Holding Space

Week one of vacation has flown by, in part because I’m involved in facilitating a training for an awesome organization called Backline. Backline is a toll-free national talkline that offers a non-judgmental, compassionate space for people to talk about the full spectrum of experiences and emotions around pregnancy, abortion, adoption, and parenting. The advocates are all volunteers who take two or three shifts a month, answering phone calls from folks who want support in making decisions about their pregnancies, or who want to talk about a past decision they’ve made.

I joined as an advocate in 2010 and it has been nothing short of a transformational experience for me. It’s certainly been a key component of my decision to move forward to midwifery school. Hearing pregnancy experiences from people from across the country has solidified my conviction that there is a need for even more compassionate health care providers who embrace the full spectrum of reproductive health care. I love the work that I do with Backline as an advocate–the connections I’ve made with complete strangers in the span of an hour or less continue to inspire and humble me.

At the same time, I know without a doubt that I am also called to another role. That is, I want to be a part of re-imagining what the relationship between a health care provider and patient can look like. I want to be a part of training more midwives and advanced practice nurses in the world who feel comfortable providing compassionate, skilled reproductive health care, including abortion.

I admit, there was a little teeny part of me that was worried that I would be sad I wasn’t getting as much of a vacation, because the training takes so much of the three weeks I have off. Of course, I was forgetting a key piece–how much energy and inspiration I gain from being a part of the training process for these new advocates. It is such a privilege to help these new advocates as they explore their values around the full spectrum of pregnancy, as they embrace vulnerability in doing role plays with each other, as they unpeel layers of cultural stigma and assumptions and find a place of openness to hear people’s stories. I learn just as much as these new advocates do about holding space for all the richness and complexities of the human experience.


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