After graduating from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in 2000, she attended graduate school at the University of Colorado, where she earned her master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering and was accepted into the Ph.D. program. After she graduated, she worked for NASA as a researcher, developing hardware design for space life science experiments. At Northrop Grumman, she worked as a structural stress analyst for the Joint Strike Fighter, one of the U.S. military’s most advanced airplanes.
The new career call followed the hospital birth of Jah’s first child, Denali. “It was a difficult experience for me,” she recalled. It was at this time that two significant things happened, leading her down the path to becoming a midwife. The first was breastfeeding. She was not fully informed or educated about the process, and found it to be uncomfortable and painful. This period of time brought about a moderate postpartum depression. “While I enjoyed my job, I found it difficult to find balance as a mother and engineer,” she said. She thought it would help to find a hobby. However, becoming a midwife and helping other women work towards an empowered, educated birthing and nursing experience was all she could think about. Hence, she found her second calling.
Jah began midwife training and lactation education with an organization called Support Birth. She decided to birth her second child at home with midwives, and noticed a remarkable difference in her entire experience. “Midwifery care is a woman-centered model based on the belief that women should have options to choose how, where and with whom they birth. This care not only monitors the physical, psychological and social well-being of the mother, but also provides individualized education, counseling and continuous hands-on assistance during labor and delivery, as well as postpartum support,” she said.
Cassaundra Jah had a career as a full-time aerospace engineer when she received a calling to become a midwife.
Breastfeeding her daughter Inara began as painfully as with her son. Luckily, her midwife spent one postpartum visit teaching her about positioning, and two days later, she said she had no pain. “To be left with just the joy of looking into my daughter’s beautiful face while I nourished her body was so powerful, it left a deep desire to help other women with lactation issues,” said Jah.
But Jah’s work as an engineer became increasingly difficult, and she was feeling unfulfilled. One day she was asked, “What would it be like to have a job that you really loved?” After much contemplation, she decided to take a leap of faith and follow her heart.
Soon after, a chance meeting with Tina Garzero, who happens to be Maui’s most famous midwife, gave Jah her primary preceptor. “Our friendship grew over time, and Tina encouraged me to sign up with The National College of Midwifery,” she said. She also took classes at Maui Community College to complete the academic requirements.
Jah recently returned from an eight-week course on the Mainland, where she completed the clinical requirements needed to be a midwife. In an apprenticeship at the Kaiser Clinic with Dr. Benjamin DeLisa, she is now completing her midwifery education.
Jah’s vision and new life purpose is to continue educating women on the process of pregnancy, labor and birth. She is also aware of the need for lactation consultants, and provides free breastfeeding support group meetings every Monday. Jah also participates in a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization and UNICEF called The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). “The BFHI encourages and helps hospitals in giving breastfeeding mothers the information, confidence and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies,” she said. “While the thought of a flight in space still thrills me, I see the inner space within the womb being as beautiful and miraculous as outer space,” said Jah.
There is always a continuing need to bridge the gap in maternity and breastfeeding services. This aerospace engineer-turned-midwife has answered the call to do just that. For more information on midwife services and breastfeeding support groups, contact Jah at (808) 283-5373 and visit www.mauibirthsource.com.