Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery
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2003 Midwifery Skills Workshop
HIGHLIGHTS reprinted from MSTM's newsletter - The "CALLING" - Summer/Autumn 2003

This detailed account is dedicated to those registrants whose attendance was compromised and thereby canceled due to the effects of both (either/or) the computer virus and U.S. power shortages that unexpectedly struck just days before this event. You were sadly missed!

Some of the 2003 participants

Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery celebrated their 10 year anniversary as a school of traditional midwifery studies during their 7th annual Midwifery Skills Workshop Retreat August 17 through 20, 2003 at Sprinkler Lake Educational Center in north eastern Michigan. To mark this special 10 year milestone, MSTM hosted one of their largest workshops ever by including an extra day and scheduling numerous special guest speakers who were all willing to share this momentous occasion with us. This year's retreat featured an intense number of classes and hands-on clinics taught by a wide variety of instructors who shared their expertise on issues relating to a broad spectrum of birth related subjects.

Attendees convened for the event from all over the United States, including Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, Michigan, (even from Michigan's farthest northern most point - the Keewanaw Peninsula!), plus our farthest traveling registrant who came all the way from Nepal to join our group for intensive traditional midwifery studies! Not only was the group geographically distinguished, they also represented an extremely broad spectrum of experience levels and midwifery goals. It was a wonderfully rich blend of diversity in many ways!

Sprinkler Lake The weather was a perfect blend of sunshine, mild breezes and balmy temperatures. The natural beauty of Huron National Forest, where the math/science facility is located, was absolutely teaming with wildlife!

Sprinkler Lake Educational Facility is located in Huron National Forest on a restricted access lake, completely undeveloped and protected by the DNR as a preserve for nesting bald eagles, loons, swans plus a host of other wildlife including bears, turkeys, deer, beavers, coyotes and more.


After many years of being a host site for Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery's Midwifery skills workshops, the endearing rustic charm of Sprinkler Lake was a joy to revisit and several of us felt like we were returning home for this, our 7th annual retreat.

Turkeys wandering by as if to say Hello to our
incoming guests!

Even the wildlife seemed to welcomed arrivals as a flock of turkeys scurried by!

Students were warmly greeted in the main hall where they signed in and got their first glance at the days ahead. A huge amount of hand-outs, samples Speaker sign and general birth related resources which had been donated by various companies were on display with the invitation for everyone to take advantage of this great opportunity to collect a variety of samples that covered the space of 2 entire tables!

A friendly welcome sign with some of our featured speakers was positioned just inside the main hall where arriving guests were received. Not only did we anticipate our many speakers, we were all looking forward to the upcoming skills assessments and reviews which would be done.

Once the majority of us had arrived we embarked on a full facility tour before the official opening address. The cabins felt like old friends awaiting our return visit and we settled in quickly and prepared for our first of many guest speakers that would contribute to this extra special retreat weekend.

Science center

A fuzzy but well intended shot of the Science center!

cabin in the woods

Cozy cabin in the woods - one of many available to us as a group!

It was not without concern for the unpredictable and ongoing repercussions of the power outage that had impacted so many states, including Michigan, just days before our retreat that we gathered. In fact, several of those who traveled up here were indeed adversely effected by airport delays, fuel shortages in major cities and extra heavy north-bound traffic. While this caused a few of our attendees (especially from the east coast) to suffer unavoidable cancellations, most MSTM registrants were able to persevere and made the journey despite major obstacles. Alcona County HAM Radio Operators Group

Fortunately, the Emergency Communications team from the Alcona County HAM Radio Operators group generously donated their resources on our behalf and moved their communications center to Sprinkler Lake just for our event.

Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery extends a humble and grateful "Thank-you" for their generous efforts on our behalf. They, as well as local law enforcement authorities were aware of our isolated situation in case of an emergency. MSTM has its own power generator which was also moved to the sight as a further safety precaution.

MSTM gratefully thanks Stan Darmofal (R) and the Alcona County HAM Radio Operators Group for their generous consideration providing us with emergency communication services during our midwifery skills workshop.


A presence that made us feel safe during the aftermath of the power shortages that effected so much of the U.S. including Michigan and Sprinkler Lake Educational Facility mere days before our arrival!

A brief MSTM welcome address was followed by a an excellent lecture from Anthropologist Dale Wolke who enlightened us about the importance of Respecting the Cultural Diversity of Birth.

