E-News received the following question about apprenticeship and numerous responses.
I am a midwife in training with an impressive record as
a childbirth educator, DONA-certified doula, certified infant massage
therapist, and a keen interest in normal birth. Four months ago I moved
to a new area with my family and began the process of trying to make
contacts. I am having a difficult time finding a midwife who is willing
to talk with me about the steps necessary to secure an apprenticeship.
Frankly, I feel a little like I'm crossing into a territory that belongs
to someone else. I have emailed a vita to many well-respected midwives
in my area asking for assistance, that they pass my name along, etc.
I haven't had as much as a telephone call from anyone, even to say that
they couldn't help.
Is the society of midwives so closed and myopic that they
have lost sight of the idea behind traditional midwifery, that midwives
teach parents as well as other midwives, that they give the gift and
pass along the art? My grandmother learned from her mother, and she
learned from her aunt, etc. After all, wouldn't we all like to see more
homebirths? This can be accomplished with more midwives who are well
trained. It is difficult not to feel disheartened. What do I do? Do
I need to know the secret handshake?
- Jackie McMillan
Call them in person (midwifery is a very personal vocation)
and ask if you could meet with them, maybe take them to lunch, etc.
I have taken on lots of apprentices, some I wasn't sure of but was willing
to give them a chance. Remember these are busy women and it is your
job to push, not theirs--they have already done their time.
Our society feels like somebody, somewhere owes it to them.
I am a strong woman who pushes and works for what I get. I never had
anyone to help me when I started and never felt a great desire to complain
about that. It has made me stronger. As far as family passing down trade/skill,
isn't that a natural process? It is not always a natural thing to take
a stranger into your space; it is something we do by influence or decision,
not by nature.
Think of your letters as an introduction to who you are,
and then follow up with a phone call. Even put in your letter that you
would love to hear from them, but that you plan to call them on such
and such a date. Never put people on the spot by asking for an apprenticeship
right then and there. Think of it all as networking. Prepare a few questions
regarding the climate of midwifery in your new area, and how an aspiring
midwife might put herself in the right place at the right time to be
invited to apprentice. Finish your conversation by asking for the names
and contact info for others you should talk to, and ask about any meetings
of midwives or doulas in the area.
Midwives love to help, but you need to be more proactive.
I am a new CNM about 9 months into my first job, and used this technique
when I was job hunting. Not only do I have a great job, but I am better
connected with midwives around the Northeast.
- Eliza Barton, CNM, MSN
West Hartford, CT
My gut reaction to your inquiry was, "First, get rid
of your sarcasm from anger." Tired midwives don't need to be treated
as if they are "supposed to" help anyone who demands it. Have
you made offers to enable the time spent teaching you to be compensated?
An on-call life style is very demanding, especially if a midwife has
I was a registered nurse who had studied homebirths for
two years while finishing my BSN degree. I did my best to prepare to
start an apprenticeship, I went to The Farm to take a midwife assistant
class, I read all the books I could find, I went to Midwifery Today conferences. I was awaiting the day when I could start apprenticing
and enter the beautiful sisterhood of midwifery. Boy, was I ever let
down. I was very willing to move so I sent my resume out to lots of
midwives in several different areas with no response. I thought for
sure that when I went to the next Midwifery Today conference I would
meet someone who could help me or who knew of someone else who might
but the reality is that I was shot down every time and had my heart
broken that week. These women were not like I had imagined and I was
very disappointed. I truly thought about giving up. I didn't. I did
find a midwife 3000 miles away who asked me to join her within the month
and so off I went and it was a magical experience I believe for both
of us. I have since gone back for my CNM degree and hope to some day
join her homebirth practice.
Don't give up. Midwives are very busy women who have a lot
on their plate. I believe that they all have it in their hearts to "teach
one" but that takes time and patience and a lot of hard work. Keep
trying and keep selling yourself--there is someone out there for you.
I am certain you have so much to offer to women and to the community
of midwives. Be patient, keep studying and keep looking for opportunities.
You are not alone!
I am also an apprenticing midwife with a host of credentials
who recently moved to a new state. Here, most midwives are trained through
a large and well-established midwifery school. I had been apprenticing
with two midwives, one who is licensed and one who is not. I have taken
many courses and participated in midwifery study groups, but never have
had a desire to complete the majority of my learning in a classroom
setting. I wanted to be a truly apprentice-trained midwife.
