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The Latent Phase: Walking and Talking the Profession at the Annual Meeting

By Stephanie Tillman, CNM, MSN

If you are a current midwifery student or recent graduate attending the ACNM Annual Meeting in Nashville, you are about to have an incredible time. From the celebrity midwife sightings, to the feeling of the global reach of midwifery work, to the latest research, to talking with abandon about vaginas and meconium and nipples: there is magic that happens at ACNM that rejuvenates a midwifery soul.

First, the research and the experience. I attended my first Annual Meeting last year as a recent graduate. While many sessions covered recent evidence that I had just learned in school, I found that my knowledge expansion came from collective learning. The energy of the questions posed by seasoned midwives, the unified critique of approaches, and the sharing of direct patient experiences changed my interaction with the education sessions. The midwives who spoke up succeeded in creating a well-rounded understanding of the clinical information that I'd studied, rapid-fire, during school. The support or protestations of certain practices I had only heard about from a few preceptors through my rotations were exclaimed in public forums, seconded, and clapped for. I learned a broader sense of how one learns to practice, and the balance of evidence, experience, and updates from the most knowledgeable midwives in our field.

Then, there is the sense of community. Mine grew ten-fold at last year's meeting in Long Beach. I have a serious love for the midwifery community: as a student I felt incredibly attached to my class, and still do despite our scattered locations. After my first Annual Meeting, I realized that my love extends to all midwives. We are all out there doing our own thing in our own small worlds, with singular but unified struggles and successes and beauty and love. Then we get together and create a veritable midwife mecca, dominating a different city each year and showing off the diversity of midwives walking and talking the profession. Once a year, the power of midwifery in physical unification reverberates on a national scale.

Finally, there is the conversation. I often felt dizzy at walking around and absorbing it all, trying to remember a rebozo from the Rubin maneuver, updates to GBS and gonorrhea guidelines, and debates over the UK versus the US maternity system. Our field is replete with experts, respected across fields of medicine, anthropology, herbology, academia, business, public health, and global health. I am so excited to hear what these midwives have been up to, engage with them, encourage them to keep up their work and continue to expand our profession.

For students and new grads, there is an entire web page ( through ACNM dedicated to activities that might have special interest for those attending the meeting for the first time or who are newly entering into the profession. The first timers orientation, study sessions for Boards, and Student track are all important to keep in mind. Additionally, it will be important to be in the conversations around the 2012 Student Report and ACNM’s response: midwifery educational experiences are most present in your mind as students and recent grads, and your continued input is incredibly important to improve midwifery academics and clinical practice!

A few words of advice:

  • Speak up! Ask questions, go up to the microphone, contest common practice with evidence-based knowledge. You are a midwife in training, and your voice should be heard among the rest! I heard few students speak last year, and wish more had. I hope to see you up at the microphone and applaud your work in midwifery along with the rest!
  • Try something completely different! If you already know you are going into homebirth, attend a session or two about hospital birth management or engaging with nursing staff. If you are working in a highly medicalized environment, check out a session about herbs and acupressure. Keep your midwifery mind growing!
  • Attend your regional meeting! I am only recently getting to know the midwives in my state of practice, and am learning it can be a tricky process when one is no longer a student. Allow others to start recognizing your name and face, and join the community in your own state of practice!
  • Recognize the celebrities, and introduce yourself! Soon you will be among the ranks, and wouldn’t you want to talk to the newest kids on the block?! Tell your midwifery heroes what their work and their path has meant to you - it will mean a lot to them to hear it, I assure you!
  • Be kind to each other. Last year, I remember feeling surprised at the actions of a few in a space that otherwise felt so safe and supportive. I wrote a blog post, “Believe in your fellow midwives,” describing the importance of knowing that we each practice from a place of respect for women, love for the body, and knowledge of the natural process. Remember that as we work with each other to learn and grow and improve in Nashville.

I look forward to seeing you around at the meeting! Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself, or leave a comment if you’d like to meet and greet. And to all of the recent midwife graduates - congratulations!

Stephanie Tillman is a recently-graduated Nurse-Midwife now practicing full-scope midwifery in the urban United States, at a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) and as a member of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). With a background in global health and experience in international clinical care, the impact of public health and the broader profession of midwifery are present in all her thoughts and works. Stephanie's blog, Feminist Midwife, discusses issues related to women, health, and care. Find out more at and follow her on Twitter at @feministmidwife.

Posted By Barbra Elenbaas | 5/24/2013 9:30:03 AM



Any opinions expressed in this blog are those of the individual participant(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American College of Nurse-Midwives. ACNM is not responsible for accuracy of any of the information provided by guest bloggers and/or members via the Comments section. We welcome all feedback – including comments, ideas and suggestions. We also welcome civil, friendly debates. However, any and all content that is deemed inflammatory or rude will not be posted.


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