Mother, daughters witness ‘miracle’ of motherhood first-hand with similar career choices

Published 3:00 pm Saturday, May 11, 2024

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NATCHEZ — While Mother’s Day only comes around once a year, sister neonatal nurses at Merit Health Natchez said they get to witness the miracle of motherhood every day.

They also get to work closely with their own mother in a similar specialty, though neither of them had planned it.

Chandler Brantley and Annie Russ both assist with newborn care at Merit Health Natchez.

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They are first to care for infants in their youngest and most vulnerable state, right after delivery, by washing them, checking their vital signs and making sure that they are healthy and well enough to go home.

They often call on the baby’s doctor — in many cases their own mother Dr. Jennifer Russ — to treat the child for any early conditions they may have.

For Jennifer Russ, who has been practicing pediatrics in Natchez for just under 25 years, there was never a question of what her career would be, she said. Jennifer is a native of Alexandria and settled into her husband Kurt’s hometown of Natchez after completing her residency in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“My dad always said I came home one day in second grade and told him I wanted to be a baby doctor. I’ve always loved babies and kids. I started babysitting at 10 years old. This is all I’ve ever wanted to do,” she said.

Brantley said she wanted to become a physician, “But looking back on it, I would not have changed anything now that I am a nurse.”

After completing her Bachelor’s Degree, she attended an accelerated nursing school program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. She has now been practicing at Merit Health Natchez for three years.

Her sister Annie said she’d originally wanted to be a veterinarian, but found that being a nurse also fit her best. Annie graduated last December from Jones College in Ellisville and has been working at Merit Health since February.

“I’ve always loved babies and children and this is the only area of nursing that I could ever see myself in,” Annie said. “All births are miracles, and I think a lot of people start to take that for granted.”

Brantley added she appreciates the miracle of motherhood even more so since becoming a mother herself. Her son Wayde is two and one-half years old, she said.

“I’ve always sympathized with moms who have sick infants just because it’s hard to leave your baby in the care of someone else … But as a mom, I’ve learned on both sides of the spectrum,” she said. “Of the three years I’ve been here I’ve been a mother for two. It’s shifted my perspective for my patient care in that I know what it feels like.”

Jennifer said while she would be proud of her daughters regardless of the career they chose, its “neat” to work with her daughters in her own profession.

“Annie used to get excited and ask me if I was on-call each weekend and if I’d said yes she wanted to make rounds with me, just so she could see the babies. It’s really neat to have her here now. Chandler same way. They’ve just always loved kids and started babysitting when they were young, too. It’s neat to have them doing the same thing I do.”

In their spare time, the family enjoys traveling together, shopping together, going hunting, playing outdoors and being in each other’s company, they said.

Jennifer said she has the benefit of having not only her daughters but her only grandchild close enough to see often, sometimes every day, “I don’t know what people do when they don’t have their family nearby.”

And it’s also good to have a sister you can trust working beside you, said Brantley.

“We may not agree on everything and bicker about some things but at the end of the day we always put our heads together to give the best care to our patients.”

Annie said she and Brantley both owe a big part of who they are to their mom.

“We both owe our careers to her,” she said. “I can’t say we wouldn’t have wound up here but her influence definitely was a big part of why we chose where we are. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”