Ask the Doula - doula training

It's Ask the Doula time again!
Please keep sending in your questions. You can add them as comments below, or send your questions to our facebook page, or twitter @montrealdoula.

This week I want to tackle another interesting question. I am always getting calls from women who feel a calling to midwifery. They often ask if they can take my doula courses, or if I would allow them to observe me at work or take them on as apprentices. This week, I am going to explore a question from an aspiring midwife.

Question Number Two

"I am 24 years old, single, without children (yet!). I have been interested in birth from a very young age - I was born at home but my older brother was a c-section baby, and my mother always told me about my wonderful birth day. I am applying to several midwifery schools and I am hoping to start my studies in the fall. Do you have any suggestions for me? How can  I increase my chances of getting accepted? Should I train to be a doula first?"

This is a lovely question. It's so interesting that many of the younger women I see moving into the birth "scene" are women whose mothers had wonderful birth experiences. In my generation, many of us went into birth work because of less-than optimum experiences.
First, I would like to wish this young woman all the luck in the world. It is very challenging to send in applications, to receive rejection letters, and to wonder what went wrong. Remember, there are many more women who want to become midwives than places in midwifery programs, and this is especially true in Canada.

I think the most important thing to remember, as an aspiring midwife, is that the road is long, and that the main goal is not just the diploma, the job, or the number of births you end up attending. The journey to becoming a midwife is full of twists and turns, and may take you to some unexpected places.

Of course, you do need to understand some basic principles, and you need a lot of theoretical and clinical 
preparation, and this is why you have to go to school. And here in Canada you cannot become a registered midwife just by apprenticing with an experienced midwife. So, what to do?

There are several important tasks you can take on that will not only increase your chances of getting accepted, but will also give you a good background for the important work of being a midwife.

First - go to births! You will learn from every single birth you attend. Take a doula training, and start volunteering with your local volunteer doula organization. If there isn't one, start one. Do not expect practicing doulas or midwives to welcome your presence at births. Their priority is the care of the women they are attending. So you need to get out there, get some doula education, find a partner, and volunteer. Some people suggest you go to the births of friends and family, but I think it is easier and "cleaner" if you do not.

Second - Read and keep reading. Read books for pregnant women; read scholarly journals; read blogs and e-zines. Make notes. Try to discover what you really believe about birth. You have an opinion, and it is valid. Don't go along with the crowd without really thinking about what the crowd is saying.

Third - Learn from others. If a doula or midwife allows you to observe a prenatal, birth, or a postpartum visit or group, by all means go and observe. But observe. Don't participate actively unless you are invited to. Take notes. Ask questions, afterwards when you feel it is appropriate. Learn from the medical staff when you are attending a hospital birth. You may ask questions, again, if it is appropriate. Do not try to be their equal. You are not. Be humble.

Fourth - Learn different skills. Take a yoga class. Take a knitting class. Start practicing staying up all night and remaining alert. Do a CPR class. Learn about your own body and how it works under stress and without sleep. Test your patience. Sometimes babies take a long, long time to come. If you have learned the art of sitting on your hands, you won't be imagining non-existent dangers that will lead to to wrong decisions.

I have been on this road for ... since I was thirteen. It is long, interesting, sometimes painful. Open your heart, and know that wherever it takes you, there you should be.


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