I just wanted to put in a vote for non-school-based, apprenticeship-style traditional midwife training. Some states require formal schooling to become a licensed midwife (like Florida, California and Washington, right?) but many do not. I have found a lot of flexibility in the kind of training I got and have found good teachers for every skill I wanted to learn. I had a 3 year apprenticeship, took some community college classes in anatomy, pharmacology, pathophysiology, and nutrition, am doing some births with mentors and have an internship starting soon doing well woman care in a free clinic in Detroit. Sometimes you have to be creative -- I have filled a lot of gaps at conferences and workshops (like learning how to suture -- do you know how hard it is to learn how to suture when your clients hardly ever tear?). I have done a lot of self-study in medical/midwifery textbooks (I recommend Anne Frye's books and Williams' Obstetrics) and keep current on medical journals and internet-based midwifery discussion groups. We also have a local midwife study group and meeting face to face with women doing the same thing as me has been helpful.
I remember starting out and wondering how the heck I was ever going to get an apprenticeship when the only midwives in the area offering them were getting 40-50 applicants every time. The truth is, I kinda just fell into an apprenticeship with midwives who were just starting out themselves. I had been doing volunteer doula work and had a client choose a last-minute homebirth. She had a precipitous birth and I ended up almost catching the baby before the midwives got there. They were impressed that I didn't have a nervous breakdown and asked me to work with them. Instant apprenticeship!
For those looking for apprenticeships, though, I was thinking about an apprenticeship workshop that I gave a couple of years ago at our state midwives' conference. There were probably 5 or 6 women in the audience -- out of that I know of 4 who are working now as apprentices. Each of them had to be creative to get their work -- one got a part-time job at the non-profit center where a midwifery practice was located. One offered to clean the offices of a birth center and do office work. One opened her own childbirth-related business to recruit women for homebirths on the outer edge of a midwife's territory then had an agreement that she would be able to assist with any clients she brought to the midwife. Others I have heard of got lots of experience as doulas and became known in their community. I think it helps to tell a lot of people that you want an apprenticeship -- childbirth workers are a pretty connected bunch, at least in my area, and I think it helps to have your name out there.
Birth Junky had asked about how old my kids were -- they are 5 and 19 months. I have to say that the easiest time I have had so far was when my 5 year old was 3 and 4 and I had just him. He was in a Montessori-based preschool that was just mornings, but would let him stay all day if we brought him a lunch. He liked staying the afternoons (which he had to do about once every two weeks or so) because they did more free play and spent more time outside. He didn't seem stressed at all about me being at births all night and into the next day. His perception was just that I had missed breakfast. It helps that he had a super-involved, really flexible dad who was able to hold down the fort quite well in my absence.
When I got pregnant the second time, after a year or so of trying (I have PCOS), I had just been an apprentice for a little more than a year. I worked up until my 36th week of pregnancy, which wasn't physically all that difficult, but I began having memory and concentration problems (where did I put that fetoscope???). When my babe was about 4 months old, I went back to office visits and took him with me. Many of our clients declared him to be their favorite midwife! When he was 6 months old, I began doing doula births (to help pay for childcare for midwifery births) and then about 2 months later started doing midwifery births. I think that I started out at 1-2 births a month and went to 3-4 births a month within 6 months of coming back.
I have to laugh when I see that people with young kids will do "just doula work" and save their apprenticeships for when their kids are older. Doula work is much harder! I need all my fingers and toes to count the number of times I have been with a doula client for more than 12 hours in a row, but I was with homebirth clients usually for only 4-8 hours. Homebirthers also seemed not to mind having my kids (or a least the younger one) at prenatals, while doula clients did often mind.
If I had my choice, though, I might have waited until all of my kids were over 3. Having a little baby while doing this work wasn't all that hard, but 10-16 months was not easy because he was still waking but not old enough to understand that I was gone. Now things are geting a little better and he is also enjoying the company of other people more. I am paying a neighborhood babysitter, though, and she isn't always available when I need her. The preschool setup was a lot easier. In my case, though, I had done a lot of work to build relatiohships in my community and thought that I might lose a lot by taking a 3-year maternity leave. I also have to bring in an income for my family and like doing doula/midwifery work a lot better than working a conventional part-time job.
Whew, that was preachy and long-winded. I promise not to be like this all the time