2021 Election - Candidate Statements and Bios

With input from the membership and the MANA Board, the Nominations and Elections Committee works hard to find qualified nominees for every position with the intention of providing members with a choice of candidates. Please review each candidate’s submitted bio and/or personal statement. Elections will take place from December 7th-14th.

Nominated for President: 

Sarah Foster, LM, CPM, MA-MCHS

Bio: After starting her midwifery career as a traditionally trained community midwife, Sarah is now a Certified Professional Midwife, licensed in Oklahoma and Texas, and the owner/director of a busy birth center. She holds a master’s degree in Maternal-Child Health Systems from Bastyr University, where she wrote about the urgent need to develop systems that can keep midwifery sustainable as a profession in the US. Sarah is the current president of National Association of Certified Professional Midwives, Oklahoma Chapter, and has been instrumental in both defeating harmful midwifery legislation as well as helping to craft Oklahoma's current law, which allowed traditional midwifery to remain intact while also forging a path for credentialed community midwives to safely practice to their full scope. She is also currently serving on the Board of the Midwives Alliance of North America as the Interim President, after being originally appointed as the Director of Organizational Development. Sarah values directness and transparency, and is a strong advocate for finding common ground through which to unite diverse communities toward shared goals. Her favorite story is "Porcupines And The Coldest Winter Ever".

Submitted Statement: I strongly believe in the continuing value of MANA. That is the single reason I have agreed to be available to serve out the remainder of this term, if that's what the membership wants. I'll be honest, being president of MANA doesn't carry any personal benefit that I have been able to discern as the acting interim president, and it does require significant personal sacrifice. It's also exceedingly stressful to be in a position so many feel entitled to criticize! So, it wasn't an easy choice to accept the nomination. Despite my hesitance, though, I think I can do a good job. At least, I can promise that I will work diligently to improve the organization.

As Director of Organizational Development, I was already developing an idea of what the MANA of the future might look like, and as the interim president I have identified many urgent matters that I believe will need to be immediately addressed to ensure the continued survival of the organization. In the vein of transparency, which I zealously believe in, I can share that MANA is currently in a very disheveled state. In my conversations with other midwifery leaders I have compared it to neglected necklaces in a jewelry box; still useful and valuable but in need of immediate and intensive untangling to restore their full serviceability. Some of the things I believe we must attend to before we can make any significant forward progress, include: a total review and rewrite of both the Bylaws and Policies and Procedures; an inventory and reclamation of both physical and digital resources; a complete re-visioning and reorganization of our social media presence; a rebuilding of our intra-professional and inter-professional connections and relationships; and a reimagining of the way MANA should serve the midwifery world, going forward, including how better to address numerous diversity and inclusion issues that continue to plague the organization, as well as the profession. 

If elected president I hope to focus on helping this new, elected board, along with volunteers from our diverse communities, develop and enact collaborative plans to address these areas. This rebuilding of collaborative relationships is a skill I have been developing over the last 12 years, as a community leader in my home state of Oklahoma, most recently helping to unite midwives in the area so that we could work together to keep Oklahoma midwifery autonomous and accessible throughout our legalization journey. That journey was, as MANAs journey must be, an exercise in re-learning how to navigate through highly nuanced realities of modern midwifery, and identifying which elements we should retain, rebuild, or even allow to erode. 

So, as I've said, I will be happy (and maybe even a bit relieved) to step down if asked (this is such a big job!), but I stand willing to continue to work hard for the organization, and for betterment of midwifery, with your support.


Nominated for Vice President: 

Tomasina Oliver, DEM, LM, SPM, HHC

Bio: Began exploring her interests in Natural Healing Arts and Complementary Medicine as a Midwife after the home birth of her first child in 1993. She achieved her Diploma of Midwifery and graduated from the School of Complementary Medicine. 

At that time, the PEP process allowed student Midwives to receive training from midwives, nurses (traditional, certified all alike), and included internships with physicians.  The experience gained in these various settings and occupations allowed tutelage under wise, experienced elders and professionals; Self reliance, leadership and team work skills were so integral in support of a diverse, cultured, rich vision for advancement of Midwifery! 

