Do you ever find yourself looking for a pause button? That things are getting a little out of control and you need to stop, drop, and take a moment to catch your breath? Not the stop button, that's not what you're searching for, but just a breath, a moment, a pause.
I just finished my first clinical placement in the midwifery program. Four months of following midwives around and being thrown into as many learning opportunities as (superhumanly) possible. I took blood, started IVs, performed vaginal exams, read lab reports, palpated bellies, examined tiny, minutes-old newborns, listened to fetal heartbeats, and, oh right, I caught babies. With my own two hands. As in a woman pushed her baby into the world and I was there to catch its round, soft head in my hands, asking her to push just one more time so that I could reach the baby's shoulders, and then, after the baby swam the rest of the way out into the world, I did my most important job--I lifted to the baby to its mama. I'm going to tell you a secret: it doesn't get much better than that.
I'm two years into my midwifery education program now. It's hard to believe that I'm here at this point, the point at which I can stand in the middle of this enormous, life-changing program and look back to my eager, excited, and wide-eyed first year self. The thing is, I'm still eager, excited, and wide-eyed, these two years later, probably more so now that I've dipped my toes in clinical practice.
It's only been two weeks since my placement ended, and it's still a little too fresh in my mind for me to talk about all the feelings, feelings that are still swimming around in my head, deciding where to land. I'm trying to navigate around the ups and downs of learning how to be a midwife, from the highs of being a witness and a participant in the birth of a human being, to the lows of sleep deprivation, to the complicated middle place of being challenged/judged/evaluated/supported as I learn my way around caring from women and their babies.
It's intense and amazing. Let me leave it there for now.
Sometimes we pause. Or at least, sometimes I pause. I'm pressing the button, just for a short while. For the next year I am taking a medical leave from my program, because while I've been in school these past two years, I've also been figuring out how to cope with fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed a few months before I started midwifery school and frankly I didn't quite know what to do the diagnosis. It felt (and still feels) like this fuzzy, catchall for someone who is depressed, exhausted and in chronic pain. I was diagnosed, like most people, after no other disease or syndrome could be identified, a sort of last-minute declaration that since it isn't all these Other Things, it must be This Thing. Truthfully, I've never really done much with the diagnosis. I've made half-efforts at caring for myself with my diagnosis in mind, but it's always come
second, third, tenth behind all of life's other responsibilities: parenting, working, and midwifery school.
I'm reaching for the pause button because I need to finally pay some attention to my own health. As first year midwifery school turned into second year and clinical placement, my health strategy of sticking my head in the sand declared itself to be a shitty plan. My exhaustion got worse (no big surprise), my body ached, I moved slower and slower, became more and more depressed, and I gained weight (because I needed another thing). Through all of this I was willing and able to do the hard work of clinical placement, motivated by the all those eager and excited feelings I mentioned above.
Now, I'm depleted. I need some time. I want to take a moment, sit awhile, and come to terms with the fact that my health sucks. Most days I feel like I'm one hundred years old (and not one of those spry and youthful hundred year olds we read about on facebook. I'm talking bent over, shuffling, declaring things like "Oh! My aching back!" kind of centenarian). Grumpy, too, just ask Matty. But the thing is, I'm not 100, I am 37, and I want to feel that way. I owe it to myself, to Matty, to my girls. And most importantly I think, with some hard work I can feel more like the healthy almost-40 year old I know is hiding behind all the fibro symptoms. But I can't do this without a break from midwifery school. I just can't.
And so I stop and take a breath. For the next year (the duration of my medical leave) I will make it my business to discover what I need to feel vibrant again (and my vibrant might look different from your vibrant, but the point is that I am desperately craving some lightness and sparkle). Here is to my year of health! And to me oversharing about it! Yes, I will be blogging about my adventures in learning how to leap and cartwheel through my days, rather than hobble my way through another unbelievably busy year. Knowing what I know about my (un)health habits, I truly believe that I can find a point at which my health doesn't stand in the way of my thriving as a student midwife.
I'll see you around then.
Ready, set, pause.
P.S. I caught that baby.
(Photo used with permission.)