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Betsy: Mother, Teacher, Doula, and Midwife

 I took a very circuitous route to becoming a midwife.  When I first went to college I didn’t have a strong pull toward any profession, but I did like to do art, so that became my major.  At one point, my grandfather pulled me aside and said, “Your grandmother was a teacher, your mother was a teacher and you should be a teacher, too.”  I know he meant well, but as a typical teen, I didn’t really like to follow unsolicited advice, so not only did I stick with art, I made sure not to become an art teacher. 
Fast forward to several years after graduation.  I was pregnant and knew the people to see when pregnant were midwives.  I sought out a group of midwives and saw them for my prenatal care.  At one point they asked if I planned to take a birth class, and steered me toward Bradley classes.  Within minutes of the start of the first class, I knew it was the right class for me, and I thought maybe someday I should teach it.  So when my daughter was 2 years old, I became a Bradley Method educator.  One of the first people to attend my class was a doula-in-training, who then convinced me to get certified as a doula through DONA, Int, which I did. I spent the next few years teaching and attending births as non-medical labor support in hospitals and homes. I was able to see care that rubbed me the wrong way, and care that I wanted to emulate, from OBs, family doctors and midwives.
 A few years later, I was dropping a book off to the house of a couple who were in my class, and the phone kept ringing, and one of them would go answer and come back.  At one point she was on the phone, and he started giving me the run-down of all the reasons I should become a midwife and not just stay with teaching and doula-ing.  Little did he know, the week before I had sent for and received information on a nearby midwifery program.  Later that week I stayed up all night talking with a friend, who told me essentially the same thing, but the all-night version.
I worked through my fears (being in charge of 2 – TWO! – lives at the same time), applied, and was accepted to the midwifery program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Since I had a BA but not in nursing, they first put me into a bridge program for 18 months where I studied nursing and was able to sit for my RN.  I then took three years to work through the masters program for midwifery, commuting back and forth, and working as an RN on labor/deliver/postpartum in South Haven, Michigan. 
When I finished school, I wanted to be a midwife in South Haven, because they took a very supportive approach to normal childbirth and supported women who wanted natural childbirth  (rather than telling a woman she didn’t have to be a martyr and “poo-poo-ing” her goal). Unfortunately the childbirth unit closed shortly after that. Fortunately, a friend in the birth world had visited Goshen Birth Center and told me she thought I’d be a good fit, and that I should check it out.  A friend who was a nurse at Goshen Hospital told me the community was midwife friendly, and that I should check things out.  So I did. 

The rest, as they say, is history.  I contacted GBC and Fairhaven without even knowing there was an open position.  But within a number of weeks, I was part of the team of midwives and doctors who are committed to providing their patients with patient-centered care, in both the in-hospital and out of hospital settings.  I spend my days seeing women across the lifespan, from first starting their periods to menopause and everything in between.  I see women for prenatal and postpartum care.  I spend days and nights supporting women in the amazing process of childbirth.  And through it all, one of my favorite things is to educate women to know more about themselves and how their bodies work and to help them make the best health decisions for themselves.  Grandpa was right, after all.  


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