Being Vice President for MANA is where Tomasina plans to continue the work with a clear, fresh vision to create a sound, secure MANA and committed to equity and empowerment on behalf of professional, indigenous, traditional and ALL Midwives globally. 

Additionally, Tomasina's vision is to continue educating and building within compromised health care systems and that leading to supporting the MANA STATS PROJECT and the efforts of FAM.

Submitted Statement: I accept the nomination for Vice President of the Midwives Alliance of North America. I bring knowledge, consideration, patience and diplomacy where moments of decision-making require a board to have consensus. We are all  team members in MANA. The leadership perspectives had to come to agreement regarding the interests of members and the corporate structure of MANA. We can not serve a voiceless membership; How can You know what's best for a member led organization if You have not heard from the members?  

I Am present. I Am willing. I Am passionate. I Am a Midwife!  This election must spearhead the revolution that has been needed for a very long time. It is refreshing and important that MANA remains on track once this upon completion of this election.

Member representation is a most valuable, political tool and requires multilingual skill sets to hear and feel the members served by MANA! I value your vote for My candidacy as the Wxman for the Office of Vice President 2022!


Tomasina Oliver, Nominee Vice President of MANA 

Becky Coolidge, CPM

Bio: I began my interest in birth around age 17, when a friend asked me to help her give birth, and then give up her baby for adoption.  That birth started me on a path toward learning all I could about how women give birth, and I am still learning!  I began apprenticing with a homebirth midwife in 1989, and she introduced me to MANA, and how this organization came together for homebirth midwives across North America.  Having now been nominated for a place on the MANA Board, which I consider a great honor, I graciously accept this opportunity to serve other midwives in the best way I can.  My background includes an eclectic mix of mostly out-of-hospital birth experiences, including a birthing center in Texas, births with other midwives in a few other states, some hospital doula work (mostly vbacs), a few trips to the Dominican Republic in a hospital setting, and many years of adventures in underground midwifery here in Illinois, which very recently resulted in passage of the Midwife Practice Act, restoring licensure of midwives for homebirth.  I am also a preceptor for National College of Midwifery, NARM, am licensed in Wisconsin, and have served on my state midwifery board.  I am passionate about the PEP process for CPMs, and also have an Associate's in Midwifery from Southwest Tech, a MEAC school.  Having an organization that serves OOH midwives, and represents their interests is essential, and I feel MANA is the alliance to do that.  Working alongside other midwives, building each other up, rejoicing in each other's successes and supporting the building up of midwives from within every community is where I want to be serving.  We can only grow when we join together, learn from one another, love one another. 


Nominated for Secretary: 

Brandi Stone, LM, CPM

Bio: Brandi is an experienced Licensed & Professional Midwife at Tulsa Birth Center. This is home to where she provides high-quality, individualized care to families. 

In 2013 Brandi finished up her midwifery training through ATM. Since then she has enjoyed connecting with clients in both private practice & the group birth-center setting. Brandi's focus is to help clients integrate a holistic approach to their well-being during pregnancy & throughout parenthood with the use of mindfulness, education, herbs & other natural alternatives. 

She is a strong believer in the fact that birth is not just a physical event but one that demands synergy between the physical, emotional, spiritual & social aspects of one's being for the best outcome. 

Submitted Statement: I believe a woman has the power to change her world. Her life & the lives of everyone she touches is affected positively when she feels in-tune, empowered & heard. I believe we as a body of one of the most unique & influential means she needs to be able to do that. I am both humbled & honored to call myself “a midwife”.


Nominated for Treasurer: 

Deb Salhstrom, CPM, RN, CST, CNHP

Bio: Adding a new baby to your family is the start of a new chapter in your life. I have a passion for a natural approach to women’s health and offer educational material and counseling so each family can truly make an informed decision in their health care.

I know that no single approach is the right one for every individual, so I have been trained in a range of alternative modalities including Craniosacral Therapy (CST), Iridology, Reflexology, and have advanced training in nutrition.

My educational background includes a BS in Athletic Training from North Dakota State University, an Associate Degree in Nursing from Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Certified Professional Midwife from the Midwives College of Utah and a Certified Natural Health Professional from the Trinity School of Natural Health.