Anthropolotist Mr. D. Wolke
His insights included important information about Native American Indian cultures and birthing rituals. Native American studies have been the field of expertise through Mr. Wolke's 2 Masters Degrees and current work on his PhD.

Mr. Wolke is a respected teacher at ACC and as a group we were very fortunate for his contribution to our program as our opening speaker!

Mr. Wolke's presentation was immediately followed with a talk by Casey Makela, Traditional Midwife,CEM, on the topic Mothers, Daughters & Midwives.

L to R  Marion, Casey, Hannah, Passing the tradition of midwifery to the next generation Casey's topic was emphasized by the participation in this years workshop of her 2 daughters, both of whom have apprenticed with her for many years.    Casey's talk emphasized the importance of establishing family rituals and breaking the cycle of fear in birth.

We took a quick break and regrouped soon there after for dinner where we were delighted by the generous contribution of a speciality cake made in honor of the group and MSTM's 10 year Anniversary. Roxanne of Elegantly Yours

The cake was lovingly and artfully created and donated by Roxanne Costea owner of Elegantly Yours Speciality Confections. It was absolutely beautiful and a true work of art - baby in the petals and all!

Roxanne presenting the group with her edible work of art!
She traveled almost 1 hour to personally deliver this magnificent gift and wish us well during our event.

Thank you Roxanne!

After dinner we gathered at the natural amphitheater for a bonfire, marshmallow roast and the traditional gift blanket exchange which has been a ritual event of these retreats for the past 7 years. Oh, Fetus earings! I thought you said penis earings!

Each of us took away a thoughtful memento to treasure and remind us of this great group of women studying traditional midwifery.

It seems a shame to cut this beautiful cake!!  Who wants the first piece?! Before calling it an early night (there were many papers to review for classes the next morning!), we met one more time to enjoy our delicious desert!

Good Morning!

Early the next morning (Monday - August 18, 2003) we were awakened by Marion tolling the bell for our attention to the time and the fact that breakfast was being served in the main dining hall.

Facility manager, Terry (and one of his helpful crew members), had hot brewed coffee ready for us every morning - Thanks Terry! It had been an unexpectedly chilly night with temps having dipped down into the frigid 40's. Many of us were anxious for something to warm us up and we hurried to the main hall for a steaming cup of hot coffee thoughtfully prepared for us all by the facility manager.

Our first order of the day was a discussion and information presented by Casey Makela, Traditional Midwife, CEM, on the Business of Midwifery & Liability, followed by a talk given by Karen Kamyszek, Traditional Midwife, CEM, on the subject Facing a Loss. Both topics included many issues of vital importance to those who would practice traditional midwifery.

Heike Holthaus, Herbalist, Home Birth Advocate

The group then enjoyed information presented by herbalist Heike Holthaus on the subject - Herbs for Well Woman Health. Heike put a special emphasis on the realities of Menopause and her handouts were excellent.

A refreshment break was followed by our prompt attendance in the science lab specially prepared and set up for an extremely unique and interesting presentation entitled: Placental Comparative Analysis. Students were afforded a rare opportunity for detailed hands-on analysis of several different types of mammalian placentas including human, caprine, equine & canine. With several examples of each catagory available to analyze, dissect and scientifically contrast, students were able to make comparisons based on many points of physiological reference.

Each specimen offered a rare chance to compare physiological structures.

With so many opportunities it was difficult to know where to begin!
This presentation is especially unique to MSTM as the first school of traditional midwifery studies to ever initiate such a detailed comparative study of this important organ of transfer.

Sisters on a learning journey!

This remarkable sample was a rare gem to study!

One set of specimens had to be identified by the group with no clues given.

The group was given a thorough step-by-step demonstration of a complete placental exam by those with advanced experience.

A true knot

Once we made our notes and exhausted the use of that interesting science project, we washed up and moved to a new class room for our next class which addressed the subject of Pregnancy Prevention for Teens. We were joined by a guest teen/young adult panel who helped educate us on the need for frank and open information.

Our guest teens were candid, well spoken and had carefully researched and prepared in advance to present us with a series of hypothetical scenarios (including a young first time father) that helped us reflect on their needs and how we can provide effective resources for teens in our own communities. We were fortunate that these young adults were open with us and willing to share their feelings on this sensitive subject. It was edifying (if not startling on some points) to say the least and we are deeply appreciative of their efforts!

