Work. A necessary evil.
When I decided I wanted to be a midwife, there was no ah hah moment. I wished I had some amazing story about how I was stuck in an elevator and some woman went into labor and I was wowed by the miracle of birth. Or I spent a summer on a farm and watched several baby goats being born and I was smitten. Truth is I didn’t see my first birth until I was in nursing school, already on the midwifery track. I had come to the realization in a relatively academic way. I was premed. I wrote a paper for a medical anthropology class about childbirth and interviewed my mother who had five babies with five different providers, the last of whom was a midwife. The way she talked about how the midwife treated her, respecting her experiences, really resonated. I was intrigued. Then a series of small events added up to a new path in life. I had a professor who had been a midwife. I volunteered on a postpartum floor doing newborn hearing tests. As I checked the babies, I would look around the nursery and see that it was really the nurses who did the patient care. Next thing I knew I was doing a boatload of internet research on nurse midwifery programs because the career development center at my college had essentially nothing on the topic.
I think I really loved the idea of working with women. I knew women- I was one. I was a little budding feminist- Carol Gilligan was my bible in high school. Midwifery seemed to blend my interests- medicine and feminism. Plus there was the glamour associated with delivering babies and the innate coolness that came with saying “I’m a midwife.” After college I worked as a medical assistant in an OBGYN office to really ensure this was what I wanted to do before dedicating several more years and a whole lot of money to my new career aspirations. Three years later I found myself a midwife.
To those interested in becoming a midwife who talk to me – I tell them about the good, the bad and the ugly. The amazing privilege it is to be the first hands a baby feels when she enters the world. The bad news we have to deliver- I’m sorry, but it looks like you’re miscarrying. You have chlamydia. The baby doesn’t have a heartbeat. And I make sure to tell them about the nights, weekends and holidays we work. It might seem glamorous imagining yourself helping women and catching babies, but it is certainly less glamorous doing it on Christmas while your family is all celebrating without you. You have to really love the work to make that kind of sacrifice. I love my job; I hate the hours.
Now I am about to re-enter that working world. I return to work on Tuesday. This is my third start date. The first two I pushed back as I got closer to them, realizing I wasn’t ready. I wouldn’t say I’m “ready” to return to work- I’m not sure I’ll ever be. But I can say, I think it’s time. My original start dates were picked randomly by me- thinking they seemed like a reasonable time, not knowing how I would feel as they loomed. But as the days came closer, the thought of just going into my office caused my heart to pound and my chest to ache.
Now I have a complex sense of sadness when I think about going back to work. It’s some sort of milestone. I feel like it’s sending a message to the outside world that I’m done. I’ve moved on. Look at me, I can do normal things! I’ll be trading my days, now spent mostly outside, thinking often about Mabel and processing my feelings, for days sitting inside, interacting with others, focusing on their problems, not mine. I’m sad to give up the time I have to think of Mabel- one of the few things I can do to mother her. I’m sad people with think I’m back to normal, when I am so far from any normal I once knew.
It’s also returning to a place where I was last pregnant. Mabel memories. Sigh.
I’m starting off slow- no patients scheduled yet. I’ll start by doing some computer work and phone triage and work my way up to seeing gyn patients. Eventually I’ll see OB patients in the office and lastly I’ll return to call. I have been extremely fortunate to have a very accommodating workplace. They have been working with me as I discover what I need to be able to return.
I’m not excited about this, thought the dread is not there like it once was.
First step, though, is get through the door.