Student Midwife Life

Confidence is a tricky thing. From where does one derive it? I am an obnoxiously self-assured individual and am still finding myself feeling extremely insecure during this trying summer of isolation and expected growth. This is the time we’ve all been waiting for, right? It’s been a four year journey for me, almost to the day, since my mother-in-law looked at me and suggested I’d be a good midwife. And I decided to believe her.

It has been with the love and support of my family that I successfully made it to Vanderbilt. “Sure, completely change directions in life, we support you,” said my family. “$150,000 to follow your dreams? Go for it,” said my partner. I am fucking-hashtag-blessed. Both to have the family I grew up with and that which I have been able to make for myself. My latest home, Nashville, has brought me a group of extraordinary women I never thought would mean so much to me. It is because of you that I have made it this far in an obscenely challenging program, and it is you who I miss on these lonely nights in Tampa.

I think of the joys, sorrows, community and contention our group has dealt with and fostered and it brings me strength. I love how different we all are and how much we rely on each other. It would be an invasion of privacy to share with the web-i-verse the tender moments we are able to confide in one another via our private Facebook group, just as it would be inappropriate to share a video of my husband singing Celine Dion if such a video did exist. Point is, we are in this together and I am finally able to appreciate how much I need all of you.

I am grateful for your support and thank you all for being my friends. No one else can understand why an otherwise strong, adult woman might burst into tears whilst watching a Parks and Rec episode post-call except you (the Grand Canyon is beautiful and April and Andy love each other!) I expected this two-year detour to be a quick pause on my real life, but it has shaped me more that I realized, and for that I thank you.

This summer is hard. The insecurity is real and the self-doubt is crushing but knowing we are in this together makes it all a little easier. As a brilliant future midwife and president said — I’m not going to worry about it until it actually gets between me and the next step — I’ll be taking that advice to heart. And just in case this got a little too real and sappy, let this video assure you, my every sincere thought is dipped in sarcasm…. ❤

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Midwifery

Be Humble

If you care, don’t let them know. Don’t give yourself away.

I do let them know. It’s a compulsion. My inability to keep thoughts to myself is likely one of the more regrettable aspects of my personality. I long to be an enigmatic figure but I bring shame to my stoic waspy roots by being overly forthcoming in almost every aspect of my life. I make jokes where none are expected. I comment freely when no one has asked. I spend more time self-evaluating than anybody ought to be able to and still manage to reach the conclusion that my life is pretty great.

Part of it comes from the unreasonably high self-esteem I get to walk around with, because it is categorically easier to go through life as an educated white person with adequate resources and the unconditional support of loved ones. I know that everyone struggles and downward social comparisons are offensive, but they are also helpful if your goal is to not be a dick.

Truth: my life is easier than most people’s lives. Truth: I worked hard to be where I am. Truth: I did so with an incredible amount of love and support in a system designed for me to succeed and that ain’t nothing. For these truths, I choose to be grateful rather than to be proud. I am grateful that I have people in my life telling me I’m doing a good job. It is because of them that I believe it. Pride is a vice; it does not lead to freedom. At worst it leads to resentment of others who fail to reflect your elevated vision of yourself back to you. At best it leads to unmitigated self-absorption, and the universe knows my generation does not need more of that.

Gratitude is a virtue that begets humility and hard-work. Because I have been given many advantages, I choose to heed Kendrick and sit down, be humble. I have been provided with circumstances that have encouraged me to work hard and flourish. I am in a position to contribute positively to my community. For this, I am grateful. I am seated and striving for humility.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Last Will and Testament

Here me out.

I’m not dying. I mean, not anymore than the rest of you. But for those poor souls who end up at my funeral, first of all, congratulations — you’ve outlived me, which means one of three things:

You’re a vegetarian.

I met an untimely death at the hands of Nashville drivers (most probable).

Or sushi and yoga were bad for us all along.

I only hope we did not all die in some apocalyptic everyone-at-once sort of manner. Because then you will have been robbed of the absurd irreverence that promises to be my funeral. And what a shame that would be. Please find herein my expressed wishes for festivities marking the occasion.

First and foremost, I wish to be taxidermied. Then I would like you to hire my least favorite people to carry me around the party, Weekend at Bernie’s style. There will be bonus points awarded to those who come up with the most classic scenes to act out with my stuffed corpse. Pics or it didn’t happen.

Other games to include funeral cliche Bingo. Look out for phrases like “long hard struggle,” “she’s in a better place,” and “blah blah God blah blah.” The middle square will read: “she was one badass bitch” because you don’t deserve points for something you’ll hear said that often.

