Three Sisters Midwifery honors birth as one of a family’s most important life experiences. The Three Sisters midwives see birth as a healthy, powerful, and transformative process rather than a medical emergency. Sharing over 70 years of collective experience supporting women in pregnancy, birth, post-partum and newborn care, they have attended hundreds of births from Ashland to Jacksonville and throughout the Rogue Valley. Their clients are healthy and self-empowered women who choose to take responsibility for their pregnancy and birth. I recently spoke with Jae Rowan, Rhione Zeixchel, Micaela Schulten, and Katie Guidotti to discuss the success and opportunity of home birth in Southern Oregon.
Hi ladies, Thank you for choosing to do an interview with the LocalsGuide. Rhione, will you start out by sharing some of the philosophy behind the creation of Three Sisters Midwifery?
A woman giving birth naturally, supported, prepared and unafraid, steps right into a wave of power that is her birthright. We give birth and we EVOLVE into a deeper knowing of who we really are. This is an amazing thing! A precious thing! We don’t have words to describe this. And it is built right into us – our own by design! This is something to be cherished and protected.
The baby’s experience of birth as well as the mother’s, sets a template and an opportunity, for the entire life of the child. Scientists are still discovering how our prenatal, birth and early childhood experiences alter the very nature of our brain.
The moments of birth and immediately after comprise a critical period that fundamentally influences our lifelong well-being. The potential inherent in natural birth is easily lost in the money-driven, fear-speaking maternity industry prevalent in our culture today. (You can read more about this in Jennifer Margulis’ wonderful book The Business of Baby.) Intervention in the form of excessive testing, induction, epidural and c-section has become the norm. At Three Sisters, we are very passionate about protecting and supporting the family to facilitate these early moments of infant bonding.
Natural childbirth at it’s best is undisturbed birth. By this we do not mean unassisted birth. Support should be there for a birthing woman in case help is needed, but to interfere with the natural design and process of birthing invites intervention and risk. We take care to guard that undisturbed quality of labor, birth and postpartum for the best and safest outcomes for mom and baby. Both Michele Odent MD and Sarah Buckley MD have researched and written extensively on the optimal hormonal progression that happens in undisturbed birth. Staying within the design of nature is safer for the mother and for the baby. We know that the key ingredients needed for a birth to remain undisturbed are for the woman to feel SAFE, and PRIVATE. As midwives, we see ourselves as guardians of this process.
I believe that in most cases, home is the best place for a woman to have a baby. There is much truth to the saying, “Birth is safe. Intentervention is risky.” And the first intervention occurs when a woman leaves her home, gets in a car in labor to go somewhere else to give birth.
When we hear women’s stories of natural childbirth, they are awe-inspiring. These are not stories of a medical event, but rather depictions of an incredible culmination of a natural miracle. I myself had an experience of “oneness” during my first labor, and afterward it was as if my eyes were open for the first time.
Jae, the practice serves women in Ashland, Talent and Phoenix as well as all around the valley. Can you please introduce us to the midwives in your practice?
The Three Sisters Midwives are Rhione Zeixchel, Jae Rowan, Micaela Schulten, and Katie Guidotti. The midwives in our practice have trained through traditional apprenticeship, midwifery school and Naturpathic medical school. In January, Kristy Newell joined the practice as our apprentice midwife and has quickly become an integral part of our team.
Our midwifery group is a wonderful mix of wisdom, experience, knowledge, energy and enthusiasm. Our numbers include three licensed midwives and one Naturopathic physician midwife. We span three decades in age and have all had all of our 11 babies at home! We combine our individual strengths and talents to collaborate on the care of our clients and all of the other tasks that go into co-creating our midwifery practice.
Katie, can you please share a little bit of your own background as being both a homebirth client and midwife in Three Sisters Midwifery?
It is such a joy to be a part of the group of midwives who so sweetly supported me through my second pregnancy. When I met with Jae and Rhione for an interview early in my pregnancy, I knew how deeply nourishing the midwifery care would be with Three Sisters midwives. I shared with them my ideal birth experience and my desire to catch my own baby and Rhione told me to, “Visualize that and go for it.” That was really an “ah-ha” moment for me. I thought: “Wow, these women are really listening to me.” I had an incredible birth and I did catch my own baby, which was truly a life-altering experience. Both Jae and Rhione were always so present at every visit I had with them, always validating and listening, never judging.