Now I find that the only way to secure a midwifery apprenticeship
in my area is to attend the midwifery school. I called no less than
25 midwives and contacted local midwifery organizations. Most of my
calls went unreturned and the midwives I did manage to speak with offered
no help other than to tell me to attend the school.
I too am very interested in becoming a midwife in my community.
I have met with a couple of midwives in my area and talked to several
on the phone. I had to just start calling and asking them individually
about direct entry and apprenticeships. While I didn't always get the
answers I wanted or expected I did learn more about what is in my area
and how to get involved. Also, one of them had a list of midwives I
could contact. The thing most often repeated was to stay in contact
and to keep learning. Another thing that was often recommended to me
was midwifery birthing centers.
Entering a new community of midwives is not that hard. Know
the bottom line: clients. If you can give them clients while you work
as a doula in the meantime this would be beneficial for both apprentice
and midwife. Ask what are the benefits of the engagement/partnership
to both parties. Come out with a flyer or newsletter listing yourself
as resource and referral and list the other midwives as midwives (with
their permission). In the local paper, advertise birth bags ($99) and
when birthing couples call you tell them that you can work as a doula
and would be happy to refer them to midwives in the area if they need
one. A doula friend of mine hangs out in the labor dept. of hospitals
and advertises herself as a doula and she gets clients that way.
- Connie Dello Buono
It is common for people to call or email me wanting answers
about how to become a midwife, as if there were a recipe, and not liking
what they hear, never respond. Because I remember the agonizing and
frustration and burning desire to become a midwife I *always* take the
time from my overextended and busy life to answer questions to those
starting down the midwife path.
First and foremost, midwifery is about patience and humility.
It can take years for an apprenticeship to open up in a community. That
is the reality for aspiring midwives, especially those with partners
and families who cannot relocate for training. For those of us with
dependents, being a partner and a mother is also part of our midwife
training. It may take longer, but it all equals out in the end.
When you enter a community or have heard "the call,"
or when you have made the decision to become a midwife, it is best to
start practicing some midwife techniques. For example: When I go to
the home of a laboring woman, I enter her place quietly and respectfully.
I take off my shoes and set my equipment down. I gently ease myself
into the energy of the birth. I use my senses, intuition and experience
to "see" what is going on before I say too much. I look for
ways that I can be of assistance before I take care of my own needs.
Maybe you can think about how you have approached your quest.
If you aren't getting a response or the responses you desire, maybe
it is not about them not hearing you--maybe it is about how they hear
what you have to say. Most midwives routinely get calls from aspiring
midwives. How does one choose? There are as many screening techniques
for students as there are for homebirth momma candidates. In many ways
it is a combination of timing and chemistry. Speaking from the heart,
offering something to a midwife and the birth community is a wonderful
way to establish credibility. I love to give aspiring midwives opportunities
to learn more about birth, but I can't take everyone who wants to see
a homebirth or professes the desire to become a midwife to the private
and intimate space that most couples want.
There are many ways to learn midwifery until an apprenticeship
opens up. You start studying. You can also get involved in a midwife
group or consumer group and help with fundraising, politics, education.
Midwifery is a way of life, not a finite point that we strive to *learn
how to do* as the ultimate goal. We birthing mothers and midwives want
and need your support--sometimes you have to give first before you receive.
Sometimes we have to earn our way spiritually before we are allowed
to practice. I am not saying that if it takes a person a longer time
to find an apprenticeship she had more spiritual work to do. What I
am saying is that we who attend pregnant women are being honored to
walk in what is divine and holy, we should constantly strive to make
ourselves worthy of this opportunity.
Even in areas where there are more aspiring midwives and
midwives than birthing women, there will always be a place for good
midwives--I mean good in skills, community, her own family and in her
heart. Many of us believe in teaching and do so on a regular basis.
Be careful about labeling a community because your individual needs
have not been met. If it was quick and easy it might not be worth the
convenience. Midwifery will try you to your very soul, you will experience
every human emotion as a midwife, from sheer terror to divine joy. Part
of your training might just be about being the very best human being
you can possibly be in the meantime.
I too have had to fight tooth and nail to get in my internship.
