Big news

TO MY CURRENT PATIENTS: What you are about to read will NOT happen until NEXT FALL. Repeat after me: NEXT FALL.

OK, gonna jump now. I’m moving to Canada next year.

Yep, seriously.

I want to move to Canada because everything about how I want to work as a midwife is available up there without a struggle. That’s the positive frame.

From the other side: I want to do home and hospital birth. In my career, I’ve spent about six years attending hospital births and six years attending home births. Of those years, the middle four were spent doing both. Think Venn diagram.

I spent the first half of 2009 searching in vain for a hospital to let me on staff. Interestingly, the reasons given for not letting me past the first step were quite varied, and some didn’t even say that it was because I did home birth. Various hospital VP’s and/or department chairs told me it was because they didn’t have the structure to accept an independent midwife on staff. Said midwife has to be a hospital or physician employee.

I’ve spent the first half of 2010 getting mentally prepared to start searching again, having learned a few things about how to speak the language of hospitals-chiefly, money-as well as how to create a paper trail.

In the meantime, I’ve been attending home births and loving every minute of THAT part of my job. I’m enjoying a significant wave of repeat clients, and this past year I had two third time clients.

During these two years of attending home birth exclusively (I prefer the word “exclusively” to “only”), every time I have to transport a laboring mother to the hospital (and therefore out of my care), and I could darn well have kept her as a patient had I been on staff—well, I can be flowery/woo woo and say my soul bleeds a little. And I will, because it’s true.

But I’m also angry. I’d like to just go to a thesaurus and copy and paste synonyms for anger and post them here. I’ve felt all of them for varying degrees in the past two years.

So let’s rewind to about six months or so ago. A midwife who cannot legally work in Illinois was moving to a state where she can (this is another posting), and was having a going away party. A midwife student was there and talked at length about how she and her husband were moving to Toronto, and described the Canadian system as ALL midwives attending home and hospital birth. I drooled, and at one point asked her to put me in her suitcase and take me with her.

Upon saying that, a short wordless conversation happened in my head. (This happens quite a lot. When I’m particularly overwhelmed I will sometimes have the conversation out loud.)

Here’s the nonverbal version:

*pokepoke*?, huhWHA?!?, <:/

(That last is an emoticon I just made up-raised eyebrows. You’re welcome. Maybe it’s been done already, but for the moment I’ll be proud of myself for thinking that up.)

Here’s the translation:

*pokepoke*?: “Jen, that sounds like exactly how you want to work. What’s stopping you from going? Why do you need to be smuggled?”

huhWHA?!?: “WHAT? Are you SERIOUS? I have the business to think about!”

<:/: “Okaaayyyyy….”

And that was it. The seed had been planted, but the conversation in my head happened in less time than it takes to brush your hair back from your eyes. For the short haired folks who may be reading this, just run with the metaphor, K? 🙂

 A few months ago a confluence of events (some of them being in my personal life) swirled together that brought a few realizations. One is that I don’t want to fight anymore. I want to do home and hospital birth, I want to work in a group, and I would like to not have to need a doctor’s signature to do my work as an advanced practice nurse. This is a requirement in my state. About 15 or 20 states have gotten rid of the written requirement, and Illinois is in the process of trying-there is a bill before the state legislature. More on that later.

Can I get all of those things here? Yes. I can hire a partner, I can get on staff somewhere, and the bill will become law. Hiring a partner could happen when I decide to get one. Getting on staff somewhere is a possibility with lots of convincing, persuasion, and a generous dollop of luck. The bill may pass next year or in ten years.

 Anyway-back to being tired of fighting. I’ve held a lot of imaginary presentations to a variety of doctors and hospital administrators. In these fantasies I come to the presentation with sheaves of letters from patients. I show them the award the business won last year. I show them and emphasize the practice’s statistics. I point out to them the research that clearly states that home birth is safest WHEN THERE IS A SEAMLESS MEANS OF HOSPITAL TRANSPORT. And I conclude with the amount of money I/my practice would bring to their institution.

I’m devastatingly eloquent and they wither in the face of my logical and persuasive arguments. I’m so convincing that I have multiple hospitals courting me to be on their staff.   

 Ahem. So. Another of my recent realizations is figuring out the difference between optimism and wishful thinking, and the difference between pessimism and an honest assessment of the situation.

Can I get what I want somewhere else here in the States? I’m pretty sure I could. The home and hospital model is uncommon but it’s out there. I haven’t done an exhaustive survey or anything, but I suspect that most home and hospital midwives have someone, probably a doctor, on staff at that hospital who is their champion. I’m on a few national CNM listservs, and they have lots of inspiring stories about midwives who have struggled against the system and made it, only to have something in hospital administration change or perhaps their champion doctor moves or retires, and their practice vanishes. One midwife in particular has gone through something like that two or three times in her career. I met her at convention this past year and felt like I was meeting someone famous.

The fact remains that the home and hospital model of midwifery care is not a common one in our current healthcare infrastructure. (BOY, does that sentence make me sound smart.)    

