I had to make my first call to Child Protective Services this week. A young woman disclosed abuse, and I am a mandatory reporter. In nursing school we learn the words, the situations that we must report, and I’ve had a multitude of trainings on reporting since starting my job.
To pick up the phone and actually make the call brings our role into stark relief. I had been told a tiny part of this harrowing story, and the CPS agent, stressed as I was, undoubtedly, was none too kind to my not knowing the whole situation. I’m not a social worker. I’m not an investigator. I’m a women’s health care provider. And all I knew was that I had to report what I was being told. No I don’t know who has legal custody. No I don’t know her parent’s address. No I don’t know the case number or the police office that’s investigating.
I walked into a room last week, and helped a woman find an invisible form of birth control, for she feared physical violence from her husband should he find out she was using a contraceptive. This woman was not a minor, so although I asked over and over if she wanted me to call the police, she declined. She’s been there, done that. And that is all I can do.
Do you have someplace safe to go tonight? I asked over and over again. To the shelter, I guess. But he’ll find me.
I wish there was more that I could do for you today, was all I could say before breaking down in tears with her. I tried to hold them back. It’s not my patient’s job to take care of me emotionally, it’s my job to take care of her. But all I wanted to do was drive her to the shelter myself, but knew I couldn’t.
Both of these instances came at the end of amazing days, where I had felt confident, deeply immersed in the absolutely joyous work of referring a patient to midwifery care and handing her her first ultrasound and conducting a few first pelvic exams, which are probably my favorite thing about my work.
I am incredibly humbled by the immense emotional highs and lows that I experience every day. It is at once deeply uplifting and draining.
I spent yesterday in clinic by myself, as I’m fully credentialed and now scheduled without another provider. I sat in my car as I was getting off the ferry and turned on the radio. The sweet twang of bluegrass filled my little Volkswagen bug, and I was caught up in a moment of pure joy and despair. I thought of all the amazing things that are coming up in my life, moving into my first house with my partner, marrying the love of my life, growing into being a midwife, and was overflowing with joy at the same time as becoming desperately sad that my father never got to see any of these milestones in my life.
I was so shocked at this feeling, having been just over six years since we lost my dad to cancer, but the reminder that it had actually been that long, both an eye-blink and an eternity was what got me.
I am constantly surprised by the contradictions in feelings I experience each and every day, but am so grateful that I am doing work that allows me to deeply feel the range of human emotion every day. However, I’d be equally grateful for a slightly shallower range sometimes.