Life of a Midwifery Student: Rewards and Challenges

Chances are, if you’ve had a midwife, you’ve had a student around at some point. Midwifery is an apprenticeship-based profession: this means that students learn through active participation in all aspects of care, from prenatal appointments, to postpartum home visits, to births of all kinds (and at all times of the day and night!). Ontario midwifery students have increasing responsibility from when they start their first placement in their second year of the midwifery program, to their fourth and final year, when they manage care (under close supervision, of course). Benefits of having a student include an extra pair of hands for labour and breastfeeding support, a fresh sense of enthusiasm, and new insights on the latest research and evidence. Most clients welcome us with open arms, while some clients prefer not to have a student. We are immensely grateful to those who let us participate, and deeply value all clients’ choices, including the choice not to have a student. Come January, the Midwives Clinic of East York – Don Mills will have students from all three midwifery programs in Ontario (Ryerson, Laurentian, and McMaster), from all levels (junior students just starting to learn clinical skills, senior students working on care management, and internationally trained midwives getting their Canadian certification). The work is hard, but also deeply rewarding in so many ways! We wanted to share with you some of the rewards and challenges that we experience as midwifery students at TMC.

Martha, International Midwifery Pre-Registration Program (IMPP) student from Ryerson University

As an IMPP, what I enjoy the most about midwifery in Toronto is the people. Clients and peers of different backgrounds connecting and working together for the same goal, which is to bring a new life to this world safely. I was very fortunate to work in a maternity labour room back home in Venezuela, something I was passionate about. Now in Ontario, I feel blessed of being part of a bridging program that is giving me the opportunity not only to go back to where my passion is, but also helping me to be my best self as a professional, so I can serve Canadians and people of different backgrounds providing them evidence-based care and a safe place to talk and be.

For me, the most challenging part is to get around to a birth. Whether is a home, hospital or birth center, traffic and parking is always a challenge in a busy city like Toronto. Maybe that is why I love those birth in the middle of the night when time seems to be in my favor. The silence of the road and the neighborhood that is sleeping when I get to witness the miracle of a new life and their first cry is something I would not change for anything in this world.

Mary, Senior student from Laurentian University

My absolute favourite part of training to be a midwife is getting to know clients. I am so grateful to be joining a profession that values taking the time to have discussions about both clinical care and the emotions surrounding the unique experience of pregnancy and birth. By the time we are discharging clients when their babies are 6 weeks old, I feel like we are old pals and its so sad to see them go.

Of course, the on-call lifestyle is challenging. Sometimes I feel like I live in my car and that I am perpetually in traffic on the Gardiner. However, there is something magical about driving home from a birth at 3am while the city is asleep knowing that I got to welcome a new little life into the world.

Sarah, Senior student from McMaster University

There are so many positive and rewarding aspects of midwifery that drew me to the profession and have continued to fuel my motivation to graduate and become a midwife. One aspect that stands out for me as being very unique and rewarding is getting to experience the special energy of a birth. No matter the circumstance, there is a remarkable energy and excitement when a person is in labour and even more excitement when a baby is born. There’s nothing else quite like it. It’s a privilege to be present during the first bonding moments between a newborn and their family on the outside! The most challenging aspect of the role for me is finding a balance between what we call “student midwife life” (being on call, at births/clinic/home visits, studying, constantly researching and learning) and maintaining a healthy well-rounded personal life (and trying not to be too disappointed when I’m off call and miss a birth!) I haven’t mastered any of these things yet, but I’m evolving and enjoying the process!

Jenny, Senior student from McMaster University

Providing midwifery care in the city of Toronto is unique experience: with the incredible multicultural diversity that our city has to offer, getting to be a part of such a personal experience as pregnancy and birth with clients from all different backgrounds feels like such a privilege! Midwives provide postpartum care at home in the first week after our clients have their babies, this includes breastfeeding support, and check-ups on the wellbeing of new moms and their babies. The postpartum period is a time when many new parents’ friends and families come together to support them, and for many, a time of cultural traditions, ceremonies, and the sharing of family knowledge. I love the way that my relationship with clients deepens after being there with them through labour and birth, and this is even more true when you get to meet their families and learn about the ways that they welcome a new baby into the world.

One obvious challenge is the on-call lifestyle: it can seriously mess with your sleep and eating habits! Sometimes the adrenaline of being at a birth is so high that you forget that you haven’t eaten in ages, or that you are running on only a couple hours of sleep. In that way I feel like I can identify with new parents – it’s so important to remember to stay hydrated, nap when you get the chance to, and use your support people to help you out whenever you can. I also wish I didn’t have to rely on my car so much to get around – sooo many parking tickets!

Rebecca, International Midwifery Pre-Registration Program (IMPP) student from Ryerson University

Often people will ask what’s your favourite part of being a midwife, and I always struggle to give a straight answer. From the moment the baby opens its eyes to discover the new world it has entered to the luminous eyes of the birthing persons first look at the gift they’ve worked so hard for they are all glorious moments. Being from the sunny state of South Carolina, I would have to say the winter is the most challenging part of midwifery here. I’m so thankful for this placement and the people I have met and will meet.