Now, Canada. Browsing official midwife websites and finding discussion boards of mothers in Canada, here’s what I’ve learned:

 ALL midwives attend home and hospital birth. Some areas have a 70/30 hospital/home birth rate, others it’s reversed, others are in between.

ALL midwives are government funded but otherwise independent and autonomous.

NONE are hospital or doctor employees.

Midwifery care is covered by the national health plan for all women. OMG, guys. That means I won’t have to watch a woman choose a free hospital birth over an out of pocket home birth that she wants but can’t afford.

ALL midwives work in groups of 2 to 4.

Brief sidetrack: a midwife job posting in Vancouver (which they must have filled because it’s gone now, so I can’t post the link) stated, “We have four midwives but three working at any given time, because each midwife takes EVERY FOURTH MONTH OFF.” (Caps mine.)

Another of the life lessons/realizations is one I’ve learned before but I needed to learn again. If I’m unhappy about a situation, I can change it or I can accept it. Some years ago I learned a third option: sometimes the best decision is take myself out of the situation.

Here’s my crossroads: stay here and create the job I want, or move to somewhere where it already exists. The former looks like a sheer mountain face to be scaled and climbed with no safety equipment. The latter looks like an incredibly long journey on a prairie-the goal might be far, but the path is clear and flat with very few obstructions.

Another American CNM moved to Canada to be the midwifery program director at a Canadian university. She still does clinical practice and I found her bio on a midwifery practice website. In the bio she writes, “I feel like I’ve come home.” (She’s since moved on, so I can’t link THAT either. But it was there, promise.)

 In many, if not most, consultation visits with potential new clients, I say that it’s possible to achieve a natural birth in a hospital-with lots of preparation and support, a good dose of luck, and keen awareness of the system they’re trying to work against. Or she can do it home, avoid the hassle, and just have her baby. If it becomes unsafe and we need to go to the hospital, well, that’s why she hired me.

Ironic though this might be, I want to avoid the hassle. My version of “staying at home” is moving. I don’t have it in me to catch babies, run a business, AND take on a system.    

If this plan of mine inspires any sort of emotion in you, AND you live in Illinois please consider writing a letter and sitting on it until elections are over. Once our new senators/reps are in office, ask them for their support of the elimination of the WCA for advanced practice nurses (Senate bill 2567 but it might change). For patients, write, “My midwife is leaving the country because of this!” (Sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s also the truth, and politicians hear hyperbole more clearly than frothy appeals.)

You can also help with the other similar-but-different issue, even if you don’t live in Illinois: advanced practice nurses getting on staff at hospitals. National staff members of my professional organization, the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM), recently presented to the Center for Medicare Services (CMS). I don’t know if it’s a bill (CMS isn’t the same as Congress, but they’re certainly related), but whatever it is will require hospitals that receive Medicare funding-that is, 99% of them-to allow licensed independent practitioners (of which CNMs are a subset) on staff to the full extent of their education. If they don’t, the presumed punishment will be pulling of Medicare funds.

THIS, friends and neighbors, is a language that doctors and hospital administrators understand.

So hang onto that letter to your state senator/rep. An edit of the same letter can go to someone at ACNM. I’m trying to find out who the point of contact is.


I’m confident in my decision, but I’m still crying as I write this. A Woman’s Place represents the past five and a half years of my life. It’s my fervent hope that someone will buy it.

If you’re still reading, thank you. And guess what? Even if A Woman’s Place shuts its doors, I’m still here. I might be leaving the country, but I’m not leaving the blogosphere. And now that the blogging bug has bitten me, I’m here to stay. The story of the beginnings of A Woman’s Place is REALLY COOL with how it just unfolded, and it’s coming.

Stay tuned, guys, and thanks for being here.

Hugs to all-

This entry was posted in Barriers to practice, Career moves, Deep thoughts, Home birth, Hospital birth, Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Big news

  1. Martha says:

    Oh, Jen…This is indeed very sad. However, I completely understand that you need to do this. You are showing that you have a great deal of courage to make a move and a fierce loyalty to who you are. Congratulations on both accounts. Chicago will certainly miss you. I’ll keep following you on your blog. I’ve been enjoying so far and I’ll look forward to hearing about the rest of your adventures.

  2. Kim says:

    Hi Jen,
    I am a CNM RM lliving and working in Victoira BC. I did my CNM At U of U in the early 90’s and have been a registered midwife in British Columbia since we started in 1997. Do you know where you are going yet? I am also part of the MMBP (Bridging Program) to assess and register “foreign trained” midwives. Interested in working in BC? Victoria? Vancouver Island? I’d love to talk!

    • Deborah Johnson says:

      I am an experienced CNM who is very interested in relocating to the Vancouver area. Do you have any suggestions for how to get started in looking for a position there? What are the licensing and/or Visa requirments for working in Canada and being a US citizen? Would love to talk with you : Please write me at Thanks.

  3. Penny Lane says:

    I visited Canada for the International Breech Conference and fell in love as well. You will be missed!!

