Wanna Be A Midwife?

Everything you need to know to pick your path to midwifery
March 1st, 2013 by Cheryl

Birth of a Midwife

My first post is on the long side, but I couldn’t bear to break it up. I wanted to start by telling my wannabeamidwife story. My path wasn’t straight or easy, and I tell you that not out of nostalgia but because I think there is probably someone out there who can relate. Someone who did not start out to be a midwife, who like me did not even start out in healthcare, but heard the call and in the end – answered.

The conception of my being a midwife began with the pregnancy of my first child in 1979. In my 7th month of pregnancy, I attended a midwife appointment with a friend who was planning a homebirth. I was getting care from an obstetrician I liked very much and was planning a hospital birth. I really had no complaints. Yet, I was impressed with the length of my friend’s appointment and the depth of education and personal attention she received from the midwife. After reading Ina May Gaskin’s book “Spiritual Midwifery” and considering my options, I switched to midwifery care and my son was born at home without complications into my arms with his dad at my side and a group of close friends there for support.

I was so moved by this first experience of being a consumer of midwifery care that I though – maybe I should become a midwife. My career at that time was in the arts and entertainment field. I worked as a producer and writer in regional theater and in production in the television industry. Friends actually made fund of this idea. The further I got away from my birth experience, the less real it became that I should or more accurately that I could become a midwife.

Nine years late in 1988 with the pregnancy of my daughter, the staying power of that notion to become a midwife was much, much stronger. I had had  a miscarriage between the two pregnancies and some early bleeding in this one. This – and the fact that the midwife that had been with me for my first birth was unavailable – led me to choose to return to my original obstetrician and a hospital birth. On March 3rd, 1988 in a labor pretty much identical to my first, I brought my daughter into the world in yet another amazing event. I had the striking experience of two healthy, well supported births with two excellent care providers – one at home and one in the hospital – both with excellent outcomes. I will forever be grateful for having had those personal journeys with both the medical mode and midwifery model. I believe it gave me the opportunity to “walk in both worlds”.

Now, I could not stop thinking about becoming a midwife. So I went to my guru midwife friend, Mary Jackson (midwife of my son). She gave me brochures and told me to attend some conferences (which I did). The first conference I went to, I ended up being housed with Penny Simkin at a private home and sat in amazement listening to her speak around the kitchen table late into the night. The other conferences were filled with inspiring leaders in maternal child health and I drank their wisdom in.

At the same time, I was still working in the entertainment industry at this time, on a documentary called “Childbirth at a Turning Point” featuring Michel Odent and was also helping my former pregnancy workout teacher produce a prenatal exercise video.

By Fall of 1988 it was evident I was meant to be a midwife. I decided I would “set my foot on the pathway to midwifery” and that I would stay on the path until something or someone showed me I should not be there. Nothing and no one ever has. I think there is a moment like this for all of us and it is our moment of birth as a midwife. It is a moment of demarcation before which we weren’t sure and after which we were. In January of 1989 I went back to school and began to earn my Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) as the first step toward becoming a Nurse-Midwife. At that time in California, there was no option for direct certification or state licensing of non-nurse midwifery – and I wanted to be certified and legal.

I graduated in 1994 with my ADN and in May of 1997 completed both my Certificate in Nurse-Midwifery from the Frontier School of Family Nursing and Nurse-Midwifery and my Masters of Science in Nursing from Case Western Reserve University. I passed the national boards that summer, making me a Certified Nurse-Midwife.

Epilogue: In January 1989 when I said I would “set my foot on the pathway to midwifery” and stay there, I did not know how soon that path might be challenged. On April 20th of that year I was involved in a 5-car crash caused by a drunk driver coming down the wrong side of a wet highway at 5:00 AM. I was closer to death than life coming out of the accident. One thought I remember having was thinking about what was really important to me if I lived. Obviously my children and husband were the first things on my mind, but the other thing that was crystal clear to me was that I was going to be a midwife.

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