Over the next few days, I will be publishing several essays and shorter bits about my journey to midwifery. The application process for Birthwise gave me lots of time and space to think deeply and write about my philosophy of birth, the reason I am drawn to a career in midwifery, and what I think a midwife should look like. Enjoy!
I come from a family transformed by the act of birth. My mother gave birth to my sister and me in a hospital with a CNM. I grew up listening to her recount her birthing experiences: how she and my father wrote their birth plans carefully, how she refused medication and interventions, and how this was the greatest gift she felt she could give us. Listening to my mother, it is impossible not to be struck by the deep pride and self-reliance in her voice. These stories contrast sharply with those of my grandmother who gave birth to six babies in the 1950s and 1960s and does not remember a single birth because she was forced to undergo twilight sleep. The first time that my grandmother experienced birth consciously was when she was present at my birth. Observing my birth transformed my grandmother. The opportunity to observe my birth first-hand seemed to make up for her own stolen memories. She was awestruck by a sense of the miraculous and cherishes the memories of my birth to this day. I grew up knowing about the strong birthing women in my family and being told explicitly that my body was built to be able to give birth despite what doctors might tell me.
Women’s health has always been a deep interest of mine and I took every opportunity to study it while attending Mount Holyoke College. I majored in cultural anthropology and chose to earn the Five-College Certificate in Culture, Health, and Science instead of a traditional minor. During one summer, I interned with the education department of Planned Parenthood of Western Washington (now Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest) and returned to continue my work at Planned Parenthood as their Teen Clinic Coordinator upon graduation.
My introduction to the world of homebirth and direct-entry midwifery was a rather fortuitous one. Each time I visited my academic advisor, I passed a bulletin board filled postings of health-related job opportunities and post-graduate programs. I frequently found myself lingering to pore over the midwifery school listings. One day, I came across an advertisement for a CAPPA labor doula course and signed up with building excitement. The first day of class my eyes were opened to a whole world of birth taking place outside of hospital settings that I had not known existed. As I learned and practiced my doula skills I began to understand birth as a normal, non-medical part of life. Safeguarding the option to labor and give birth in one’s own home or at a freestanding birth center became as critically important to me as protecting my mother’s choice to give birth in a hospital birthing suite under the care of a CNM.