Sarah Stetina witnessed her first live birth during a labor and delivery clinical rotation as a second-year nursing student at College of DuPage.
“I had just witnessed the most empowering event in this person’s life, but no one in the delivery room seemed as impressed,” the COD alumna said. “In my nursing classes at COD, we spent a lot of time focusing on holistic care, especially when it came to assisting a patient through labor. But what I witnessed was very clinical and impersonal.”
After sharing her experience with a COD Nursing program faculty member, Stetina said her eyes were opened to holistic health care, including nurse midwifery.
“My life took a very different trajectory from that point forward,” she said.
Eight years after earning her Associate Degree in Nursing at COD, Stetina has helped facilitate the development of the first freestanding birth center in DuPage County and the third such center in the state of Illinois. Slated to open in February, the Burr Ridge Birth Center caters to individuals with low-risk pregnancies who want a physiological birth with minimal interventions. They will also provide annual well-body care and gynecology services.
“It’s hard to believe that I’m finally at the point in my career that I had envisioned when I was a student at COD,” she said.
As Director of Midwifery at the birth center, Stetina said she is dedicated to educating, advising and supporting families based on the understanding that, for most individuals, pregnancy and childbirth are healthy and normal parts of the life cycle.
“It is so rewarding to be able to build a relationship of trust and respect with our clients during this very important time in their lives,” she said. “I really enjoy supporting clients by providing access to evidence-based information, creating an environment where they feel trusted and heard, and respecting their role in their health care through shared decision-making.”
Midwifery care appealed to Stetina because it was a way to provide client-centered care that respected the normal physiology of pregnancy, labor and birth.
“Birthing is vulnerable,” she said. “The birth team should be making you feel safe and supported and loved. That way the process can be powerful and empowering and set you up for success as a parent. In many obstetrician practices, there’s a good chance that the doctor you formed a relationship with won’t be the one delivering your baby, and you don’t know if that doctor will have the same philosophy as your doctor.”
Stetina’s mission is to inform as many people as possible about midwifery and debunk the myth that midwives are not advanced practitioners.
“A lot of people think midwifery is a lesser subset of obstetrics,” she said. “In reality, we are a unique profession with focused training and education, and with research demonstrating our profession improves health and birth outcomes. I have a Master of Science in Nurse-Midwifery. Also, people think that we just attend births, that we just catch babies. But we do the whole scope of reproductive services, including prenatal, postpartum, gynecology and family planning care.”
Stetina said she is diving into her new role with a slew of support from COD Nursing professors and fellow nursing alumni.
“I formed relationships with other COD nursing students that have had such a profound impact on my life,” she said. “Despite being all over the country, we stay connected to each other and constantly champion one another. It’s really special. My COD nursing professors shaped me into who I am today. They are my biggest advocates and their support follows me with each of my professional endeavors.”
(Photo by Cassandra Eldridge)