I went to a birth school and have been apprenticing for over five years.
I have assisted midwives for over 100 births, I have been primary at
six. I too have not been able to get the apprenticeship I needed. But
don't give up. Be available. Attend all workshops and meetings. You
eventually will get to intern.
The most important step is to first become a part of the
community. That means showing up for regional meetings, classes, lectures,
volunteer events, etc., and letting yourself become known to the birth
workers and families of the community. I am not sure if as an aspiring
midwife you realize how common it is for senior midwives to be approached
by women who either idealize the calling of being a midwife or are simply
passing through a community for a short time. By showing your commitment
to the birth community in your area, you allow there to be an unfolding
of relationships and trust in a way that is much more gentle, more akin
to the nature of the work we do at home, which allows women to open
up and trust. Homebirth is the crown jewel of a few, in a nation besieged
by women's distrust of their own bodies. Your work in your own community
to change this and make more options available does not go by unnoticed
and is sure to produce more clients, more midwives to attend them, and
therefore more opportunities for learning. I have rarely seen a woman
who faithfully knocks not have the door opened for her, but I have see
way too many midwives short of time or energy at the end of the day
to return another call.
I myself am an apprentice-trained midwife. I am now a midwife
who is approached by women who want to apprentice. I find myself making
the requirements of apprenticeship narrower and narrower. This is the
I have put my heart and soul into several women in the past
to train them. We have spent countless hours together. I have not only
given them what is in my head but also my heart. I have changed the
way I approach apprenticeship each time I see one lose her commitment
or each time I see that when it really gets down to it, she didn't have
the commitment to begin with. I tried teaching for free, teaching for
a fee, buying books and supplies for them, requiring them to buy their
own books and supplies. I have tried taking apprentices from midwifery
schools. I have felt used in the process.
I have not seen one go on to be a midwife. Their personal
lives have always been met with drama and they cannot blend the commitment
of midwifery and family. I now have consented to only train women who
have children over 4 years old, who have supportive husbands and excellent
childcare, and those who have had babies with me. I know this sounds
very exclusive. I have to do it this way to preserve my own sanity and
feelings. Many schools around the country offer book training. If you have shown the commitment to finish a training program and then seek
an apprenticeship, this may be another way to secure an apprenticeship.
When mothers and aunts teach daughters, there is a different
relationship already formed. This may contribute to the success of this
model. My mentor indeed felt like a mother or aunt to me because of
our close relationship. Maybe the secret handshake is the trust and
love built up over some years of commitment and loving someone, not
just that you have many qualifications.
Try to build a relationship with one or more of these midwives.
I know that I am turned off by someone meeting me for the first time
and asking for an apprenticeship. I always feel that "She doesn't
even know me! How can she ask me that?" It is a very personal and
intimate thing. It would be kind of like asking someone to marry you
whom you just met; sending them a resume or list of your accomplishments
is not going to woo them. Keep that in mind in your search to be a midwife.
- Cynthia Luxford
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E-News acknowledges and thanks Rachel Westfall for her thoroughly researched
information on shepherd's purse in Issue 3:5. We sincerely regret having
omitted her name at the end of her text. Great job, Rachel!
- Editor, E-News
I was very interested in the advice given about shepherd's purse. I do
not have trouble with hemorrhage, but do bleed for the entire six weeks
following birth. Sometimes I stop for a day or two, but then start again.
I nurse often, and this does not seem to make a difference. Would a tea
of shepherd's purse help me the next time? My fourth baby is due in July.
In the late 1980s, an American midwife spoke at a MANA
conference on the difference between the two different strains of red
raspberry (rubus ideaus and rubus strigosus). She noted that the rubus
ideaus is commonly available and recommended as a uterine tonic for the
birth. John Lust's book on herbs lists this strain as helpful for the
lungs only and that the rubus strigosus is the one to use for the uterus.
She found that women drinking red raspberry didn't have particularly well-toned
uteri, something that I have seen as well.
I have spoken with herbalists and nobody seems to see a distinction between
the two types of red raspberry. Does anyone have information on this?
Any research at all on the use of red raspberry tea in pregnancy/birth
outcomes? If indeed the rubus strigosus is the preferred type, where can
it be obtained?
