by Cheryl Edinbyrd, PhD
My midwifery journey started January 2017 and originated organically like all the other opportunities I have had in my life, but not without challenges and struggles, other things I am very familiar with. Every man is right in his own eyes and this is my journey through mine.
I remember sitting in a counseling session with a client who announced she and her husband were pregnant. I was extremely excited and celebrated with her during our counseling session. The client continued to seek counseling throughout her first, second and third trimester. It was during her third trimester that she stated that I had been such an important part of her mental and spiritual journey that she would like for me to share the beautiful birth space with her and her husband. I respectfully declined and stated that I would be operating outside of my scope of practice. At that time, I was encouraged to seek training so that I could be there in the future.
Giggling to myself, I found myself intrigued and researched doula certification trainings. I then started training and became certified as a doula. During births, the emotional support I gave the patient felt natural. It felt just as natural to be at the other end of the birth table wanting to capture heart tones, monitor mom’s vitals and create a safe space for the most natural and beautiful experience ever – birth. I wanted, not only to manage the emotional aspects of birth, but I found myself wanting to manage the care of the mom as well as the birth and aftercare.
I spoke with a midwife who partnered with the doula instructor I trained under. She encouraged me to go forward with the ATM (Association of Texas Midwives) program and stated she would be my preceptor. This was the beginning of a journey that would prove to be very rewarding, yet challenging and disappointing, in which I now find myself at my 6th birth center. The disappointment started with the preceptor deciding that, due to the doula instructor’s unhappiness with me deciding to pursue midwifery, she would withdraw as my preceptor.
The ATM program proved to be solely an overly expensive online program without any guidance along the way. It wasn’t until I was over $9,000 paid in that I realized I would learn better by just taking the time to do a self-study that did not involve unhealthy, disrespectful and rude feedback. This is a program I would not recommend.
Now, on to my apprenticeship experience at the first birth center in Rockwall, TX. I worked with a licensed midwife for over a year and a half. During this time, I never entered an observe phase, I started out assisting, and entered my primary phase in time to be primary midwife under supervision at five births. During this time, I learned to have very thick skin as I was spoken to in a very demeaning way. Even though I remained focused and would try to allow things to roll off my back, I would drive home crying after many clinic days. Then one day I go in to do a full clinic day, after what seemed to be frustration following a birth, just to be told by the midwife I could not continue my apprenticeship there. There were some things said about some of the mistakes I made when I was in my observe and assist phase, but nothing that warranted the end of my apprenticeship. At least it did not seem warranted in my eyes, but that really didn’t matter in the moment. I listened attentively and decided to end with giving her a hug and asking her to sign off on my paperwork. As I was preparing to leave, I thanked her for the role she served on my journey. When I walked out the door I felt relieved that I was forced out of a very abusive relationship because I would have felt like a failure if I chose what was best for me and left earlier on. I had struggled in silence, but that was something I would not allow moving forward.
I found myself warmly welcomed at my second birth center In Kaufman, TX within the following week. What a breath of fresh air. The atmosphere was welcoming, calming and laid back. I was able to go in and further develop and grow academically, as well as practically. I was there for three great months until I was encouraged by ATM to leave due to the conclusions of a peer review, as well as the program stating they would no longer allow that licensed midwife to be a preceptor for their program. I was so conflicted and cried as I looked for another place to land.
I was asked to come for an apprenticeship at the third birth center in Frisco, TX about a week after that. It was apparent after the first week that it wasn’t the best place for me. I explained that to the midwife and after a week I stated I wasn’t going to be able to remain. Remember, I stated I would not allow myself to remain in unhealthy spaces. Well, what ensued was very heartbreaking. I was attacked via social media with untruths and what I considered slander. When I ask that it stop she continued to contact me and she contacted my school with the same lies. When contacted by the school, they were interested in questioning me about my ability to be assessed than hearing what had taken place. To this I explained that I have been assessed throughout my entire academic career leading up to my Doctorate. I even asked if they were interested in understanding the true issue or problem with the preceptor and apprentice dynamics. And of course they were, which is when I started to realize I shouldn’t be paying for what I was getting from the program. The midwife continued to contact me and, when explaining I wasn’t in a space to talk and needed to heal, I was further insulted. At this point, I contacted the school and threatened legal actions if they didn’t talk to her and have her back off. It worked, but not before I started to get a bit depressed and realize I had started to experience some trauma. I was ready to throw in the towel, but my inner strength wouldn’t allow me.
In January 2019, I found myself speaking with a student in Hurst, TX. She asked if I wanted to try apprenticing there. I met with the midwife and we agreed to give it a month and reevaluate things. Now, at my fourth birth center I found myself feeling better about being around other midwives. What was difficult was being in traffic and taking 2 hours to get to a 50-minute destination. I had committed to a month, but after crying while driving in traffic in the express lane I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make that a long-term commitment. At the end of the month, we chatted and I resigned my apprenticeship there very peacefully and for that I am grateful.
In February 2019 I was at the fifth birth center in Garland, TX working with two nurse midwives. This is so fresh that I can feel the heart palpitations as I write. After being told I am not a priority, that was all I needed.
As I decided to take time off, I wanted to go ahead and get all my paperwork signed off on so that whenever I decided I had rebuilt spiritually and emotionally enough to return I wouldn’t have to back track. It was when I went back to Kaufman, TX for signatures that grace was shown. The midwife wanted to catch up, and as we did my heart spilled over which caused me to have the ugliest cry ever. As I held my head down in what felt like failure, I heard a loving and kind voice ask, “When do you want to come back?” I quit the ATM program and I have been at the birth center in Kaufman since June 2019 where I have been allowed to continue to grow spiritually, academically and practically. I am currently working towards finishing Phase 3 of the NARM portfolio evaluation process. I am 5 births as primary midwife under supervision away from scheduling my exam and 5 more away from completing my apprenticeship.
This was all for my making and I am grateful!
Cheryl Edinbyrd, PhD is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, Licensed Massage Therapist, Yoga, Nutrition and Fitness Therapist, and Primary Midwife Under Supervision.