The life of a student midwife means that we put in a lot of hours for education and apprenticeships. By a lot, I mean thousands of hours. The majority of these hours go unpaid so you must absolutely love what you do, to sacrifice so much. Some students find birth work to be too much for them for a variety of reasons. Being on call 24/7, missing birthdays, special events, vacations and the like, can take a toll on a person.
I’ve been a doula for almost 17 years now and have attended over 180 births as a doula. I’ve built my business from scratch. I don’t have employees, so I am the one who creates marketing materials and all the forms, handles the website, does the marketing, takes in the phone calls, prepares for classes and so much more. As my business has grown, my family has supported me more than they probably want to at times. I’ve missed recitals, family events, my own birthday parties, my family’s birthday parties, and of course, holidays. Never once has my family asked me to sacrifice my work and support of families to be with them.
When my husband and I sat down with our daughters (it had to be a unanimous decision) we all decided together that it was time for me to start midwifery school—they all knew that there was going to be even more sacrifices than my work as a doula. There would be times that I would not see them for days. My education was going to be expensive. My apprenticeships were going to be unpaid. I would have to sacrifice my business to receive the education that I needed. They also knew the possibility of me moving away from them to have an apprenticeship would be very high.
I am currently a year and a half into my education and it’s not always been easy. I’m currently in my third apprenticeship. Unfortunately, it's four hours away from my home, so I have uprooted myself and moved to Ukiah, California on a part-time basis. My family is still in Monterey and I miss them terribly. Lucky for me, my new apprenticeship has been a been a lovely, lovely experience. I feel at home in this birth center with these midwives. They are everything I had hoped teaching midwives would be like. They value my experience and they respect my work. When I screw up, it’s not about judgment or fault, but about teaching. I’m teaching them, too, and they tell me as much. When I do a good job, they let me know that as well.
I also love that I have a friendly face from home here with me. While I have much more experience than her, she and I work very well together as doulas and now as student midwives. She also keeps me in check and makes sure I drink plenty of water and eat healthier. While I sometimes kick and scream about this last part, she just giggles and holds me accountable (but not too much that I feel judged, you know?).
Today was a big day for me. Let me explain.
There are a number of Clinical Experiences that my school requires of me. There is an Observe Phase in which I must observe 10 births in any capacity. My doula births counted for this phase, so that was easy peasy for me.
Next is Phase Two, the Assistant Phase. This is currently the phase that I am in. The requirements are:
In this Assistant Phase, if my preceptor feels as though I am ready, and I finish my Assistant Phase exams, I can do third phase (Primary Phase) exams. I cannot do primary births until I have been accepted into the Primary Phase.
I have completed all of the Assistant Phase requirements (I actually completed these with my last preceptor a few months ago) except for my births and newborn exams.
Today was a big day for me—I ran a prenatal exam and my supervising midwife signed off on it as a Primary Phase exam.
While I still need to finish my Assistant Phase, and I still have Primary Phase to go (I won’t bother giving you those sordid details yet), this was big for me today. It’s the Little Big Steps that make such a difference in how I see things. I already know I can do this work. This just gave me the confidence boost that I needed to remind myself that the sacrifice and pain of being away from my family is worth it.
What Little Big Steps have you experienced along your journey?
Doula. Childbirth Educator. Breastfeeding Counselor. Massage Therapist. Student Midwife. Mom. Wife. Friend. Human.