Over the past two years as I’ve openly been working towards midwifery school, I’ve had requests from friends and acquaintances for advice on applying to midwifery programs. Each time, I’ve enjoyed reflecting on my own process. I always share the caveat that I haven’t actually started the midwifery-focused portion of my training yet…but especially for those who are strongly considering nurse-midwifery, I think it is essential to fully explore what the nursing portion of nurse-midwifery looks like as well.
With this in mind, I’ve decided to share a series of posts on my path to nurse-midwifery. In the process, I hope that it will offer some support and encouragement to others considering midwifery. In the spirit of transparency, I hope that it also serves as a re-grounding for myself in my own intentions and vision for pursuing this path. Nursing school is not an easy journey and it’s helpful to periodically revisit my intentions.
With that in mind, I offer my own slow accepting of the call to midwifery.
My husband and I like to joke that 2009 was the Year of Chaos. In January, we decided to get married. In May we closed on a house and moved in. Two weeks later, I traveled from our home in the Pacific Northwest back to Minnesota to finish my third of three summers of Montessori elementary teacher training. In late July, during my oral exams, I interviewed by phone for a teaching position back home, which I was offered the following week. In August, I finished unpacking my new home and prepared my new classroom (so. many. boxes!). The first week of September was my first week of teaching…and that first weekend, we got married in our backyard. On Monday, I was back at school, ready (sort of) for week two of teaching.
That fall, I had a slow, but inevitable breakdown.
I realized, with growing discomfort, that I was not meant to be teaching in a classroom. The following nine months were some of the most painful, difficult months of my life, but the falling apart created a space for new possibilities. I can now look back on that period of my life with gratitude for that opening and for the generous, supportive people who gave me permission to speak my truth, which was this: my heart was drawn to birth work.
Once I could speak it out loud, things quickly fell into place. I took a doula training and started my own doula practice. I took trainings in pregnancy options counseling and started volunteering as a patient advocate at Planned Parenthood, accompanying women through their abortions. I read every book on birth and reproductive health I could get my hands on. Over a period of three years, I became a strong advocate and leader within my community for full spectrum doula care.
However, I didn’t let myself consider midwifery as a calling. Truth be told, I was terrified: of the medical responsibility, the heavy burden on relationships of an on-call lifestyle, the intense training and my lack of strong science background…all of it. I had several friends who were in various stages of midwifery training and at times their stories just seemed so overwhelming.
But then I experienced a birth that totally changed my world and I knew instantly that my life had been a preparation for the calling to midwifery. The birth story isn’t mine to share, but suffice to say, it was a powerful experience. Everyone in the room was changed because of it and we still marvel about it two years later. At one point, as the nurse-midwife looked deeply into the eyes of the laboring mama and reassured her that she could push out her baby wherever she felt most comfortable (even if it was on the toilet!), my heart burst open. I realized that I had been letting my fears of inadequacy guide my decisions about my life work, rather than a trust in my capacity for growth and learning. That midwife, in a simple moment of connection, not only reassured that laboring mama, but also a doula who couldn’t yet claim her heart’s desire.
There were some long, long conversations that happened with my husband during the fall of 2011 as I started laying the ground work for returning back to school to start my pre-nursing classes. It wasn’t easy at times to explain why it was so important for me to pursue this calling to midwifery. On one level, it was a purely gut instinct: that if I didn’t move forward, I would regret it for the rest of my life. But the more I talked, the more I was able to articulate how midwifery is an integration of all of my passions: for teaching, for healthy families, for holistic reproductive health, for empowered women, for a better health care system.
So, with a healthy dose of trepidation, I began my discernment process. I had accepted the calling. Now I needed to figure out the path to get there.
Reflection Questions for Aspiring Midwives
With each future post, I’ll include relevant questions to ponder about each stage of applying to midwifery programs. The following are questions that I considered as I began thinking about whether I could truly accept the calling to midwifery.
• What is it about midwifery that makes you excited?
• What is it about midwifery that scares you?
• What personal qualities do you think are essential for a midwife to have?
• How do your life experiences so far feed into your desire to serve as a midwife?
• What are other ways that you potentially serve the reproductive health needs of women and their families without becoming a midwife? Could you be a “midwife” without being a midwife?
Coming Soon…Part 2: Finding the Path