Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Black Route

           OK, I'm ready to talk about it.  Why I am no longer in my CNM program.  I was interviewed today by a midwife of color preparing a report for a CPM midwifery organization.  She wanted to know about my midwifery education journey.  I asked, 'Will my story help you, I'm taking the CNM route, not the CPM route."  She quickly corrected me.  "No", she said," you are taking the Black Route."  She explained that my story had much in common with midwifery students of color no matter which route to midwifery that they took.   I actually told my story twice today.  After the morning telephone interview, I later in the day visited with an old midwife friend visiting from out of state.  She made the mistake of asking me how school was going.   When I told her she was furious and smothered me in hugs and apologies.
            The short and sweet version is that I flunked out of school- with only one semester left to go.  That failure came with some assistance on the part of the system.  After watching my classmates received at clinical sites that I was denied and being asked to repeat a course because I didn't get enough births (something my classmate who also worried aloud about not getting enough births was not asked to do) I cowered to the suggestion that I do 'independent studies' until the course rolled around again.  I was told my work was inferior.  (I had made only As and Bs to that point).  We were encouraged to apply for a midwifery scholarship, but when I asked for the required reference letter, I was denied, twice.  In the end my untimely demise came about because I didn't trust anyone, not the individuals,  not the system and certainly not the institution.  I truly felt all alone- and I was all alone.   I consider this all a valuable lesson learn: NOTE TO UNIVERSE- I got it.  I settled for a hospital midwife program that did not fit me.  I was a freak from the start, both because of my homebirth devotion and my Black skin (neither of which this Midwestern state university had seen before).  I applied to another program for this Fall but my application was denied.  I will apply to other programs in the Spring. 
             I am more committed to becoming a midwife than ever.  Students of color who come after me will have a soft place to land because I'll be there for them.  I have had to shoulder my burden geographically alone, (except for a few wonderful 'allies' who were not afraid to take me under their wing- bless them).  There are no other midwives of color in my state, only one other LC of color.  But the next generation of midwives won't be alone.  My resolve is stronger than ever.  I am a midwife that will nurture that next generation and restore true midwifery to my community.  I have just a few things to keep me busy this Fall while I research other programs to apply to (one that will value what I bring to it):
  • two book contracts (more about those on a later post) both books are due this Winter and will be published in the Spring.
  • I just applied to a board position at IBLCE.  If I get it, it is a 3 year commitment with 2 meetings a year.
  • I just took on the Mother-Friendly Nurse Recognition program oversite at CIMS.  I plan to overhaul the program and market it nationally.
  • My nonprofit Uzazi Village just signed its second year lease with many programs in the works, but we continue to look for a permanent building to house the expansion into a clinic after I graduate.
  • Today I was invited to a meeting in DC (all expenses paid) by the United States Breastfeeding Committee with a select group of other breastfeeding advocates from around the country after notice was taken of the work being done at Uzazi Village.  I'm really looking forward to the dialog that will come out of that meeting.
  • I have presented at several local and national conferences so far this year, and have three more presentations on my calendar for the Fall.
  • A new Breastfeeding Clinic is in the works for Uzazi Village.  A retired nurse/lactation consultant will run the free community clinic and will simultaneously mentor lactation consultant candidates getting their required hours to sit for the IBLCE exam.  I am so loving the symbiosis of this idea.  We start in August. Community women will see an LC for free but the mentees will pay a small stipend for the mentoring.
  • We may have secured some funding for our 100 Breastfeeding Ambassadors program (won't know for sure till Fall) in which Uzazi Village will train 100 Breastfeeding Peer Educators for free.  In exchange for their free training, they must submit a plan for how they will impact their communities with breastfeeding promotion.  I'm very excited about this.  Hoping it will become a national model. 
  • Partnering with a local midwife for my company Perinatal ReSource to add a midwifery assistant class to our growing list of training offerings.  We are already getting inquiries for this training even thought its still in its planning phase.
  • Have a wonderful class of five students to pilot my 16 week course, Perinatal Academy. So far, so fantastic. (A local nursing program has given me access to their simulation lab, so two of my courses include a trip to the Sim Lab!)  Nice to have collaborative partners.  Enrollment for our other classes are filling up.
  • A local domestic violence shelter is hiring me to bring perinatal education to their pregnant residents.
  • In talks with the local school district to bring perinatal education to pregnant and parenting teens in the district to help with the goal of keeping them in school.
  • Currently seeking sponsors for my first annual Symposium on Perinatal Health Inequities that I plan to hold here in KC next Fall (and the next Fall, and the next Fall...) 
  • Simply adore my new 'Midwives in the Making' support group I started for midwife students of color and 'allies'.  This group will be an invaluable tool for gathering future midwives together and nurture them through the  process of becoming a midwife. We gather in our homes, drink wine, eat good food, tell our stories, and support and encourage one another through the process.  This is just downright soul healing. 
So as you can see Dear Reader, what hasn't killed me has only made me stronger as I continue my education via The Black Route.


  1. Diamond carries me home though rush hour traffic, rain, hail and thunder and lightning surround me as I fight back the tears following your disclosure Far in the distance the sun shines through and I chase the rainbow at 80 miles an hour and reflect on how the weather mimics your journey. I slide freezing, sopping sideways into the garage amidst the thunder and lightning which has finally found me and I feel in the storm your resolve.

  2. Damn that is beautiful. Thanks Andrea.

  3. You should seriously consider applying to the University of New Mexico. I am a Navajo CNM and my classmates were very multi-cultural. It is a great program where color is not an issue. At least that is what I felt like when I went through it. Check out my blog to learn about my experience..Many Colors of Changing Woman.-blessings Nicolle

  4. Thanks for the recommendation, Nicolle. Much appreciated.

  5. So proud to call you friend and mentor. Praying I get this thesis knocked out so I can play a bigger role in what you are doing in OUR community. Love you Sherry :D

  6. Your post brought tears to my eyes. You are amazing! I feel so honored to have you join us at the Birth Activist Retreat. The work you are doing is so important, the whole world needs to know!

  7. Hi there. I am a 23 year old organic farmer from Idaho, -- -- who is sending out a message to all the midwives, herbalists, and doulas in the US.

    Why? ...To put it bluntly, I am looking for the MOST conservative ‘unmarried’ woman in the entire world, and midwives/herbalists always know the most conservative type families and people in an area.

    To this end, I have a pamphlet I am passing around through email. If you would reply to this message so I could send it to you, so you could help spread the word - that would be awesome.

    God Bless,
    Ammon Emanuel Prolife