I remember when I was nine, my parents asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. It must have been sometime shortly after the scholarship fund saleswoman was by. It might have been a financial planning question on their part. It didn’t take me long to reply. I had two top choices at that point: either a doctor or a truck driver. This combination was funny to them but I was pretty serious about it. I spent the next few years planning how to combine the two and felt pretty proud of the idea of a mobile medical unit, marrying my two dreams into one. I would drive my truck around and doctor people up!
As I grew up, my folks encouraged the doctor side of things as it suited my strengths and seemed more attainable to them, or maybe just safer?! I loved sciences, especially biology, and excelled in these courses at school. By the time high school was over I had a clear vision for my future – I was going to become a paediatrician. I loved babies and kids, and I wanted to make a difference. I was off to university, having forgotten about the truck driving piece. Many of my classmates were on a similar path towards healthcare; some wanted to go into nursing, some for veterinary medicine, and the rest of us thought medicine was our destiny.
In my first year, I seemed to spend a lot of time at the campus health clinic with different ailments, likely due to the close quarters in residence. I started getting a different picture of our medical system and was getting a bit disenchanted. I had wanted to be a doctor to connect with people and help to keep them healthy. As a patient in that system I didn’t get those connections, I felt like a number. I started worrying about being a voice for those babes and kids without getting the time or space to really get to know them. I couldn’t fathom the rush and hustle of a busy medical clinic. In my second year, I really started to question whether medicine was really my path. I had a classmate going through the same struggle who came home one day with a pamphlet from another university. We were combing through it looking for options when I fell across the blurb for midwifery. I had no idea it was a thing. I knew nothing about it. But it spoke to me.
Slowly, I started doing a bit of research on what it was all about. This was only a couple of years after the legislation of midwifery in Ontario, so the program was new and there didn’t seem to be a lot information about the profession. I decided to go straight to the source and found my local midwifery practice and asked to volunteer. What a life changer! I caught a glimpse into the life of a midwife. I saw these caring women reach out and connect with new mamas, I heard them talk about choices and options. I saw these new mamas gain confidence and make their own decisions about their bodies, having their voices heard and supported. Though I didn’t attend births, I saw women become mothers, nursing their babies in the waiting room, sharing their powerful birth stories. It was a beautiful thing. It was me. I wanted this more than anything.
The practical/logical side of me (likely with influence from my parents) figured that I should finish my degree first. I had heard that the program was quite competitive so I wanted to be armed with some bling to help my cause. After completing my first degree, I immediately applied to the program. I had to choose only one of the three sites that offered the program so I decided to take a tour of all of the information sessions from the three schools, travelling all over Ontario. That landed me in Sudbury, the last place I ever thought I’d want to be because it was far away and apparently desolate like the moon. I started the program the next year, elated to have been accepted.
My journey from there has shown me so many more facets to the role of a midwife, treasures that I never dreamed of. My passion for the ideals and philosophy of what midwifery stands for has only grown and multiplied from that naïve youngster searching for a career. I have had the wonderful opportunity to teach midwifery in a tiny community in the Far North, seeing parts of the world that I’d never have seen in a truck. For those 4 years, I worked with local and Inuit women, learning about rich Canadian history and allowing my kids to live a bit of the adventure of Nunavut. Through Laurentian University, I’ve been able to teach medical, nursing, and midwifery students, guiding students along their own paths to respectful healthcare. I’ve also been blessed to be the recipient of fantastic midwifery care and have felt empowered by my birth experiences and the support of my fantastic colleagues. It may sound cliché but I feel this is my calling. I feel so lucky to have taken this path, and hope that my journey leads me down a long road of learning, teaching, and catching babies, all over the world.
Becca Raper is a registered midwife with Generations Midwifery Care. Learn more about Becca here.