Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ten things I have learned about midwifery school

1. We are an eager bunch.

Some of us applied more than once to get in (just like I did).  To say that we take things seriously doesn't even skim the surface of just how much effort we are all putting in to make this program work, and some of us will at some point even need to relocate somewhere else in the province to complete our clinical placements. But some of us have waited close to twenty years to follow this dream to be a midwife (that would be me again), so yes, we're eager. The energy in our classrooms is phenomenal because we're all want this so much. This isn't to say we don't all struggle some weeks, because I'm sure we all do. But it feels good to love what you do.


2. We cry at the drop of a hat.

Oh, we're an emotional bunch. I remember updating my facebook status after the first day of orientation in August, declaring to my little world that I had never before joined anything where its members cry because they are so grateful to be there. I remember some really excited people in my first undergrad, those kids who had all their books and papers at the ready, all their pens lined up in a row (me), but I'll wager that not a single one of my fellow Liberal Arts majors teared up at the prospect of their first class English Poetry class.

We cry a lot. In class. Out of class. On the subway. We're learning so much about what midwifery care means, about what it takes to care for clients we'll some day have the honour of working with, and sometimes we just can't help ourselves. Seriously, this is emotional work. We're observing births and watching families come alive. And the babies!

This beautiful breast was created by my friend, Kyla Austin. She also made me a uterus and placenta. I am rich in anatomy.

3. Our teachers expect us to do a lot of work.

Our professors are midwives, social scientists, science scientists, and the whole lot of them work us pretty hard. This term was just a ton of reading, preparing, writing, and general nail biting. I am eternally grateful that I decided to take my anatomy and physiology course out of the way this summer (see above re: eager), because I would have been drowning this term with an extra science course. The midwifery program is divided into course work (1.5 years) and clinical placements (2.5 years), and while we all know this first year and a half of courses is easier than the juggle of constant learning on placement, it doesn't make things feel any easier now, or last week when I was writing what felt like the longest literature review of all time.

Here's the thing: I've been in school a few times before (ahem), so I felt like the transition to midwifery school wouldn't be so hard. I'm sure you know where this is going. Writing a master's thesis was a lot of hard work, and the PhD comprehensive exams were a killer. But this program sort of took me by surprise, what with the constant (and I mean constant) deadlines of assignments. And have I mentioned the readings? One course in particular (I'm looking at you, Nadya) has us reading piles (actual piles) of articles each week. But do you know what the amazing thing is? Everyone comes to class prepared and ready to learn (more on that below). It blows my mind just how hard everyone works. This program demands so much but it seems to have met its match in this group of future-midwives I've surrounded myself with this year.

4. We are surrounded by pictures of cervixes and vaginas pretty much all the time.

Speaking of being surrounded: they are everywhere. I'm not just talking about diagrams in our text books, but models of them at every turn. The program has one large classroom dedicated to midwifery classes, and since it's the same room most of the clinical training takes place in, all the cupboards and counters are actually overflowing with vaginas, a pelvis or two, and an entire cabinet filled with babies (dolls, that is). It's nice though, because sometimes we'll be discussing a really heavy topic that has us all thinking hard and squirming in our seats, and then I'll look over at a baby doll poking out of a life size torso on the counter next to me, and perspective returns. One day one of our professors suggested if we weren't used to everything being all-vagina-all-the-time that we should stand in front of the mirror and just say vagina over and over again to get used to it.

Say it with me: vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina. Good.

5. The program is overflowing with intelligent, thoughtful, and generous women.

I am fairly certain that in four years Ontario is going to have some amazing new midwives. (I'm sure each year there is a new crop of similarly wonderful new midwives, but this is the group I know and I'm sweet on them.) This program has introduced me to some of the most kindhearted, intelligent, compassionate women I've ever met. And they work their asses off. They make me laugh constantly and drink almost as much coffee as I do. And the support! I've heard rumours of competitive programs where students stand in each others' way. Not in this class. If one of us has spent hours looking for an article we need, we post it for others to use. Need someone to edit your paper? Done. Printer out of paper? Send it to one of us and we'll bring it to class for you. We even offer unsolicited dating advice. It seems we've already got each others' backs.

6. My children have already started asking if I'm a midwife yet.

Just three years and five months to go!

7. I am learning so, so much.

And my brain hurts. It hurts so bad sometimes, but for all the right reasons. Inferential statistics, representations of birth in literature, racism in Ontario midwifery, medical research studies on home births versus hospital births, learning to use our pagers, accessible health care, correlation graphs. And we haven't even begun to talk about the vaginas yet!

8. Getting two little ones ready for school and daycare each morning before I leave for midwifery school is a total zoo.

It's a gong show. Matt started a new job just a few weeks before school started and it means that he leaves the house at 6:30 every morning (Toronto traffic is awesome). Since Shira and Alyce go to different places each morning, in two different directions, and because my classes start too early for me to drop Alyce off at the school bell some mornings, we had initially hired a friend to walk them to daycare and school each morning (thank you, Seamus). About halfway through the term, however, we needed to start saving some money (pesky tuition) and I took on the task myself. We walk a bit, take a bus, walk some more, drop off Shira, then Alyce and I walk twenty more minutes to school. I like that we use our feet to get places instead of always needing a car, but lately I've been daydreaming about time travel and teleportation. Or at least of a daycare that is next to Alyce's school. Also, I was late to half my classes in the second half of term.

I'm learning this is life.

9. School/life balance is tricky.*

You guys, I'm really bad at this part. Like REALLY bad. I am good at a lot of things (fast reader, decent baker, loyal friend) but time management is at the way bottom of the list of things I can do. This always stumps me because another thing I am good at is working hard. So if I'm a hard worker, why can't I seem to find a way to get my work done in a way that doesn't completely stress my family?

I've never done this before, that is, attempt a rigorous program while raising young children. In the past I could leave my work until the two or three days before a deadline and then work straight for 3 days and get it done. Now if when I do that it means that I am shirking a ton of family responsibilities. I know, I know, part of the problem is just that there is so much to do. School, work (I still teach an online university course), and family is a lot to squeeze into 24 hours. And yes, my sleep and health have suffered. Not cool. But there has to be a way to work so that I can give some of my time to my family with less stress. I'm not looking for a perfect system, just something that works for us. I'm going to think about this one and get back to you.

10. I still can't believe I'm lucky enough to do this.

I am the luckiest overwhelmed/exhausted/ecstatic/nervous/happy midwifery student ever.

*Understatement of the decade


  1. I giggled at your vagina vagina vagina line. I used to teach Grade 5 sex ed and I'd have them chant that and penis penis penis until they could do it without giggling. Because they're just parts of our bodies and we don't giggle when we say arm or ear, do we? :) So happy you're so happy!

  2. Midwifery seems like such a cool calling :) I'm pretty convinced that I don't want to have my kids in a hospital, but if I did I would at least want an advocate there for me. Keep on keeping on, and thanks for being real!