New Apprentice

Dear New Apprentice,

The path towards midwifery can be a very long and lonely path. Being a midwifery student/apprentice can isolate you from your family and the friends you used to spend time with. It isn’t easy for someone who has never led an on-call lifestyle to understand how interruptible your life must now be. It isn’t easy for people to understand that you can never fully commit to anything while on-call and that backup plans are a way of life for you now.

Your life is no longer your own. You must come and go based on someone else’s schedule – not only the schedules of the pregnant women who hire your preceptor, but also your preceptor’s schedule and the almost always completely unpredictable schedules of the babies you will help care for. Your schedule and convenience are the least important factors in the equation and, because of this, you cannot simply fit midwifery or an apprenticeship into your life. You must instead fit your life in around your apprenticeship.

In addition to the long hours spent at prenatals, births, and postpartums; you must also somehow fit in your academics. Hours upon hours spent with Helen Varney, Anne Frye, Myles, Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent, Elizabeth Davis, Oxorn and Foote, and the Practical Skills Guide, among others. Whether you attend an accredited school or choose to pursue a less formal course of study, bookwork is an integral part of your training and has to be squeezed in sometime or other.

It doesn’t matter how little you feel like you “fit in” with the other apprentices in your area. It doesn’t matter how much of a kindred spirit your preceptor is. If you choose to shun the only group of people who are currently experiencing this peculiar lifestyle along with you then you will, almost certainly, be missing out on a huge amount of vital support.

You may be in your early 20’s, just a few weeks into your apprenticeship,  and believe that you know much more than you actually do. You may truly believe that you are set apart and different from all of your peers and colleagues, but when the going gets rough, even you might benefit from a little bit of comfort knowing that you aren’t the only one who is experiencing the intensity of birth from a caregiver’s perspective for the first, or nearly the first, time.

Doubts, even fears, may creep in as you see and assist with potentially life-threatening complications. Questions that you cannot ask your preceptor (as unthinkable as that might seem to some – especially at first) may pop into your head. Maybe you will wonder how the other local preceptors handle certain situations, either with clients or with their apprentices.

But, you may say, I really am different and I really don’t think I need the other apprentices’ support. I just don’t fit in, you continue, and I don’t need any support other than the support I find from my closest friends, family, and my own preceptor.

That’s all well and good and might even possibly be true, but cutting oneself off from the only people who are able to currently and personally understand your situation is not the answer. Refusing to listen to those who have so recently been in your shoes is not a wise path to take. Be open to learning from those who are farther along and traveling the same road you are.

If perhaps, someday, you come across this post and any of it seems to fit, please read it in the loving and concerned tone it was meant to be read in and consider seeking out the support of your peers and colleagues in order to help maximize your chances of success. We would all love to see you succeed.

Whether or not you’re the specific apprentice I was thinking of when I began this post, please – seek out your fellow apprentices for support and don’t burn those bridges without a damn good reason.

~B.

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