Twenty years after she founded the midwifery practice at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and more than 40 years after beginning her nursing career there, Cathy Chase has retired from bringing Island babies into the world.

“My first summer job as a nurse was in 1976,” Ms. Chase told the Gazette last week at her home in Oak Bluffs. Her last day of work was Feb. 28.

“It’s been a long relationship with the hospital here. I’ve seen it go through many changes, that’s for sure,” she said with a laugh.

Ms. Chase has gone through changes of her own since that first summer job. A lifelong seasonal resident whose family still owns the Camp Ground cottage her great-grandfather bought more than a century ago, she grew up in Indiana — a “crazy commute” to and from Martha’s Vineyard, she recalled.

Ms. Chase learned to communicate with Portuguese-speaking parents, who called her doutor. — Jeanna Shepard

“Every year we drove a thousand miles to get here. I grew up saying ‘I will live on the Vineyard some day,’” Ms. Chase said. “I definitely wanted to be here.”

After graduating from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., Ms. Chase made good on her childhood ambition by moving to the Vineyard year-round in the late 1970s, nursing at the hospital. But before long, she had relocated to Maine to be with the man who would become her husband, Tom Chase, an Islander born and raised who had gone north for college.

“We knew each other as teenagers and saw each other again in our late 20s,” Ms. Chase said. The couple married in 1982 and soon returned to the Vineyard.

“His roots went right back into the ground and we’ve stayed here since then,” she said.

When a health survey of Island women in the early 1990s identified a strong demand for midwifery services, Ms. Chase pressed the hospital to begin a practice.

“She’s the reason the program exists,” said James (Jay) Ferriter, the hospital’s director of physician services.

“I wanted to go on to be a midwife and I had presented the concept to the hospital leadership, and they said ‘Go for it,’” Ms. Chase recalled.

The next step was more schooling atop her bachelor’s degree from Purdue: two years at the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing, now Frontier Nursing University, in Hyden, Ky., to become a certified nurse midwife and then a master’s degree in nursing at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio. She finished in 1997 and was hired in the hospital’s obstetrics and gynecology practice.

“Being a midwife on Martha’s Vineyard was challenging,” she said. “I had to make it happen. I was it, for almost 10 years — 24-seven call. It was exhausting. I had to put my nose to the grindstone.”

After she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 50, Ms. Chase convinced the hospital to hire a second nurse midwife for the practice. Nancy Leport remains on the job along with the hospital’s two OB-GYNs, Drs. Daniel Pesch and Linda Stewart.

The two nurse midwives have alternated nights and weekends on duty for close to a decade. “Babies like to be born at night,” Ms. Chase said. Now it’s Ms. Leport who must answer the call for a midwife at any hour, and she has Ms. Chase’s sympathy.

“Call is the hardest thing about this job,” Ms. Chase said. “It was a pretty intense 10 years trying to have a life and be on call all the time.”

No longer on call means more time to spend with her husband and their pets. — Jeanna Shepard

Ms. Chase’s retirement leaves the hospital’s maternity department without a Portuguese-speaking midwife. Although she had never formally studied the language, she stretched her college Spanish and learned to communicate with the many Brazilian families who give birth on Martha’s Vineyard.

“My language is more a Portunol, which is a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese, and the Brazilian families understand it fully,” Ms. Chase said. “It’s been a real joy for me to be the one they always ask for.”

Brazilian parents called her “doutor” for doctor, because she worked in the hospital and the Portuguese word for midwife, “parteira,” denotes village elders who assist in home births, Ms. Chase said. “I’m not sitting in someone’s kitchen boiling water.”

Ms. Chase was on desk duty for the last few weeks at work, clearing up paperwork and the kind of office memorabilia that accumulate over 20 years of delivering babies.

The Chases themselves have no children or grandchildren. Ms. Chase was infertile, she said, and chose to focus on midwifery instead of adopting. Becoming a nurse midwife — essentially a nurse practitioner specializing in midwifery — involved a “grueling” gestation, she said.

“It took a lot of endurance and motivation,” she said. “I’m for the most part happy the way it turned out. I certainly mother my animals.”

Strewn with pet toys and bright with flowering plants, the couple’s sunny house was the childhood home of Gus Ben David, a good friend who shares their love for animals. Mr. Chase, who works for The Nature Conservancy as director of conservation strategies for its Massachusetts chapter, is a falconer whose red-tailed hawk, Doc, lives in a roomy mews behind the house.

The Chases also have two dogs and a small menagerie of other beasts and birds. Colby, a purebred Clumber spaniel, sometimes assists Mr. Chase in hawking by flushing out rabbits for Doc to catch. Calvin is an energetic Jack Russell-Chihuahua mix whose bout of small-dog frenzy at arriving guests subsided after Ms. Chase took him onto her lap and stroked him gently as she talked, until he fell asleep.

There are also two elderly cats, an assortment of parrots and canaries, colorful aquarium fish, a koi pond in the back yard and three tortoises, currently wintering in the couple’s basement, who live outside in warmer weather.

Along with spending time with her husband and their pets, Ms. Chase is looking forward to getting more rest and taking part in health-promoting activities such as yoga, tai chi and meditation. Her Parkinson’s symptoms have been manageable for more than a decade and she’s not ruling out some kind of work in retirement, but she’s also in no rush to make plans.

“I’m giving myself some time to find out another whole facet of who I am, and who I never knew I was,” she said.