8.10.2015

Birth.

The first birth I saw was for nursing school. Day One of maternity clinical, 7:45 a.m., a nurse hustled down the hallway and saw me standing there.

"Hey," she called. "Room 12. She's close if you want to go in."

Me?

I had steeled myself in the weeks leading up to maternity clinical: there was no guarantee I'd see a birth; many of my classmates hadn't. Two 12-hour Sunday shifts at a smallish hospital. Odds were slim. Even then, after I heard the nurse, I still wouldn't let myself believe it. See a birth? Lord knows how many YouTube births I've watched, birth stories I've read, always hoping I'd someday soon be able to see one in person. Even one photojournalism project shadowing a homebirth midwife, balancing on a bed and beside the birthing tub in the living room with my camera pointed down — ready — for eleven hours ended up with a transfer to the hospital that I couldn't follow.

See a birth?

Please, please.

I trotted down the hallway next to another nurse wheeling the delivery cart. I could hear the woman several doors down. "She just came in, and she's about to push," the nurse said over her shoulder. "Go ahead."

Me? (Is this really happening?)

I walked in to see a young woman, face crumpled, sweating, clawing at the bed. "I can't I can't I can't I can't I CAN'T," she cried, over and over again. Her partner stood back in the corner, watching, eyes as big as dinner plates. I caught his eye and smiled at him. He stared back.

One nurse was busy charting, adjusting monitors, while the other was setting up the birth equipment. A doctor was getting gowned up. When her contraction finished, I went over to the woman and began to breathe with her, deeper, slower breaths. She reached for her partner's hand, and he came and held hers. I whispered her through the next contraction, her body pushing involuntarily. Eventually, a nurse said, "Grab her leg." I offered to let her partner, and he shook his head and stepped back. So I held one leg back, another nurse held another, and the woman pushed three times in one contraction and oh! look — a quarter-sized circle of head and hair!

That quarter-sized circle grew, and grew, and soon it was a whole head, and the head rotated, and then one shoulder, and then another, and then whoosh out came the baby.

Out came the baby!

Birth.

I played it on a loop in my head, marveling at it, over and over all morning until another woman came in and my birth count doubled in one day. I left the hospital that night completely exhilarated and grateful.

Birth.

Just prior to my maternity clinicals, I started an internship to become a doula, an internship that wrapped up in early June — I'm a doula! That, plus what I've learned in nursing school, has buoyed and validated this journey I'm on, a journey towards working in women's health and nursing and catching babies. Each of the births I've attended as a doula since then has only strengthened that charge deep within me. I've no such ideas that it'll always be like this — healthy births, happy births…I know there will be challenges and difficulties and sadnesses beyond what I can imagine now. But I pray every day for strength, resilience, capability, and compassion.

My second and final year of nursing school begins in a handful of weeks. I've got ten doula clients due between now and December. Applications for midwifery school due then as well. Who would have thought I'd be here? All those dreams, all these years, they're happening, now. Better than I ever could've anticipated.

Birth.

3.03.2015

My ode to The West Wing (aka the show that brought me back to life)

I had a snow day today, our 374th since January (it seems). And, since I had an exam yesterday and am currently in the WHEEE I DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT STUDYING FOR AT LEAST ANOTHER FEW DAYS!!! phase, I sat my derriere right down on the couch and did nothing for most of the afternoon.

And it was glorious.

I caught up on a few episodes of season 4 of Call the Midwife. I went down rabbit hole after rabbit hole on the internet. I drank tea. I pet the cats. And, at one point, I stopped and marveled at how good it felt to be able to sit and do nothing without feeling anxious. To actually feel happy and relaxed, and comfortable just with myself. And I credit that all to a wonderful little television show called THE WEST WING (said with a dramatic voice). (Okay, it doesn't get all the credit, but it gets a good chunk of credit, so let's just go with that, okay?)

But seriously. In a period of my life where I was overcome with anxiety and depression, feeling terrified and alone and utterly lost, I watched the first episode on Netflix completely on a whim.

And then I watched the second episode.

And then I watched the third episode.

