Oh, I'm so glad this thread got picked up again - thanks to everyone for replying!
I am still completely up in the air about which program to choose (there are actually lots of other factors I have to take into consideration), but it is really helpful to hear other people's various experiences.
I am definitely familiar with the two camps in regards to whether or not actually working as a nurse is useful for becoming a midwife (for those going the CNM route); and I clearly chose my camp and made my decision a long time ago, without any regrets.
I don't doubt that you can become a great midwife without the experience (heck, my entire cohort from Columbia- which, btw, I found very anti-nursing - are all graduated and working as fantastic midwives now without having had the nursing experience), but I just knew for myself that that was something I really wanted. I have known for a long time that I want to midwife, but I also really enjoyed nursing school and nursing - and felt like it could only strengthen my skills in the future. As CEG mentioned, I really wanted to hone those fundamental nursing skills (IV starts, pericare, dealing with emergency situations, etc) and feel comfortable on an L&D floor, so that I would have those things down and not have to worry about them when I will have so much else to worry about as a midwifery student!
I also really enjoyed my time on L&D - yes there was a lot of BS and some crappy docs - but some really great ones too, as well as many independent midwives and a true on-site birthing center in our hospital (1 floor below the regular L&D floor).
I guess it just makes me sad that so many people in the midwifery world (in the US at least) seem to have such negative feelings about nursing and nurses.
I would just like to point out though, to DiverseWoman - and I say this as I sit in my mud house in a village in Rwanda (well, technically I'm in my office, where the internet is, but later will go back to my mud house
- yes, the vast majority of deliveries in the developing world are attended to by nurses (most of whom have minimal nurse training and little or no OB training) or traditional birth attendants 'without interventions' - but the maternal mortality rates in the developing world are also absolutely atrocious and unjust - almost half a million women a year die while giving birth, the overwhelming majority of them in the developing world.
Now I am all for normal, natural birth and minimizing the unnecessary interventions that we practice in the US; but more than anything I am all for having those interventions available when necessary to prevent women from dying needlessly in places like my village. It is why I am here now (actually working for an international NGO on nurse capacity-building initiatives for maternity nurses in rural health centers) and, ultimately why I plan to go back to school to become a midwife - not just for the beautiful natural births that I might have the privilege to attend in New York, but also for those natural births that can and do go awry, especially in the developing world, where other help can sometimes be many hours away.
Just a thought. Nurses here provide 90% of all healthcare (there are only a small handful of doctors for the entire country, and most live in the capital); and, ultimately, better-trained and better-supported nurses - and nurse midwives - will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of mothers every year.
I'll get off my soapbox now