It's All In The Letters

I am an apprentice midwife.

*happy sigh*

I have been waiting for this phase in my career for, what feels like, a lifetime. I am so excited, and, at the same time, so saddened.

Why? Because the moment I began my apprenticeship, opposition and discouragement reared it's ugly face.

(I will try my darnedest to not disclose personal information, but if you recognize yourself and are offended, remember - your not really offended at me/my post, you are offended at your own actions.)

I am proud to say that my preceptor is a generational midwife. She has chosen to be 'non-credentialed', and has her own good reasons for it.

I am a non-certified doula, and have my own very good reasons for that, as well.

Cue, opposition:

As such, we are looked at, in the community, as the underdogs, the rouges, the rebels. Or, as we aptly found just recently, the 'blind leading the blind'. Because I am not certified (by choice), because she is not credentialed (by choice), we are looked at, by some in the community, as incompetent.

I have been told that, if I really knew what I was doing, I could take the ____ exam and get certified. Why, yes, I could, but I have personal and professional reasons not to and have given much thought and deliberation over this choice.

I was previously certified by XYZ and chose to decertify; I chose to.

Story time: A fellow peer in the birthing community found it necessary to 'smirk' at my preceptor when she told her I was her apprentice. This same peer has continuously challenged my preceptor with unsubstantiated scrutiny and professionally and personally deride and snub her.

Another professional in the birthing community has found it necessary to attempt to draw out of me my very personal reasons for not certifying (as well as decertifying), and has even gone as far as to 'call me out' with the comment of 'well, then you must not have a good reason if you won't share'.

Cue discouragement:

I am not discouraged at my apprenticeship. If anything, I am validated that I am making the right choice. I firmly believe in the power of apprenticeship and wise woman traditional education.

My discouragement is at the limited vision of those in our community (and beyond).

After 10 years and numerous births/variations, I am more qualified than many/most doulas in this area (I know, sounds arrogant, but is true). My training didn't touch on even a minute smidgeon of what I learned through experience, shadowing, and continuing education. I have written my own curriculum and have been published in a number of magazines.

As far as my preceptor goes, she has been attending births since she was a young girl, and has over 13 years experience as a midwife. Her experience far outweighs what she would find in the the textbooks (which, by the way, she has read and practiced) and the exams. She moves and is knownwithin the circles of Barbara Harper, Karen Strange, Elizabeth Davis, and Deb Kaylie...

Yes, there are women out there that have attended a birth or two and call themselves midwives... doulas.... but to discard a person's proficiency, their skill, because a lack of letters is not only disheartening, but proves the short-sightedness of our culture.

I understand the merit of credentials - it is a quantitative way of measuring a persons skill. It is a standard of academic proficiency to which others are held. But, I believe in some cases, just as it keeps out the under-qualified persons, it can also limit others from growing beyond their formal education. We have lost sight of women teaching women, about the merit of experience vs. formal training.

There is a great amount to be said in generational education, apprenticeship, and continuing education through non-traditional (or traditional, depending on how you look at it) means.

I worry that we are losing something in the standardization of our childbirth practices. Now, don't get me wrong, I believe in the necessity of having a standard for practice... BUT.. but...

I fear that we are replicating rather than educating. I fear that we are forgetting to 'teach' the fine balance of analyzing and intuiting. We are discrediting a person's skill based on their lack of credentialing.

When we lose sight of this, we become like the OB who looks down on the midwifery profession, we become the CNM who feels she is superior in training to the CPM, we are the CPMs and CLDs who believe themselves more skilled and thus, more qualified, than the DEMs and LDs.

I tell you - this 'standing in judgment' of one another is OLD in the birthing arena (OBs started this war a long time ago)... but it is NEW to the ranks of midwifery. There was a time when CNMs and CPMs remembered what roots they came from, when they returned to those roots, those granny midwives, generational midwives, sage women, wise women, to sit at their feet, learn, and know.

What I have touched on here is only one symptom of this disease - the professional bickering and spurning. But this disease has such deeper and more harmful side effects... it harms the women and babies we first came to serve!

I will leave you with the wise words of my own wise woman, my wonderful preceptor.
"... Nurses, CNM, CPM, and Lay midwives can't band together to help each other help these woman and babies. What happened to sisterhood,what happened to womanhood. When did we decide it was everyone for themselves? When did power take over women helping women. When did blindness set in?"


Rebekah C said...

Er, the above comment was from me, I didn't mean to send it without my url.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to pipe up, here. I've been reading you for a while now and I just want you to know how much I sincerely appreciate your perspective, here. Well done and may you have a good journey. I struggle with the question of certification myself. But ultimately, my heart is with yours.

Sheridan said...

Congrats on becoming an apprentice. I agree with all you said. Letters do not make a woman.


WJ said...

As a newly pregnant woman who just signed up to have a homebirth with you and your preceptor, reading this made me even more excited and invigorated about our decision to have you both as a part of our birth process. Thank you!

Outspoken Tomato said...

Wow! Loved this post. Thank you for sharing this.

Granola Granny said...

After having you attend to both my granddaughter's birth and my grandson's recent birth, I'll say you have all the credentials you need. The only thing better would have been if you could've been there as their midwife.


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