We salute this outstanding group of young adults for their fine efforts on our behalf!!
MSTM has recognized the important need for teen education in this regard and has incorporated this subject for 7 consecutive years in an effort to make a positive contribution to the much needed public awareness of this important subject.

We took a brief break to refresh ourselves and then met again in the science center to study Birth Dystocia - Management Techniques and Basic Prenatal Exam Skills

We had a wonderful opportunity for hands-on fetal assessment through the contribution of two expectant mothers who joined the group and volunteered themselves as models for a basic prenatal exam.

Basic skills

We were pleasantly surprised by an unexpected visitor who was intrigued by our gathering and during her visit shared her experience birthing twins many years ago!

The voice of experience - true "Mother-lore"!

Supper arrived and we were called by the bell once again to the dining hall where food and a much needed break awaited all! After dinner a rousing game of volley ball helped relax and entertain us - especially since the teams were using the Monty Python rule book!

"The score is 32 to 4!!"

As evening fell, we gathered together to watch excellent birth videos including water births and a twin birth - awe inspiring! At last, weary but inspired, we called it a night and headed to the cabins as the coyotes called through the dense woods in earthy harmony with the echoing cries of loons all bidding us goodnight and singing us to sleep with their woodland lull-a-byes. There was no doubt that as a group we'd won the day with a packed schedule of classes and clinics and fascinating interchanges of knowledge and experience!

The tolling of the bell seemed particularly early the next morning at 7:00am, but we hit the showers and led our tired selves down to the main hall to start a new day. It was a day just brimming with excellent guest speakers and educators!

The first order of the morning was a detailed lecture given by Dr. McAnsh, DC, on the subject Latent Spinal Cord & Brain Stem Injury. Dr. Mcansh included many models, charts and a graphic video depicting medical mismanagement of birth. It was sobering to all of us and we were left to ponder the delicate task before us of being gentle birth assistants.

Dr. Kirk McAnsh has been a faithful and enduring supporter of MSTM throughout the schools history and has taught at many of our midwifery skills conferences giving us valuable insights that help to make us all better midwives!

A break was followed by our next educator, Roberta Beck, RN, BSN, from district health department #2. Roberta introduced us a new and interesting method of teaching Universal Precautions in the Birth Place by setting us up to play "Jeopardy" with the theme specific to our subject of study. It was really interesting and better yet - it was a lot of FUN!!

Three teams competed and important information was learned in an easy, informal way that was enjoyable to participate in!

Roberta Beck, RN, BSN (L) preparing the group and her assistant for a game of "Jeopardy"!

Team #3 - the winners of final Jeopardy!

We had a great lunch and visited with Roberta who was a delight to get to know!

After lunch, we welcomed our special speaker from NOCIRC of Michigan - Lori Hanna - who presented the topic, The Circumcision Decision. Lori was very informative about the issues surrounding the decision to circumcise and her talk was specially prepared for our group. She set up a vast educational display with handouts and a great deal of resources. There was an enthusiastic discussion exchange with the entire group and we learned a great deal.

Lori Hanna, Edu. Facilitator - NOCIRC of Michigan

Lori giving us an educational demonstration - NOCIRC of Michigan

Another refreshment break and we were ready for our next lecture/demonstration entitled - Midwives Hands & Therapeutic Massage presented by Connie Nelson, CMT & Kelly Sexton, CMT (Connie & Kelly's Therapeutic Massage. It was interesting to learn how we can use simple but effective massage techniques for our pregnant mothers and women in labor.

They generously shared massage oils, magazines and other handouts and resources with our group and then drew names for massages - several of the group were very lucky to experience a sampling of their ministrations!

We were then joined by a very special guest speaker, author James Windell who addressed the group about Postpartum Recovery. Mr. Windell shared with us highlights from his new book and facilitated an active round-table discussion about the importance of including excellent postpartum care in our midwifery practices. We were extremely honored to have such a distinguished personality join our group!

Author and Family Therapist James Windell, MA

Dinner soon followed and it was the "formal" meal of our workshop served with the elegant touch of candelabras and a special desert prepared just for those with a sweet tooth!

