Meet Our New Midwife Jana Studelksa, CPM

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My midwifery training happened over a period of 12 years, during which I was a La Leche League Leader, then a credentialed doula, a midwifery assistant and finally, an apprentice. I finished my training with a clinical placement in Belize, near the Mexican border, where I worked with World Health Organization nurses and Cuban physicians. In 2008, I started my own practice in Duluth, and was privileged to catch babies lots of Duluth babies, as well as new humans appearing in many small North Shore villages and Iron Range towns. Prior to midwifery, I was a reporter, writer, editor, and author. My degree is in communication, and until I had a baby of my own at home in Ely, thought I would be a writer all my life. Perhaps someday I will write about being a midwife....

I was born in in the Ozarks, where my parents were in love and ran a bar and bowling alley in Branson, Missouri. My maternal family moved into the area in the 1830s, and I can still find no end of cousins and relations in a few towns. My mother and grandmother were very matter of fact about birth: it's a day's work and nothing compared to the wonderful baby you get in the end. So I approached my own births with the same sort of pragmatism. I am so grateful for their wisdom and focus on the baby, as it made me consider labor just a stepping stone to getting a baby. 

When I'm not working, I will be at my cabin, which is close to the BWCA, and about as cabin-y as a cabin can be: no running water or sewer, a few solar-powered lights, and at the end of a long and winding road. In winter, we must snowshoe or ski in, so I'm there much less often. I fill my winters with reading, needlepoint, and eating Thai food with my sister. 

If I could go anywhere, it would be the Caribbean. I love to snorkel and dive, and the water there just makes my body and soul feel good. 

If I could have a super power, it would be to be able to magically clean, cut, and prepare vegetables and fruit. Because of food allergies, I have to eat very carefully. Some days, I feel like I can't face another red pepper. 

I feel like midwifery picked me, rather than the other way around. As young as 16, I was thinking about midwifery. At 18, I wrote a college paper on the history of midwifery. At 22, during my first pregnancy, I found one of the only midwifery practices in the Twin Cities to help me with my first child. Through adulthood, I collected little midwife statues and fetishes. Then I had my second child, and my experience opened my eyes to the politics of birth. At the time, midwives were being pursued my the Minnesota Attorney General's office, and being issued search warrants with cease and desist letters. I worked to help legalize midwifery in the late 1990s. And then people started calling me to come to births with them, or to talk about their birth experiences, or with questions about birth. I just followed where my community led me, and with the support of a fantastic family, was able to train and transition to midwifery over a period of about 12 years. 

Health Foundations is able to offer the Midwifery Model of Care in a birth center setting, where mothers and families can receive individualized care and midwives can receive support and time off. It's a partnership between all of us, and provides such a fantastic alternative for women who want to pursue normal, physiologic birth. I am absurdly proud to be part of an organization that not only provides this kind of care, but is a leader in the field. The favorite part of my job? The huge smiles and tears when a mom or dad reaches down to bring the baby to their chests for the first time. It's never gets old. 

My philosophy on birth is "keep it simple." Our bodies were made for this work. I believe that traditional midwifery, married to the most prudent use of modern technology, is how we can keep birth normal, safe, and satisfying. The childbearing year should be joyful, full of discovery, a foundation for the decades of parenting that are to come; not a trial to endure. Pregnancy and birth are not always simple, of course, but aiming for simple is the wisest place to start. 

Here's the best parenting advice I ever received: "Just add water." Either put the kid in water (bathe), give the kid water (hydrate), or let the baby play with water (best done with mom or dad). And it does, in fact, solve so many problems. (And still works for me as a grown up!)