© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
NPR's Next Gen Radio is a five-day, digital journalism and audio training project hosted at KCUR. Participants are paired with a professional journalist as a mentor, and learn how to report and produce a non-narrated audio piece and multimedia story.

Meet the Kansas City midwife who aims to make birth 'empowering for the whole family'

Clarisa Evans is a midwife and new gardener who supports families through at-home births using a holistic approach. Evans uses herbal remedies and encourages familial involvement to help families feel safe during one of the most transformational moments of their lives.
Illustration by Lauren Ibañez
Next Gen Radio
Clarisa Evans is a midwife and new gardener who supports families through at-home births using a holistic approach. Evans uses herbal remedies and encourages familial involvement to help families feel safe during one of the most transformational moments of their lives.

Midwife Clarisa Evans started her practice to empower all members of an expecting family from pregnancy through postpartum. While carrying on the legacy of her great grandmother, Evans has become part of a community that reimagines pregnancy and birth outside of hospitals and inside homes.

The Greene family is welcomed into Clarisa Evans’ cozy at-home examination room. A plate of strawberries and blueberries and a pitcher of water waits for the expecting parents on a small table situated between their two chairs. Behind them sits four jars of herbal tea blends labeled with their various uses: “iron support,” “calm tea blend,” “pregnancy tea blend,” and “postpartum tea blend.”

Two of the Greene kids are there, too, and find their way to the living room to play cars with the Evans kids and watch TV. Clarisa’s husband Anthony offers the adults espresso as everyone settles in for the appointment.

The Greene family is expecting to give birth at their own home. Clarisa Evan’s practice, Out of Eden Midwifery, aims to support them through that process.

Clarisa Evans, dressed in scrubs, places a small device on a pregnant woman’s stomach while lying on an examination table.
Lauren Winston
Next Gen Radio
Clarisa Evans demonstrates in her home examination room how to listen to a baby’s heart tones on her expecting client on April 1, 2024.

Evans moved from her home in California to Lee’s Summit, Missouri, so that she could be closer to her parents, who came to Missouri for ministry. Growing up, Evans heard stories of how her great grandmother supported her own community through midwifery and herbal remedies.

Beginning her journey as a gardener, she aims to make herbs more accessible to her clients by growing them in her backyard, starting with alfalfa, nettle, and passion flower.

A black-and-white photo of Clarisa Evans’ great-grandmother, dressed in white, smiling and posing in front of greenery.
Clarisa Evans and Shirley Johnson
Loatha Benton, Clarisa Evans’ great-grandmother, was a midwife in the Northern California area. Evans uses the knowledge passed down from Benton in her own midwifery practice.

As a Black woman, Evans highlights the importance of addressing being represented in a predominantly white profession, especially since Black and Brown women experience the highest maternal mortality rates in the United States. Studies show that Black women are at least three times more likely to die due to a pregnancy-related cause when compared to white women. Evans aims to support her clients from prenatal to postpartum to ensure that the mother and child are not only surviving, but thriving.

Continuing her great grandmother’s legacy, Evans educates the whole family on how they can be involved in the birthing process, empowering mothers and encouraging families to provide hands-on emotional support.

“We see amazing birth outcomes when we know that mom is supported … (birth can be) very empowering for the whole family.”

Dedicating a significant amount of time getting to know clients is a key part of Evans’ practice. Seated comfortably in a semi-circle in the Evans’ home, the Greene family can celebrate their most recent work accomplishments, share movie recommendations, and marvel in the excitement of welcoming a new member into the family.

“It's different than a traditional (OB/GYN appointment),” Evans says. “Those appointments are like five to 10 minutes. Our appointments are 45 minutes to an hour and we talk about any and everything.”

To Evans, home is a sacred place and she aims to open her own home up to those who are opening up their homes to her.

Evans encourages clients to do their own research and reflection in order to determine if they want to have a home birth. Her advocacy for home birth is rooted in her personal experience through the birth of her son where she felt like she was not being heard in the hospital, leading to medical complications of preeclampsia, an emergency C-section, and risked stroke.

“I never wanted another mom to feel the way I felt.”

Through her holistic midwife practice, Evans is able to prioritize mothers listening to their bodies and consider alternatives to prescribing medicines through the use of herbal supplements.

“We make sure that they have everything in their birth kit. We bring their pool if they want to have a water birth. Family members (receive a) rundown of what the birth is going to look like, what happens if it's an emergency, (and if) we need to transfer (to a hospital) ... For us, it's really important that (people birthing are) trusting their body … We're letting you be up and move around and whatever your body is telling you, (we) want to do.”

Evans favors home births, but understands that for some scenarios home births may not be the best option for a family. If in the hospital or at other birthing locations, she encourages those birthing to know how to advocate for themselves.

Doula Rochelle Hughes and Clarisa Evans are seen talking and smiling while seated next to smiling parents.
Lauren Winston
Next Gen Radio
Doula Rochelle Hughes, left, speaks with the Greene Family, right, at their check-in appointment with Clarisa Evans. The two health care professionals work as a team; Hughes hones in on emotional and informational support while Evans conducts medical examinations.

“I feel like home is your safest place. It's very sacred, so, we've seen just beautiful birth outcomes being able to watch these families birth in a place that isn't foreign to them,” Evans notes. “I would tell (mothers) to do their research, explore all of their options and see what's best for their family.”

Home is the only place where Evans says she can imagine doing her work. With the support of her husband and kids, in a space where she can be her most authentic self, she carries on the legacy of her great grandmother through tradition and hope for new mothers.

This story was originally created as part of the NPR Next Generation Radio project.

Lauren Winston is a participant in the 2024 Next Gen Radio program at KCUR.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.