The life of a student midwife means that we put in a lot of hours for education and apprenticeships. By a lot, I mean thousands of hours. The majority of these hours go unpaid so you must absolutely love what you do, to sacrifice so much. Some students find birth work to be too much for them for a variety of reasons. Being on call 24/7, missing birthdays, special events, vacations and the like, can take a toll on a person.
I’ve been a doula for almost 17 years now and have attended over 180 births as a doula. I’ve built my business from scratch. I don’t have employees, so I am the one who creates marketing materials and all the forms, handles the website, does the marketing, takes in the phone calls, prepares for classes and so much more. As my business has grown, my family has supported me more than they probably want to at times. I’ve missed recitals, family events, my own birthday parties, my family’s birthday parties, and of course, holidays. Never once has my family asked me to sacrifice my work and support of families to be with them.
When my husband and I sat down with our daughters (it had to be a unanimous decision) we all decided together that it was time for me to start midwifery school—they all knew that there was going to be even more sacrifices than my work as a doula. There would be times that I would not see them for days. My education was going to be expensive. My apprenticeships were going to be unpaid. I would have to sacrifice my business to receive the education that I needed. They also knew the possibility of me moving away from them to have an apprenticeship would be very high.
I am currently a year and a half into my education and it’s not always been easy. I’m currently in my third apprenticeship. Unfortunately, it's four hours away from my home, so I have uprooted myself and moved to Ukiah, California on a part-time basis. My family is still in Monterey and I miss them terribly. Lucky for me, my new apprenticeship has been a been a lovely, lovely experience. I feel at home in this birth center with these midwives. They are everything I had hoped teaching midwives would be like. They value my experience and they respect my work. When I screw up, it’s not about judgment or fault, but about teaching. I’m teaching them, too, and they tell me as much. When I do a good job, they let me know that as well.
I also love that I have a friendly face from home here with me. While I have much more experience than her, she and I work very well together as doulas and now as student midwives. She also keeps me in check and makes sure I drink plenty of water and eat healthier. While I sometimes kick and scream about this last part, she just giggles and holds me accountable (but not too much that I feel judged, you know?).
Today was a big day for me. Let me explain.
There are a number of Clinical Experiences that my school requires of me. There is an Observe Phase in which I must observe 10 births in any capacity. My doula births counted for this phase, so that was easy peasy for me.
Next is Phase Two, the Assistant Phase. This is currently the phase that I am in. The requirements are:
In this Assistant Phase, if my preceptor feels as though I am ready, and I finish my Assistant Phase exams, I can do third phase (Primary Phase) exams. I cannot do primary births until I have been accepted into the Primary Phase.
I have completed all of the Assistant Phase requirements (I actually completed these with my last preceptor a few months ago) except for my births and newborn exams.
Today was a big day for me—I ran a prenatal exam and my supervising midwife signed off on it as a Primary Phase exam.
While I still need to finish my Assistant Phase, and I still have Primary Phase to go (I won’t bother giving you those sordid details yet), this was big for me today. It’s the Little Big Steps that make such a difference in how I see things. I already know I can do this work. This just gave me the confidence boost that I needed to remind myself that the sacrifice and pain of being away from my family is worth it.
What Little Big Steps have you experienced along your journey?
It’s Monday, June 5, 2017, at 10:04pm. And it’s my first time writing in a few weeks. May 2017 was a rough month.
The hard parts though…
When I started at the birth center, Chris, the girls and I knew it was going to be an adjustment with me living part-time away from home. I kept telling them, and myself, to think of me being away at a long birth (which is not a bad way to look at it considering as a doula, there are times that I am away from home for two or three days). I’m not going to lie…it’s been harder being away from the family than I thought it would be.
And the drive. The freaking drive.
I love to drive. I have no problem with it at all. I’m used to driving. But dang. The amount of time it takes me to get to the birth center and back again is overwhelming. It takes me four hours if there is absolutely no traffic and five hours if there is traffic and/or multiple accidents. I do this twice a week. The only thing that really bothers me about the drive is that I wish I could have those hours to do schoolwork or take care of Mum’s.
Then my 16-year old dog, Jack, got sick. Every week that I would leave, I would be so sad because I had to leave him behind knowing he wasn’t feeling himself. He lost weight, he looked sad all the time (except for when I walked through the door) and I knew he was hurting. The vet couldn’t figure it out even with all the meds we threw at Jack. It broke my heart.
On May 31, 2017, Jack was euthanized. He is no longer suffering. Be we are so, so, so very sad.
And the money. Shit. The money.
My school has taken its damn sweet time getting me my financial aid. Not that it’s going to be much, but at least it’s something. With the unexpected vet bills, the second household that we are maintaining in another part of the state, and the fact that I cannot take on a ton of doula clients this year, we are having an extremely hard time. We’re making it work, but it’s not been easy. Chris has decided that he needs to work part-time to help the family. I have tremendous guilt for this because of his illnesses and the fact that he is in school full-time (he’s almost finished with his Associates!). He has guilt that the financial burden has been on my shoulders for the last two and a half years. Stupid guilt.
