intensely trivial

Intensity report

So, last week (Oct. 14-21-ish), I was in California at a small-group intensive workshop, called “Intensity,” for my midwifery school, Ancient Art Midwifery Institute. I spent the month before that working very hard to get ready for it, knowing that I would be at the bottom of the class. Even though I’m the least advanced midwifery student in that particular group, I wanted to have something to offer them. These are all women who have served women at birth many years longer than I have even been thinking about birth. Most of them would be considered experienced midwives already. This is the kind of person who enrolls at AAMI, and I really benefit from it.
It wasn’t really a conference; it was a workshop at our director’s house. It went from about 9 a.m. to about 11 p.m. every day, and it lasted for six days. The first day Carla even called anything a “break” was the fifth day, and that was for 10 minutes. It was boot camp. We all had a great time, seriously.
I did miss my kids and Dan, a lot. Scattered throughout the day, there were maybe 30 minutes total during which I could call them, but I was in a different time zone, and they had their own schedules, so I didn’t get to talk to my kids every day.
It’s been hard to distill what I should say about the Intensity to people who weren’t there. It was an experience, like the disciples having small-group time with Jesus. But it resembled a conference in that there were planned talks on different topics. It resembled school in that there were lots of quizzes and research. It was like a skills lab in that we practiced some things that midwives sometimes do (palpation, taking blood pressure, and vaginal exams, which it would be best to never do on a real woman — we did it on a teaching tool called Vagina in a Box — lol). And it resembled a sleepover in that there was lots of conversation and not much sleep.
Carla says the measure of what you learned is not what you know, but how many more questions you have about it. I agree. So even though we had some amazing presentations and assignments on these topics, I don’t in any way feel like an expert.

We had “official” presentations on:
twins and multiples
prolonged labor (that was my long presentation — I think it went on for about 2 hrs., w/ all the discussion, in keeping with the topic)
PEMS — a holistic way of looking at birth and life decisions and all kinds of stuff
birth certificates
normal cord closure (that was my short presentation)
Group B strep
blood pressure
lots of time-management stuff
rupture of membranes (those last two I listened to on mp3s, in my “free time” — either when I got up early to run or while I was falling asleep)

We had to do short (20-min.) presentations on a food we think people should eat more of, and those were:

We watched and critiqued an instructional video on shoulder dystocia and watched/critiqued a bunch of other movies about birth.

We put together models of the female reproductive system that we can use to educate parents in the future.

We took quizzes, wrote papers, and did research on:
ectopic pregnancy
postpartum hemorrhage
things you can observe about a woman that tell you something about her health (I think we decided this was called “observational signs”)
female anatomy
all kinds of other terminology

We discussed:
eating disorders and how long it takes to rebuild minerals
whether to carry oxygen to births
oil pulling
cell memory
medical marijuana
liking, loving, or tolerating people
history of midwifery
nitric vs. nitrous oxide

I feel like that list is barely skimming the top of all that we talked about. A lot of those things just “came up”; they weren’t on the agenda.

Someone asked how long it might be till I’m able to attend homebirths. Hmm. Well, it’s not a piece of paper that will qualify me as a midwife. I don’t know yet whether I will seek certification or not. (Once you’re certified or licensed, you are bound by some other organization, not the parents, and I don’t want someone else telling me that I can’t serve VBAC moms or that I have to induce at 42 weeks. Heaven forbid.)
I would like to have at least another year of very serious academic work done (think intense unschooling), and I would like to apprentice. It will take me at least 2 1/2 more years of serious academic work to graduate from AAMI. I believe that when it is time for me to start serving in the position of a mother-appointed midwife, parents will find me. I’ll pray about it, and I trust God to let me know when it’s time.
Maybe the most important lesson I learned was that when you have something that people need, it is selfish not to share it. Even though I’m not an expert on birth by any stretch of the imagination, I do know some things that people need to know. Often, here in my mainstream world, I feel like the only radical, and I keep quiet for fear of offending people, making them dislike me, etc. But I really need to learn to tell the truth boldly. As Christians, we talk about doing that with the truth about Jesus. There is also truth about birth, and when people ignore it or just don’t know about it, they and their babies get hurt. The triumvirate of introversion, perfectionism, and approval-seeking in my life must be overcome. This is hard stuff for me, but I came back from the Intensity with a renewed challenge to go ahead and do the hard thing, because it’s the right thing to do.
How will that look? I hope it translates into informal conversations with friends, acquaintances, and strangers. I’d also like to start teaching some little classes on different topics. I’ve got one ready to go (the one on normal cord closure). As I keep working on my AAMI studies, I’ll have more and more to share.


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  1. * Morgan says:

    I feel the same way about talking about birth. I’m a total “radical” in Utah. CRAZY, I am, but I can’t not share, especially when the opportunity comes to me. How would I feel if someone came to be and said, “Why didn’t you tell me???” Same as sharing Jesus with people. People deserve to know the truth. What they do with it is their business. It sounds like this intensive was an awesome experience. 🙂

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

    I’m so glad you shared about your Intensity! I was wondering how it went. I know you must be exhausted. Keep up the good work, Rachel. Your knowledge and developing skills are needed in this community. If you want to rant, I will be your listening ear. 🙂 Sandie

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

    I LOVE reading your writing (“How does she express herself so clearly,” I thought to myself).

    I have questions for you…to come soon..

    I am inspired by the depth of your reflection. It impacts more that just the experience of birth, the woman, or new life.


    Posted 6 years, 7 months ago
  4. * clbeyer says:

    It’s good to have you back in town, and especially good to hear about all that you’re learning! You are capable of so much good, and you are giving our town/world a huge gift.

    Posted 6 years, 7 months ago

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