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Hidden Gems: Meet Jodi Watson of Santa Paula Midwives

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jodi Watson.

Hi Jodi, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I am a native of Jamaica and migrated to Florida at the age of 5 with my mom and sister. I grew up in church where I met my best-friend, now spouse, a the age of 9. My husband, my mom, and my sister are the biggest supporters in my life and career story. At a very tender age, I had a calling to be in healthcare, specifically women’s health. I observed the women in my family, the matriarchs, nurture and take care of everyone and in many cases denied and delayed their goals, needs, and desires. I knew I wanted to at least be a resource to them, especially concerning their health because I wanted them to be around for as long as possible. So, I decided the best way to do that was to be a physician. Halfway through my undergrad studies, I met a Midwife and Women’s Health Practitioner and was immediately intrigued and convinced this was the path I needed to take and the work I needed to get into.

Fortunately, I was already on that path, so it was easy to pivot towards nursing rather than medicine. I changed my major, graduated with a nursing degree and shortly after moved to California to practice. My husband’s work in the Navy brought us here. Shortly into my career as a nurse, I felt that “itch” to go back and continue the pursuit to Women’s Health and so I did. I completed my master’s degree at Georgetown University and shortly after became certified as a Midwife and Women’s Health NP.

From there, I worked at a Navy Hospital in San Diego for 2.5 years before moving back to Ventura. I met an amazing Midwife virtually in the height of the pandemic who told me about a vision to make a in-hospital birth center space at a small boutique hospital on a hill in Santa Paula, it sounded like an absolute dream. I drove up the coast to Ventura to see for myself, when I got to the top of the hill there was a woman running away from the hospital in a hospital gown, police chasing her and I thought at that point, I needed to run. I’m glad I didn’t. I am now almost two years into growing a Nurse-Midwifery Service at Santa Paula Hospital. We hold space for individuals who want to have low intervention birth but may need to or desire to be in the hospital setting. I am also a part of non-profit work through an organization called Secure Beginnings, which offers tremendous resources and services for families in the Ojai area.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not always been smooth. However one thing is for sure, there is a powerful divine “hand” guiding me along the way. Some of the struggles have been balancing family and work. I am a new mom and getting to that point has been a struggle for me, even as I have been in the background supporting moms-to-be. Another struggle has been being a military spouse and having to endure long periods of separation from my partner, all while holding on to goals and responsibilities, pursuing education, career, and motherhood.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Santa Paula Midwives is a 24-hour Midwife call service based out of Santa Paula Hospital. We are a part of an amazing physician group called Ventura County Women’s Health Specialist. In addition to prenatal care and “catching” babies, we offer free prenatal education and workshops through our service for the community. This service was birthed out of a community’s mission to keep the obstetrical services at this hospital open. As partners in that mission, we give back by offering these classes to the community free of charge so that the hospital continues to get the exposure that it needs and the community gets the prenatal and birthing care and information it needs. What’s unique about this place, Santa Paula Hospital, and the Midwife Service is that we can create an in-hospital birth center experience for those who are low risk and uncomplicated, for those who may not be able to afford out of hospital birth support or may desire to be in the hospital space without all the medical interventions. This is important work, especially we look at the outcomes of maternal morbidity and mortality in the US. What you should know is that despite spending so much money on our healthcare tech and systems, we do not have great outcomes, especially for black women. Midwives and our approach to pregnancy has shown in research to improve those outcomes.

In addition to pregnancy care, we offer well-woman care and family planning. What we want everyone in the area and surrounding areas to know is that Midwives are also in the hospital and we are ready to support and advocate for individuals. Come and check out our facility, learn more about your options for pregnancy care, and check out our website at santapaulamidwives.com.

What was your favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory is growing up in church. Imagine an exclusive club of immigrant families mostly from the Caribbean. We didn’t have much as individuals, but we grew up having everything together, learning and growing. I didn’t realize for a long time that I was poor because these people, these surrogate families took care of me as their own. It was a place where I was nurtured and felt like I belonged. I know that is not the experience of some maybe many, in the church, but it was absolutely mine and I’m grateful also to have met my husband in the process.

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