Next, karaoke: dead lady’s choice, meaning songs I choose and expect to be performed in the following order:

1. Both sides now

2. Remix to ignition

3. Hallelujah

4. MmmBop

5. The Boy is Mine

6. One Request from the Audience

7. Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (entire album)

8. Sister Christian

9. Adam’s Song

10. Whatever you like

11. White America (to sum up my life)

The most important thing I want for my funeral is joy. I know I’ll reflect on these grueling grad school days with a smirk because I’ve had harder days I look back on with a grin. I’m grateful to be here and happy to be alive. If someone decides to mark the occasion when I’m not with anything other than what’s listed above, you set ’em straight, and do it with a smile.

And if you think life and death ought to be treated with more seriousness than I’ve given them here today, it’s my pleasure to agree to disagree. #likemotherlikedaughter

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Be Wrong! It’s Good For You. 

I love being proven wrong. Seriously. As a chronic self evaluator I feel strongly that having our thoughts, beliefs and assumptions challenged is one of the easiest ways to grow, if we’re open to it. And that’s a big IF. In a culture where we seek out self and thought affirming information both in news and research, I know how scary it can be to step outside the echo chamber of one’s own Facebook page. The like-minded communities we tend to foster are comforting but they carry the risk of becoming so homogenous that we cease to be challenged.

I have spent most of my life in relatively (and often overtly) liberal cities, the culture of which have been mostly in line with my own. The southern cities I’ve lived in certainly have their own individual flavors, as do the northern ones. Anyone who paints with brushes as broad as “The South” or “The North” hasn’t spent enough time in both because this is a big country and we have a LOT of different people living here. And those people each have different motivations, unique lived experiences and when election time comes everyone gets the same number of votes. They don’t have equal opportunity to cast them, but that’s not the topic of this post.

This post is about smiling when you’re proven wrong. Mazel Tov to you! What a wonderful opportunity you’ve been given to broaden your experience of humanity. I have recently found myself spending the 8-5 in a brand new place with people who have customs, perspectives and a vernacular entirely foreign to me. And I’ve only traveled an hour from the safety of my current urban center. I’ve spent 22 of my 29 years below the Mason-Dixon and ain’t never met people like this before. They lend out medical equipment knowing patients will return it, they regularly offer to drive patients to outside appointments they can’t get to and they always ask how your mama or daddy is doing. Based on how many conversations I’ve had/heard about the Bible and Trump this week, I can all but guarantee we come from very different religious and political perspectives and how great is that? Because people are more than who they vote for or pray to.

Healthcare can be a unifying point for people working in or needing it, which makes it a good meeting place for otherwise polarized individuals. Being an eternal optimist (albeit a cynical one) I still believe we have more in common than not but too often we make assumptions about what other people think and why they think it. Some people are just selfish and some people are just racist but assuming these things about entire groups does nothing to foster mutual respect, without which we will never move the conversation forward.

People are more complex than a party platform and time is more effectively and enjoyably spent learning about them and letting them learn about you. This is the only way we break stereotypes, both our own and the ones others hold of us. So add small town Tennesseans to the list of things I was wrong about. Also on this list: olives, running, Sarah Silverman, Amy Poehler, hot yoga, anchovies and marriage. These are all wonderful.*

*Marriage is still pretty dumb, but I love Jared so much it makes the list.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Epidurals, Opioids and Nitrous. Oh My!

One of the wonderful parts about being a human family made up of unique individuals is that we are all different. We go to different jobs, we love different people, we experience a rainy day differently. How neat is that? We have a daily opportunity to embrace each other for the quirks and choices that make us each special. And when I put it that way, it seems easy to do. Where we get hung up is in thinking that someone else’s preference is better or worse than your preference. This can lead to feelings of superiority and resentment, neither of which help us celebrate each other’s differences.

This is true in day to day conversation. If I learn that you like olives (which I despise*), I don’t have to say, “Olives? YUCK.” Instead I might try, “Great! More olives for you, then!” You liking olives is not an affront to the fact that I dislike them so I shouldn’t feel compelled to express my disgust, after all this isn’t about me. And surely a two person divergence on briny foods has a relatively low impact on the way we relate in society, but it doesn’t stop there.

*seamless segue to women’s health*

Women (or those with vaginas) be they trying to prevent pregnancy, decide how to proceed in pregnancy or manage the pain of labor, have a Las Vegas-style buffet of options available to them (and I would like to keep it that way, but that’s not the subject of this post). From pills to implants to shots to little T-shaped pieces of plastic or metal, women have choices when it comes to birth control. To all of them, I say yes. You like taking pills every day? Good for you. You want to never have a period again? Also an option. I would never recommend my chosen form of birth control to anyone, because it’s ridiculous, and this isn’t about me.