Our relationship has evolved and now we are working side-by-side. I feel incredibly committed to my work with our clients at Three Sisters. I feel so connected not only to the clients themselves, but also to the quality and depth of their experience in our care as they walk the path of pregnancy, birthing, and motherhood. It wasn’t long ago that I was sitting in the comfy chair with a round belly. I feel I have really come full circle in helping to provide the type of care I was so blessed to receive. My experience of midwifery care is fresh and I carry that with me everyday both in my work with our clients and as I mother my two young boys.
In addition to providing midwifery care, I am happy to offer naturopathic medical care for the whole family. Being a naturopathic physician and midwife allows for optimal continuity of care. Rather than moving onto another medical provider or pediatrician at six weeks postpartum, families can continue to come into the Three Sisters office for pediatric care, women’s health care, and much more.
Micaela can you please talk a little bit about your own path and how you came to choose homebirth as a career.
My path began with the births of my three younger siblings at home with midwives in Missouri. This gave me a deep early trust that birth is normal, and can happen beautifully at home. However, my inspiration to be a midwife myself didn’t come until a trip to India in my early twenties. As soon as the idea struck me, I knew that midwifery was my calling. There was no denying the call. Everything in my life fell into place so I was able to move to Oregon and begin Birthingway College of Midwifery the next spring.
During my training, I was thrilled to birth my own son at home in the water. Being a midwife is more than a career; it is a way of life that brings sacred respect into everyday reality. I am honored to serve women and babies during this transformative time, and further a culture of gentle, empowered birth.
Rhione, you have now personally been involved in midwifery for over 30 years. What inspires you the most when you think of birthing, midwifery and all the children you have helped welcome into the world?
I am inspired by the courage of women. It takes courage to step outside the cultural norm, to claim your birthright and choose what you know is best for yourself and your baby. I see women choose to face their fears, stand up for themselves and for their babies and not just accept routine medical care when they know there is something better.
Jae, can you share a little bit about your own path to midwifery and the values you appreciate most?
My grandmother was a midwife and she birthed all of her 13 children at home. My mother was a fraternal twin, born when my grandmother was 40, with just the assistance of my grandfather. I grew up on these stories and when I became pregnant with my first child I knew that I wanted to birth at home. I fell in love with my midwives and the experience of birthing my son at home. When the opportunity arose a couple of years later to study midwifery I was excited to begin this path. I worked with a midwife in California for almost three years, before moving to Oregon. After a few years of focusing on my family, I began my second apprenticeship, with Rhione in 1993. My path to certification and licensure was a long one, intertwined with three more of my own homebirths and raising my family. I have always really valued family-centered care. It is important to me that both mothers and fathers feel comfortable to ask all of their questions and feel confident and supported in this big life transformation. We love to include siblings in our prenatal visits, watching them grow into big brothers and sisters.
Rhione, you and the midwives from Three Sisters have attented hundreds of births around the Rogue Valley. Do you have a favorite success story that you like to reflect back upon?
Our practice name was Always WomanKind before we became Three Sisters Midwifery, three years ago. Our philosophy of care remains the same. We actually use the words “sacred” and “miracle” in relation to birth because this is what we witness. It is an honor to be part of such a deeply private and personal experience of so many women during childbirth. Each birth is unique, perfect for that woman and family and I would not value one as more “favorite.” However, I can say that I get great satisfaction from working with women who perhaps were told they should be afraid of birth, were told it was dangerous. Perhaps they had a c-section before and were told they could not even birth vaginally.
These women have the courage to start where they are, gather knowledge, face their fears and take the steps to move into trust. These are women who take their power into their own hands and still ask for support when they need it. It is a joy to be with them as they cross that threshold and meet their baby for the first time.
Micaela, there is exciting news for Three Sisters Midwifery with the opening of a new office and educational space in Jacksonville. Can you please tell us more about this?
Yes! Our expansion now includes the entire floor above Gogi’s restaurant in Jacksonville. There is a beautiful classroom and meeting space, two prenatal/treatment rooms and an office/ waiting room. One of our treatment rooms is available for rent to other like-minded practitioners. Available now, massage with Peyta, LMT on Fridays and acupuncture with Ashley of Little A Acupuncture on Saturdays.
Three Sisters will continue to offer HypnoBirthing® the Mongan Method of childbirth education and we are excited to expand our offerings of more classes for pregnant mothers and families including mothers groups, prenatal circles, prenatal and postpartum yoga, breastfeeding, parenting classes, and family-friendly events. Our classroom space is available to rent by the hour, or the event. We hope to see you at our office soon!
Jae, will you speak more about the Three Sisters model of midwifery care and how it is creating success for your clients?
