Kelly Smedley founded Waypoint Counseling & Maternal Wellness to provide pregnancy and postpartum support and resources to our community
By Elizabeth Kane | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Kelly Smedley is the person you go to when you need help. Her best friend, Emily McClernon, can attest to this.
“People think about how there’s that one person you can call [when you need someone],” Emily says. “Well, she’s that person for so many people. Even as busy as [Kelly] is, [people] know she’s going to answer the phone, she’s going to help [them] find a solution or lend a good ear to listen.”
Kelly, a psychiatric-mental health clinical nurse specialist, earned her bachelor’s in nursing from the University of Delaware and master’s in nursing from the University of Pittsburgh. She’s also a former clinical director at the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health, and former research coordinator within the Department of Psychiatry at UNC-Chapel Hill. Before opening Waypoint Counseling & Maternal Wellness in 2020, Kelly worked as an independent contractor with Bull City Counseling, where she “started seeing more and more pregnant and postpartum [parents],” she says. “… I kind of became known in the area, as that was my specialty.”
Kelly furthered her expertise and decided to become perinatal mental health certified. In fact, she says she was “one of the first providers in the country to get that certification.” She says she saw there was a real need for the work she was doing and decided it was time to start her own business. “[I thought], ‘I can hire other quality providers and provide more care to more women.’” Kelly says. “Because there’s only one of me, and I needed more of me – more people.”
Kelly’s day is normally a full one. She starts off with a workout at Burn Boot Camp in south Durham. “I’m usually there at 6 a.m.,” Kelly says. “That’s my sanity saver!” After some exercise, she gets her kids Ben, 14, Leah, 11, and Anna, 7, off to Immaculata Catholic School (her oldest, Jake, 16, attends Cardinal Gibbons High School), then heads into the office. During the day, the business owner sees clients of her own, talks and networks with providers, handles any issues that may come up with her clients and deals with insurance companies. “We have an amazing team,” Kelly says, noting that her staff of licensed counselors and social workers, nurse practitioners and an office manager has grown from “one person (me) to 11 in just over two years, … [and] I’ve hired two more nurse practitioners who will be providing medication management and therapy services – they will start within the next few months.”
Outside of work, Kelly enjoys volunteering, exercising and spending time with the people she loves. “I like to go out to dinner with my husband, [Jimmy Smedley],” she says. “We like Vin Rouge, Town Hall Burger & Beer, Bocci Trattoria & Pizzeria, Mothers & Sons Trattoria and trying different places downtown. I go out for dinner, or drinks, with my girlfriends. … [My husband and I] do movie nights at home with the kids. I like to go for run[s] on the American Tobacco Trail.” Kelly is a middle school cross-country coach at Immaculata and an assistant den leader for Cub Scout Pack 424.
Kelly says she wants to be there for women in a way some health providers weren’t necessarily there for her as a new mother. “Birth moms don’t need to suffer,” she says. “… I never received help, and I would have had a much better postpartum experience had I been able to recognize [or] someone would have recognized I was struggling. [New mothers] sometimes don’t know what’s normal and what’s not, and it can be helpful to have someone talk to you through [this new period of life]. It’s a huge adjustment.” Another part of Kelly’s mission is to provide support for mothers as they navigate the grief that can come with the loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss, and she leads a pregnancy and infant loss support group for Postpartum Support International once a month.
“People trust us [at Waypoint], and they’re very vulnerable with us,” Kelly says. “It’s really an honor to be able to walk with someone and help them feel better about themselves. … I love what I do.”