Have I mentioned lately that I hate change? I do. It stresses me and scares me. One thing I have learned, though, is that you should occasionally do things that scare the shit out of you. My first VBAC was like that. Erik was like that, initially. Shit, for a while just going on with life qualified.
But I'm at a good place right now. Mentally, that is. I'm actually a pretty optimistic person. Happy most of the time lately, with my family and mostly with myself, but as I have said here recently I see the need to make changes. There's that damned word again.
Well, I decided to start throwing stuff around and seeing what I can break loose. In the process I have made a few decisions and even a plan or two.
Back when I was planning to go to nursing school, it was a means to an end. I went into it wanting to work in labor and delivery or obstetrics, with the plan of eventually becoming a nurse midwife. I am a birth wonk even more than a politics wonk, though I don't go into that too much here on this blog. I have wanted to be a midwife for some years now; I will trace the articulated desire back to my third pregnancy, when I read Spiritual Midwifery by the incomparable Ina May Gaskin.
Why on Earth I ever considered a medical path to midwifery is beyond me. It's really not in line with my personal philosophy on birth. Medicine is a marvelous thing, don't get me wrong, but my experiences with it--especially with obstetrics--have not been exactly pleasant. In many ways I found it frankly dehumanizing (the flat-on-your-back position which is standard for delivery actually collapses the pelvis and forces the body to work against gravity, making the entire enterprise much more difficult than it should be, for instance--it is designed for the ease of the doctor and nothing more). Hippie-dippy as it might sound, I have always wanted to empower women in their childbirth choices. Lay midwifery--quite legal in Texas and many other states--is an alternate path which emphasizes a holistic (as in, whole individual) approach that recognizes things usually do not go wrong, and that many of the complications of childbirth are in fact iatrogenic. For the vast majority of pregnancies which are routine and uncomplicated, lay midwifery is a safe, appropriate alternative. The stats for the midwives at The Farm, the commune where Ina May Gaskin has made her home since the 1970s, has a history of terrific outcomes, including a very low transfer rate and a c-section rate of something like 3%--well under the WHO's ideal of 10%, and much, much lower than the overall US rate of 30%. This appeals to me, obviously.
So, I brought this up with Erik and he was immediately supportive (he's really fucking great, and I'm not saying that because I know he's going to be reading this about a minute after I publish it). So I started looking into it. What I found was the Association of Texas Midwives, which runs a distance-education (with the exception, of course, of clinicals) program for lay midwifery. The course isn't cheap, though. Tuition is just over $5,000, books are about another $900, there are costs for travel and lodging associated with necessary workshops, and an apprenticeship fee. It's still probably equivalent, overall, to a year of college at a 4-year public university here in Texas (tuition tends to run about $7000).
In the past, this has scared me off. Today, I said fuck it. They offer a single scholarship annually. I downloaded, filled out, and e-mailed in the application before I could talk myself out of it. It covers 75% of the tuition for the course, so I'd still have to come up with the rest of the money, and I'm not too sure how I'd do that.
So I started contemplating that topic. Odds are of course against me getting the scholarship. So, how do I find the $7000 or so I'd need for the course on my own?
I thought back to another career path I began contemplating back in Hawaii. Birth doula. Doulas are, essentially, professional labor support. Childbirth International offers a distance learning course for doulas; certification requires supporting two women through pregnancy and childbirth, plus a bit of postpartum work. I believe doula work meshes well with my long-term goal of midwifery service, as it obviously deals with the same period of life (doulas are not clinical professionals, though). The course is approximately 3 - 7 months, and after that you work for yourself.
So the working plan, as of this moment, is to continue on with college as previously planned (always have a fall-back option), pursue doula training ASAP (the plan is to use Pell Grant overage, which yes is perfectly legal) and once I am able to do that set back a portion of those fees to eventually pay for midwifery school. Chances are by the time I accomplish that, Marie will be old enough for me to pursue that training without it interrupting my care of her.
I am reminded of what Dave Ramsey frequently says--the difference between a dream and a goal is a plan. I've moved midwifery from the former category to the latter, and I am filled with a profound sense of relief and honestly a bit of "Why the hell didn't I think of this sooner?" It feels right. It really does.
Given all of that, this will come out as a postscript, though to me it is fully as important--I sucked up my fear of rejection and submitted my sole polished short story manuscript to Fantasy magazine. Honestly, I fully expect a summary rejection, but dammit I have DONE IT (and I have another market in mind if my preferred publication laughs at me).
So I'm feeling just a tiny bit proud of myself at the moment. I don't know why the hell it took me so long to figure out how to move toward where I want to be, but I ain't dead yet so there was still time.