  4. Alison Stone says:

    I’m a midwife in New Jersey…..not interested in buying your practice…but now I’m drooling!! Canada sounds so sane!! Really sounds like home to probably most of us midwives….so tired of fighting!! Anyway, good luck, happy birthing, and really, thanks for the message….helps us all realize that we’re not crazy for wanting options for our women, and can truly deliver the best care in a supportive environment.
    Alison Stone CNM

  5. Dana says:

    Dear Jen, 

    My name is Dana and I just found this post when I googled “US midwife moving to Canada” and fell in love (with your blog that is;).  I have been wanting to get into midwifery for years now and the more I learn about the US healthcare system the more confused and apprehensive I become.  In the middle of college I decided on becoming a CNM, finished my prereqs and graduated with a Spanish degree with plans of going to an accelerated nursing program and moving to my masters after that…  Unfortunately, or maybe thankfully, the summer I was going to apply, I began reading and researching natural birth, hospital birth, and birth politics.  I was shocked and mortified and swore that I would only attend home births and become a CPM and retaliate.  I didn’t want to be indoctrinated by the medical community into thinking birth was scary!  That wouldn’t make me a very good midwife now would it?  I would fight the nasty politicians by attending the oh so dreaded home birth.  Sadly, I realized after more research, that CPM’s have next to no freedom in my state!  Recently, I decided that I would jump through the necessary hoops to become a CNM for the mothers and families that I will serve in the future.  I’ll just have to keep my independent and rebellious mind guarded from all those that think home birth is scary.  I would rather offer services that can be covered by insurance than stick it to the man and be out of reach of the low income women that I want to serve.  After a bit more research to solidify my decision I realized that, like you, I didn’t want to balance a business, family, and fight the good fight.  Something would have to be sacrificed…

    After reading your blog, I felt like my prayers had been answered…  Just finding that there are midwives out there with the desire to move to Canada because of our corrupt healthcare system nearly brought me to tears (of sadness and joy)…  I’m in a trendy little coffee shop so I made sure and refrained.  Ha!  

    Long story short…  This blog post has given me hope and I have further solidified my decision to become a CNM and then move to Canada…  Or maybe the other way around (smirk).  I wish you all the best in Canada and I will continue to follow your blog!

    Thank you for the inspiration and hope,

    • jenga1972 says:

      You’re so welcome, Dana. I’m grateful and humbled that my post inspired you. I’m learning more and more that speaking my truth, being true to myself, and taking responsibility for my happiness not only makes me happy, it helps others to do the same.

      I’d encourage you to consider going to Canada now and do a bridging program (Toronto or Vancouver). You don’t need a CNM to do hospital births OR get paid.

      I have a feeling our paths will cross someday!


  6. Ser says:

    Jen, I’m so glad you sent me the FB message, because now I can follow your blog! It is sad that you have to move to Canada to practice in the way that you want, but it is what it is. I’m glad you are making the best decision for yourself. The whole system is out of whack here–in some states more than others. I myself find it crazy that I went from having a wonderful homebirth to having another hospital birth, all because of insurance issues. It was a good birth, but so silly. Anyway, I’m glad to have found you here and am excited to follow along with your adventures!

  7. Akari says:

    I received a call from the new Japanese mom to be through your care and she told me about your move. I have missed my chances with my third with you, well, at least in Chicago. I can relate as my current internal debate is with schooling options for Taihei and Leo. If I had the option, would I home school because the public school system looks like it would require too much fighting that would not necessarily help my kids… Although sad to see you leave Chicago, it would be good to know that you would be headed towards a flourishing career in Canada. Toronto?

    I am currently reading Hot: living through the next 50 years on Earth
    and so I am all for people who I care for moving north.

    I’ll keep in touch through FB and your blog.
    Will let you know if I come across anyone who would take on a woman’s place…


  8. goodhousewife says:


    I feel insanely inspiried after reading your post! I am working a as a midwife in the uk and have been considering my options for a while now.

    Where I am I have two options, work ina medicalised unit which is currently taking it’s toll on my normal birthing ethics or to practice uninsured as an independent (which could become illegal in 2013).

    Lets just say you have given me food for thought,

    Many thanks

  9. Pingback: Detours and unfolding paths | Urban Midwife

  10. Faige Merling says:

    This is sad news for me Jen, but I am very very happy for you that you have found the proverbial ‘window’ you’d mention to me, the window G-d opens for you. I googled AWP hoping to use you this time around but I’m due 1 month after you close… 😦
    I will miss you; you were my first ever prenatal care friend and guide and I’ll never forget you and your realness and warmth. I hope you have great success, satisfaction and ease up in the frozen tundra of Canada. If you settle in Montreal, drop me a line because I come once a year there to visit my husband’s family.
    My Miriam (whom you cared for inside me for a few months) is 3 now!
    Best wishes,
    Faige Merling
    P.S. Do you still have my waterbirth stuff in your trunk??? You can keep it… 🙂

  11. Pingback: Ah, validation…. | Urban Midwife

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s