Happy International Day of the Midwife everyone! My 26 years in the birth world been quite a journey, and the incredible work of midwifery is a core part of who I am today. Given how many doulas and childbirth educators I meet who dream of “one day” becoming a midwife, I thought I’d take a few minutes to share why I am Not a midwife.
Little known fact: I was well on my way to becoming a midwife way back in May of 1995. I had completed 8 months as a midwifery apprentice and student at Maternidad La Luz birth center in El Paso, TX. I had just been accepted into the Yale University Certified Nurse Midwife masters program, my 2nd year applying to the highly competitive program. I had completed a full year of nursing pre-requisite courses and discovered an unexpected skill and enjoyment in the sciences. I was 25 years old, and had already been working towards becoming a midwife for four years. And yet…
Something didn’t feel right. The call had shifted, but I didn’t yet understand where it was leading me. I declined the coveted Yale acceptance, and instead decided to complete a Masters in Parent-Child Nursing at the University of Texas at Austin. The idea at this point was still to do a one year CNM program after I completed my Masters in Nursing, but I felt clear that I was not yet meant to become a midwife. A few years later in a strange twist of fate I actually met the woman who had taken my place in that year’s midwifery class at Yale. It was very affirming and powerful to see that each of us were in exactly the Right place.
I’m not really sure at what point I knew that the CNM thing just wasn’t going to happen, but somewhere over the course of those years I began to better understand where I belonged within the birth world. It became clear to me that my strengths, and indeed the skills I most wanted to be using with families, were based in the realm of emotional, rather than clinical support.
And yet… I had a Masters in Nursing!!!! After investing that much in advanced education, one should generally get a job using it, right? Well, I tried. I spent time working in both labor & delivery and maternity nursing, and my husband literally had to PUSH me out of the car to get me to go to work, leaving me colorful love notes in my lunchbox to keep me motivated, reminding me that the women in there Needed me. Between the charting, the IVs and medications, let alone the politics of the nursing station, I struggled to find the space to offer the emotional and social support that I felt so deeply called to do.
I was blessed to be pregnant with our first son at this time, so his birth also allowed the gift of some time away from nursing to reflect on who I was becoming – now as a mother, and a birth professional. It gave me the opportunity to redefine my path and ultimately return full circle to where I had first started: doula care and childbirth education.
Twelve years have passed since then, and I am now crystal clear that I am on the right path. Midwifery is an incredible career choice, and I’ve witnessed dear friends take the leap and find true happiness in their new role with families. I know that I could have been a good midwife, maybe even a great one, but it was not my path to take. It makes me smile to now have the perspective of time, having found so many unique ways to apply my skills and passions to support not only birthing families, but now also all of you as birth professionals.
So here they are, my top three reasons why I will never be a midwife:
1. While I love midwives and all things birth, I am 100% clear that my true calling does not involve clinical care. It is the emotional – social – spiritual realm of support that brought me into birth work in the first place, and to this day that is where my true passion is found.
2. I have attended enough births in all these years to have witnessed some very difficult outcomes for both mom and baby. I am deeply thankful for the skill and wisdom that midwives bring to each and every birth to guide a family safely through, and am keenly aware that I do not feel called to be in that place of clinical responsibility.
3. I don’t have to be a midwife to work in birth. I know this is really, really common sense now, but honestly when I first started out I had never met a professional childbirth educator or doula. DONA was founded the same year as I started attending births, and it was many years before I met anyone who had a career in birth work without being a doctor, nurse, or midwife.
I Love how much the birth community has changed over the the 26 years I’ve been in the birth world, and look forward to witnessing many more changes in the years to come. I love the diversity of ways we can support families through birth and postpartum, knowing there is no single best path. Midwifery used to be the pinnacle for me, the ultimate goal, and it seemed as though everyone I knew was working towards becoming a midwife. Now I recognize that midwifery is simply another path that I could have easily taken, but would not have been the best use of my unique skill set. I am so beyond thankful for the those of you who have chosen the midwifery path; I know it’s not an easy one.