Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
One would think that the most daunting part of facing a new path is knowing you will face obstacles along the way. Not for me. I know there are aspects of my training that will be difficult and draining. I know I will be over my head at first, having no formal medical training besides six years of life guarding. I know I will still feel over my head in moments when “the unexpected” – the only true universal of childbirth – occurs. I know I will have to take statistics.
And that’s just fine with me. I prefer to face a challenge in the moment rather than queasily anticipate it for months. What really gets my stomach somersaulting is the initial decisions of where to start. I feel like I am looking over a cliff and below me is not just one deep plunge, but a thousand crevices of varying depths and darkness. They are all connected at the bottom, to some miraculous crystal cave full of fertility fairies and sage inscriptions from midwives past, but HOW DO I GET THERE???
There are about, oh, an endless number of paths to becoming a midwife, and costs range from a few thousand dollars to upwards of $80,000. Apprenticeship. Nursing school. Distance learning combined with clinical labs. Clinical labs combined with apprenticeship. A master’s degree. A professional license. A certification, or two. Revolutionary free form underground anarchist radical service. Knocking on the door at The Farm and asking to watch.
I’m aiming for nurse-midwifery, which combines traditional nurse licensure with specialization in maternal and women’s health. Typically, it means getting a Master’s degree (read = $$$). Thanks in part to my fickle college years (I didn’t declare my anthropology major until the beginning of Junior year), I have very few of the pre-reqs for any of the more formal programs. I’m talking a bare minimum of 20 credits. I love science (chemical formulas and mitosis are sexy), and I’m excited at the prospect of learning anatomy and nutrition, so I’m actually looking forward to it…but this means finding classes that jive with my 8-to-5 work schedule (or having to quit), days of paperwork and program comparisons, and at least another $10,000 in tuition (it will appear in my savings account, miraculously, of course). There goes life as I know it. Evening workouts? Nixed. Romantic evenings with my honey? Rare. Maintaining my new and improved 7-hours-of-sleep schedule? Fuggetaboudit.
But hey, as a wise man who I happen to be in love with once said, “Ya gotta do whatcha gotta do.” He’s right – the only way I’m gonna get to the magical cave of womby wisdom is if I take the plunge. If I can find the fastest, cheapest way of doing it, bombastic! If not, well, prospects for nursing in general are great, and growing, so hopefully I won’t be swamped in debt for all eternity. Midwifery, although still controversial in the U.S., is practiced worldwide and is increasingly recognized as a low-cost, high-value alternative to modern obstetric care for low-risk women, and so the practice is growing, albeit slowly.* Most importantly, when I finally do attain enough experience to help women deliver their babies, to have my own clients, and even have my own practice, I know that every nail-biting, bank account-shaking, sleep-depriving moment will have been worth it.
For now, I’m starting with the basics. I know that taking this moment by moment is the only way I will not completely and utterly freak out. That means taking the pre-reqs I need to make all of these options viable. I may have to stop working full-time, which is a little scary considering that my San Francisco cost of living isn’t exactly modest. But it’s also elating to think that I am finally throwing myself off the cliff. Ok, maybe scaling down the side with a safety harness. But to be approaching the depth of what I LOVE and DESIRE so strongly? That’s a ride I’ll take.
*I will get more deeply into this at a later post- I promise.