Confronting my fear of confrontation.

I used to be an apprentice midwife. I thought I wanted to pursue midwifery as a career. It seemed fitting: I’ve always been interested in birth; I’m a birth doula; I’m a childbirth educator; and I had a homebirth which I loved. Pursuing midwifery seemed like the next logical step.

I think most doulas aspire to become midwives. As a doula attending hospital births, your responsibilities are so limited. You see women treated so badly and you can’t really help. I have smiled and nodded when a doctor cut an episiotomy, when inside I was horrified. I’ve kept from rolling my eyes when a doctor suggests “just a whiff” of pitocin. I’ve even heard a doctor say out loud that he always cut the umbilical cord as soon as the baby was out because if the cord was left intact, all the blood could flow out of the baby back into the placenta.

Attending an out-of-hospital birth, on the other hand, it’s like reaching the holy grail. You see a provider who is “with women;” she is kind and gentle (in my experiences) and helpful. She practices evidence-based midwifery. Usually the mom has spent months with her midwife, and they have a relationship that surpasses patient/provider.

So, with that in mind, I pursued midwifery when the opportunity arose.

By the way, I think that was another issue: the opportunity to pursue midwifery doesn’t arise often. Apprenticeships are hard to come by; there’s a local midwife I know who has a line two miles long of women who want to apprentice with her. When the chance to apprentice basically fell into my lap, I jumped at it, thinking another opportunity might not come along for years. Or maybe ever.

So: I talked My Chemical Romance into a plan where I’d spend one day per week at prenatal appointments — and pay a sitter that day — and attend births with my preceptor. Simultaneously, I entered a midwifery school that required full tuition up front (although I paid via a monthly payment plan). It is a very popular school; the students absolutely worship the director and her controversial point of view regarding birth — and I knew someone who had just graduated.

It was not as easy as I made it out to be. I think My Chemical Romance had some concerns, but I assured him it would be okay. And it was — somewhat. With so much extra responsibility, I stepped up my game in other areas. To prove that I could do everything — and be everyone — I kept the house really clean and started cooking all the time. I took as many doula clients as I could to make some extra money (since apprentices don’t get paid). When my kids were in school, I made sure everything was always packed and ready and I didn’t have to rush to the office because I forgot to send a signed permission slip. I tried to make it look easy.

It wasn’t.

It wasn’t killing me or my marriage or my relationship with my kids, but I was starting to resent pregnant women after a while. Which is not conducive to practicing midwifery.

Telling my preceptor that I no longer wanted to apprentice with her was easier than I thought. She understood. In my heart, I knew she’d understand, but I was still worried about letting her down — or that she might be disappointed in me. Maybe she was — probably more disappointed to lose my company once a week — but she totally understood and our relationship has morphed into a friendship. I love her.

Despite the fact that I am the snarkiest bitch you’ll ever meet, I’m not into confrontation. I’ve read about it. I know how it works. I try to confront fairly and justly, like the books say, and use “I” phrases and stick to the subject at hand. I can do it. I don’t like the idea of someone being mad at me or disliking me. I’d rather assume they’re mad at me or hate me than to confront them and actually find out. I spent a while trying to decide whether I’d rather continue resenting pregnant women than tell my preceptor that I didn’t want to continue apprenticing and face her (possible, but doubtful) anger and/or disappointment.

Meanwhile, when I decided to stop apprenticing, I thought I’d still continue with my school. You can study midwifery without apprenticing; it’s the opposite that proves tricky. But it’s been three months since I stopped and I have no desire to go back. I haven’t cracked a book, I haven’t done anything midwifery-related — and I’ve liked it. I realized: I don’t want to become a midwife. I believe in midwifery care, I support midwifery care, I’d never have anyone other than a midwife provide me with prenatal care — but that’s not enough passion to pursue midwifery as a career.

My Chemical Romance was supportive of my decision — as he is of nearly every decision I make, truly — but I know he doesn’t get it. He is one of those people who discovered as a teenager his interest (chemistry), went on to get a full academic scholarship to college (to study chemistry), and has always worked in his field (as a chemist). I admire that tenacity — or maybe I just haven’t found the one thing I love and want to pursue forever.

If it weren’t for the fact that I’m still paying tuition, I would have just cut my losses and moved on, but I am still paying. And that was grating at me. I’d signed a contract, and I’d sent postdated checks. Even though I had decided I didn’t want to become a midwife, even though I’d returned the curriculum, I still had to pay the tuition. It didn’t seem fair, but I didn’t know what to do.

Finally I decided that as much as I haaaaaaaaaaaaaate confrontation and finding out people are mad at me, I had to do something. I asked my former midwifery school to return my checks, or destroy them. They said no, I had to keep paying. So I filed a claim with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General’s office (department of consumer protection). I said I should not have to continue paying tuition for school in which I’m no longer enrolled, and no longer have the curriculum. I said that a resolution would be for the school to return my checks to me, or to destroy them.

I also contacted my bank and let them know that I was disputing checks, and gave them the BBB claim number.

My midwifery school is pissed. I got a somewhat nasty email saying the director is surprised and disappointed — and I’ve removed myself from group emails, but I’m certain there are emails flying about this. Not about me specifically (I hope), but about how someone is not honoring her agreement with the school and taking money away from them. Whine whine whine.

It felt good to confront the school, and stand up for myself. It was scary, but I’m really glad I did this. I believe in what I’m doing. The school administrators seem mad — but that’s okay. I confronted them. They’re mad. The world is still spinning.

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4 Responses

  1. You know I believe that you are in the right, but I know you don’t need my validation :-).

  2. Brilliant. They are not providing you anything, they should not be paid. It’s not as if you have done this maliciously in order to spite them, you have made the best decision for yourself and your future patients, and as caregivers they should respect that.

  3. it was bogus to have to do all the tuition up front. You are totally in the right. Contracts are broken all the time.

  4. Where have you been, mama? Miss your humor!

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