And it became my nightly ritual to watch an episode before bed, and suddenly that time at night that had felt the most terrifying and lonely and sad suddenly became not so terrifying and lonely and sad. I imposed my own little bedtime routine: wash face, brush teeth, contacts out, glasses on, c'mere, Jed Bartlet. I lived for that bedtime routine. It became such a comfort, such a solid and safe part of my day that eventually, daytimes got a bit easier too. I watched every single episode of that show in three months and loved every minute of it. It was free therapy alongside my real (not free) therapy. And oh, good grief, you'd better believe I cried my eyes out when it was over.

I did have some anxiety thinking of what would happen when it was over. But at that point, time and therapy and friendship had worked its magic and I was doing better. My nightly routine that had buoyed me through so many days had worked — the storm was subsiding, and I was still standing.

And I found myself not so scared of being alone. Even enjoying it, really. Now I'm fiercely protective of my alone time. I crave it, and enjoy it 99.7% of the time. I have my morning rituals and my evening rituals and they start and end my day on such comfortable notes. And with that comfort and knowledge of stability, I'm able to break those routines every once in a while, knowing I can always go back to them. It's been so freeing, still, two years since I watched that first episode.

And that's how Jed Bartlet and his crew helped me find myself again.

2.21.2015

In the thick of it

I've been re-reading my last post for the past few days. A gentle nudge from Cait led me to think about my blog, and while I've never forgotten about it, I feel like I've forgotten how to write in it. It's overwhelming to think about catching up, so I'll just jump in with the here and now. Starting as if we're in the middle of a conversation. That's what Kathleen Kelly would say, right?

So. Right now, I'm sitting across the street from the little yellow house I've spent the last 2.5 years living in. I babysat my neighbor tonight, a boisterous boy who calls me Auntie Hallie and who's getting so big I had to remind myself to bend with my knees to pick him up. Now he's asleep, and I'm procrastinating doing some schoolwork, and watching the never-ending snow fall out the windows.

I'm happy.

February is nearly over, and March is barreling into focus. That'll put us at the halfway point for this semester, my second of nursing school, which is just flying by absurdly quickly. Oh, it's consumed me in the most wonderful way. Truly. The first six weeks of school last September felt like I was constantly a hundred feet behind where I should be, while carrying hundred-pound weights on each shoulder, while being chased by a pack of savage beasts…underwater. But I got byyyy with a little help from my friennnds. And I found my rhythm, and adjusted to the coursework volume, and before I knew it the first semester was over. And now we're well into the second semester and I'm pretty sure I'll blink and it'll be time to take the NCLEX-RN exam (oh god I'm not ready).

I can honestly say that nursing school has been the best decision of my life thus far. I feel like I've discovered my purpose, and my spirit. It's challenging and terrifying and more work than I ever could have anticipated. But when I sit in class, eagerly lapping up every bit of information my professors dole out (except for the two weeks we spent on fluid and electrolyte balances, I could've taken or left those), or when I don my scrubs and walk through the doors of the hospital, I feel so driven. This is my purpose. If you'd have told me when I was in high school that I'd ever be so passionate about medicine, I'd have looked at you like you had four heads. But I love it. I really, truly love it.

So. That brings me here. I'm still wrangling toddlers by day, as the financial means to continue this education of mine. Class and clinical are in the evenings, so I have long days every day, but it's okay — because it's all things I enjoy. But I'm finding myself pulling away from my toddler-wrangling job, and instead wanting to do something more along the lines of birth work. I've been researching graduate schools with midwifery programs, and most of them require (or strongly encourage, underlined three times and with an exclamation point) a year's work in the field you're interested in. So right now, I'm walking toward a precipice: the edge of a giant mountain, where my financially safe toddler-wrangling job stays on one side and an opportunity to attend births, do labor or breastfeeding support, or work as a doula is on the other. It's a big leap, though, and I truthfully haven't figured out how to make it financially viable. But I'm hopeful. I'm ready.

And where does that leave this blog of mine? Well, it's seen me through all of my biggest life transitions. It's seen good, and bad, and good again. So I'm not ready to let go of it just yet. Here's to learning how to write, again.