Selina, 31, is a registered midwife practicing on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. She is a primary-care provider who offers complete care to pregnant women, including prenatal, labour and birth and postnatal care for up to six weeks. Her responsibilities may include ordering labs and diagnostic tests, prescribing some medications and consulting with specialists such as obstetricians or pediatricians. Her clients can choose to give birth at home, provided their pregnancy has been healthy and they remain low risk, or they can give birth in the district hospital. Selina is currently enjoying her busy practice and involvement in other aspects of my career. She is an executive member of the Midwives Association of BC, chair of the Risk Management Committee and executive liaison to the College of Midwives of British Columbia.
Stephanie: What made you decide to become a midwife? How did you become a midwife?
Selina: I was inspired to become a midwife after the birth of my first son, Jordan. I was fortunate to receive midwifery care during my pregnancy and was inspired by its holistic, individualized approach to pregnancy and birth.
At the time, midwives were not regulated in BC and educational opportunities were limited to self-directed learning. After the announcement from the BC government that midwifery would become a regulated profession, I decided to look into educational opportunities outside of the province. My options included the midwifery programs in Ontario or Seattle, Washington.
I decided to attend the Seattle Midwifery School. From there I underwent an intense assessment during the "grandmothering" process designed to assess the competence of already-practicing midwives. I was part of the second wave of registrants, who came to midwifery either by traditional apprentice model or programs outside of province such as the Seattle Midwifery School. During my training I worked in Oregon, Washington State, BC and even in the South Pacific Islands of Vanuatu.
When I completed the program, I returned to BC and underwent a vigorous Prior Learning and Experience Assessment (PLEA) in order to register with the College of Midwives of BC.
Stephanie: What do you like about your job?
Selina: Initially, I was excited about becoming a midwife because it put all my diverse personal interests in women’s health and issues, alternative and complementary therapies and holistic approaches into one neat package. However, after a few years of practice, I think I enjoy the prenatal care the most. I enjoy the process of educating women and their families and preparing them to make room in their lives for a new addition, regardless of how many previous babies they have had. Of course there is the privilege of witnessing the births of many babies — that is like the cherry on top!
Stephanie: What is your least favourite part of the job?
Selina: Being on call for large amounts of time while balancing other aspects of life has some drawbacks. A demanding call schedule requires that I am available to my clients 24 hours a day and must be able to leave on quick notice — a complicated organizational task when you have children. I have missed a few birthday parties and special events on account of being called away.
Stephanie: What advice do you have for someone considering becoming a midwife?
Selina: Carefully consider your short and long term goals. For example, think about when or if you are planning to have your own children. Also consider the support structure around you. You need some pretty understanding family and friends to support you. Basically, your desire or passion to be "with women" (the meaning of midwife) should be greater that the obstacles that you will face.
Stephanie: What kind of an education and training do you need to be a midwife? What kind of education and training did you get?
Selina: In provinces that recognize midwifery, the educational standard has been a four-year degree program. Initially these programs were available only in Ontario at Laurentien, McMaster and Ryerson. However, BC now has a midwifery program at the University of British Columbia through the faculty of medicine. Not all provinces have regulated midwifery and not all provinces that recognize midwives have midwifery programs. Provinces without programs apply a Prior Learning and Experience Assessment (PLEA), to ensure that adequate educational standards are met. Midwifery regulators across Canada have committed to establish and maintain educational reciprocity among provinces. Information about different provincial regulations and educational opportunities can be found on the Canadian Association of Midwives Web site at http://members.rogers.com/canadianmidwives/.
Stephanie: What is the best birth experience you've been involved in?
Selina: There are so many. However, a recent birth comes to mind… I came to my client’s house just as things were starting to get hard. I cared for her at home until she had progressed well and then we moved into the hospital. By then she was working very hard and coping beautifully; her mother and partner were helping her through each contraction. When the baby was about to be delivered I invited her and her partner to reach down and bring the baby up onto her belly. It was wonderful to see this mother birth her baby into her and her loved one’s hands. The mother, healthy baby in arms, threw back her head and joyfully claimed her birthing experience: "I did it!"
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