Cailin Marsden

Putting childbirth support into cultural context  

On choosing Marlboro

I had learned about the School for International Training (S.I.T.) in Brattleboro, and really loved their model, but in my nascent stages of looking into college I wasn’t paying attention to it being a graduate program. So I was like, “Oh, this is wonderful. People from all over the world are here, studying things like social change, conflict transformation and other things.” My guidance counselor said, “I’m so sorry, you can’t go here, but if you go to Marlboro College, you can do concurrent enrollment with S.I.T.” I was really excited about that. So in my mind Marlboro had a lot to offer. I could take courses at S.I.T. and also in the World Studies Program here.

On coming to Marlboro after a gap year

I came in as a freshman after taking a gap year, and that was really great—it set me up for my career here at Marlboro. I really wanted to have experience of “the world” out there before coming to such a student-led community. I traveled for six and a half months, and had some very formative experiences in places like Indonesia and Thailand—things that have now become incorporated into my Plan work. Coming into Marlboro my freshman year, I developed a group of friends who had all sorts of other experiences. Some had taken years abroad or were transferring, and it was really a nice mix of diverse people.

On wanting to be a midwife

I want to pursue midwifery after graduation. During my gap year I was in Indonesia for two months, volunteering at a birthing clinic in Bali. That was all hands-on labor support, definitely experiential learning at its most intense. I participated in 14 births, and left thinking I would never be a midwife. Then I started experimenting bringing in childbirth, pregnancy, childcare and body-centered health care into the classes I was taking at Marlboro. Like, for my final project in the Anatomy of Movement class, I looked at “The efficacy of squatting during the second stage of labor,” and loved i

On academics at Marlboro

As a freshman, I appreciated that I could bring my own interests into every single course. With all the different writing projects, you can always bring your own twist. You follow the basic guidelines, but choose your own topic as it rests within the larger subject matter. Now that I’m a senior, I realize this is why I came to Marlboro. I’m doing Plan work and I’m at the last stage where Carol and I have a rapport together. We are working together on what is interesting to me, and are really pushing that. I’m challenging myself as a learner and am really building my own curriculum.

On her Plan of Concentration

My Plan looks at cross-cultural approaches to pregnancy and childbirth, what the different traditional methods are of doing it. That involves looking at our own society and progression of maternal health care—the medicalization of childbirth and the evolution of technology for it—and where does that put midwives in relationship to obstetricians. I have a lot of local resources. I’ve experienced so much support in how to introduce midwifery and women’s health into my life as a student and a human being. I started to hazard the suggestion, “I think this is what I want to do,” and so many positive responses have come out of the community and the school.

On advice for new students

Give yourself permission to explore as broadly as you want. You don’t have to come into Marlboro knowing what to do, even though it might seem like everyone else on campus has their agenda for pursuing a path. Marlboro really can be catered to your own interests, so be patient if you don’t know what you want to do yet. And really engage with the faculty. They can be such strong mentors, but there was an inner strength that I felt that I needed to develop—an endurance.