Why I Became a Midwife – Vanessa Dixon

Vanessa Dixon
I was born at home in to the hands of a midwife 35 years ago before midwifery was a recognized profession. My mother has always spoke of mine and my siblings births with fondness – as intense, intimate and powerful experiences. Since I was a child I’ve always been enchanted with the process of birth. I had an aunt who worked as a midwife and she used to take me with her to home visits sometimes – I loved every minute of it! The first essay I ever wrote – for my eighth grade English class was about birth and midwives.
Yet, although midwifery seemed like an obvious choice for me I took a winding path to get here. I earned a master’s degree, taught yoga, worked in various research jobs and gave birth to my own daughter at home in 2009 before deciding to take the leap and apply to midwifery school. In retrospect, I suppose it took actually having a desk job to realize that wasn’t what I wanted.
Since then I have never looked back. I love that as a midwife, no two work days are alike. I love getting to know my clients and their families – I love watching those families grow as they welcome new babies (I love cuddling those babies!). I love the mix of science, humanity and social justice involved with my job and I’m still enchanted with the process of birth.

4. Simone Rosenberg
I was caught by midwives here in Toronto, so I suppose I was introduced to midwifery as early as one can be. My first vivid memories of midwifery are from when I was 7 years old. I remember the midwife coming to our home to assess my mother and my brand new baby brother. I remember how knowledgeable she was, and yet informal and caring in her approach; she felt like part of the family. I was raised with a sense that midwives should look after all normal pregnancies. In my household the midwife was a figure like the firefighter or teacher; a mainstay of the community and a role one might fulfill.
As a teenager I became interested in feminism, especially the struggle for reproductive rights. I was inspired by tales of women fighting to de-pathologize birth, reclaim choice of birthplace, and the right to non-medicated birth if they so chose. I was also moved by stories of midwives in the Southern United States and Indigenous midwives fighting to keep birth in their communities and providing safe care where it was otherwise unavailable.
When I was 19 I attended the home birth of my youngest brother and that was when I knew I wanted to be a midwife. The midwives were so calm, and my mother was clearly in charge of the event; it was powerful and moving. The midwives told me I too was very calm, and asked me if I had considered being a midwife. This was music to my ears. I decided to train as a doula and gain more birth experience. As a doula I found myself continuously awed by the process of labour and the birthing body. I saw how pregnancy and birth could be a transformative time for people and their families. Attending births also ignited my interest in clinical knowledge and care. I found myself craving more responsibility and more complete involvement in the birthing process. This is what finally led me to a career in midwifery.

5. Nabal Kanaan
I first encountered midwifery in a historical novel. I have always been an avid reader but as a 12 year old I was especially in love with historical fiction. In novels, authors always seemed to introduce a midwife at some point. I didn’t actually know all of a midwife’s responsibilities – from what I understood, they were present at births, they were usually a trusted confidante, they had a large role in the community. My current understanding of midwifery came years later.
I often feel my story is so different compared to other midwives. Despite my mother being a NICU nurse in Scarborough, I didn’t encounter birth at all when growing up, birth was very private (understandably so), it seemed like it always had to be in a hospital setting. This was my understanding of birth until I was 15 years old. In my 10th grade Careers class, a midwifery student came to my school to talk about the program. The first thing that drew me in was the idea of midwifery in Ontario today- I was starting to understand all that I had read in those historical novels years ago. I was immediately drawn to the role- I mean, who doesn’t want to have a job that involves babies?
When applying, I learned that the Ryerson midwifery program rarely takes students straight from high school and that they like for students to have some relevant life experience. I was quite naïve and inexperienced out of high school, to say the least. For that reason, I started to latch on to any opportunities to experience births. I initially got into the Ryerson Bachelors of Science in nursing program to get exposure in a healthcare field. The nursing program was quite eye-opening but it certainly did not prepare me for the hectic schedule, range of birth stories, rollercoaster of emotions that is becoming a midwife. It took nine more years from that 10th grade careers class for me to become a midwife and to really see that it is not just about playing with babies. I learned about midwifery’s emphasis on engaging in social justice and providing complete care for all. For this, I’m happy I stuck it through.