I have been married to Joe for 31 years and have 9 children. Seven of them were born in a hospital, one was born at home and one is adopted.


Nominated for Director of Events: 

Lori Gibson, LM, CPM

Bio: Since 1997, I have had the honor and privilege to attend many women as they became mothers- whether for the first time or the tenth! I have assisted during labor and birth as a doula, assisted mothers as they initiated breast feeding, taught childbirth education classes, and attended families during the post partum period. I am trained and keep current certifications in Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP), CPR and BEST (Birth Emergency Skills for out of hospital midwives). I began midwifery school and attending prenatal visits as a student with Damaris Pittman (she was my midwife too!) in 2009 and began attending home births and birth center births with her in 2010. While apprenticing, I also worked in the office at a local birth center as the office assistant then billing coordinator from 2011-2014. I completed the Midwife-To-Be midwifery program in May 2014, then obtained the North American Registry of Midwives designation of Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) and subsequently became licensed as a midwife in South Carolina (LM). By the time I had completed my midwifery education, I had attended over 150 out of hospital births.


Nominated for Director of Public Affairs: 

Te’sa Lubans Dehaven, CPM

Bio: I am a rurallly practicing queer midwife, herbalist and mother/parent. I say practicing parent because it feels like a job I’ll never truly master, but one which I approach with unending devotion and a necessary humility. Sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, sometimes internally screaming. In many ways, the I’ve found the journey of parenthood is quite a bit like Midwifery.

I live in the mountains of Northern California, with my devoted husband, our two children and four dogs. At present I serve as the only midwife in one of the poorest counties in California (Trinity County). I have lived in Trinity for ten years and was inspired to pursue licensure after witnessing the impact that lack of access to perinatal care and support had on families locally. I have founded two Non profits (The North State Doula Program/ The Trinity Birth Center) and a midwifery Scholarship (The Aurora Midwifery and Wellness Rural midwifery scholarship) and I am about to open the first freestanding birth center our community has had since the 1980s. In my down time I like to write, belly laugh, knit, garden, hike and cook.

Submitted Statement: I believe in autonomy and choice, and truly fundamentally believe in the ability of the midwifery model to change the world. 

While the future may indeed be ours, it is primarily one that belongs to our children. And what if, instead of focusing on advancing the cause of one type of midwife or another, or trying to claim we aren’t racist, and convince everyone we are good and mean well, we focus upon questions like “will this be a good thing for the next seven generations? Will this serve my grandchildren? Their children? Will this honor midwives across the globe, our collective heritage and the future they made possible for us?

Maybe then we will have hope of shifting from a individual mindset to a collective mindset, and be able to organically bring about the change. If we remember that without a United front we will continue to face the historic challenges we have come up against, we may be able to identify personal narratives that go against the goals we hope to achieve and begin to reframe these in our own communities. 

If elected, these are the kind of questions I come to the table with. I do not proport to have solutions, or to know the answers, but I do have a firm and solid grasp on what it means to be present and stay humble, congruent : I know what I am and what I am not. I represent only a portion of the collective, but I welcome you to ponder this: Midwifery is owned by no credential, by no person and by no faith, and yet it is interwoven through governments, communities, families and churches across the United States. 

At its heart, midwifery is a social movement, and I truly believe that if we can rally the families of the United States to see we are capable of setting aside differences in public image and uniting as a movement for the advancement of midwifery, parenthood, autonomy, and choice, that we will be capable of achieving greater success in reducing disparities and improving outcomes and visibility for families and midwifery alike. 

If there is one thing my peers know about me, it is that when I say I will do something, I stick to my guns, roll with the punches and learn forward until it is done. Also that I am really good at admitting that I was wrong. This is an important and often glossed over quality, however without it there would be no room for humanity, healing or learning. 

My hope is that in my position as Public Affairs director I am able to accomplish three things: The honoring of what has been, the implementation of a necessary and humble public image campaign, and the recognition of the wisdom of others in advancing the collective. 

As for personal motivation? I was once in chase of titles and accolades, thinking that somehow the respect of others would render my life more worthy. This is no longer the case, as it stands in my life right now - I seek only to learn so that I am able to be better guided to the role I am to play in the world, to make it a better place for my children’s children, and to honestly and with

integrity live a life which is in alignment with the natural world. Because at the end of the day, we all come from and go back to the earth.


