Tracey Moore is a midwife, and so much more.
With kind eyes and a mother’s touch, Tracey catches babies around the western and central regions of Kentucky. She is on call 24/7, 52 weeks a year. She’s a home birth midwife, one of few in the state. Tracey helps women of all kinds, she wants each and every woman to feel respected and loved through one of the most sacred moments of their life.
“Too many women are run through the birth machine," Tracey said.
Tracey travels far and wide to take care of clients around this side of the bluegrass state, Amish and English patients alike. Her 2005 Chevrolet Suburban is packed and ready to go for anything, at any moment. A birth pool; bags stuffed with fetoscope and doppler, iron and urine testing strips; a whole set of drawers filled with odds and ends and important equipment takes up the furthest row.
She is ready to go early in the morning, late at night, immediately following her son’s wedding, during her nightly devotions, on holidays or date nights, Tracey goes to catch babies and expand families. Her phone is an extension of her arm and her car is equal parts office and storage unit. Family is her whole life, her own and others.
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."
Tracey 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. Tracey 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 then 28 grandchildren. At first, the couple only wanted a few children, but they enjoyed having kids and having them around and so they continued. After the first five were born, they decided to adopt five more children, all related and all needing a home together. Four children came first, and then their niece followed later.
When Tracey was a child, she spent time in a group home. She remembers watching kids waiting, day in and day out, to be adopted and go to a loving home, and sometimes, that time never came. This inspired her to adopt the hard to place kids: the kids that are older or in a big group of siblings.
With ten kids in tow, the family moved to Summer Shade, Ky. to the 54 acre farm where they live now.
When they moved to the property in the late 1990s, there were two tobacco barns on the property and they moved right in. The only electricity they had ran their computer and refrigerator. The family hand pumped their own water and utilized the internet to figure out how to make a barn into a home. Over the years, they have worked on their barn and transformed it from a “fall-through-the-floor kind of tobacco barn” into a home that can house up to a family of twelve, which is the highest number of family that have been living together at one time.
After they moved into the barn, they got pregnant again. Miriam, their eleventh child and first Kentucky child, was born in their barn home in rural Metcalfe county.
“We hunted and hunted and hunted, and we found a home birth midwife,” Tracey said. “We had Miriam here at home, and it was amazing. My house wasn’t finished, and nothing was perfect but it was amazing. My baby was born in the same bedroom she was conceived in, she literally lived here all her life-- was born here and lived here.”
Living in Summer Shade is Tracey and David’s dream come true. They both grew up outside of Los Angeles and had visions of living in the country on a farm and building a family.
“It’s the life that Tracey and I always dreamed of having,” David said.
Moore watches as a group of her children and grandchildren venture out to get some fresh air on the farm on Thanksgiving day. In the rolling hills of rural Kentucky, surrounded by her family, is where Tracey feels most at home.
When their third Kentucky baby came, their midwife was on sabbatical and there wasn’t another midwife within a two hour radius. They decided to have an unattended birth, something Tracey would never recommend, and it was then that Tracey was able to begin buying midwifery equipment with the money they didn’t spend on a midwife.
From then on, Tracey found a midwife based two hours away who served a community at the halfway point. She took Tracey in as a student, and Tracey was able to start training as a midwife. She trained over the years, and eventually got her CPM after practicing for a while. She has been building her practice, Joyful Beginnings, since then, but Tracey has been interested in midwifery for much longer.
She first became fascinated with it when she was 16 and pregnant with her first child. She transferred care to a midwife after talking with a worker at a children’s consignment store she frequented throughout her first pregnancy. Tracey read all of the books for mothers from her midwife, and she then began reading the books meant for midwives. Her passion for midwifery has only grown over the years.
Tracey says she has different reasons for why she does midwifery on different days.
“Which day?” Tracey asked. “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 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."
One day, not long after her eleventh child was born, Tracey and a friend went up the road to console a neighbor. Mrs. Yoder had recently lost a baby so Tracey and her friend, Tina, went to visit her. When they arrived, Tracey let Mrs. Yoder hold her five week old baby, who would’ve been about the same age as hers, had it survived. Mrs. Yoder held the baby for a long time, wetting the baby's head with tears.
Tracey asked what happened. Mrs. Yoder told her that she hadn’t been feeling well the week they lost the baby, she’d had a headache and was nauseated, but decided not to head into town to see the doctor for several reasons. She had an appointment scheduled for the next week, the buggy ride would’ve been difficult and long for a sick pregnant mom and it costs extra to get another appointment. During the night, she woke up hemorrhaging. Mrs. Yoder had developed preeclampsia, and gone into full blown toxemia. Her blood pressure had gotten astronomically high and she had an abrupted placenta.
Her baby died before they even made it to the hospital.
She almost died.
Mrs. Yoder hemorrhaged so badly she couldn’t see for three days from blood loss.
“If she had had a midwife that she could have called,” Tracey said. “Her husband could have called and said ‘Hey Tracey, she isn’t feeling well.’ If he could’ve called and told me she wasn’t feeling well, I would’ve known in minutes what was wrong. I would’ve come out and seen her, I could’ve checked her blood pressure, her reflexes, I would’ve talked to her about what was going on.”
But there was no home birth midwife available to Mrs. Yoder. Because she didn’t go to town because of the money and she was sick and it was more work, her baby died and she nearly did.
Tracey sat in Mrs. Yoder’s living room, listening to her tell the story and explain what happened and all she could do was think and pray.
“I was just sitting there thinking if they’d had someone who could come out,” Tracey said. “I prayed and I asked God, ‘please let me be someone who could come out. I want to be a midwife someday, let me serve people like this. Let me be able to reach out to families like this.’”
Tracey has since delivered dozens of babies from Mrs. Yoder’s family line.
“My neighbors in their 80s talk about their births,” Tracey said. “That was 60, 65 years ago. 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.”
Tracey and her husband built an office for her a few yards from their house for Tracey to work out of. She sees some patients who are willing and able to make the drive to her home in Summer Shade. Dozens of prints of newborn feet line her ceiling. Tracey has delivered more than 800 babies over her career, and each of their little feet hang in the ceiling of her office.