Passionate Midwifery Education – Installment 4

Guard Your Heart and Mind

I have been saying that if we midwives would treat each other as well as we treat pregnant and birthing women we would move midwifery rapidly forward, at least in the United States. This is also true of midwifery students and aspiring midwives. They need to be treated with respect. If you are looking for a school or preceptor, look for one who will treat you well. So many programs and learning experiences can be brutal. You deserve respect and should insist on it, as well as give it. Culture passes one to another by modeling. You are learning a birth culture as well as the clinical and didactic aspects of birth care. What reality do you want to learn?

The same goes for a curriculum. It must contain only ideas that respect motherbaby. Does the program you are considering require you to learn and perform medical interventions that are damaging to motherbaby? Watch for the subtle but common and potentially dangerous routines, such as ultrasound, epidurals, and prenatal testing—all of which have their uses, but not routinely for every woman. Being forced to carry out dangerous and unsafe routines just because that is the way the program conducts birth is something you need to really consider. Can you ethically do so? You must guard your heart and mind like the pregnant mother must guard hers. You are as vulnerable.

A subtle process takes place as you learn or, once trained, as you work as a midwife. Things that you know to be dangerous interventions can become so routine that you do them without thinking. The process is like the proverbial frog in a pan of cold water. When you gradually heat the water to boiling, the frog does not jump out. The slow subtle overtaking of your soul is barely perceptible, but very real. I have personally known great homebirth midwives who, upon becoming nurses or midwives and working in the hospital, completely change their practice and philosophy. I have also had dinner with a lovely certified nurse-midwife who told me about how she carried out hospital routines for 15 years. Only after she had burned out and stepped away from the practice did she realize that she had been rationalizing the things they did to women. Although you, as a midwife, are the protector of motherbaby in this culture of birth, first you must protect yourself. Guard your heart, mind, and soul.

— love, Jan
Jan Tritten, Mother of Midwifery Today