When I graduated college in California, I moved to the Washington DC area to live with several college friends. I imagined myself finding a job in a non-profit or a government agency involving healthcare. After a couple months of searching and interviewing in my brand new cranberry colored pinstripe skirt-suit (yup, I was hip) I found the job industry harder to break into than I thought it would, even with my shiny new Stanford degree. While my roommates started their more prestigious jobs at local papers, on the hill and in think tanks, I finally found work as a medical assistant in an OBGYN office. It wasn’t the glamorous job I had pictured, but I knew it would give me the experience I needed before applying to midwifery school.
I didn’t meet many people through work- those that I did had different lifestyles than me; they were older or had families. My job was also in the suburbs, not far from the house we lived in. While my roommates commuted into the city and stayed for happy hours with their new friends, I went to work early and often got out at 3:30p only to find myself home alone. So I started looking for ways to meet new people and make friends. I answered an ad on craigslist looking for women to join their indoor soccer league. I wrote tentatively, ensuring that the league was casual and disclosing that I hadn’t played soccer in eight years. Didn’t matter, he wrote, they needed women.
So I showed up, thinking I came prepared in my athletic shorts and sneakers, only to find out that the league was a bit more competitive than I had hoped. In my naivete, I didn’t even think to bring shin guards. Luckily a teammate had an extra pair and I was able to buy some socks there, allowing me to play with the regulation necessities. I was the warm body in female form that permitted them the gender balance for play.
I took a defensive position and found myself trying to makeup for my lack of skill with effort. I ran hard and fast, trying to beat other players to the ball, though I was rarely successful. The first time a ball actually rolled towards me, out in the open, I ran to it, pulled my leg back and swung hard, happy to have my chance to contribute.
I also proceeded to basically score a goal for the other team, when the ball ricocheted awkwardly off my thigh, angling itself past my goalie and into the net. I was mortified. Yet, at the end of the game, I was asked to come back again- despite my ineptitude they needed me to be eligible for play. I left the game feeling embarrassed about my performance and walking tentatively because in all the hard effort I had put forth, I think I pulled muscles in both my thighs. I could barely maneuver the clutch to get myself home. I called my parents, as most young adults do when they don’t know how to fix something, and asked how to make my legs feel better. They suggested calling a family friend I grew up with who was a physical therapist. I told her what I had done and how I was worried I wouldn’t be able to work the next day because I could barely walk. She instructed me on the schedule of icing and rest that helped heal my sore muscles and put my in my job the next morning.
When I was recently relaying this story to some friends, I told them how I went back the next week to play again. They were both surprised after such an embarrassing show I had made of myself and the near injury I had caused to my legs. “I couldn’t disappoint them. They needed me,” I explained.
I don’t like to disappoint.
I recently did some soul searching and came to the realization that I’m not ready to do call- to deliver babies. I’ve had the conversation with work, asking to be taken off the call schedule…indefinitely. I do plan on going back to birth, I just need more time to figure out how much time I need. I am extremely fortunate that they are willing to accommodate me in this request.
Admitting that I’m not ready for birth six months after my baby died feels like a disappointment. I’m disappointing my practice partners- they’ll have to work more because of me. I’m disappointing my patients- the ones who were hoping I’d be there for their births will have someone else. I’m disappointing my nursing and midwifery colleagues who have tried so hard to bolster me up with comments like “You’re such a good midwife, you have to do birth,” and “It’ll be hard, but you’re so strong, I know you can do it.” I appreciate their efforts to build my confidence, but what they don’t realize is that I don’t need my confidence boosted. I just need time. These remarks meant to help me actually make me feel worse, because now I feel like I’m disappointing them- I’m not a good enough midwife or strong enough to get past the death of my daughter. I’m disappointing my friends who say they can’t picture me as anyone but a midwife, it’s such an integral part of my identity.
I’m not leaving midwifery and I hope to be back at birth- sooner rather than later- but I have to take care of me first. I will write more about the “why” behind my inability to face call right now, but that’s for another day. I know you all will tell me to not worry about it, to be gentle with myself, to know that I have to be good to myself before I can be a good midwife (and thank you in advance for such kind and supportive comments), but regardless of all the things I can tell myself, of the things you can tell me, I still feel like I’m disappointing everyone.
Do you ever feel disappointed in yourself? Why?