As midwives previously in solo practice, Rhione and I witnessed that a woman’s relationship with her midwife is significant in developing confidence and trust. It was important to us to establish depth of relationship and continuity of care as pillars of the new model.
Each mother/baby and family gets to know her midwives well throughout the many prenatal visits. Two midwives at every visit facilitates the building of trust and confidence in the birth team, as well as offering in-depth, personalized care. This has really helped mothers and families to have successful home births knowing that midwives they know well will be supporting them throughout the birth process. As a midwifery team we know that we always have a rested midwife who is available for the first postpartum visit and to cover the phones or attend to client needs when two are resting from a birth the night before. We are very pleased with the quality of care we are able to provide with this new model and our clients agree!
Katie, what do you find clients are looking for when deciding to have a home birth?
Clients are looking for experienced midwives who can offer safe, supportive, and compassionate care that is catered to their own needs and desires. Women want to be acknowledged as emotional, physical and spiritual beings and supported holistically. Many women desiring a home birth are ready to open themselves to the opportunities for transformation, healing and empowerment inherent in a birth that is supported and guarded as a natural and sacred event. Women are ready to claim their birthright!
Many are also interested in the relaxation, and self-empowerment offered through the practice of HypnoBirthing®, a practice that offers a way to be fully present and deeply surrendered to the power of birth.
Rhione will you please speak about training and state requirements a midwife must hold to practice in Oregon?
In Oregon midwives can choose to be licensed at the state level as direct entry midwives (LDM). This license authorizes midwives to provide comprehensive prenatal, birth and postpartum care in the home or at birth centers for low-risk pregnant women. Licensed direct entry midwives are able to administer certain drugs (anti-hemorrhagics, oxygen, I.V. drip sets, etc.) by law. In order to be licensed in Oregon, midwives receive education outside of the field of nursing through graduation from a midwifery school or self-study and apprenticeship for clinical experience. Additionally, passage of a national qualifying exam grants the Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) credential. Further birth attendance and documentation is needed for Oregon licensure.
Jae will you please walk us through a standard prenatal visit?
We spend 60-75 minutes with each client during a typical prenatal visit. Mothers arrive for the visit and are welcomed by their two midwives. Some moms include their partners and/or their children in these visits, and some moms love having the time with the midwives just to themselves.
We begin each visit by checking in with a mom and finding out how she is feeling today and how she has been since her last visit- on every level of her personal experience. She is invited to ask any questions or concerns that have come up for her. Some of the topics we review together are diet, energy level, sleep, exercise, complaints of pregnancy, relationship or family issues, and prenatal bonding with baby. We always provide information and discuss any education or testing choices that are pertinent to her weeks of pregnancy. We follow up with the basic prenatal visit, which includes blood pressure, pulse, weight, urinalysis, abdominal palpation to assess growth and position of the baby, and listening to the baby’s heartbeat. For families having their second or third baby, their little ones especially enjoy participating in feeling their mother’s belly, saying hi to the baby, and listening to the heartbeat.
What can a woman expect to experience at a home birth that she will not have anywhere else?
She can expect to feel safe, supported, nourished and guided in her most familiar, comfortable environment. The midwives bring equipment for the safe monitoring of the mother and baby as well as emergency equipment and medications. A mother can expect to have the personalized support she needs with the midwives she has come to know and trust, and the privacy that helps to facilitate her surrender to the birthing process. We will encourage her to eat and drink to stay well nourished in labor, and support her to rest and sleep as needed. We supply portable birthing tubs to offer a mom the chance to labor and even birth in warm water if she chooses.
Based on what we know regarding the importance of beneficial bacteria, a baby’s first immune exposure lays a foundation for lifelong health. Exposure to potentially harmful bacteria in settings outside the home carries more risk. From the standpoint of current research regarding immune, nervous system and digestive health, babies benefit tremendously from being born into their familiar home environment and have higher levels of beneficial gut bacteria.
Finally is there a final message you want to share with women who are considering having a home birth and would be interested in working with you as their own midwives?
Pregnancy and childbirth are such important moments in a woman’s life. Every woman needs to know that she has choices and options around every aspect of her care. It is critical to find the care providers that are the best fit for you. We are happy to set up a dedicated hour to meet with you during pregnancy or even pre-conception. Call or email us to set up your free consult. We will take time to discuss your unique situation and needs and are happy to share information and answer questions. We love being a resource for healthy, happy moms and babies!
Three Sisters Midwifery Care
235 W. Main Street, 2nd Floor, Jacksonville 97530