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Inspiring Conversations with Rebekah Mustaleski of Roots & Wings Midwifery

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebekah Mustaleski.

Hi Rebekah, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
My story is really about seeing a need in the community and helping fill it. When I was having my own babies, I wished for a home birth but my partner and I couldn’t find a midwife who provided the care that I was looking for, I wanted to deliver my baby at my house and still have regular prenatal care with lab testing, ultrasound, etc. Once I started working as a doula, I found out I wasn’t the only one who wanted that for their birth. I kept thinking, “Someone really needs to start a home birth service that provides all of that!”

I thought someday I might do that, but I didn’t feel like the time was right- I had four little kids, we were homeschooling, and life was already busy! One day, when I was talking with another doula, she told me about a midwife in East Tennessee who had also several kids and homeschooled them and was a midwife through their childhood and I knew I had to talk with her, because if she could do it then I knew I could do it, too. The first time I met with her, we talked for seven hours and when I was leaving she said, that if I wanted to become her apprentice, I could start now. I told her I didn’t think the timing was right, but I would think about it. The next day I was at a Carman concert with my sister and Carman was talking about the new thing he was working on and he said, “If you ever find yourself thinking, ‘Someone really ought to X, Y, Z!’ The reason that you’re thinking that is that someone is YOU.”

I felt like there had been a spotlight turned on over me and I looked around, feeling very self-conscious. The first thoughts through my head were, “Yeah, but I’m already so busy, and the kids are so young…” and the next words out of Carman’s mouth were, “And the first thing you’re going to start thinking is all the reasons why you shouldn’t.” I felt like he was reading my mind! And then he went on to say, “You’re going to take this journey, and here’s what it’s going to be like: Pretend you go to the grocery store and it’s the middle of the night. For some reason, you decide to park at the back of the parking lot and when you get out of the car, you look around and think to yourself, why am I here? The parking lot is dark and there are hardly any cars. What if they aren’t even open??’ But the only thing you can do is take the next step.

So you start walking across the parking lot and the whole way there you’re coming up with reasons in your mind about why you should turn around- this was a dumb idea, maybe the store is closed, maybe it’s not safe out here… you’re going to walk all the way across the parking lot fighting against the reasons why you should turn around and go home. And when you get to the sidewalk, you’re going to look up and the doors are going to be closed! You’re going to walk under the overhang, and the doors are still going to be closed. You’ve walked all this way and the doors are closed!

But here’s the thing about your journey, you’re going to have to walk all the way up to the doors before they open for you.” So I went home and I told my partner, “I don’t have any idea how this is going to work out. I don’t even know IF it’s going to work out. All I know is that I have to take the next step.” And here I am! Almost 10 years later, being a midwife, providing care options to the families in the Knoxville area, all because I was encouraged to take the first step.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road. Being a student midwife was especially hard and there were so many times that I wanted to quit. I spent my “free time” making lesson plans for my kids so that whoever was watching them could do their school lessons with them. There were weeks when the grandparents saw my kids more than I did during those couple of years.

Thank goodness for a supportive family, because I definitely couldn’t have done this without them! When I was home, I was doing my schoolwork while my kids did their schoolwork. About six months in, I wanted to quit. I talked to the midwife I was working with and she said I could stop or slow down, but it was like pulling off a bandaid, I could yank it off and be done or peel it back slowly. If I kept going at the pace I was doing things, I would be done in 18 months, or I could slow down and it would take 3 to 4 years for me to finish. I went home and talked to the grandparents, since they were providing all of my childcare, and they all said to keep going!

I went home and cried because I missed my kids and I missed being home and I just wanted a break. There were many times when I cried going to appointments or births because I was tired and emotionally exhausted. I made myself a playlist that I would listen to in the car to help encourage me to keep going- some days it helped, but it was just hard. But 18 months later, I was done!

Within three months of me graduating, my car got totaled sitting in my driveway, so I lost my transportation, and my father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and spent several months in Boston for treatment- that was half of my childcare. If I hadn’t finished when I did, I’m not sure I would have ever finished.

As you know, we’re big fans of Roots & Wings Midwifery, LLC. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
We specialize in providing evidence-based home birth midwifery services in the Knoxville, TN area. We love to help educate our clients on all the things there are to learn about pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum! We believe that birth is a normal thing for us to do- people are made to give birth and babies are made to be born and we believe that it’s our job as midwives to monitor that process- to help it stay on that normal trajectory, to restore it to a normal trajectory, and to transfer care to a doctor when necessary.

We value good nutrition, adequate water consumption, and an active lifestyle as the foundation for a normal, healthy pregnancy. We also value informed consent and refusal. We love that the families in our care have an active role in deciding what they want their birth to be like and what kind of care they want along the way.

We are also the first group of midwifery practice in the area that provides home births. I strongly believe that midwifery needs a more sustainable business model than the single-practice midwife. The average midwife career is only 7 years and most people quit because of burnout. It is hard to be on-call 24/7. It’s hard to never know when you’ll get a full night’s sleep, to not be able to plan vacations, or have to cancel vacation plans because of something going on with a client. It’s hard to not ever be able to turn your phone off. It’s hard to see your kids realize that the families you work with can count on you 100%, but you’ll only be at their important event ‘if I’m not at a birth.’

Midwives make a difference, both in how women feel about themselves and their birth experience and also in the maternal and infant mortality rates, so we need more midwives! But we’re only going to have more midwives if we find a way for them to also have a life and a family while they’re doing this work. This is why my business is a group model. We have multiple midwives who rotate calls so we all have to time off to unwind and be with our families. It is the best for everyone- our clients receive quality, individualized care, and the midwives are able to care for themselves and their families.

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
Flexibility and patience. There’s not a great way to plan ahead in the business I’m in, so you have to be flexible. It doesn’t come very naturally to me- I like to plan things out! I joke that God must have just laughed so hard at me being a midwife because I want it all planned out, I don’t want to deviate from the plan, and I want it accomplished in a timely manner.

If you know anything about birth, you know it’s the exact opposite of that! But truthfully, I think that’s one of the things I love about it. I CAN’T plan it. I can’t control it. Every birth is different and all I can do is work with my clients to set them up for the best birth possible, but when the day comes we’re going to take what we get and make the best of it.


  • Prenatal, birth, & postpartum care : $5000

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Image Credits
Break the Mold Photo by Megan Flanagan

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