Frontier Nursing University (FNU) Alumni, Mychal Pilia, CNM, first became familiar with midwifery when her sister decided to have a home birth.
“Of course, when I heard, I responded with all of the typical things midwives hear like that’s not going to be as safe, and what if something goes wrong?” Pilia laughs. “Then, through her pregnancy and delivery, I learned about midwives and the kind of care that they offer, and I quickly changed my perspective.”
Although Pilia’s sister’s first pregnancy did end up requiring an emergency C-section, she went on to have four more home births. By the time she had her most recent child, Pilia had become a certified nurse-midwife and caught her nephew herself. Pilia has also partnered with midwives for the births of all three of her own children.
Initially, Pilia had set her sights on being a personal chef and earned her first bachelor’s degree in nutrition. However, after working two years in a professional kitchen as part of her studies, she soon realized that was not her path. Following graduation, Pilia enrolled in an accelerated nursing school program where she received her second bachelor’s degree in 18 months and became a practicing pediatric ICU nurse in 2008.
In 2011, Pilia was ready to become a certified nurse-midwife but needed to earn her degree remotely so that she could continue caring for her family. That’s when she found Frontier and the tools she needed to open her own practice. Pilia is especially thankful for the emphasis that FNU places on business planning.
“The business plan portion was such an extremely beneficial part of the curriculum at FNU,” Pilia says. “It gave students an in-depth understanding of what being part of a practice or hospital really involves and where you fit in the bigger picture. Even if someone isn’t going to be an entrepreneur and start their own practice, it was a lot of really valuable information.”
Shortly after graduating from FNU, Pilia and her family moved from Texas to Maryland. She had originally based her business plan for a birth center around her Houston location and was faced with restructuring it around a whole new market. Luckily, Pilia had a firm grasp on her goal. In 2016, shortly after moving to the area, Pilia entered the Maryland Women’s Business Center Business Plan Competition. She won fourth place, behind already established businesses, and her commercial for a side competition, “Pick the Pitch,” won by a landslide. These wins brought awareness to her dream and helped her build a network of people who would help her bring her birth center to life.
The Frederick Birth Center opened its doors on May 31, 2018, and delivered its first baby on June 21 of the same year. It is currently the only birth center within hundreds of miles, so Pilia and her team often work with families from Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., and Delaware in addition to Maryland residents.
Due to COVID-19, the Frederick Birth Center has nearly tripled the number of clients they serve on an average month, and their bi-weekly online tours see between 10-15 families for each event.
“There has definitely been an increased interest in alternative birth methods since the pandemic,” Pilia says. “However, we are still screening prospective families to make sure that our birth center is the right fit for them and not just a fallback option.”
On top of online tours, the birth center also offers classes for clients on labor and birth, postpartum planning, early pregnancy, breastfeeding and more to make sure that their clients are confident and prepared when the baby arrives.
Pilia says that many changes have been made within the center over the past year, but that those changes have helped her realize the bigger picture of the industry.
“This is a fluid business that is constantly growing and adapting to keep up with the times,” Pilia says. “It’s never dull, and there is always more to learn. This job is also always pushing me to do what is right for my community, patients, and staff. At the end of the day, I feel that my career is making me a better person. I can’t imagine investing this much into any other field.”
Thank you, Mychal, for all of the great work you are doing to promote midwifery in an underserved community. We hope that your model of care and respect will continue to spread throughout the country.
To learn more about FNU’s nurse-midwifery program, click here.