Jessica Cumley’s journey to midwifery began 12 years ago with the birth of her son. “It was the most empowering experience I have ever had. I loved my care so much that I wanted to become a midwife and share that with others,” she said. Now enrolled in the University of Colorado College of Nursing Midwifery program and 32 weeks pregnant, Cumley wonders why it took her so long.
But as they say – it’s never too late to pursue your dreams. When she started her journey, she was working as a mental health counselor at Children’s Hospital Colorado and thought that was what she would do for the rest of her working life. With two children, school was the last thing on her mind, but she had a yearning to help other women during pregnancy and childbirth. So, she first trained as a doula – a guide who supports pregnant women during labor but has no formal obstetric training. “There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between a doula and a certified nurse-midwife (CNM),” said Cumley. “They are very different.” A doula provides physical and emotional support. A CNM is a primary provider and must obtain a BSN and then a graduate or doctoral degree in nursing before becoming a midwife. “And with the degrees comes credentialing,” said Cumley.
Brother’s Question Leads to Midwifery
For Cumley, a question posed by her brother made her rethink her career. The question – “If you could be anything, what would that be?” Her answer – a midwife. The follow-up question was, “What’s stopping you?”
Cumley started taking classes to obtain a second Bachelor’s degree – this time in nursing. Catching up on her prerequisites was her first hurdle. After applying to nursing school three times, she was in! “I planned to go straight through and become a midwife. But as they say, best-laid plans and all that,” said Cumley, who graduated from nursing school at the same time her son graduated from kindergarten. After graduation, she put off going onto midwifery school and got a job at Rose Medical Center as a labor and delivery nurse. “In retrospect, it was better to be a nurse for a while. I got some much-needed experience and was sought out by other nurses for advice because I was a doula as well,” she said.
Following her stint at Rose, she took a nursing job at a freestanding birth center where she works now. “It’s fun to be in the exact environment that you want to be in,” said Cumley. The experience solidified her midwifery dream. “I still had that calling to be a midwife,” she said. “It’s a special person who’s excited to be on call for 24 hours, but I see it as a privilege and honor.”
Coming Full Circle
CU Nurse-Midwife Jessica Anderson (L),
Jessica Cumley (Center) in 2008.
In 2018, she applied to CU’s Certified Nurse-Midwifery program (one of the best in the nation) where she came face to face with Jessica Anderson, the midwife who helped deliver her son in 2008. Anderson, DNP, CNM, is still a midwife, but also is an associate professor and director of Midwifery Services at the University of Colorado College of Nursing. “What a welcome surprise -- seeing a familiar face who helped inspire me to pursue this dream. I was coming full circle. And knew this was meant to be,” said Cumley.
With several nurse-run midwifery clinics located throughout the Denver metro area and a 40-year history, CU’s Nurse-Midwifery program is nationally recognized, and ranked #8 by U.S. News & World Report. “I was ecstatic to get into the program. One thing that really sets it apart are the midwifery clinics they own and operate. A lot of programs don’t have that and the students have to arrange their own clinicals. That can be challenging," said Cumley.
In February 2020, Cumley discovered she was pregnant with her third child. “It’s fun to be both a patient and soon to be provider. It’s different when it’s happening to you,” she said. Because of her pregnancy, she will be taking a leave of absence for two semesters, so that will postpone graduation until winter 2022. “My dream is to have my kids attend the birth of their sibling. COVID makes it difficult as facilities are only allowing one visitor to attend births,” she said. So, Cumley will be having a home birth with a midwife (of course) – something that she’s always wanted. “After having two kids, working in the industry, AND going through the midwifery program, I’m pretty well versed in what to expect.”