Many midwives advocate for more education about birth so that communities and families can benefit from better care, but CPM-TN Rebekah Mustaleski has taken it upon herself to ensure families receive care by teaching other midwives. Rebekah currently provides care for families in Knoxville, Tennessee at Roots and Wings Midwifery. She works with CPM Libby Colsen and Student Midwife Abby Ochs to provide family with quality care at their birth center and at families’ homes.
Rebekah didn’t always plan to pass along her practices to other aspiring midwives. She says part of what prompted her to continue teaching student midwives is that she had a chance to try it while working with Libby and developed a greater confidence in her teaching ability. She says that teaching others how to practice feels very similar to being a midwife for mothers– “in a lot of ways it feels very much like being a midwife.”
One of the things I really love about being a midwife is encouraging parents and families to be the person that they already were with this new life. “When it’s your first pregnancy and your first baby, there’s a lot of unknowns, and you’re not quite sure what you’re getting into. I really love helping parents realize that they have it within themselves to be what their family needs them to be,” she says.
Rebekah compares parenting to pregnancy and birth and explains that part of the benefit of having the support of a midwife is that they can help mothers practice building confidence in their ability to birth. “Yes, birth can be unpredictable but that you have it within yourself to find what you need to get to the other side and I think parenting overall is very much like that,” she says.
“I felt like that experience with Libby was kind of an extension of that,” she says. “I very much liked that which helped me realize that ‘Maybe I can teach someone from the beginning and help them learn new things.’”
A Need for More Midwives
Rebekah explains that there is currently a shortage of midwives and communities can benefit from access to more midwives, especially while more families explore home birth. “I think if I’m going to sit out there saying ‘There need to be more midwives, then I should be a part of the solution to making that happen,” she says.
Rebekah says that an increase in requests for midwifery services isn’t that only reason communities need more midwives. She also points to maternal outcomes during birth in the United States isn’t up to the standard mother’s deserve. “Especially in the U.S., the maternal mortality and morbidity rate is horrible,” she says. “The research shows that midwifery care makes a difference.”
Many families and midwives explain that part of the reason midwives can help provide better outcomes for mothers and babies is through the personal relationship they develop with families. “When you get to know somebody on an individual basis and you have the time to spend with them, that you can make a difference in the outcomes for that mom and that baby,” she says. “If we want to see fewer moms during childbirth, or related complications and if we want better outcomes for babies, then we need more midwives.”
“Doctors are wonderful and I’m not trying to talk down on doctors,” she says. “They definitely have skills that I don’t have and they have knowledge that I don’t have and I’m really thankful that they’re there when pregnancy deviates from the norm, but the truth is pregnancy is a normal thing for the body to do,” she says. “There’s nothing sick about a pregnant woman and so they don’t always need a doctor. That’s what midwives are there for.”
Education for Families and Communities
When it comes to increasing access to midwifery care and alternative birth options, education also plays a highly impactful role. As communities become more aware of the benefits of midwifery care and midwives have more effective relationships with doctors, more families can take advantage of these helpful services. “Some people have preconceived notions of what home birth is and educating families in the community about what home birth looks like can be a challenge,” she says.
She explains that part of the challenge of educating families about their options is that midwives need the opportunity to meet with families and have real conversations about the role of a midwife and what they do to support families. Rebekah also says that informative videos have effectively helped them introduce home birth and their practice to more families.
As families explore their birthing options and different care providers, most midwives recommend families take the time to find a care provider that they trust and makes them feel supported. “I think it makes an impact on how birth plays out,” Rebekah says. “We had someone call us recently and they didn’t want to have a home birth, they just wanted someone who they could talk to about what was going on and then they felt better.”