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What it takes to be a Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery Student
Traditional Midwifery, workshop lecture by Erika Obert
by Erika Obert, DEM

Midwifery is a noble profession. As with so many other noble professions, its glory often outshines its rigors. The thrill of serving families, the gratification of having been present at one of the most, if not the most, important times in their life is addicting. Alas, as in any noble venture, with great reward comes great responsibility and even greater work. The voyage is long and the path uncertain. The long hours, low pay, inconvenient schedule, lofty emotional investment and toll on family relationships mean that midwifery must be your passion. Midwifery is not what you do, it is who you are. Very few women have what it takes to be a midwife. For those that do, the destination is well worth the journey.

The word midwife means "with woman". Though the word has many derivations, at the heart of them all is wisdom of the body's process and a respect for the sacred work of a woman. Often, it is out of witnessing a woman being humiliated or being treated poorly herself during a birth that a woman is drawn to serve as a midwife. The realization that birth is sacred and deserves to be treated with immense respect is only the beginning of the never ending process of being a student of midwifery.

In the pursuit of learning, a student must choose the path that not only jives with her personal philosophy, but meets her academic needs. Birth can be a cruel mistress. And while the complications are not frequent they can have catastrophic effects. It is no small matter to hold lives in your hands. Academic study, skills acquisition, and continuing education provide a solid base for midwifery practice.

One of the most used stepping stones to midwifery is that of birth doula. By becoming a birth doula, the prospective student midwife will gain birth experience in a medical environment. While this may not be the end goal, it will definitely sharpen her senses and provide her with the perspective of having been on the 'other side of the coin'. She will gain a passion for what she hopes to do and a deeper understanding of why. Indeed, by immersing herself within the medical model, she will fuel her passion to provide gentle birthing options to women. Being a doula also introduces the student to an on-call unpredictable life and helps her to decide if the calling of midwifery is strong enough to compensate for the lifestyle it brings with it. Many would be midwives stop at this point and become amazing doulas.

If the desire to become a midwife is still present, the next step is choosing an academic program of study. Distance education is becoming more and more popular because it allows for independent study in any location. Distance learning requires a higher level of commitment and drive. The only person pushing you to get your school assignments done is you. Without an insatiable thirst for midwifery knowledge, a commitment to excellence and the desire to complete the coursework, you will not do well. For the majority of students, Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery's distance learning program is very appropriate.

To some extent, the way a midwife practices is driven by her environment. For example, the complications seen in a third world country are significantly different (and worse) than those in the Western world where women are well nourished and have appropriate sanitation. To a larger extent, what a midwife is allowed to do is, in some cases, regulated by state laws. The Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery offers a program of study that is both affordable and acceptable for NARM's PEP process. The program offers a comprehensive education which allows a student to pursue a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) credential or a Licensed Midwife (LM) credential based on what state or country she lives in.

In order to complete MSTM's program of study, you will need to network by getting involved in your local birth community. Again, this is a skill that is essential to safe midwifery practice. The most successful people know that it is not enough to be independent; you must be interdependent. No midwife is an island. Forming a support network rewards you with the ability to share both your accomplishments and difficulties with a group of women who truly understand because they have been there before. A support network also affords you an opportunity to grow, learn and ask advice without criticism. No one knows everything. MSTM offers you a global student body with an Internet support group. The variety of cultures, midwifery practices and viewpoints offers each student a wonderful opportunity to learn.

Being a student requires dedication and endurance. As with any academic program of study, one only gets out of the program what one puts in. Because the program is distance learning, there are no oral exams. This means that the student must put in writing her thoughts and answers. The ability to communicate through the written word is essential to midwifery. Charting is unavoidable. Moreover, what you write must be exactly what you mean. Attention to detail and thorough work while in school will hone this skill.

Time management is essential. A practicing midwife is busy. Being busy, having a lot going on and just not having enough time are excuses. Every midwife is busy and has a lot going on; it's the nature of the beast. MSTM demands a set amount of time to complete the coursework in order to help you learn this skill. If you cannot manage your time to get schoolwork done, midwifery is not the career for you.

Free thinking creates a better midwife. You must think outside the box. Not knowing is fine, not taking the time to seek out the answer is inexcusable. MSTM's coursework offers no answer key. Instead, each student is herself the answer key. With the age of the Internet, there is no reason why every question cannot be answered correctly and completely. One may notice that different textbooks contain conflicting information. Free thinking encourages the student to decide for herself what the most relevant information is. Science is an ever evolving field. The abilities to understand, discriminate and decide whether something is relevant are powerful tools. When your coursework is done, you will have the foundation to make accurate assessments of scientific "advancements" as they pertain to the field of midwifery. Simply filling in the blanks robs you of this ability.

Stress is an inherent part of midwifery. A midwife must juggle multiple clients, her own family, sometimes another job, her physical, mental and spiritual needs as well as the needs of others. She will often be sleep deprived and emotionally drained. A midwife needs to learn to compartmentalize her mind in such a way that her personal life does not interfere with her professional responsibilities. Start learning these things as a student and a doula. Take on that "one more thing" so you realize that resilience is possible. If you are overwhelmed by meeting your educational deadlines while managing your personal life and doula clients you will need to build necessary coping strategies. Personally speaking, Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery taught me to be a free thinking interdependent midwife. The level of education I achieved has allowed me to be a discriminating consumer. Most importantly, MSTM created in me an unquenchable desire to continue learning all things related to midwifery. As my skill set continues to expand, I have come to realize that my higher level skills would not be possible without the strong foundation of MSTM's midwifery program.


Erika Obert, DEM, BS, BA is a practicing midwife ( PreciousPassage.com) in Ohio, where she lives with her husband, Ken, and their children - most of whom were born at home. A passionate birth activist, Erika was one of the primary authors for the book "From Calling To Courtroom - A Survival Guide for Midwives" .

Erika is is a graduate of Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery and she was honored with induction into Mu Omicron Mu (MOM) Midwifery Academic Honors Society for high academic achievement. Erika is one of MSTM's Midwifery Academic Mentors (MAM), for student midwives.




Let the amazing stories of midwives inspire you!

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