Lucinda Michelle Chiszar is a California-licensed midwife and a certified professional midwife and has the Modesto practice Big Valley Midwives.
She started going to births at home as an apprentice midwife in 1995 and spent many years practicing in the Bay Area before moving to Modesto in 2006.
She initially planned to put her career on hold to be with her children but was inspired to keep working because of the shortage of home-birth midwives in the Modesto area.
Q: I know you do some work with home births. Why did you get interested in that? What are the advantages?
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A: Our homes are our domain – it’s usually the place we feel most comfortable, and it’s clear that in our own homes, we are the ones in charge. I was drawn to birth at home because it is the environment where women and their families are most able to exercise autonomy and self-determination in childbirth. When I come to a woman’s home to help her give birth, it is clear that I am working for her. When a woman travels into a hospital, she is giving birth on someone else’s turf and necessarily feels that she has to play by their rules.
Q: On www.bigvalleymidwives.com, it says you spent three years studying herbal remedies. How does that work into your practice? Why are you interested in herbal remedies?
A: Midwifery is the physiologic management of the childbearing cycle. We do not practice medicine and we only provide care to essentially healthy, low-risk mothers. Plant medicines, along with a healthy diet and exercise, are a tool in supporting normal healthy physiology. Very often, common complaints in pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum can be addressed with nutrition, vitamins, homeopathics and plant medicines.
Q: What things do you wish more pregnant women knew about the birth process?
A: What happens at your birth matters. It’s a very special and momentous occasion that affects mothers and families deeply. Women frequently spend the remainder of their lives talking about and processing with others the experience of giving birth. I tell every mother that she is going to need help in labor, that most of us can make it to 5 centimeters dilation using our ordinary coping mechanisms. But there is the place where that will no longer work, and then we need help. In hospital birth, help is synonymous with epidural. At home, we have the opportunity to help women find their way through that experience and emerge with new coping skills that she will always have within her as a point of strength in her motherhood.
Q: What factors make for the happiest birth experiences?
A: Number one is the mother and the baby both have to be healthy. I really believe that at the end of the day, mothers want to feel the fullness of the power of giving birth by whatever means is necessary, and this happens by allowing mothers to make informed choices and informed refusals. If a mother has exactly the birth experience that she never would have planned, but she was treated with respect and given compassionate, skillful care every step of the way, and she was able to exercise self-determination, she will be satisfied with her birth experience.