Our little Village has stepped up for us periodically the last few weeks. We have received donations from friends through our YouCaring fundraiser and through the mail. A friend even did a LuLaRoe fundraiser for me! $208 is coming our way! Every little bit that people send us is so appreciated.
On a positive note, my time at the birth center has not been rough at all—it’s been absolutely amazing! I feel as though I have found my home. The clients are wonderful. The midwives are wonderful. The other students are wonderful. The midwives put my 17 years of birth work into play during prenatals, births and postpartum meetings. They trust me. And they truly teach us, which is exactly what I want. It’s not a bother to them to teach us—they enjoy it. I expect to be here a while. I’m really hoping they will want me to stay at least through the end of this year. From there, we’ll see what happens. Only time will tell.
Here are a few photos from the last four weeks of my time in Ukiah and trips back home.
This past week was an interesting one. I ended up coming home a little early from the birth center last week because they were slow. The midwives and I discussed changing my time here and decided that I will be at the Birth Center Tuesdays through Thursdays (coming up on Monday nights, and leaving Thursday night).
I was home this past week from Wednesday night to today. The girls had a lot going on and my Jack-Jack (my 18 year-old dog) has been really sick. It was nice to be home to watch Bella perform and to take care of Jack. It was also nice to hang out with the family and some friends Saturday night. Mother’s Day was breakfast made by the hubby, and then I hung out with another friend whom I haven’t seen in a while. I then came home a did a little homework.
Today was taking care of some additional things and trying to convince Jack to eat. He’s on a lot of medications, so his appetite is way off—normally he’s my vacuum cleaner, so I worry when he’s not himself. He finally ate a little something as I was walking out the door; I was quite relieved.
This afternoon, I left a little later than expected to come up North, so the GPS directed me to take Highway 1 through Santa Cruz, to Highway 17, then to Highway 280, and onto the 101 North. It seemed a little complicated to me, but I’m not going to complain too much—I was in San Francisco in two hours. It was also a very pretty drive. I always love crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and depending on traffic, the GPS doesn’t always take me over it.
Tomorrow is going to be a busy day in the birth center. I am finally on a normal schedule with them, so I will enjoy being kept busy. I have to figure out how to best utilize my time here to make sure I get birth center charts done, clinical paperwork completed for school, and schoolwork done.
I really wanted to write more, but I’m too tired and I have to be up early tomorrow to prep the birth center. I hope to include photos of my drives and the birth center in my upcoming posts. I’m just trying to get into the habit of writing on a regular basis—I haven’t done it in a while.
Signing off from WW County (Weed and Wine County),
It’s Sunday morning.
Chris and I will soon head out to Costco and Target to do our monthly supply run. When we get back, I will pack my car, hug my family and fur babies, and leave for another few days. Maybe this time, I won’t cry so much.
It’s been good to be home. It was hard to focus on all the things that I needed to catch up on, though. We did some cleaning, I taught a class, met with clients, and we had some family time. I also bought some makeup for myself that was a splurge for me. I haven’t been feeling good about my aging body these days, but adding a little makeup to my day perks me up. I don’t do it often, but when I’m feeling down, I do. Kylie also bought me an early Mother’s Day gift—a makeup brush to add to my growing collection. We saw Guardians of the Galaxy as a family.
I haven’t done schoolwork in two weeks, so I need to make that a focus when I get to the birth center.
Yesterday, I packed my suitcase and took out all the things that I don’t need on this go-round. I’m sure it will take me a few weeks to figure out what is important for me to bring and to leave behind. When I get to the birth center, I will need to make another trip to the grocery store so I have a few things to cook while I am there.
During my time home, my schoolmate, Melissa, made me a YouCaring campaign. She has been my confidant in school and my counselor when I struggle with school, life, and combining it all. She knows how hard it is to find a midwife preceptor—it’s why she left California for Washington. I don’t want to move, but I kinda have, just without the family. I will leave my family for an unknown amount of time, on a weekly basis, to get the births that I need to get my numbers for midwifery school. I very much appreciate her thoughtfulness.
Because I now live half-time away from my family, we are holding down TWO households and I am the still the sole income since Chris remains on medical leave from work. This apprenticeship came up suddenly, and I just couldn’t pass it up. It’s one of the reasons why Melissa started the YC campaign for me—to help ease the burden that we are facing.
I started the birth center this week.
This was my first few days away from the family. I cried a lot. I didn’t think it was going to be so hard. I have been away from the family before, but I think because one, I am so far away, and two, this is going to be a continuous process for the months to come, I had a more difficult time with it.
When I got into town, I kept busy by getting groceries and getting myself unpacked. Luckily my time at the birth center was busy, so I had many distractions. I also called the family as often as I could so I felt better throughout the day. It was good to hear everyone’s voices. One thing’s for sure: I didn’t sleep well.
Because of the way the week worked out, I was able to come home and stay home for a few days. I have a better idea of what I need to do the next week, so I hope it will be an easier adjustment.
Doula. Childbirth Educator. Breastfeeding Counselor. Massage Therapist. Student Midwife. Mom. Wife. Friend. Human.