About your midwives…

WomanWise was birthed as a labor of love by Karen Webster in 1987. Karen was drawn into midwifery through the births of her own eight children, and the births of her grandchildren are what keep her on this path, as well as all the other women & families she serves.

Karen Webster, Midwife

I am: daughter, sister, woman, wife, mother, nana, midwife, student, and friend - not necessarily in that order.  I came to midwifery by way of my own children’s births, and was drawn into it through the births of the many women and families who have invited me into their lives over the past 37 years. In the fall of 1979 I gave birth to my eldest son, at home, attended by my first midwife, Chris Johnson.  Gideon was my 4th baby and his birth was a revelation; a peaceful, powerful, and life changing experience. He was my first son; my first 10 lb baby; my first posterior presenting baby. (He turned, at the end)

I began attending births first with my midwife, Chris, then with any other midwives I could find who would take me along as an assistant. I became a childbirth educator and taught Bradley Childbirth classes for around 11 years, until midwifery took over and edged out other pursuits. I studied midwifery for 7 years before I realized that I was, indeed - a midwife. I became a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) in 1995, and began my journey as a birth/midwife/political activist, first as a member of the BOD of Midwives Alliance of America (MANA), then as a member of the Foundation for Midwifery (FAM). I have worked on legislation in 4 states over the past 25 years.  We now have licensure of CPMs in over half of our states, MD and DE included!

I find myself daily astounded and delighted, and awed; by birth, by women, by families, but mostly by the power of women in birth.  I have learned, through trial and error, by listening to and learning from the wisdom of my elders, as well as my ‘youngers’; by bearing witness to women in labor and giving birth - to cultivate a deep abiding respect for birth itself:  such a miraculous, joyous, fierce, sweaty, sexy, sacred, hormonal, process!  Birth is a mistress who does her best when she is left to find her own perfect path.

We midwives are the lifeguards, the guides and handmaidens; we attend women in birth; we guard the  space of birth and the unfolding path that labor follows to birth.  We  do not manage birth; we do not ‘make it happen’.   We are there to make sure the process is unfolding in a safe and healthy way, for mother and babe, and we allow space for the mother to do her work, surrounded by her loved ones, while we stand to the side, observing and quietly monitoring. We are there to intercede if our expertise and  skills are needed, but mostly we watch and wait.

I am deeply committed to preserving the apprenticeship route of entry into midwifery; isn’t that how  most professionals learn their craft?  Physicians, plumbers, electricians, architects, attorneys, etc. - they all must learn through some form of apprenticeship.

I am happy to be able to work with students/apprentices, though I’m not a conventional teacher, but more of a midwife mentor, for students on the path to  becoming midwives.  I am  grateful to all of the students who’ve come through my life; I know they’ve given me as much as I’ve given them. 

In the end, I must acknowledge my family, because they are the reason that I’ve been able to be a midwife and continue on this path.  My husband, Rick, who has provided such unwavering  support through the years, and who has had to give up much so that I could be present for others.  (What’s that saying? It takes a real man to be married to a midwife!  So true) 

I must thank each one of my children, who have come to births with their midwife/mama to watch their nursing siblings, encouraged and informed their own friends in the ways of normal pregnancy & birth, written papers in high school and college about the politics of midwifery, and finally, have chosen homebirths for their own children - what better testimony is there; what better validation for a life of work, than that?

Karen is licensed CPM in Delaware. Karen is a faculty preceptor for the National College of Midwifery, and clinical preceptor for Birthwise Midwifery School, both nationally accredited direct-entry midwifery training programs.

Paige St. Cyr, Student Midwife

I’m a New England girl, growing up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire I learned from my parents and community the benefits of being independent and resourceful, traits that apply well to midwifery care! Before starting down my path to midwifery I studied Public Health and Policy at the University of New Hampshire. I love policy work and hoped to work in women’s health policy, but was sideswiped by the idea of pursuing midwifery. After college, I started tentatively doula-ing for friends while I worked at a rural public health consortium. Since those early days of calling out “sick” and privately savoring the afterglow of births I have attended over 100 births in both home and hospital. I am a direct-entry, homeschooled midwifery student and am on the road to completing an apprentice-based model of learning and hope to be able to sit for the national midwifery exam in 2016. Working with WomanWise is my third formal apprenticeship.  I began in Boston working for Birth Matters and from there spent time briefly in Rome, Italy under midwife Valeria Barchiesi and most recently trained in Vermont with Gentle Landing Midwifery.  My upbringing and formal education have firmly rooted me in the practices of evidence based care and shared informed decision making. I believe that birth is a natural and transformative experience and endeavor to support women and their families over the course of their childbearing years. When not attending laboring mums or encapsulating placentas I can be found voraciously reading sci-fi, slowly teaching myself to forage, or spending time outside with my partner Matthew.

** Paige spent a lovely year with  me, but has now completed the requirements to become certified; all the mamas who are lucky enough to be cared for by Paige will be blessed  with her insight, compassion, knowledge and excellent care!

Heather Bell, Student Midwife

I discovered the magic of midwifery while pregnant with my first child more than a decade ago. Attended by midwives, I gave birth at home and rode the oxytocin wave for weeks, marveling in both my son and the incredible empowerment the experience gifted me. I realized shortly after his birth that I wanted to become a midwife myself, to do the work of holding space for others on the transformative journey to parenthood. When my husband retired we moved our family to the mountains of Tennessee where I began my first apprenticeship. While there, I began my second pregnancy, and so spent the months marveling over my own growing belly as well as those of the clients I was honored to attend alongside my midwives.

After the birth of my daughter, I took time off to care for my family’s needs, including the need to return to the greater Baltimore area to be near family and friends. Encouraged by Karen to fulfill my dream and start attending births again, I am now a student at Birthwise Midwifery School and an apprentice with Karen. I look forward to continuously discovering magic in the process as I give birth to myself as a Midwife.

Samm Magpi, Student Midwife

One of my favorite quotes is, "There is a secret in our culture, and it's not that birth is painful. It's that women are strong." If you would have asked me a few years ago how or where I'd give birth, I would have told you in a hospital opting to be completely knocked out without any recollection of what happened. While pregnancy and birth has always been intriguing to me it was never bought up in my family. So the little I knew about birth, I found terrifying. When I graduated from high school I felt lost, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. At a family barbecue a family friend told me about doulas, and said that I should look into becoming one. I had no idea what a doula or midwife was, but decided to sign up for a training after doing some research. In October 2012, I took that training without knowing that it would completely change my life forever. After I attended my first home birth, I undoubtedly knew that this path had chosen me. I knew that I needed to become a midwife and offer an alternative option to the women who seek this care. In 2015, I had an incredible home birth and delivered a beautiful 9lb baby boy, Indigo (Indy).  I remember being in the bathroom at 8cm saying, "I would never want to be numb for this. I feel so in tune with my body." His birth has transformed me in ways I never imagined possible. So I very much believe, that birth is a beautiful, natural process and yes, women are strong! We need more home birth midwives to provide women with safe, quality care. I am determined to become a CPM so that I can be there to support women just like Karen was there to support me. I thank all of the women, past, present & future, who allow me to be apart of their journey. It is the most amazing thing in the world for me to be a part of and I can't imagine myself doing anything else.