Here I Stand

I have experienced a huge mental upheaval in the past month, which is mostly the reason for my lack of writing.

I have sat down many times on post-call days reflecting on my growth, my new experiences, and my newfound voice and independence as a midwife. Much as I imagine new parenthood, no one can prepare you for the feeling of responsibility that comes with this shift.
For many days, I have not really known what to write, because I sometimes don’t know exactly what I feel, or how to express it.

I have forged relationships with my new colleagues, bridged gaps in practice styles, and pushed myself to be the best, most caring, vigilant midwife I can be. In the depths of the night, I have found a voice and a surety and a confidence that I always knew I could bring if it was needed but at the same time have surprised myself with the words coming from my mouth.

I feel raw. Not in a bad sense; this rawness feels like freshness, like soft newborn skin instead of pain. I feel humbled and awed, frustrated and timid, wild with passion for my patients and their families and their births.

Yesterday was my first day of solo call. I have a back-up physician also on call should I need to consult, but the midwifing was all mine.

I spent the night before that call reflecting on this journey that I have undergone in the last five years, and feel like a bit of a pheonix. It has been hard, heartbreakingly hard at times. The self-doubt and fear was numbing. I felt broken down and built back up again, made anew with each reflection, each mistake, each birth.

I went back to my old, leather-bound journal and read my account of the first birth I witnessed. I thought about all the advice and guidance that Ciska and Susan gave me, and how true it has all come to be. I think of myself, five years ago, almost too timid to touch another person, squeezing myself into corners, terrified of saying the wrong thing and think of how much I have grown, and how much growing I have yet to do.

I had a beautiful birth last night, the kind that make everyone in the room cry the sweetest tears, lights down low,  guiding a woman through the pain to the end. It felt so normal, so right. And then the cord was wrapped so tight around the neck, and the nurse looked at me and said, “Which way are we going?” Meaning, could I slip the cord over, or would we have to somersault through?

No extra set of hands to help. There I stood. Midwife, decision-maker. “We’re going to somersault.” Firm. Clear. Confident. Hoping not to look and sound like I had actually never done that before by myself. But there I stood. No one to help this babe out but myself.
There is something so deeply terrifying about being the only one standing there at the foot of the birthing bed. In a way, it feels exactly like what I had told this very brave laboring woman, and in the coming months I will try to apply the same advice to myself: “Dont back away from the pain,” I told her, “The only way is through it.”

There is only one way through that sinking feeling, I think, and that is to catch babies again and again and again, and to do the right thing and see that I am capable.

The meaning of the word obstetrician is “to stand before,” which I had always despised in contrast with the meaning of “midwife,” which is “with woman.” Although I am not an OB, I do have more sympathy to the meaning now more than ever.

So now, here I stand, in the Ring of Fire, the only way through it is to dive right in.

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