Going Off Call

This week I attended my last birth with the midwives at my current clinical rotation which means I am officially off call. I can turn my cell phone off at night and it’s not crucial that I don’t have to obsessively check that it’s in my pocket every time I leave the house. I’m off call for the first time since March, nearly. I mean, there have been a few times here and there that I haven’t been technically on call, but it never really felt like I was completely off call until now.

My clinical rotation has been an absolute whirlwind. I’ve seen a lot, learned even more, and am walking away sad to not see another birth for awhile and a bit relieved at the same time. I’ll finally have time to catch up on some sleep, finally have time to integrate the experiences I’ve had, and spend more time doing school work. My time at my clinical rotation has been quite full.

Working with my preceptor has been one of the most intense relationship I have ever experienced. Going in to this clinical rotation, I thought I was a pretty good communicator and that I was pretty assertive. Caught up in an overwhelming need to be respectful of clients, I instead found myself overly cautious and sometimes failed to say things that were important to say. I had to dig deep to find new ways to communicate with my preceptor in ways that were respectful but that also got the point across effectively. While I was there, their office went through a some staffing changes and ensuing turmoil. I found myself scrambling to keep myself organized as well as do my best to contribute to the smooth running of the office and practice. I learned just how big of a role an apprentice can have at helping to keep things together. I left feeling like a true member of a team, with far more responsibility than I thought I would have this early in the game. At this point, I have some pretty good ideas about how to make an effective proactive preceptor/apprentice relationship and how to help manage the chaos that may be an inevitable part of midwifery practice.

I have seen beautiful births where the mama didn’t even look like she was having a baby and worked with her body beautifully. I’ve seen births where the mama had a really hard time letting go and working with her body. Most of the births I’ve attended have been something in between these two extremes, incredible circumstances transforming our clients into otherworldly beings, surely a manifestation of the Divine. I’ve seen a wide range of normal and some things that definitely crossed the line into abnormal. I learned about how I might choose to practice as a midwife and also about how I would choose not to practice as a midwife. This seems very normal to me when I think about it intellectually, but I have definitely experienced it all in a very up close and personal sort of way. It’s a big part of why I haven’t posted more often this semester – I’ve had a hard time being able to distill my experiences down into something as essentialist as a blog post. My life has been a lot of half-formed thoughts and amorphous feelings lately.

The one thing I’ve been most delighted and surprised by is watching men become fathers. I knew getting into midwifery that I would find laboring women awe-inspiring, but I had no idea how transformational and healing it would be for me to watch men become fathers, whether for the first time or for the fifth time. It is nearly impossible to talk about the beauty of men as they step up and into a nurturing role for their partners and new babies despite any feelings of fear or uncertainty they might be having. There have been several distinct moments where I’ve been blessed to watch a man become a whole new person in a matter of seconds and watch his life transform as he steps into this new role of father. I have been impressed and humbled by what I have seen.

So I look forward to this brief time of rest, but I am also itching and antsy to begin attending births again, watch families be born, and watch parents fall in love with this new being in their lives. We’ll get there, and I’ll savor it all the while.

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2 responses to “Going Off Call

  1. I love the idea of an essay, from a midwife’s perspective, on men becoming fathers and the ways in which watching this, over and over again, surprised and delighted you.

    • I’ve certainly been working on something like this in my head for a long time. I remember quite clearly the first time it occurred to me. After a relatively quick and easy birth, the now older sister (right around 2 years old) turned to her father and asked why the baby was now outside of Mama’s tummy. Without missing a beat, he replied in a reverent and awe-struck voice that the baby was outside of her Mama’s tummy because her Mama’s body was strong and wise and did exactly what it was supposed to do.

      Thanks for the idea though, Susan. I’ll have to keep thinking about it and hopefully come up with something worth sharing.

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