As a small child, the eldest of three, I was always the one taking care of everybody. I cuddled, I kissed and bandaged boo-boos, and I led our adventures. I loved (and I mean LOVED) a good first aid kit, so much so that my mom often referred to me as ‘Nurse Becky’. That nickname stuck around such that I spent a good deal of childhood in a pink, embroidered “Nurse Becky” apron. And as Nurse Becky, I spent countless hours pretending to take care of pregnant mamas and their babies. This was, of course, before I knew what midwifery was.
I was five when my youngest brother was born. His birth is one of my earliest memories. We were moving across the country and living in a motel when my mom went into labour. This happened when my father wasn’t there. According to her, I was naturally calm, spoke softly, and touched her gently while taking
care of my middle brother. I was deeply disappointed to be disallowed to come to the hospital for the birth.
When I was thirteen, my best friend’s mom became pregnant and invited me to be at her birth. You could not have offered thirteen-year-old me a greater gift. Her baby was breech at term and this was in the immediate days of the Term Breech Trial in the litigious United States, so she was scheduled for her first c-section with her fourth baby.
I still got to be in hospital for pre-op and I was the first to snuggle that sweet baby and helped with her first bath in the nursery while her mama was still in surgery. (These days, things are thankfully quite a bit different following most cesarean births and babies usually get to stay snuggled up with their parents. Nor are unrelated keener children allowed into nurseries…)
Teaching runs in my family, so it was very clear to me that I was going to graduate high school, get a degree in education, and become an English teacher.
I never did wind up on that branch of the great fig tree teaching English, but in one of those English classes my favourite teacher lovingly described his wife’s home birth. He recommended we consider midwifery care when we chose to have children. And it was at that moment that I realized I could become a midwife and not just have one at my birth.
When I decided to come to Canada for university, there wasn’t a midwifery program where I wanted to study, so I pursued an English degree instead. But once I graduated, I found myself missing something. I became a doula, and practiced while working as a nanny.
In 2009, I was finishing off my BA in English and German Studies at the University of Regina. By chance, one of my favourite professors mentioned that his wife had had a midwife-attended home birth in Ontario nearly two decades beforehand. When I divulged my interest in midwifery, he encouraged me to pursue it.
And so I shipped off my application packages to Ontario and British Columbia and waited. (And waited and waited.) To my soul-crushing dismay, I wasn’t accepted by either McMaster or UBC.
I reluctantly changed my plans again, planning to remain in academia and eventually teach. I did my best to put midwifery out of my mind.
A year or so later, I was my friend’s doula. While some of her obstetricians were respectful of her choice to plan a vaginal birth after a c-section, others were less than kind. I began to consider becoming a midwife again. I hoped I could make a difference in how birthing folks were being treated on the front lines, and to people’s postpartum experiences. I’m forever indebted to sweet baby K’s birth for bringing me back to midwifery.
And of course, that’s right around when I found out I was pregnant. Like many others giving birth in Saskatchewan, I called for midwifery care before I even called to tell my partner. That was what you had to do when there are only two midwives serving a population of 210,000.
A practice of two midwives meant that home births—something I feel deeply about for myself—were only available from Monday morning to Thursday evening. Nor were home births available if one of the midwives was on vacation. Many of my close friends in midwifery care had unwanted hospital births as a result of limited midwifery resources.
My first born conveniently arrived on a Tuesday evening. While his home birth was incredibly empowering, my postpartum with him was very challenging in a system where resources were stretched thin and I needed more support than was available. My experiences, and those of my friends, further lit a fire in me to pursue midwifery school again in 2013.
This time I got in.
I will never forget stepping into that classroom for the first time. It was like I had finally found my people: passionate, empowered folks who care about helping others and advocating for choice and respectful care, and who like placentas and first aid kits (well, birth bags) as much as I do.
I feel at home in midwifery, and at Generations. I am delighted to get to know you and your families, and to walk alongside you in this journey.
Becky Yurkowski is a registered midwife with Generations Midwifery Care. Learn more about Becky here.