’s the life that Tracey and I always dreamed of having,” David said.
Tracey Moore answers questions concerning a patient while helping serve Thanksgiving dinner. She is on call 24/7, 52 weeks a year. "It's so much hard work," Moore said. "But it is filled with so much tremendous joy."
Tracey Moore and her family rely heavily on their faith in all aspects of their life. Each day, she does devotions, and says that on the hard days, her faith is one of the things that keeps her going. She and David and their five children who still live at home travel to Bowling Green, over an hour's drive away, to be a part of a church community they feel very comfortable and accepted in. "God gave an institution," Moore said about her family, as well as her church. "I think as human beings we are meant to live in community.”
A birth pool; bags stuffed with fetoscope and doppler, iron and urine testing strips fill Moore’s Chevrolet Suburban. Her drawers were made by an Amish family specifically for her car in exchange for midwifery services. Moore works very closely with the Amish communities which surround her rural Kentucky home.
Moore was asked why her work matters, “The day that I’m feeling totally altruistic and I absolutely want every woman to have the best experience possible, and feel respected and to know how much she is cared for, and for one of the most important things in her life to be sacred and everybody to have individual care? Or the days that I want to pay the bills? Because they’re both true. But if I were rich, I’d still do it. So maybe that’s the answer."
Tracey Moore has carried and birthed 11 of her own children. Often, when talking to moms about their pregnancies and babies, she can draw on personal experience. She even delivered one of her own children unattended, something she would never recommend. “I always had the heart for it, and then I saw the need for it," Moore said. "Too many women are run through the birthing machine."
Tracey Moore’s days are never the same. In the last couple of years, midwifery has taken a much larger role in her life since her midwifery partner, who was more like a member of the family, abruptly had to leave their practice in early 2017. This left Moore to take care of nearly twice as many patients than she felt comfortable with. Shortly afterwards, Tracey suffered a miscarriage of her own at 52-years-old, she believes partly from the stress of losing her best friend and business partner and having to stretch herself thin to take care of all her clients.
Tracey Moore leans on her husband, David, for comfort after telling him about a complicated and upsetting birth she had attended hours before. "For us, faith in Christ has been the solid rock we’ve needed, because it’s not always been easy," David said. "That faith has helped us have grace.”
Moore grew up as mostly an only child in a difficult and complex home, instilling in her a desire to create a family of her own. She married David at 15-years-old and she had their first baby at 16. Over their 37 years of marriage, the Moore family has grown to 55 people, comprised of the two of them, their 16 children and nine spouses and 28 grandchildren. “A lot of it for me was I always wanted family,” Moore said.
“We only thought we were going to have two kids, but they were a lot of fun and we really liked them," Moore said. "So what’s a third? Or a fourth? They were all so fun.” After their fifth child, Moore and David decided to stop having children. However, they felt called to adopt a group of four siblings, and then the group’s niece later on. “All of a sudden we had ten kids, and it was fun,” Tracy continued. “And if you’ve already got ten, what’s eleven, twelve? And at that point we really thought about it. The Bible tells us that children are blessing and a reward and an inheritance. We came to fully embrace that.”
Family is everything to Moore. The walls of their home are adorned with photos of her children and grandchildren from all walks of life, anyone who walks through the threshold is welcomed and treated as one of their own. Often, Moore works with clients so long they feel like family. “Every one of these people that I’ve had the opportunity to come to know has been pretty amazing in one way or another," Moore said. "Whether I gave birth to them or whether I adopted them.”