intensely trivial

The birth-worker lifestyle/confessions

As of about a week ago, my midwifery studies have begun, and I am so eager to throw myself into it! I’m taking the advanced midwifery studies course through Ancient Art Midwifery Institute, and as it is a distance course, assignments and instructions come to me via email. Many of the details have not yet been divulged to me, and I’m OK with that — as OK as an overeager Type A can be.
In the meanwhile, I’m working through my first book, a 284-page intro-to-midwifery workbook called Helping Hands. The first section is about the “heart” of midwifery: What draws us to this work? What is best/worst about it? And how does it affect our lives? Birthwork, whether as a doula or a midwife, is more than a job for most of us; it’s a lifestyle, and it affects our whole lives deeply. Being a doula for 3 1/2 years has mercifully disillusioned me about some things that will continue and/or intensify as I transition to midwifery. Midwives have more responsibility and more emotional investment in their clients than doulas do, but I think I can at least partially grasp now what the midwifery lifestyle entails.
Here’s the reality for me/us now:
— With the exception of maybe three weeks total, I’ve been on call 24 hrs. a day since Christmas 2009. I started wearing my cell phone on a holster, and I sleep with it next to me every night.
— A loaf of bread and peanut butter are constantly on standby. (Quiet eating, high protein, non-spoiling, no garlic breath, lots of calories.)
— Because I don’t want to cut church activities and friendship out of my life, I plan ahead more than I normally would. We still host 25 people from church at our house every Wednesday evening for a potluck dinner on real dishes. Sometimes I get the house ready, then get called to a birth, and our group meets while I support a mom at a birth.
— Dan is my strongest supporter. When I stumble in after 24 hrs. awake, he tries to make it possible for me to take a nap, or he takes a few extra minutes to make breakfast for the kids (or one of a thousand other things he does for me). He sees my work as a ministry. Bless him. I would not be a doula or a student midwife if he weren’t behind me.
— Birth work takes a toll on our sex life. I can’t turn the phone off, even if we would rather not be interrupted. So that means we can’t be complacent, or nobody’s gonna get any; we have to make the most of every opportunity. (I’ll spare you the details. 😉 ) Being tired isn’t an excuse for loving poorly.
— Birth work is emotionally draining for anyone. As a very introvert, I REEEEALLY have to protect my energy stores. I don’t want to shortchange Dan or my two precious kids. So when I’m home, I try to make the most of my time with all three of them. And I also jealously guard my time alone. I get up at 5:35 every morning so that I have some solitude to connect with God, and after the kids go to bed, that’s my down time, too — no more housework, and preferably no more routine doula work.
— My house and my food are not as spectacular as they could be. I love cooking and baking, but I’m trying to keep it simple for my sanity. The reality is that I have a part-time job, and I put in about 20 hours a week on doula work, on average. Add midwifery studies to that, and it’ll be approaching full-time hours.
— My kids don’t like me to leave for births, prenatals, or postpartums, although they don’t mind my being gone between 8:30 p.m. and 7 a.m. Factor those hours in, and I really don’t miss too much time with them. They’d rather I be a doula or a midwife than have a regular 9-to-5 job. However, even though I am physically with them most of the time, I’m sometimes emotionally absent. I don’t like this and have to remind myself to engage intentionally with them.
— By the grace of God, I haven’t had to miss too many events to go to a birth, but there’s always a backup plan in my mind in case someone goes into labor.
— My kids will know more about female anatomy, reproduction, and the birth process than any of their classmates will. I hope they grow to respect women and the beautiful design of our bodies. I pray Ellie grows up to see her body as far more than an object to gratify men, and I hope she preaches that to her girlfriends.
— Too often, food takes the place of rest or sleep. I run to stay in shape and to keep up my energy levels — and so that I don’t struggle quite so much with my body image.
— We’ve had to buy a second car again. We had gone down to one vehicle, but with a busy, unpredictable birth schedule, it was not working anymore.
I may not talk about all this stuff with most people, for whatever reasons — confidentiality, not wanting to complain, not wanting people to know the cost of this work. It’s worth it for me, but you better believe I’m working very hard to protect what matters so things don’t go completely out of balance. It’s hard.


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  1. * Gail says:

    My favorite paragraph was what you wrote about Dan supporting you–you’ve got a good husband! Good luck with your studies–you’re going to be the best student ever! …and I wish I had even 1/4 of your productivity/intentionality! You are amazing!

    Posted 7 years, 6 months ago
  2. * frenchgirl says:

    Wow, Rachel, so glad you felt the freedom to vent a bit. You’ve sacrificed a lot to do what you love! You are going to be the most amazing midwifery student!

    Posted 7 years, 6 months ago
  3. * Terri says:

    I loved reading this. I have often wondered how you juggle it all, and I am so glad to learn some more about it. I can’t wait to see you grow into a wonderful midwife!

    Posted 7 years, 6 months ago

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