As I’ve been here in Austin, I feel like a subtle but important shift is taking place. I feel like I have moved into the realm of being a student midwife instead of the midwifery student I was before. While up at Birthwise in Maine I definitely felt like I was a student of midwifery, and even though I was heavily involved in the practice I had my clinical rotations at, felt much more like a midwifery student than a student midwife. Down here in Austin, I am working in a practice full-time and things have shifted slightly.
On some level, it still feels like I’m arriving in Austin just like I’m arriving at the role of student midwife. The change is not yet complete. Even though we’ve been here since the end of March (!!!), when people ask me how things are going in Austin I invariably tell them I’m settling in. That’s how I feel with the role of student midwife. I’ve come to Austin, I’ve begun with this practice, I’m here, but I’m still stepping into my full role. It’s exciting and I think there are great things in store for me. But I’m actively building my confidence, participating actively, offering advice and sharing my knowledge as appropriate. It’s amazing to look a little bit into the future and try to guess what I will feel like or what my skill level will be in a years time when I will supposedly graduate from Birthwise and set out on the journey of beginning to practice as a full-fledged midwife. Yesterday in an appointment, my midwife described me as just finishing up the end of my training with this practice. Which I suppose is true. I’ll be here until my numbers are complete and I’m ready to take the NARM exam. Describing myself as a student midwife seems much more like I’m almost a midwife than when I use the words midwifery student. I am stepping up to the plate and acting as a student midwife instead of sitting in a classroom and doing the book-learning portion of my education.
All in all, it’s very exciting to be in this transitory time.
So as a beginning midwifery student, it quickly becomes apparent that you don’t know much. You fumble through the first several times you take blood pressure, and you are terrified to stick someone with a needle to draw their blood. At least I was. I attempted to take the pulse of one of our clients during a prenatal and was completely embarrassed when I couldn’t find it! When everything is this new, even something that sounds as simple as taking a pulse can be difficult. (I remedied the situation by taking the pulse of everyone one of my classmates the following day. I learned that pulses can be subtle. Sneaky buggers.)
So while I am continually being reminded that one must be a humble sponge as a student (the better to soak up knowledge and life lessons with), I also of course want to feel like I’m contributing and doing my part to help. Partially, this is coming with experience – the more prenatal appointments I sit in on, the more I see places where I can help. I can take blood pressure, pulse, check reflexes, for edema, etc. etc. etc. all on my own even as a student. And I can contribute knowledge that I’m learning in class. But really, I still don’t know very much.
So I get very excited when I feel like I can really contribute. And one area I feel I can definitely do that is with the spiritual side of birth. Whether it’s moving energy, holding space, or creating ritual for our clients, I feel completely qualified to participate! Finally, something I’m good at. I put a lot of energy into this when an opportunity crops up because I have so much experience in this area. We created a beautiful blessingway ceremony for one of our clients and I couldn’t have been happier to participate. Being a Pagan for all these years has been good for something! Mostly, though, it’s exciting to be able to contribute something I feel uniquely qualified to help with. Am I an expert at checking cervical dilation? No way. Do I know how to shift the energy in a room and create a productive birthing environment? You bet. It is an honor to be able to provide our clients with any part of this and is something I’m very excited about doing.
So I’m going to keep learning and absorbing and making mistakes and trying new things. But I’m also going to bring nearly a decade’s worth of work connecting to the Divine, moving energy, and creating space. Because I think every pregnant and birthing person can benefit from a little of that.
I was just accepted as a student at the Birthwise Midwifery School in Bridgton, Maine. Midwifery here I come! I am so excited to start learning (well, learning formally at least), getting messy, and beginning to do hands-on work. It feels like I have just taken one more important step down the path to an incredible journey.