Nominated for Director of Professional Development: 

Elizabeth Baer, CPM, LDM

Bio: I am a Certified Professional Midwife (Oregon Licensed Direct Entry Midwife) and homeschooling mom of five. Our five children were all born into the hands of midwives, the first in a hospital, the next two at freestanding birth centers, and the next two at home. My husband and I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and briefly lived in Syracuse, New York, prior to settling in Oregon's MidValley. 

In 2011, I enrolled in the National Midwifery Institute.  For my clinical training, I was able to apprentice at a freestanding birth center, a birth clinic in Haiti, and a home birth midwifery practice. 

I started my own home birth practice in the spring of 2013, merged with MidValley Birthing Services in 2016, which grew into a beautiful group practice.

I love learning and regularly attend continuing education events, including things like Birth Emergency Skills Training, Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics, MANA conferences, Midwifery Today Conferences, regional midwifery conferences, and CPR and neonatal resuscitation training. I would be honored to serve as a board member if elected.


Jeanna Deswert, LM, CPM


Submitted Statement: To the Members of MANA,

My name is Jeanna Deswert and I am a licensed midwife and advocate for global reproductive rights.  I have worked as a midwife in response to multiple humanitarian crises in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.  I have developed a passion for professional development in midwifery and have taken an active interest and role in the education and mentorship of midwifery students.  I believe that students are the future of midwifery and deserve equal access to high quality apprenticeships and education experiences.

This has been a tumultuous time and MANA has not been immune to its own challenges.  We have an entire culture of midwifery that needs to be dismantled and rebuilt in a way that is openly anti-racist, inclusive, and that advocates for social justice.  These core values must be reflected in our midwifery institutions and organizations.  We can no longer continue to dance around the truth and talk about making change.  Talking is not enough, it is time for action.  It is time to elect people into positions of leadership who are committed to taking action.

Whether I am elected to the position of Director of Professional Development or not, I remain committed to actively assisting in the restructuring of MANA so that it may become an anti-racist and inclusive organization that represents all midwives, student midwives, and clients regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sex, sexual identify, sexual orientation, disability, economic status, and other diverse backgrounds.  It is my hope to do this in the context of professional development.  

A major indicator of success is based on the quality of education and teachers that students have access to.  Furthermore, professional development is paramount in building confidence, increasing professional experience, and credibility not only as students but as professional midwives.  My focus is on the contribution of professional development to the development of inclusive standards of healthcare and safety that honor the tradition of midwifery in a culturally and socially relevant way.   

Thank you,

Jeanna Deswert LM, CPM

Nominated for Director of Policy and Advocacy: 

Wendi Cleckner, LM, CPM, JD

Bio: Wendi is a desert child at heart, born and raised on the Arizona clay. In 1993 she helped a friend through the birth of her first child and felt a passion to devote her life to moms and babies. The calling of midwifery has blessed her with travel across the world, taking her to the Philippines, Sudan, and Iraq. She believes in the intrinsic knowledge women hold in the ability to bring forth life and will continue to work both individually and with the community, rallying for women to give birth as they choose.

Wendi is passionate about justice and advocacy. In fact, that passion helped her finish law school in two years and pass the bar with flying colors. She now advocates for women who have experienced obstetrical violence, educates doulas, midwives, friends and families what their rights are in the birthing space, and works toward changes and the policy level so that birthing people feel safe and cared for throughout the childbirth years. Wendi also serves on several boards including: the Director of Policy and Advocacy and the interim Secretary on the Midwives Alliance of North America Board of Directors, the Vice President of Postpartum Support International, Arizona Board of Directors, the current Secretary and former President of the Arizona Association of Midwives.  

Wendi loves the sun and the earth, and enjoys coaxing new life out of the Arizona ground in her gardens. She continues to study herbalism and a number of other healing modalities. Wendi recently opened Mill Ave Midwives in downtown Tempe lending it as a hub for social justice and reproductive justice work locally, nationally, and internationally. Wendi is always looking for the next adventure overseas to help women and families in under-served areas of the world. 

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