After receiving a B.A. in Russian language from the University of Minnesota in 1971, she moved to California to pursue a Master’s in Public Health. Struggling to support herself translating, she quickly realized that neither Public Health nor translation work was right for her.
Then, while working as a ward clerk at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, she had the opportunity to witness several births. She was traumatized by what she saw –the blood loss from the episiotomies, women put in stirrups in cold delivery rooms, and the general insensitivity of staff to the power of birth itself. Those births changed her direction and catalyzed her life-long journey into midwifery as a change agent to birth.
Yelena completed nearly 3 years of pre-med before deciding that med school was not her path. She plunged fully into the pursuit of midwifery education –attending anything related to birth, beginning nursing school, and apprenticing with a local home birth nurse-midwife. She was soon attending home births and birth center births as a doula and photographer. After nursing school and a year of L&D nursing, she attended UCSF/SFGH and obtained her CNM in 1988.
Since then, Yelena has been in private practice as a home birth midwife offering full-scope antepartum, intrapartum, postpartum and immediate newborn care, family planning, normal gynecology and childbirth education. She is also a clinical preceptor for many midwifery students.
Yelena co-authored Guidelines for Client Selection in the Home Birth Practice (JNM, 1995) and is an ongoing contributor to the ACNM Handbook on Home Birth Practice. She was a principal participant in a 1991 Good Morning America piece on home birth that was part of a series on women’s issues and has been a frequent presenter at conferences and lectures.
Yelena has woven together her two passions – homebirth midwifery and travel – by embarking upon a documentary video on the cesarean epidemic in the US.
According to Sarah J. Buckley, MD: “giving birth in ecstasy: this is our birthright and our body’s intent. Mother Nature, in her wisdom, prescribes birthing hormones that take us outside (ec) our usual state (stasis) so that we can be transformed on every level as we enter motherhood. This exquisite hormonal orchestration unfolds optimally when birth is undisturbed, enhancing safety for both mother and baby. Science is also increasingly discovering what we realize as mothers – that our way of birth affects us life long, mother and child, and that ecstatic birth, a birth that takes us beyond our self, is the gift of a lifetime.”