The Family Health and Birth Center has a long history of supporting women and families. As we transition to the new and expanded Family Health and Birth Center, Community of Hope wanted to reflect on the history and impact of the building we are saying goodbye to. We invite you to read the edited version of our conversation with Midwife Cassandra Burrell as she reflects on both her personal and professional history with FHBC, and her excitement about continuing to grow with the staff and families at the new location.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What are some defining roles or important values you live by?
I am a daughter, a wife, and a mother. I am a Black woman. All of these roles influence my values. I believe in never judging a book by its cover; treat others the way you expect to be treated (and always with respect); say what you mean, mean what you say; and always ask questions!
Tell us about the first time you stepped into the previous FHBC. What brought you there?
The very first time I stepped into FHBC was about 15 years ago. I was a homeschooling mother of 3 who was seeking a volunteer opportunity. A friend of mine suggested FHBC and I was trained as a breastfeeding peer counselor. The energy in that space was most notable to me—there was a buzz, folks were busy helping others. There were so many mamas and babies---felt like I was in the middle of a village. That space felt like love superseded frustration. The person who asked me if I needed help and directed me to the conference room that day later became a midwifery mentor/cheerleader and introduced me to out-of-hospital birth. I went on to become one of FHBCs first birth assistants, a patient myself (my 4th baby born there), a midwifery student, and now a midwife.
Why did you become a midwife?
I became a midwife to protect and care for women during one of the most fascinating stages of their lives. The energy and mission at FHBC compelled me to come back. I would add that the birth of my 4th child at FHBC helped me understand what midwifery care really was.
FHBC is in a stage of transition – and we all know that transition is the shortest, yet hardest part. What part of this is difficult, and what are you doing to manage it?
Change is always a challenge—I think about everything, from the frustration that fellow staff and patients will feel to what my commute may look like. But knowing and believing in what our mission is – it’s that “thing” that keeps me coming back, and what brings me comfort during this transition.
Can you share your most memorable experience at FHBC?
I don’t know where to start; maybe I will just list them. Obviously, the birth of my 4th child at FHBC. Taking midwifery exams while sitting in the big rocking chair in the birth room. I would leave my house to go take them online there because I knew one day I’d be a midwife in that space. It was also incredibly special watching a first-time mother give birth in the same rocking chair—she was so quiet, yet so powerful.
I remember the first time I met Ebony Marcelle—she stood in the doorway with confidence and fire and I immediately had to find out who she was. A few years after that she was handing me an application to midwifery school during one of my prenatal visits!
Another great memory was attending the birth of a friend—this time as a midwife. This friend sat in the very same breastfeeding class with me the first time I stepped into FHBC’s doors!
What are you most proud of accomplishing in your career at FHBC? In your personal life?
On a personal level, I am watching myself grow. When I began this journey with FHBC I was at home with my kids, and being a working parent was not on my radar. Fast forward to now, I am a working mother of 5 with another superhero kind of job. Every day I take about 30 seconds to just breathe that in.
Career-wise I've been a practicing midwife for 5 years now, and I’m just getting to the point where I’m realizing where I fit in midwifery. I am looking forward to opportunities for professional growth with my midwifery team.
What new goals do you have knowing you will be in a new and expanded space?
For myself, I plan to engage in more self-care activities; when I’m healthy, I am able to care for families. I will continue to be a team player, be respectful, and be patient, as this is a big transition for the entire team. For my patients and community - I will continue to meet you where you are, be your advocate, and provide you with evidenced-based care from the heart!
Do you have any closing rituals or practices when you are done working with a family? Is that applicable to saying goodbye to the current FHBC?
Hugs! I love hugs (with permission and considering COVID safety). I guess I never thought of it as a ritual, but I usually hug a family or mama when we’re done. But I am looking forward to creating new experiences, memories, and opportunities at the new FHBC.