Why I want to be a midwife


This morning, at the very moment this blog publishes (9:30 AM), I will be in Hamilton, Ontario at McMaster University starting an interview process known as MMI (multiple-mini-interview) in the hopes of earning a place in their midwifery program this fall. (Unless my carshare car has broken down by the side of the road en route, or I’ve developed a violent stomach flu, or any number of other worst-case scenarios occur that have been plaguing my dreams all week.)

The MMI is an interviewing process that involves, as I understand it, the applicant visiting ten different rooms in rapid succession, and being asked in each room to respond to a new question or scenario. Each room has a different assessor present, and the conversation/scenario ends after ten minutes. And then it’s on to the next room. I wonder whether I’ll agree with this statement afterward, but I’m actually looking forward to the process — to getting in there, digging in, presenting myself, being myself, experiencing something new and different.

I’ve done some groundwork, as best I can. I’ve grilled my friend who graduated from the program two years ago. I’ve read a book of essays on midwifery in Ontario that she recommended. And I’ve written down my thoughts and wandered around the house answering imaginary questions in long rambling mutters.

So here’s what I’m planning to say if asked: “Why do you want to be a midwife?” Which seems like a question I ought to expect and know the answer to.

I want to be a midwife because I want to do work that is practical, hands-on, and meaningful.

I want to work with women, and their families, during moments of profound transition and change, and assist in the process. I want to learn and practice new skills. I want to empower women to make choices about their bodies that bring them health, confidence, and strength.

I would be privileged to become a midwife. I think birth is a life-altering physical experience that has the power to be spiritually meaningful, too.

I have been drawn to midwifery since witnessing (and helping, a bit!) my mother labour and give birth, at home, to my sister, with amazing midwives in attendance. I was twelve-and-a-half and have been fascinated by birth and midwifery ever since. In my early teens I pored over Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. Two of my favourite subjects in high school were biology and chemistry. At nineteen, while a university arts major, I picked up a flier for the then-brand-new midwifery education program in Ontario, but didn’t work up the courage to apply (wisely, I think, as it wouldn’t have been the right moment in my life). I chose midwifery care for my own pregnancies, and was fortunate to give birth at home three out of four times (the hospital birth being due to complications). In the past four years, I’ve been invited to support friends and family through labour and birth, both at home and in hospital.

[Note: my daughter advises me to edit the above paragraph heavily, and not mention why I didn’t become a midwife before — “You’re never going to fit all of this into ten minutes, Mom! And you just have to tell them why you want to be a midwife now.” Excellent point. Glad I rehearsed it with her.]

I want to be a midwife because I believe it combines physical and spiritual work. I want to work directly with people in a way that seems to me quite unique: midwifery care, as I’ve experienced it, is intimate, personal, compassionate, supportive, celebratory, active, at times requiring intense involvement and attention, and at other times requiring deep listening and attention. I see it as a job that is in service to the health and well-being of others. In that way, it’s very much like my writing work, but with an outward pull rather than an inward pull. I see the two being quite connected. Both work requires intuition grounded in knowledge, trust, and a good ear.

I also want to be a midwife because it is my goal, eventually, when my children are grown, to volunteer and serve in areas of the world, or here in Canada, where health care is less accessible, and there is a need for perinatal care.

Why midwifery rather than another health care profession? It could be due to my formative and positive experiences with midwives. It could be because midwifery’s long history and tradition is of women helping women, and I would love to join that tradition. It could be because I’ve got a bit of the counter-cultural in me, as well as an interest in being a medical professional. A midwife, to me, is someone who believes in the fundamental power of a woman’s body, and that ties in to my interest in overall health, fitness, and strength.

I would bring to my practice a belief that we can all live inside our bodies with respect and care. I would also bring the understanding that not everything can be planned. I would bring the ability to be flexible, to be open to what may be rapidly-changing situations, and to be responsive to shifting choices and needs. I know myself to be calm, focused, and decisive when that is called for, but I also have a light touch in weighty matters. I try to read the situation and respond as needed.

Am I totally off-topic? What was the question? [Insert anxiety dream scenario here …]

Please … wish me luck!

Ice storm, aka "the day they should have cancelled school"
A good day to learn how to swim

18 Comments

  1. Yes!!! Those are wonderful thoughts and responses to the question! I hope it all goes well because I think you’d make a great midwife.

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    • I’m not sure I even got through a third of my planned speech, and it was only a third as articulate, I’m sure … but it was thrilling to get the opportunity to be there, talking about why I want to be a midwife!

      Reply
    • Wow! I had no idea, Miranda. That’s amazing. No wonder I love your writing — you’re a kindred spirit.
      And, yes, I do seem drawn to difficult careers. I must feed off of challenge.

      Reply
  2. thinking of you, carrie!!!
    it is 11:11 a.m., so you are likely just finishing up the mini-interviews…positive vibes coming your way!!!
    would love to hear how things went, if you feel like sharing. and thanks for posting your thoughts…you would make a most excellent mid-wife (and i totally believe with the life-timing of your application; maturity brings wisdom to this profession).

    Reply
  3. Luck wished! I suspect you may also draw on the bond to and joy of your children. My daughter-in-law, who has five children and works (when she can manage it) as doula and birth photographer, is hoping to study midwifery as well down the road. I’ll follow your path with interest for her sake as well.

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  4. Wow – I almost want to be a midwife myself now! Hope the interview went well.

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    • I can’t assess how I did, only know that I did the best I could …

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  5. It’s 10:20 PDT, so I’m guessing you are out of your interviews now. I read this with misty eyes, so proud of you. You are going to do so well, and I have a strong feeling that you will get in, and that you will eventually become a most excellent midwife.

    I loved my midwives, and was lucky to have the same one at all three of my births, and two others at my first two. It’s a very special relationship, isn’t it? I miss them. I think I should write my clinic a letter.

    I can’t wait to hear how it went. xoxo

    Reply
    • Thank you, thank you, Marita. I feel very supported on this journey so far.
      It is a special relationship. Write your midwives a letter! They will appreciate it!

      Reply
  6. Wonderful! I hope it went well.

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  7. Good luck! This is my daughter’s ambition too and she’s just starting to learn how much preparation is needed. I’ve sent her your post and would love to give her a booklist if you have recommendations.

    Reply
    • Reconceiving Midwifery is the collection of essays on midwifery in Ontario.
      I loved Spiritual Midwifery (Ina May Gaskin) as a teen, and when preparing for my births.
      Sheila Kitzinger is also good. I’m sure there are others too!

      Reply
  8. This is absolutely beautiful. I am in midwifery school and graduate in May and am so ready!! How is everything going for you?

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    • Hi there, thank you for your message. I wish you a beautiful work-life going forward.

      Reply

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