Experience at live birth leads Whitman alum Megan Lillis to midwifery career

helenjenne

On a Sunday in Februrary of 2004, Whitman alumnus Megan Lillis ’02 arrived at a patient’s home in College Place, knocked softly on the door, and walked in.

Lillis had never seen a baby being born before, but she was about to, as this was her first call after being trained as a birth assistant by a midwife in Walla Walla.

Lillis, who had been working full-time as an Admissions Officer since graduating, said that it was a little strange to be staring at a half-naked woman she had never seen before, and that she didn’t have nearly as much knowledge about the birthing process as she does now. But then, a baby boy was born.

“I remember the most amazing thing to me was that there had been five people in the room and suddenly there were six,” Lillis said.”I was just in awe.”

Lillis, who had designed her own religion major prior to the completion of the fully developed curriculum currently offered at Whitman, was considering graduate school and a Ph.D. in religious studies. That day, she went home and threw her University of Chicago brochure in the recycling. She decided then that she wanted to become a midwife.

Lillis had been born in her home, and she had a lifelong interest in midwifery.

“I grew up kind of steeped in this culture of birth and women’s health,” she said.

When Lillis came to Whitman as a first-year, the idea of becoming a midwife was in her mind until she took her first science class.

“I took my first chemistry class and decided that I didn’t want to spend four years in a lab,” Lillis said. So she studied what she was passionate about and fascinated by: religion.

However, when she was writing her senior thesis, she started to think that maybe she didn’t want to go on to get a Ph.D. in religion.

“I didn’t really like the research process,” she said.

Still, she continued to consider graduate school and the pursuit of a Ph.D.

“I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do,” she said.

After graduating from Whitman, Lillis focused on getting a job to start paying off her student loans. She found work as an Admissions Officer. In her second and third year with the college, she began looking at possible graduate programs for midwifery, figuring out specifically what she wanted to do and how she could get there.

“I was afraid of what that decision [to become a midwife] meant,” she said, “[But] I was really called to the profession.”

Lillis decided that she wanted to go into nurse midwifery, so her next step before graduate school was to take the prerequisite classes. She also got certified as a nurse’s aid because she wanted more clinical experience.

In her fourth year of working as an Admissions Officer, she worked part-time and was a full time student at Walla Walla Community College, taking the necessary prerequisites such as organic chemistry. After another half year of working part-time and being a student, she got a job as a nurse’s aid at Odd Fellows.

In June 2007, she arrived at the University of Washington to begin her graduate study. She will graduate this upcoming June.

Lillis said that taking classes with undergraduate nursing students at UW made her really appreciate the kind of education she received at Whitman.

“My education really empowered me to know how to write and what questions to ask,” she said.

She also said it was great to have been part of the Whitman community because of the its attitude.

“Whitman students in general and faculty have an optimism and enthusiasm for changing the world in a positive way,” she said.

Lillis said that what’s important is to not get set on one specific career or route, because you might miss out on what could be a good match.

“Realize that finding rewarding work is a lifelong pursuit for a lot of people . . . much of what happens is just by chance, it’s not because you laid out this perfect path and perfect plan,” Lillis said.