Sunday, October 25, 2015

Can's and Can't's

There are lots of things that I can't do. Ski, for instance. Run in high heels. Watch a scary movie without having a full-blown panic attack. Grocery shop without buying at least one thing not on the list. Finish a knitting project.

There's a whole other list of things that I can't imagine I could possibly do until I find myself doing them. Moving, for instance. Moving again, that is. (If you're keeping track at home, this is move number 5 in the last 11 months.) As I empty these rooms that I so recently put my stuff down in, I tell my brain shhhh and I turn up the volume on my audiobook. It's no use getting upset about it, just keep loading up the car and moving your shit, and repeating steps 1 and 2 until you are out of here and into there and please god let this be the last time for awhile, I tell myself.

I didn't think I could resolve a shoulder dystocia, either. In my head, I was screaming to myself, I can't do this, oh my dear god, I canNOT do this, please oh please, let this not be my job, and meanwhile I had told the patient to flip over, NOW, and stuck what felt like half my arm inside her and pulled her baby's hand past its shoulder hard enough that I thought I'd break it, all the while knowing that a broken arm is better than a dead baby and then out he flopped, wailing and snatching his arms away from me and it was over and nobody died, not even a little bit.

I still don't think I can live in this body, in this life, forever without always longing for something just outside myself. My patients, every. single. solitary. day, asking me, "Do you have kids?" and I say, No, and smile. I used to say, Not yet.

I look down at myself and squeeze a series of concentric circles on my palms and try to slow my breathing as I idly imagine what it would be like to not feel such an intense disconnect and dysmorphia with my own physical self. Would it be like the moments just before falling asleep, or just after having sex with someone you love, or right in the middle of a run - would it be like those moments but all, or most of the time, rather than these mere flashes of feeling right and whole? I am both wildly curious and utterly disregarding. It is so foreign to me, I cannot even imagine it.

But then again, I couldn't imagine moving again, or being a midwife, or driving across the country, or camping by myself, or living on a reservation, or ending a relationship without once begging to be taken back, or house-training a puppy, or stitching a repair, or a million other things that I have done, am doing, will do.

The running in heels, though. I don't really care if I never figure that out.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

One Month In

I got to see an old college friend last night. She wants to be a midwife too, and so she went to my alma mater for an info session and then trekked even further north to grab a glass of wine together and camp out with me for the night. I had worked all day on the floor and I was beat. I caught a woman's baby who from the moment I walked in her room at 8:00 AM, I knew she was a survivor, and it was going to be a tough day. There is something so gut-wrenching about trying to help a woman who has survived sexual assault, abuse, and/or rape experience labor and birth and it will, I am sure, remain to my dying day one of the worst and hardest and most important parts of my job. It is exhausting and soul-sucking and deeply unsettling and scary, and a million times worse for her. By 8:00 PM, I wanted to lay down and die. She had had her baby, against huge odds, and I just wanted to go home. But I rallied and went and saw my dear friend and we drank wine and ate some french fries and even though I was so, so tired, I could feel my heart slowly filling by being with her.

She is so excited, and passionate, and worried she won't get into midwifery school, which I can only scoff at because she is at least doubly more qualified than I was, and I somehow managed to trick them into admitting me. I watched her gesticulate and talk faster and faster, with bright eyes and a big smile, about why she wants to do this with her life and what she thinks being a midwife means and is all about, and how desperately sick of waiting for this thing to start she is, and I thought, wow. Because that was exactly me, four years ago. To the absolute letter of it all. And even after the terribly hard day I had had, I felt such a swell of gratitude that I teared up a bit sitting in our old college haunt of a bar, in my clunky midwife clogs and giant wool sweater with my sweaty tangled hair tied up on top of my head.

I still can't believe that I get to do this thing, every day. This thing that is so hard but that I love so much. I am learning more than my brain feels it can hold, every minute of every day. I am grateful to have decades of being a midwife ahead of me (God willing), because it will take me three times as long as that to learn all there is to know.

I sit with women while they cry about how they don't know what to do, because this baby is not their husband's, and what should they do?!
I look into women's eyes while they tell me I'm lying to them when I tell them, give me one more push, she'll be here soon.
I laugh with patients when they hear their growing baby's heartbeat for the first time, a sound so joyful that if all I heard was that for the rest of my days, I would die happy.
I cry with patients when I tell them that their baby doesn't have a heartbeat anymore.

I come home to my empty house, snuggle my fur-babies while we all adjust to the single life, and I still, sometimes, feel like I want to curl up and die. But most of the time not. Most of the time, my heart is full of the sweet downy fur of baby heads and the bone-crushing grip of labor, and the love and support I can feel from the amazing colleagues who are mentoring and teaching me every day. I don't eat quite enough. I drink maybe a touch too much wine. I fall into bed, exhausted, every night. But I'm figuring it out. Slowly but surely, I'm finding my place here. It's a good place to be, and one I could barely have imagined four years ago.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my friend will get into midwifery school. I know it with the same certainty that I know all babies come out and that you can always push a little harder than you think you can and that commanding a uterus to clamp down and stop bleeding is not something to laugh at. I know it because I did it. I know it because this world needs a lot of things, and one of those things is more midwives.