Jenni’s Education & Experience
Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), Licensed Midwife (LM) Ryerson University – graduated in 2006 with BS in Midwifery
My path to midwifery was initially inspired by people I met all over Canada the year I wandered the country; they kept talking to me about their good experiences with midwives. My travels took place during the time that midwifery was just becoming legislated in several provinces I was traveling through, including Quebec and British Columbia. These encouraging voices directed me towards a degree program that matched my values of social justice and women’s choice. I applied to Ryerson University’s midwifery program, not knowing quite how competitive it was at the time, and, when I was accepted after a long application and interview process, decided that it seemed meant for me.
While attending births as a volunteer support person after I started midwifery school, I immediately fell in love with the work and the community of midwives who taught and mentored this fabulous group of student peers I found myself amidst. The work wasn’t without its challenges, and early on I felt particularly drawn to providing an option different than the disempowering birth culture I saw in hospital-based care (as a volunteer) and in mainstream birth books and media coverage. I also recognized the limitations of the predominant education model; the support of women of color to be midwives was particularly troubling to me and continues to be an issue. I was grateful to be able to train and work providing care in a fully subsidized care model that offered a real community-based, free alternative to the model I saw most women having to use for their maternity care.
My training consisted of three years of apprentice-style learning, with placements in different midwife group practices, providing care under supervision while gaining more and more clinical independence with women and their families. I attended about 150 births over 6 years, in homes, in a Quebec birth center, and in hospitals in several Canadian cities. I got to be involved in caring for many families welcoming their babies in the way they chose to birth, monitoring their pregnancies and labors, and checking on them and their babies for several months after they gave birth.
I was living in Toronto when I graduated from midwifery school in 2006 and was lucky to find my first midwifery job in a large group of nine midwives who had just opened a practice in the suburbs a year before. We had a little strip-mall clinic and I drove all over Toronto’s east end for births and homevisits with our clients. For four years, I attended 50 to 60 births a year, either as the primary midwife or as an assistant. I enjoyed all of the families I got to know in this incredibly multicultural suburb, with diverse incomes and lives lived, from the inner suburb of mainly newer immigrant families to the outer suburbs/towns east of Toronto with new, wealthier developments. In this practice, I was able to continue providing care to the small francophone community in Toronto, and continue my outreach in the Deaf community. Our midwife group also provided volunteer services through a drop-in clinic for undocumented families in the inner suburb. I mentored several midwifery students over the five years and I attended lovely home births in tiny apartments and houses in many different neighborhoods.
Hospital births were the majority of the births I attended, however. Having hospital admitting privileges was both a gift and a challenge at times. It meant that our clients had access to hospital rooms and specialist consultations without losing midwives as their primary providers, yet us midwives had to keep up with many different protocols and staff changes that occasionally affected how we could provide care. I was always grateful to still be able to attend the birth of one of my clients when things were a little outside of “normal”, providing support and advocacy for the family, and often continuing care for babies whose mothers’ care had to be transferred.
Since graduating, I have had the pleasure of volunteering with my professional organization, the Association of Ontario Midwives, working on a committee charged with creating research summary documents that midwives can use to help guide their practice and assist them in supporting clients’ choices. I have also been on the planning committee for the Canadian Association of Midwives Annual Conference and, since moving to the US, I have worked as registrar for the Midwives Alliance of North American annual conventions in 2012, 2014, and 2016 – 2018. I am a founding member of the Queer and Transgender Midwives Association.
Client advocacy and continuing education have been a guiding part of my midwifery path. When I first graduated, I was interested in providing midwifery care as part of relief work. After the 2010 devastating earthquake in Haiti, I volunteered with an American NGO in Haiti’s central plateau, one of the most rural and removed areas of this very rural country. I spent two weeks supporting Haitian midwives and skilled birth attendants at the local hospital, assisting at births and teaching short skills lessons to the trainees. I returned to Haiti the following year, as a volunteer again, but also as a visitor. I spent time with one of my dear Canadian friends living on the western part of the island. My visit with her wonderful extended family really cemented my love for the people and the country, while solidifying some of my concerns about the type of volunteerism I had signed up for. I was clear that I wanted to support the training of more midwives and skilled birth attendants in Haiti, but I had concerns about how to be a part of that as a white North American working through a foreign NGO, one with significant history in Haiti but still with internal issues. I have since spent much time thinking about the ethical nature of this type of work, and am still conflicted about it. These conflicting thoughts continued to surface while completing a certificate program in “Tropical Medicine” at a European Institute in 2012 and attending several congresses of the International Confederation of Midwives. I realize that the public health and tropical disease pathology training I have acquired is not without value, however, when practiced without a social justice context can do much more harm than good. I am still trying to find an ethical way to be involved in health promotion in low-resource settings. My work as a short-term replacement midwife in Inuit communities in Nunavik (Georgian Bay) has also informed these concerns.
Both my midwifery path and my life changed dramatically when I met Christy at the International Confederation of Midwives Congress in Durban, South Africa in 2011. My last year of work in Toronto was in a downtown urban practice where I biked and walked to my prenatal appointments and postpartum checks. Still, I was ready for a move, and four months after we met, I was trying life in Austin. During my immigration process, I also worked for a midwifery electronic health records company, providing technical support and consulting with them about the documentation needs of home birth midwives. Our youngest son, Haven, was born at home in 2015 into Christy’s loving hands. I became a Licensed Midwife in Texas in 2016, and I am an equal partner in making our practice accessible to being a supportive care environment for your families and the ways you choose to become pregnant and birth.