Otis Kryzanauskas will soon be Canada's only registered, practising male midwife. And while the disadvantages a man faces in the field are obvious, the 25-year-old from Kimberley, Ont. says the fact that he will never give birth offers one unexpected edge: "Some women don't want their experience coloured by the [personal]experience of their midwife," he says. "I don't tell people, 'Well, I did this, you can do it.'"
Mr. Kryzanauskas, along with 22 classmates, receives his Bachelor of Health Sciences (B.H.Sc.) in Midwifery from McMaster University on Friday – the first man ever to graduate from a Canadian midwifery program. He's been contemplating the career path since he was four years old, when he watched his mother – herself a midwife – give birth to his younger brother Eugene.
He joins a field that is growing in Canada, now counting more than 600 registered practitioners, up from only 50 in 1994. Demand for midwives has grown as more provinces have moved to fund the practice, which eases pressure on overcrowded hospitals.
Mr. Kryzanauskas told The Globe and Mail he's happy to be a pioneer, but has hardly had time to beat the drum for male midwives – he's been too busy attending to nearly 100 births.
Maybe it was having seen someone give birth in that particular manner – a natural home birth with midwives in attendance. It just seemed like the right way to do things. That's not to say I never considered going into obstetrics, but … I really do enjoy the continuity of care: meeting a client for the six months before delivery and then the six weeks after, you just get to know her and her family and the baby really well.
Legend has it you got to cut your brother's umbilical cord …
Yeah. I got to be in the room and saw him born, which was a fantastic experience. And my dad had already gotten to cut two cords (Otis and his older sister Asta), and I had gotten to cut none, so I was able to have that experience.
How well do you remember that?
The times where things were happening I can remember pretty vividly – the actual birth, the cutting of the cord, the expression on my mom's face – all those things really stuck with me. And it was a fantastic first experience because my mother's such a strong woman, and she laboured fantastically. I mean, I didn't know she laboured fantastically until I got into the [McMaster]program, but in hindsight …
Did you ever think, "There are no male midwives in Canada, maybe there's no road in for me"?
It was definitely a fear of mine, but my family and the friends that I have in the profession have all been extremely supportive and positive. I mean, it has had its difficulties, but it worked out. The first difficulties that I ran into were in my clinical placements. Some people would prefer to have females as their health-care providers. And that's certainly a reasonable thing – I can't judge, I can't say anything, all I can do is try and support women as best I can. If part of that is me not being involved, then that's perfectly fine.
Who has objected?
Sometimes it was the family, sometimes it was the partner, sometimes it was the woman.
What do your friends think?
They all think it's really fantastic. They said I've popped up in some of their classes [outside the midwifery program]… and I've had a few female friends who said if I'm ever in the area, they'd love to have me deliver their baby.
How would you feel about doing that?
I don't think it would be a super difficult thing. I mean, especially as a male in this sort of profession, you become very good at disassociating your professional and your personal life. I would be more than happy to, especially for my close friends.
This interview has been condensed and edited.