I talk to pregnant women all day about how they plan to manage the pain of labor and, surprise! They all have different answers. Some plan to do hypnobirth, others hypnobabies (not the same thing), some want to try nitrous oxide, others plan epidurals and, guess what? They all have babies at the end. It’s not a contest and the prize is the same for everyone. Most importantly it doesn’t matter what I think about how a mother chooses to experience her birth because, you guessed it, still not about me.

And it’s not about you either. And neither is a woman’s decision to breastfeed or bottle feed or stay home with her children or to go back to work. Immunizations are about all of us, but more on that later. As for now here is an infographic of what I think is the best way to present information: here are your options and I will support your choices. That’s my job.

Source: The Parent College

*Olives are delicious. Anyone who says differently is 5 years old.

Leave a comment

Filed under Midwifery

Tuk Tuks and Inspiration: Better Experienced than Described.

I don’t know how to write about inspiration. It’s a feeling and those are difficult to illustrate in words. I remember a lightness that rushed over me during a tuk tuk ride in northern Thailand in November of 2012. Jared and I stayed up late into the night watching Fox News, which was comically the only available coverage of the US election. The results hadn’t fully come in when we had to leave early in the morning for an overnight hike into the jungle. The timing was such that we might not learn the results of our nation’s election until 48 hours after it occurred.

2012 felt different than 2008; it felt like the test of a heavily-scrutinized president that I very much wanted to see reelected. It wasn’t for the fear of his opponent. Especially in the context of our current political landscape, Mitt Romney seems like he probably would have done a pretty good job keeping the country safe, which for some people is enough. However, he likely would not have come out in support of marriage equality, gone to bat for women’s reproductive rights or made any honest acknowledgment of the systemic racism that permeates our law enforcement and justice system.

These are considered by some to be soft issues and inherently secondary to national security and the economy. I’ve been called immature for prioritizing them but if accessible healthcare, affordable education and equal rights under the law are idealistic and unattainable, I’m not sure what we’re spending so much trying to protect. If fear is the main theme we operate under, we build nothing. With so much anxiety, there is no room for creativity. When our energy is focused on being great, we lose the capacity for for being good.

Four years ago, I sat in a tuk tuk that rattled along a dirt road out of town and headed for the jungle. Jared turned on his phone for a brief moment to see if any text updates would come through. Right before we lost service, a message from his brother read: Obama wins in a landslide. The feeling I had that day and night was one of elated optimism. As a country, we had decided that goodness mattered and not just for 47% of us. We didn’t beat our chests and we weren’t afraid. The next four years would see the expansion of healthcare, the recognition of marriage equality, and a policy that began to prioritize climate change as a national responsibility. In these four years my partner and I found ourselves and each other; they have been personally and communally transformative; easily the best four years of my life.

Today, I do not feel hopeful or optimistic, but I will also not be discouraged. I still believe that love is stronger than fear and exposure to difference makes space for understanding. The next four years will not see the end of the progress because we are all still here. We will create art and take care of each other and stand up in support of what we believe and protest what we don’t. We will become the inspiration. We will be the good.

And here’s a photo (that’s probably offensive):

554047_10100729589094419_414982408_n.jpg

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Chicken Poop for the Soul

Hear me out…

Vanderbilt nurse-midwifery students are strongly encouraged to attend the ACNM (American College of Nurse-Midwives) Annual Meeting, which will be held in Chicago this year. Because this is optional we have to pay for it ourselves and some of the more industrious students have fundraised by selling felt vulvas, which are amazing, but far beyond the reach of my creativity. Whilst hiking with one of my colleagues, the topic of bowel movements came up. When you spend all day talking about vaginas and looking at cervixes, nothing is really off limits. We were sharing the stories our of most memorable twosies when, bam! I was hit by a stroke of genius.

What if I interviewed my friends and colleagues about their most distinguished bowel movements and then compiled them into a book of short stories? It would be perfectly sized for the back of a toilet and each entry expertly written to be enjoyed during one’s morning constitution.

Guys, it’s a book about poop to read while you’re pooping. Who wouldn’t want that?

After strongly considering dropping out of school to pursue this goldmine of a business venture, I decided I could probably do both. The working title for this project is Chicken Poop for the Soul because I received a cease and desist letter from Walt Disney when I floated the idea of Winnie the Poop by my social network.

I’m now accepting submissions so don’t miss your chance to be a part of this groundbreaking opportunity. Chicken Poop for the Soul will revolutionize your bathroom experience much like the Squatty Potty has. Your participation and/or purchase will help send a student midwife to an expensive conference she has been asked/bullied into attending.

Now as a reward, and because I’m deeply committed to dropping knowledge, among other things (see what I did there?) please enjoy this pictorial representation of the medically-recognized categories of feces. Poop on, Wayne.*

BristolStoolChart.png

*NBC has asked me to refrain from using this phrase, but I say come at me, bro.

Submissions accepted at leacraftspencer@gmail.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Midwifery