rachel twelmeyer

Midwifery Application Essay

When I contemplate the course that has led me to pursue midwifery, it is a collection of trivial moments and impressions that ultimately amounted to something of imperative importance. And although the prospect of becoming a midwife entered my thoughts imperceptibly, it has grown to become a goal I feel obligated to pursue.

I attended Brigham Young University and received my undergraduate degree in Social-Cultural Anthropology. In order to receive my degree, I was required to complete a rigorous field study on a particular research topic. I chose to study the influence of medicalization on Hmong childbirth ritual, particularly the postnatal burial of the placenta. Before entering the field, I immersed myself in the literature of medicalization and birth. I also received my doula training. Not only did I learn about the procedures of birth, but I realized the immense empathy and vulnerability required of a birthing assistant.

While in Thailand, I lived in a village called Paklang, where Hmong families had been relocated after the Vietnam war. Due to this relocation, these families now interacted with Thai culture in their businesses, television, schools, etc. This exposure to Thai culture had a profound effect on Hmong culture and spirituality in the village.

Before arriving in Thailand, I had read many accounts that indicated the spiritual importance of burying the placenta as an essential marking point for the soul after death, but none of my interlocutors – or any of their friends – were carrying out the placenta burial ritual. I was taken aback. And although they were no longer burying the placenta, they were still performing the hu plig, or soul-calling ritual (performed on behalf of the child three days after birth), and observing the mother’s 30 days of postnatal confinement. And in order to rectify the spiritual ramifications of not burying the placenta, shamans altered the wording of the leading-the-way funeral ceremony to reflect the changes made due to medicalization. I found that these Hmong families allowed themselves to pick and choose which rituals mattered in their changing circumstances. After completing my research, I concluded that Hmong families were active agents in the process of modifying their birthing rituals; they proactively altered their course of religious observation to coincide with their beliefs, and reconcile the medicalized model of birth to which they were exposed. This research has greatly influenced my desire to become a midwife and enable families to participate similarly as active agents in creating their own birth and family culture.

After returning from Thailand, I joined my husband in Columbus, Ohio and began contacting midwives, seeking out potential preceptors, without success. Two and a half years later I became pregnant, and my husband and I felt strongly in favor of having a home birth.

During my prenatal appointments, labor and birth, and during postnatal appointments, I was struck by how significant it was that I had received such tender care, and that I was allowed to be an agent in the birth of my son. The choice to have a midwife and give birth at home has given me confidence as a mother, has strengthened my husband’s bond to our son, allowed for a comfortable pregnancy and an untroubled recovery. I wish to provide these gifts to as many women and men as I can.

This is a great time to be a woman; we have access to a wealth of opportunities and incredible role models after whom to pattern our lives. But I feel there is still a grand dilemma facing women. In her book Gift From the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh articulates the dimensions of that dilemma:

“The Feminists did not look … far [enough] ahead; they laid down no rules of conduct. For them it was enough to demand the privileges. … And [so] woman today is still searching. We are aware of our hunger and needs, but still ignorant of what will satisfy them.” Regardless of the time period, she adds, “[for women] the problem is [still] how to feed the soul.” (Gift from the Sea, New York: Pantheon Books, 1975, pp. 51–52.)

The midwifery model of care has the potential to be the solution to this searching for satisfaction of the soul. Although pregnancy and birth are only slight portions of a woman’s life, they can be endlessly influential in forming who she is and her identity as a female. If this can be the model upon which all other institutions involving women are based: a system of empathy, compassion, femininity, education, empowerment, awareness, individuality, personal advocacy – then perhaps we can succeed in creating a world in which women are uniquely empowered to be themselves. There is no other environment or facet of life that more explicitly pertains to women, and instead of cringing, or submitting, or avoiding involvement, the midwifery model of care could be an opportunity for women to carve out an identity and an affiliation for themselves that is the ultimate empowerment, women for women for the benefit of all. This is the work in which I desire to be involved. This is the legacy I want to work toward and effectuate.

I am passionate about midwifery because I am passionate about women and their unequivocal and universal role in society. By using the midwifery model of care, I can do something substantial that allows me to communicate with and educate real women in a comfortable and compassionate setting. I am inclined to allow every woman the choice of how her child enters this world, but I am fiercely eager in ensuring that each woman has the option to birth in a way that affects her for good. I appreciate that despite the need for infrastructural changes, my role as a midwife would allow me to enact change and show sympathy and care on an individual basis.

I am passionate about midwifery because I see it as an opportunity to empower women to reclaim a unique and collective feminine identity; and though I do not desire to enclose women into a solitary role as mother, I feel that this is the unique opportunity deprived of many women. Starting from prenatal care, women can be centered, empowered, and made whole. This is a great time for women. And while my skills as a midwife would not resolve the dilemma of all women, it would make a difference for some women.

My husband just accepted a new job in Utah. And though I thought that the opportunity to become a midwife was still distant, something has urged me to follow this course. I am reminded of a quote from the article “A Noble Calling by Lindy Casey” that I read on the MCU website a few years ago:

“We like to think that midwives are called to their profession. Through some series of events, experiences and observations we imagine a woman is struck by a spiritual lightning bolt that practically forces her to take on the mantle of midwife and begin trudging out into the night to the bedsides of women.”

I have never felt so called to do anything.

just 15 minutes


A couple years ago Spencer and I had the chance to meet some friends-of-friends while visiting New York. We were invited to the Nelsons’ (our friends’ friends) for brunch and we became fascinated by their life in a tiny apartment where their bed things were stacked in the bath tub, and the walls (and the only spare closet) were filled with beautiful art. During our conversation during that brunch we were told about one of the Nelsons’ friends who was a great writer and the mother of several children; she was often asked how she managed to write so much and so well while taking care of her home and family. Her response was that she used her fifteen minutes. Although that trip was a couple years ago, that story floats into my head every once in a while and it has felt extra poignant lately; I’ve realized that most of what I do happens in fifteen minute increments: between naps and feedings and pacifiers falling out of mouths – I tend to stay on a task for short amount of time. And worse than that, I think I waste my time in fifteen minute increments as well – sitting a little too long looking at instagram, scrolling through every option of a product on amazon, or clicking on something that “should only take a minute” but takes much longer than that. The past couple of days I’ve forced myself to pause and ask myself how I’m using the fifteen minutes of that particular moment. Too often I end the day wondering what exactly I did since I woke up in the morning – and while I don’t think that this fifteen minute mantra will suddenly allow me to become super human, it might allow for more satisfaction at the end of the day . . . which is all I’m really after anyway.

And wouldn’t you know it, this post took fifteen minutes to write?

*image from here, via miss moss