Following are questions sent out to our Alumni, around the world, in 2011:
What influence has your midwifery education at the Northern New Mexico Birth Center had on your life?”
“I feel that my education was very thorough and prepared me well for this lifestyle and calling. I felt that the independence we got as students to do prenatal care was amazing and the volume of the Center helped prepare me for working long hard hours. I loved having many preceptors and seeing different approaches and styles. I loved being an apprentice and working at the center. I remember it being challenging, beautiful and rewarding. I remember stretching to meet the demands and being taught well and trusted.”
Colette Mercier class of 2006
Homebirth Midwife, Certified Ayurvedic Practioner, Lactation Specialist in Sebastapol, CA
“It was one of the most intense times in my life. I couldn’t believe someone was about to trust me to do things like take a blood pressure, then whenever I thought I finally understand something I would realize I knew nothing. Being an apprentice took an amazing amount of patience, humility and breathing, and it was the best thing I ever did.
I have been living in India for the past 4 years. I have worked in many different capacities here as a midwife from rural hospitals serving tribal woman and families to homebirth and birth-center birth to most recently, opening my own center in the south of India in Kerala.
We are working to create an option here for woman, in a state where institutional delivery is 99.9% (in comparison to the 40-50% in other states) and c-section rates in many hospitals are as high as 80%. Our center is called Birth Village.
I also am involved in a grassroots project in rural Cambodia which includes providing the local midwives with the support and resources they need to save lives. ”
Red Miller Class of 2007
“I delivered my second child at home in a birthing tub with an LM, CPM. I tried with my first, but he needed more assistance at the hospital. Midwifery has taught me that we can all be in charge of how we choose to deliver our babies, whether or not it is at home, in a birth center or in a hospital. We have the right to choose. Midwifery also taught me that Women are strong, can overcome many obstacles and are absolutely beautiful creatures.
I am now a Medical Assistant in an Urgent Care setting and am working towards applying to the UNM Taos RN program.”
Ashley Jepson Williams Class of 2001
“My time in Taos was such a blessing…The most amazing, life changing, humbling, exhausting, FANTASTIC time of my life. Almost a decade later, I still love to pull out my photo album of mommas and babies, and I find that I still recall details about individual births!
I am a home health RN in Ft. Myers, FL. I worked in the NICU for 2 years and the ER for 2.5 years before switching to home health. Midwifery keeps pulling me back, and I am now (2011) in my first semester of my MSN in midwifery!
Now that I have re-embarked on midwifery training, I am SO grateful that I have a grounding in natural birth. It is so humbling to be invited to care for a mother, her baby, her family. To be a guest in their homes and their lives. I view my current work in home health as having so many parallels to midwifery – we are invited to guide with the expertise we have garnered, but we are also there to learn – never forget it! Respect, openness, patience, a willingness to grow, flexibility, LOVE – these are essential to a meaningful life. Or mine, anyway.
Miranda McGrath Marcus Class of 2003
Ft. Myers, FL
“My midwifery education led me into a profession that is a lifestyle full of constant learning, opportunities to grow and most certainly necessitates a strong spiritual practice. My time as a student opened up many doors inside my own body and spirit and showed me the equal importance of tangible clinical skills intrinsically coupled with the power of prayer and intuition.”
Shiela VanDerveer Class of 2006
Shiela has a Homebirth Practice in the Bay Area, California, Comadres Midwifery Services
What do you remember about being an apprentice?
“ I think that was the best year of my life up to that point. I felt like I finally became myself through Midwifery. The first birth I attended I felt instantly like I was a midwife and that my life made sense. I had amazing preceptors that became friends and mentors that I plan to know for the rest of my life. The work of being an apprentice was totally consuming and left little room for anything else, though at the time it was totally appropriate for me to learn an immense amount of skills. I loved my apprenticeship!
I use my midwifery education everyday in my life as a Doula. I also feel that much of the problem solving wisdom that comes with a Midwifery education helps me care for my family and friends when they are ill. And I have realized that you can ‘midwife’ people through all kinds of experiences in this life, not just birthing babies.”
Amanda Garvey Class of 2004
Amanda is a Doula and Mother in the Bay Area, California
“The diversity of clientele was definitely notable. Going to births in mud huts and renovated school buses, yurts, in three peaks with no power, etc. Trailer homes and mansions… I remember really pushing myself to take in as much as I could and being so grateful to finally be taking the step to actively apprenticing after pursuing midwifery for so long. I remember how nice it was to run into clients around town and to feel connected to the community in that way. I also loved getting directions to home visits that read “turn left at the third sagebrush after the ditch” and etc.
I remember getting up at 5 am to study with Kiersten before clinic. I remember not going home for over 4 days over Christmas when we got slammed. I remember and miss the full moon or the brilliant stars and the stillness of night leaving for a birth at 3 am. I remember Joan picking me up on the side of the highway to “carpool” to Center births since I was on her way from San Cristobal while in Hondo. I remember feeling trusted by the midwives to learn and how nice it was to have someone else there who was the bottom line if we needed help! I remember doing MANA stats by paper and how I wish the web version existed when I was there. I remember and miss having collegial though often tense relationships with physicians who respected the role of the midwife and how lovely it is to be able to consult and collaborate so easily versus my life here in Philadelphia…”
Christy Santoro Class of 2002
Homebirth Midwife based in Philadelphia motherlandmidwifery.com
“I remember always that I just showed up from Alaska on very short notice and Elizabeth and Tish opened all the doors for me with the women by the way they acted…they introduced me as if the woman would be so lucky to get me to help take care of them. In this way, no woman refused to allow me to be a part of her birth, even tho they just met me. I have always done the same with all my apprentices; it is all in how you make the initial introduction to a pregnant woman in your practice whether or not she will accept the student.
I also remember hiking on a snowy night with Elizabeth to a very rural mud and straw adobe house with a dirt floor…we put the supplies in one backpack and the oxygen tank in another, and off we went thru the snow…hiked about an hour after we left our car…I was much younger then!
I live in the Philippines and my family and I run a non-profit organization to start, fund, and oversee free birth centers for the poor. I also teach midwifery all over the world regularly.”
Vicki Penwell Class of 1983
“I had attended births on my own in Arizona before joining the “ Northern New Mexico Midwifery Center,” as it was called then. I remember finally feeling that I had support in following my dream of becoming a midwife. I was a single mom at the time and there were very few options for training.
Being an apprentice felt like a gift but it was never an easy time. Politics and personalities were always a factor and made for a volatile mix. However, what I learned has stayed with me all these years and has been the foundation for a lifetime of midwifery service. Midwifery education is an ongoing process. It has affected every aspect of my life and continues to be a primary force.
Currently, I have an active practice in the Four Corners region of Colorado and New Mexico. I have two clinic sites in Durango, Colorado and Aztec, New Mexico.”
Juanita Nelson LM, CPM