As Thrive’s midwifery practice grows, we find our selves in the fortunate position of bringing on additional staff midwives (and if you’ve been following our blogs, you’ll know about our new apprentice as well). This spring, we will be joined by the lovely Melissa Wiseman. You know when you meet someone and your knee jerk reaction is “Yes! I want this person in my life!”, well, that’s how we felt upon meeting Melissa. Our center coordinator Kelly was able to ask Melissa a few questions about her journey into midwifery and her vision for moving forward. Hope you enjoy her answers as much as we did!
Kelly: Tell me about the moment you knew you were going to be a midwife?
Melissa: It wasn’t a moment, rather an evolution through experiences that led me to knowing I would be a midwife. The path to becoming a midwife is long, at times a bit bumpy and full of turns you weren’t necessarily expecting. I learned to take it slow, be patient with the journey and work very hard.
I discovered midwifery when I was completing my undergraduate work in women and gender studies. I became a doula to low income, teen and single mamas, it was through working with these women that I realized the lack of care that resided in much of our maternity health care system. After many conversations with a dear friend, midwife and mentor of mine I understood how the midwifery model of care is essential component in the health and future of childbearing families. I knew I wanted to be the change in the system and believed that all families, regardless of demographic, ought to have access to informed, individualized and respectful care through their childbearing years.
I took time to choose which educational route was the right fit for me and I ultimately decided I would head to Portland, OR to attend Birthingway College of Midwifery. My time there was challenging and inspiring. I saw my life around midwifery changing, my priorities changing to put everything I had into this work. My refuge through the hard times was in working with clients during my apprenticeships, who proved to me time and time again that the work we do as midwives is incredibly important. I felt my soul fill in serving these women and their families and I knew beyond a doubt this is what I was meant to be doing.
Kelly: What do you think makes a good midwife and who are the people you have looked up to?
Melissa: I certainly believe that there is a midwife for every woman and that a good midwife is defined by her clients. At the core of a good midwife is the ability to meet her clients where they are, provide affirming care and hold space for them to progress through pregnancy, birth and postpartum as they choose. A good midwife respects the knowledge and wisdom her client has about her own body while fostering education and empowerment throughout her care. I also think it is especially important that we as midwives to be active participants in the development of the midwifery profession through educating new midwives, working in policy and legislation or a leaders in our community.
I am grateful to say that there are many people I look up to. It would take all evening to tell you about who they are and why I look up to them, but certainly the two who top the charts are my parents. They have weathered every storm with me, provided level-headed guidance, wisdom and encouragement, which,yes, makes them great parents but as individuals they inspire me. Through my life they modeled compassion and empathy, taught me patience and consideration and how to be selfless without loosing my sense of self or purpose. I am a lucky lady that they are my parents, if they weren’t they are two people I would choose to have in my life.
Kelly: If you could change one thing about maternity care in the U.S. what would it be?
Melissa: Just one thing? I can’t pick just one thing. Ok, if I had to pick one I would
restructure how we help women initiate and navigate care as they become pregnant with education and choice about each of their options Bear with me… A woman becomes pregnant and she contacts her insurance company or primary care provider, says “I’m pregnant! Now what?” and they say “your local midwives are so-and-so, here is her phone number. Make an appointment and she will help you get started”. Midwives would be the first point of contact, we would educate them about their options for care based on their health history and current conditions. Our insurance companies and government-funded health care would realize the economic and public health benefit of initiating care with a midwife and for women with low-risk pregnancies to continue receiving care with a midwife though pregnancy, birth and postpartum. I’m dreaming here, but I believe this is possible.
Kelly: Other than midwifery, which skills are you planning on bringing to Thrive Birth Center?
Melissa: Well, I am over the moon about being a midwife at Thrive our principals and philosophy as care providers couldn’t be in better alignment! I am also excited to bring along a little something extra in the way of fertility education, assistance and alternative conception options. I am especially proud to work with our clients who are experiencing need for extra care around fertility and conception through the intimate, joyful and sometimes challenging process of growing their families. I hope to enhance options to LGBTQ families, single parents, “older” parents, and transgender parents desiring natural fertility enhancement and alternative conception options.
Kelly: When you’re not catching babies, what are you doing? Tell us something that might surprise us!
Melissa: My partner and I just moved down from Portland, OR to pursue our dreams. He’s a big time biochemistry nerd and I’m a tireless birth geek. We cast our nets wide and just so happened to land in the same place. It couldn’t have worked out better. So since I’m pretty new to town I’m likely out hiking through redwoods, soaking up some sun on the beach, elbow-deep in dirt working in my garden or gallivanting around the farmers market and local shops.