On Finding an Apprenticeship
by Megan Ojeda
As an Indie Birth graduate with no intentions of acquiring a license, ever — (do I need government approval – AKA a “license” – to menstruate or share my skill/education/ experiences in menstruation with other women? no. same thing.) — I was faced with a built-in challenge of finding an apprenticeship within range of my home. Montana requires that all midwife’s apprentices, even direct-entry midwives, submit to licensure. APPRENTICESHIP licensure requires a committed, licensed midwife listed as the preceptor, certified training/education in specific areas, fees, and more paperwork. If an apprentice is not licensed, the licensed midwife supervising the apprenticeship could undergo disciplinary action by the licensing board.
On top of that, I live in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana. There aren’t many people here at all, let alone midwives. The few — and I think there are literally 8 total that I’ve heard of within a 2-hr travel radius — that I contacted or looked into were all licensed. Most didn’t even return my call/email when I requested to meet with them to chat about my experience and what I was looking for in an apprenticeship right now. The three who did respond either had a waiting list, or cited the requirements regarding licensure.
Now, I think I should explain that my expectations of a potential preceptor were (and are) pretty low at this stage. In my mind, I don’t need someone who practices exactly how I would like, or someone who has all the same beliefs as I do. Not right now, at least. I think that will be important as I get closer to the end of my apprenticeship, to gain practice and experience in those more specific concepts. But in this very early stage, I feel that I just need to witness and observe.
Another uncommon thing about Montana that I thought could work in my favor was that we have Mennonite and Hutterite (similar lifestyle to the Amish) communities nearby. I had heard that these communities have unlicensed midwives who serve their own fellowship. I located one of the Mennonite marketplaces, went up to the first employee I saw, introduced myself as a midwifery student and asked if they had a community midwife I could get in contact with. She kindly offered the information I asked for.
Later when I called this midwife, she didn’t answer and I left a nervous (probably a little confusing and lengthy) message. No return call for a month or so. I called again and left another message, this time concisely explaining who I was and what I wanted. She returned my call and graciously explained that she did not have a busy practice, maybe 1-3 births a year. When she inquired about my intentions a little further, she offered the
number of another unlicensed midwife she was aware of. I gladly accepted and called this new midwife right away. No answer. Left a message.
Another couple of weeks went by when I called again — this time she answered! She sounded busy and was hurrying the conversation along (but not rudely). When I explained why I was calling and all that, she said she would call me the next time she was closer to my area, which was apparently in the next few weeks. No word for a while, but I waited, trusting that everything would work out, even if it wasn’t with her.
One evening, I just had a feeling that I needed to contact her right then, so I did. She asked if I could meet her the next day, late morning. It almost felt like a test, but thankfully my one (and only) local friend was available to watch my young children. I met with this midwife and it felt like an instant alliance. After a mutual interview, it was concluded that, as long as her clients were comfortable, I was welcome to join her for prenatals as a start!
The next day, once it finally sunk in that I am someone’s apprentice — a midwife’s apprentice — I felt like I was soaring. I literally could not come up with the words, the only things that were coming to mind were things of nature, like cool water pooling around a natural spring, the Milky Way in a clear night sky, the red coals within a fire. It’s like I stepped into the same stuff that makes up the stars – and now I get to be a part of that. I’ve been invited in, and I have nothing to prove, nothing to hide.
This is what apprenticeship is, to me. It’s the unique opportunity to connect with the sacred role of Midwife, without forcing open the door and declaring to everyone that I belong there. It means to be more intimately immersed in the world of birth, but without the weight of premature responsibility or anyone thinking I know how to do things in which I really don’t have a solid practice (which, to me, would be like trying to win the Superbowl, as the quarterback, after only reading a few playbooks). It’s powerful, humbling, and invaluable — much like the experience of birth itself.
I’m so grateful to be stepping in to this next part of my journey and the lessons that lie ahead. May my path be blessed and may the blessings extend beyond me.