- Shawn Gallagher, RM, C.Ht
Regarding heating up when exercising [Issue 3:5]: I agree with
your naturopath that it would be pretty hard to raise your core temperature
sufficiently by exercising. One of the reasons you are feeling so hot
when you exercise is that the blood vessels at the surface of your body
are dilated in order to get rid of excessive heat, so your core temperature
will remain stable. At the surface is where you have the most receptors
for temperature sensation. However, if you are getting uncomfortably hot,
swimming or water aerobics are good alternatives because the water keeps
cooling the surface blood vessels as you exercise. The water is really
nice, especially as you get bigger, because you are buoyant.
Sharon [Issue 3:5], I highly recommend either of the books by Dr. John
Lee on natural hormone balance: "What
Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Pre-Menopause" or "What
Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause" --not because you
are menopausal, but because he explains how hormones function, and specifically
how natural progesterone supports pregnancies where a mother is prone
to miscarry. You can also get info from his website at www.johnleemd.com.
One of his approaches, in addition to excellent diet, is to use natural
progesterone cream before and well into pregnancy to sustain it. It is
the sudden drop in a mother's progesterone level that causes some miscarriages
in otherwise normal pregnancies, (not talking about unviable fetuses,
however). Natural progesterone is NOT to be confused with the prescription
drug, artificial progestin. The natural cream I use (and recommend to
my clients) is Prolief, made by Arbonne International. It is inexpensive
at $29 and lasts a few months. You will need guidance on its proper use
- you don't want to risk losing your baby due to not having all the facts.
- Nancy Capo
More on perineal massage: In Europe midwives and educators often suggest
to pregnant women that they 'discover' their own perineum and maybe help
it stretch by massaging with a natural oil, after a bath, in the last
month of pregnancy. I have just seen a review of a study in The Lancet
(No 9200, Jan 2000) that summarises five published controlled trials on
perineal massage. Only one was considered a valid trial (Labrecque M,
American Journal of Obs and Gyn): the authors found that for women who
had a previous vaginal delivery there was no significant differences in
intact perineum rates between massage and control groups. For those without
a previous vaginal birth the 9% higher rate in the massage group was significant.
They conclude that current evidence supports the use of perineal massage
in women completing their first pregnancy. Surely it can't do any harm,
so long as a good oil is used? As an educator I feel women get significant
benefit from feeling and becoming familiar with this area of their anatomy,
helping them to believe and trust in their body.
I am the pregnant mother of a nursing 3-year-old. Can anyone tell me
how colostrum will be provided for the newborn when the older child is
drinking it up?
Read an article
from the Los Angeles Times at (I believe the Times charges for access
to their archives so I'm not sure how long it will be "up" at
no charge). I'd heard of elective cesareans, but the story's predictions
of what's going to happen in the near future make me ill.
- Kathy Nesper
More on postpartum hemorrhage:
I recently attended a woman with a retained placenta and ensuing hemorrhage.
We started with remedies but pretty quickly resorted to Pitocin. It worked
for her previous birth, too. The best herbs I've heard of for this may
be cotton root bark (tincture), trillium (not sure how to serve it), and
angelica (tea). However, I don't like messing around with retained placentas
combined with a hemorrhage and, feeling a whole lot more comfortable when
they're out, like to use what I have the best success with.
One of the best things I learned from my preceptors was to ask the mom
to tell her uterus to stop bleeding. I would also do some work with the
mom ahead of time using hypnosis or visualization. If you are not comfortable
doing this yourself, you might look for a hypnotherapist or psychologist
experienced in working with pregnancy to assist you. Make sure the person
you choose is OK with homebirth.
I am a women's studies major and a midwife apprentice. For my final senior
project I would like to conduct a workshop that encourages at-home, natural
birth. I also would like to design a pamphlet that briefs readers on the
advantages of homebirth and the disadvantages of hospital birth. Please
offer some insight and/or sources that would be useful to my cause! I
need opinions on what the most important topics are so I can put them
in the pamphlet. Also if anyone can suggest a book that refers to the
medical advantages and disadvantages, that would be useful.
Reply to: email@example.com
Editor's note: Readers, please help Meggan educate the public about
the advantages of homebirth. A bit of your time could influence several
women for the rest of their lives!
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Midwifery Today: Each One Teach One!