Paths to Becoming a Midwife: Getting an Education
Published by Midwifery Today, Inc., and edited by Jan Tritten and Joel Southern

[$29.95 plus S&H, 332 pages, paper.]

[Review first published in Midwifery Today, Issue 49, Spring 1999. Copyright 1999, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Sue LaLeike.]

One of the more interesting aspects of completing the academic prerequisites for a collegiate midwifery degree program has been meeting all the women who, upon hearing what my major is, have said: "Oh, I’d like to be one too. But don’t you have to be a nurse first?"

It can be rather unsettling to encounter the general public’s lack of information about the styles and paths of midwifery. This book, properly and widely distributed, can help to educate both those who seek this profession and those who have just a casual interest in midwifery.

Paths to Becoming a Midwife: Getting an Education is going to be a highly useful resource for years to come. Even as data about the listed programs and varying legalities changes, the essence of the book’s shared wisdom will remain constant. The six chapters cover a wide range of thought-provoking and pertinent topics. They include information on the many ways the path to midwifery might begin, the realities of the work, the politics, the philosophies, and the future of midwifery on a global basis. Experienced direct entry and nurse-midwives share their stories, suggestions, wisdom, and preferences. Doulas and childbirth educators also add their voices to the book’s vast store of ideas on how to become part of the world of being "with woman." There are lists of resources, lists of schools, and a list that analyzes legal status state-by-state. There is information about international midwifery, and a great deal of helpful material about NARM and MEAC. Appendices include school directories, forms to send to different agencies for more information, and lists of core competencies for both MANA and the ACNM.

Of the 58 articles about the realities and pathways of midwifery included in this book, almost half of them were written exclusively for this edition. Others come from the pages of back issues of Midwifery Today or other professional publications. A major contribution to the pages of Paths to Becoming a Midwife comes from the pen of Robbie Davis-Floyd. In her inimitable style, she has eloquently described the differences and similarities in midwifery paths in one article ("The Ups, Downs and Interlinkages of Nurse- and Direct Entry Midwifery: Status, Practice and Education"), while in the other, the reader is treated to an anthropological survey of midwifery training. Both of these articles are exclusive to this edition.

Many of us would probably be quite a bit richer if we had a dollar for every time that we’ve repeated the basic outline of how to become one of the varied types of midwives. While we still may continue to repeat ourselves again and again to both casual and serious inquirers, this version of Paths to Becoming a Midwife is a welcome resource. I have mentioned it or shown it to people at least once a week since I first got my copy. Not only does this book belong in lending and public libraries, it should also be on the shelves at the career counseling centers of high schools and colleges. (Until I started educating the counselors at my school, they all thought the only route to midwifery was via nursing, which explained in large part why so many of my classmates were surprised that I am not a nursing program candidate.) This book does a much finer job of detailing all the practical information than any of us as individuals can easily do. The eloquent voices of those who shared their thoughts to help guide women’s aspirations add a dimension that will help clarify goals and even encourage further questioning and seeking.

On a personal note, I found the collection of stories from nurse-midwives to be almost enough to sway me from my intended goals; if I were ten years younger, it might have been enough!

Midwifery Today staff member Jennifer Rosenberg wrote several pieces for this book. She brought up a point that many of us often forget, even though so much of our work encompasses stressing the exact same philosophy to mothers and families. In her Afterword, Rosenberg reminds us: "What is true is this: you, the aspiring midwife, are the only one who has the authority and the self-knowledge to choose which path is right for you. No matter which path you choose, someone will tell you that you’re either crazy or you sold out. But that’s okay. That person is not the one who has to walk your path. As you have seen, each path has its glories and its pitfalls. But one path will likely fit you better than any other. The advantage of so many choices, both in birth and in midwifery, is that each of us has a chance to find the choice that fits us best." Sound familiar? Honor yourself by educating yourself, as you would have your moms educate themselves. Get a copy of this book and use it.

After almost twenty years of being a mom first, and birth educator, doula and activist in every spare moment, reviewer Sue LaLeike is completing her final semester of academic prerequisites for the Miami-Dade Community College Midwifery Degree Program.

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