What is the best way to get an education to become a midwife? In my opinion, it includes doing hands on prenatal care, births, and postpartum care, while getting the didactic part of your education. I like the way I got educated. We went to our mentor, Marion Toepke McLean’s house, an hour drive away, three times a month, and she taught us an important subject each time. We began with physiology and moved on to complications, including shoulder dystocia, hemorrhage, etc. On another day of the month, I would arrange a lesson from local people: a nutritionist, a pediatrician, a physician, and others who were willing to teach us. There were a few times when Marion taught us what to do about a complication and we would go on to have just that and know what to do. Divine providence!
Marion also went back to Frontier Nursing Service, where she was educated as a CNM to work for a short stint. In that time, she brought back the Frontier midwifery education curriculum and taught us from there. Through that year of education, she went with us to some of our prenatal visits and births. I always loved the way Marion taught. She would talk to the pregnant woman and us at the same time, always explaining details beautifully. I was so blessed to learn from her. She also said that she learned as much from us as we did from her. She is so humble.
Meanwhile, we were attending births and putting into practice what we had just learned. This was in 1977, when there were no midwifery schools, so we started our own: Marion’s School of Midwifery. At the same time, we had a birth co-op helping pregnant moms who were going to have their babies at home with or without a midwife. We therefore had a built-in practice in which we were able to practice and learn. There was always a midwife who was more experienced to go along with us to each birth.
This was a time of midwifery resurgence. Women all over the country, it seemed, who at this pivotal time began to know something was wrong. Many of us had suffered horrendous hospital births and wanted something better. Then most often when we had a great birth, we went on to wanting to help others enjoy beautiful homebirths. It was an exciting time. Raven Lang had just come out with the Birth Book, which had great photos. Soon after we started our practice, Elizabeth Davis came out with her book, Heart and Hands. Monika Dinsmore (my midwife partner) and I thought so much like Elizabeth did in her book that we made sure each of our clients read it. We were all saying the same things!
As I look at how midwifery is going now, I wonder whether we took some wrong roads. I fear that we have followed in the bureaucratic male model. I hope we can quit trying to satisfy a model that doesn’t fit with the female way of doing things.
We do have some good schools now, which makes it easier to get a good midwifery education. Vicki Penwell has Mercy in Action; Elizabeth Davis has Heart and Hands; and Lois Wilson has a school called Sophia’s Circle School of Traditional Midwifery. I’m sure more good options will be coming.
When I started Midwifery Today, I dedicated myself to midwifery education. We put on 86 conferences in the past 37 years of Midwifery Today, in addition to publishing a magazine for midwives. Now Shannon Michell will take the reins in November and continue this educational path for midwives.
Toward Better Birth,