Saturday, April 4, 2015


Midwifery has always been an apprenticeship based program.

Women learn from other women.

Midwifery is a sacred art.

When a woman chooses a midwife, she is choosing a woman that she trusts, that she can bond with, that she can rely on to assist her through the most sacred moments of her life. She needs to have confidence in, and complete trust in her birth team.

Some midwives prefer to attend births by themselves, others come with a team. Here are Beautiful Beginning Birth, we prefer to have three birth attendants for a birth - one for mother, one for baby and one for charting and grabbing extra supplies if they are needed. While the entire team works together to assist the mother in her journey, each member has a designated role should it become necessary to multi-task.

There are several different routes to becoming a midwife, but all contain a clinical component. In general, students are engaged in didactic learning that begins prior to their clinical apprenticeship and oftentimes runs concurrent with it. So, students begin working with patients/clients after they have a baseline knowledge to work from. Selecting the right students to work with a midwife is pretty important. As a birth center, I receive several calls and emails a week from students seeking a preceptor and from doulas looking for midwives that will refer to them.

It cannot be stressed enough how important physical appearance, writing skills, and body language are to the selection process. There are literally dozens of apprentices in the Austin area looking for an apprenticeship at any one time. It is important to make yourself stand out. Here is how I select who I am willing to share my knowledge and experience with -

First impressions are lasting.....and very difficult to change. The first thing I notice about a person is their email. If it is a generic email that starts off with "Good morning/Hi, My name is Jane Doe. I want an apprenticeship. I want a preceptor in the area....." Several things stand out immediately - KNOW MY NAME! A generic good morning without addressing it to a specific person is very lazy. Secondly, people rarely just jump right in and state that "they want", but I chose that phrase to make a point. A student requires A LOT of energy and time at the beginning of an apprenticeship. There needs to be some balance - what do YOU offer ME in exchange for teaching you all I know, sharing my "trade secrets", and assisting you in being my competition? Yes, that's the hard truth - you need to give something to get something. So, tell me what you have to offer me - are you also a doula, massage therapist, EMT, phlebotomist, great with networking or media? Have something that you offer back that is invaluable, otherwise you are expendable.

How do you know what you can offer back? Another important point - just like going in to a job interview, you need to research the company/person you will be working for. Look at their website, check out their business facebook, their advertisements, etc. Know the philosophy of the company and make certain it aligns with your own., Some midwives support the "home birth at all costs" philosophy; others feel that while birth is important, safety for mother and baby takes priority. Figure out where the midwife stands on important topics and make sure you can support those views, otherwise you are undermining her practice and yourself.

Should you include a resume? I like when someone attaches a resume to their email. It gives me the opportunity to sample their writing skills, their strengths and weaknesses, their philosophy (through their interests). However, I also understand why someone making the email version of a cold call would not want to include that much personal information in an initial email. I suggest mentioning that a resume and references are available should the midwife want more information. This demonstrates to me that the person has enough initiate to have those things available and is serious about her new career choice in midwifery.

Grammar is VITALLY important in the email and the resume. I am old school. I grew up in the paper and pencil era where fancy fonts and eforms were not the norm. As such, I prefer to see traditional resumes that do not exceed one page. I still believe that you should NEVER hand in a resume with more than one page regardless of how much you have accomplished in life. It is pretentious, demonstrates a personality that cannot differentiate between relevant and non-relevant information, and does not understand the importance of brevity.

Do not just show up at a midwife's office. Some of us keep a lower birth volume and have ample time to meet with a walk-in, but others are very busy and book our appointments without much time between, so walk-ins are difficult to accommodate. Schedule an appointment and make sure you arrive ON TIME. Plan to arrive early and hang out at a local Starbucks until the appointment time. Value her time by being on time yourself.

Your appearance is very important. At Beautiful Beginning Birth, we have a dress code that requires professional attire for office appointments and scrubs for births. Someone that shows up wearing jeans, spaghetti straps, or dirty clothing will not be well received. Hair should be neat and brushed, fingernails should be short and their should be attention to detail that demonstrates an understanding of what it means to be a midwife - ie no red nail polish or excessive jewelry.

Body language is important. When the midwife comes out to greet you, stand up, introduce yourself (to remind her of your name), and shake her hand. Make sure your hand shake is socially appropriate. You can tell a lot about a person from their hand shake - do they grip your hand with their full hand? The finger tip grip implies distrust. While shaking, do they turn their hand so that theirs is on top and yours on bottom or grip your hand in both of theirs? This is a sign of an aggressive personality type, one that will have difficulty following instructions and will always be questioning. Do they hold the hands for too short a period of time? This implies insecurity.

Stand and sit straight and walk with confidence. Midwifery is holistic care. Make certain that you are the walking example of what you want to teach clients. You will lose credibility with patients if you continuously counsel them to exercise during their pregnancy when it is very obvious that you have never exercised. (Would you go to marriage counseling with a marriage therapist that has been divorced five times?) Live what you will be teaching. During your interview, make sure you stay focused and on task. A couple of personal stories makes you a real person, but remember to keep them to a minimum. Demonstrate time management skills by respecting her time and not dragging the interview on into a second hour.

Respect what she has to say and do not argue with her. If you disagree with her philosophy, you don't belong there. I had one interviewee tell me that she did not want me to waste her time teaching her the business end of midwifery because her husband is a lawyer.......I asked her if she knew how to get a CLIA waiver (she did not know what that was), if he was going to be filing birth certificates, writing her protocols, etc. She very quickly came to realize that the "business end" of midwifery includes all the paperwork, how to get medications, how to find a sponsoring physician, etc. Ignorance is your enemy. It is extremely disrespectful to assume that you know what you should and should not be taught.

Bring in a work sample for her to see your motivation. Have you created a neat handout for pregnant women on nutrition, teratogens, breastfeeding, any aspect of maternity care? A cool looking "cheat sheet" chart for NRP? Anything that shows that you are a self started and motivated learner is a huge plus. I'm not one for bribes, but chocolate always helps. :-)

Hopefully, with these tips, you will be well on your way to being a marketable asset to a midwifery practice.

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