Midwifery became her mission
by June Winters
Feb 13, 2014 | 2792 views |  0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joyce Weichmann pictured during her days providing midwifery services for women in areas where hospitals were scarce and so were doctors.
Joyce Weichmann pictured during her days providing midwifery services for women in areas where hospitals were scarce and so were doctors.
One of Weichmann’s current pursuits is volunteering for the Coosa Valley Medical Center’s Hospital Auxiliary.
One of Weichmann’s current pursuits is volunteering for the Coosa Valley Medical Center’s Hospital Auxiliary.
Joyce Weichmann (weekman) of Sylacauga chose a career in midwifery, and she will be quick to tell you how rewarding it was over the years. In fact, Weichmann was in the ninth grade of high school when she decided what she wanted to do with her life, which ultimately led her to her chosen profession.

A native of Los Angeles, Calif., and a student at Westchester High School, she wrote a paper saying she wanted to be a missionary.

The minister at her church read the paper, and told her the best way for her to become a totally committed missionary was to study nursing because of the great need for nurses in the mission field. Joyce had a friend who wanted to be a nurse, and when the two finished high school, they enrolled in nearby San Jose State College for their first two years of study.

The friends finished their two years of pre-nursing at the state college, and then transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for the two-and-a-half years it would take to get their bachelor’s degrees of science in nursing.

Weichmann had already decided she wanted to work in obstetrics, and it was during this time of training that she just happened to pick up a brochure on Frontier Nursing Services (FNS).

It told about midwifery coming to the United States in 1925 from England. The brochure told about the generosity of a wealthy woman named Mary Breckenridge who lived in Kentucky who had a strong desire to help mothers and babies who lived far in Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains. She opened an office in Wendover, Ky., near a hospital in Hyden, Ky., for people.

“When I read that brochure, I knew that was where I wanted to be and where I wanted to go,” Weichmann said.

Back at home, she said her family encouraged her to go on to the Kentucky mountains and see if that was what she really wanted to do. S

he went for a 10-day trial and the night before the 10 days was up, she delivered a baby. “That just set me on fire,” she said.

Weichmann returned to Los Angeles and put all she had into the effort to obtain her master’s degree in obstetrics and gynecology. She said even the nursing administrator tried to discourage her from midwifery, “but my mind was made up,” she said.

Following graduation in 1966, Weichmann went to Kentucky, and moved into living quarters for nurses located beside the hospital in Hyden.

She worked six months, taking care of families, giving immunizations and other treatments, all under the instructions of doctors at the hospital.

In 1967, she entered the Nurse Midwife program. A requirement for finishing this program was performing 20 deliveries. Weichmann met all of her graduation obligations, and was finally on her way.

She worked for Frontier Nursing Services for the next year as relief for nursing midwives. During that time she got to perform two home deliveries.

She lived at Mordi Cottages and remembers the huge brick fireplace in their cottage. “There was a brick in that fireplace from the hospital in London where Florence Nightingale worked,” she said

Following her stay in Kentucky, Weichmann went to New York for her nursing internship, and for six months, she studied and worked at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn.

Following her internship, Weichmann moved to Jackson, Miss., and joined the clinical faculty at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

She left the university in 1973 and started a midwife practice with another midwife. Also during this time, she studied at the University of Mississippi, and received her master’s degree in nursing.

In 1985, the midwifery education program closed, and Weichmann worked for a while in the Hattiesburg, Miss., hospital in labor and delivery. She moved to Sylacauga in 1988 and joined the practice of Dr. Wendt. She also did some relief work and teaching at Sylacauga School of Nursing. She spent some time in Anniston on the staff of Drs. Daniels and Stewart during this time.

The career that had begun in 1967 ended in 2002.

Weichmann retired after delivering hundreds of babies and teaching for those 35 years.

She said she stays busy now, filling her days working in the flowers that surround her home on Norton Avenue. She’s a Master Gardner, and an active member of Sylacauga’s Town and Country Garden Club. Weichmann is state chairwoman of The Garden Clubs of Alabama’s Ways and Means Committee. She works one day a week in the gift shop at Coosa Valley Medical Center as a member of the hospital’s auxiliary, and enjoys membership in the Birmingham Fern Society.

She is an active member of Sylacauga’s First Presbyterian Church, where she works faithfully in the Presbyterian Women’s Committee, and sings in the church choir.