We networked with one another and our guests who joined us for the meal and we gave several facility tours and answered questions about midwifery and natural birth as the theme of our open forum - "Midwives & Natural Birth - What's it all About".

There was even an unusual Antique Obstetric Display featuring old tools and books and meds of a rare and wide variety.

We'd extended several invitations to this special evening to representatives of one of Michigan's midwifery organizations in the hopes of joining hands, promoting birth and expanding boundaries through hospitality and open hearts.

At the close of our open forum, we divided into 2 groups. The first group headed for the cabins for a hands-on massage clinic, while the other group continued with midwifery skills hands-on techniques, evaluations and assessments.

We moved the skills assessments to the science center and continued on with demonstrations (including use of portable oxygen) and evaluations in greater detail and one on one intensity until nearly midnight when we all headed back to our cabins.

The next morning we took the conference exam and had a group exam review. Then we were able to catch up on several items of interest including A Spinners Tale and Midwife's Apothecary.

A Spinners Tale - a historical introduction to women's lives in early Colonial American where spinning was a daily task!

Midwife's Apothecary - tincturing Motherwort

As the morning ripened we made the most of our last moments together by exchanging addresses and saying farewell. Each of us had made new friends, established resources and took away memories that will last a lifetime.

Exchanging address and contact information!

Saying goodbye and wishing safe journeys home.

One of us had to leave extra early to connect with family flying in from VA. Hannah recorded her final farewell to the group and for those who may have missed seeing it, you can listen to it here!

This was certainly a workshop/retreat to remember!

MSTM would like to express heartfelt gratitude to all of our speakers and instructors - respected professionals in their fields - for their contributions to our program. It is particularly commendable to note that most of them traveled several hours to teach at this event and every single instructor & speaker (8 in all) made it to our remote location on time!! That does not include our teen guest panel or guest Moms who also all arrived on time!! We did not have a single cancellation or late arrival. It was a noteworthy demonstration of professionalism on the part of everyone and we deeply appreciate the respect for and contribution to our successful event!

Each of our speakers later congratulated our efforts and expressed sincere commendation to our "remarkable group" for the positive impression we had made and the educational work of Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery. Each looked forward to returning to MSTM to teach in the future and promised to get more involved with midwifery and the promotion of natural childbirth in their areas.

It is also of special note, the attention to detail delivered to us by our dedicated food service crew from whom we were well and kindly served.
Their timely consideration of our needs over the course of 4 days was noteworthy and we all appreciated their efforts!

(L to R) Bill, John & Cameron - "Thank you" for a job well done - our hats off to you!

As we near the end of this commentary, we include a note of appreciation for the support we've received and continue to receive from the many professionals, (medical, academic and otherwise), who have contributed to the success and development of this school. Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery has grown to become a well respected educational institution of distinction for being the first school in the world to establish an academic and clinical route of education dedicated to the art and science of traditional midwifery studies. We flourish and continue to expand due in large part to the dedication, encouragement and support of those who believe in our mission and the concept of such specialized and unique education.

In closing, we would also like to commend our students around the globe who make such a success of their studies in the traditional midwifery program at MSTM. Their hard work is a testament to their dedication to midwifery and the importance of making the most of their education. The incredible lengths to which students go, to submit work that is extraordinarily well done both in its presentation, depth of research and over-all quality, is so impressive that this humble recognition of praise seems a bit short-comming. Their high level of commitment is demonstrated by their ability to meet the challange of starting a program of traditional midwifery studies and following through with hard work of excellence and is a clear indication of their ability to have a significantly positive impact in their communities serving birthing women. They will take their place as gardians of birth, dedicating their lives to the art of midwifery, knowing that they've invested in themselves through education and dedicated study.

Thank you all for a great 10 year Anniversary!

Respectfully submitted by
Casey Makela, Traditional Midwife, CTM
Founder & Director of
Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery

Comments About the 2003 Midwifery Skills Workshop

- Very informative, I had a great time and learned a lot - I almost don't want to go home!

- So much information - I am so impressed with the wonderful atmosphere that allows for such an animated exchange!

- I had a wonderful time - it was emotional and inspiring and I feel more motivated to keep working toward my midwifery goals!

- This was empowering - I'm looking forward to coming back!

- I can't believe all the info I went away with!

- I highly recommend this workshop to others!

- Thank you - Thank you - Thank you!!