Each twelve-week term of school that rolls by offers its gifts of unexpected moments, slowly shaping the midwife I am becoming. Sure, they don’t always feel like gifts at the time. I have been pushed, pulled, and stretched in a million different directions during this wild journey.
Sometimes these moments are surprisingly delightful—that thrill of witnessing a family see their baby on an ultrasound for the first time comes to mind. Of course, I knew it was a special moment. But to be in the room wearing a “student midwife” badge while a family “meets” their little one for the first time…it sent an unexpected flood of warmth and joy through my whole being that nothing else in the world could possibly have matched.
Other times, the moments are accompanied by dismay or frustration…or just exhaustion. This is a clinical program, after all. The demands are high, and sometimes my patience wears thin.
I thought, having completed five terms of nursing school and one term of midwifery school, that I had developed a good sense of What To Expect. I knew the general workload, the types of readings, how to prep for different types of classes, how to make the most of those first shifts with a new clinical preceptor.
I don’t believe in Fate, per se… but sometimes I have to wonder if the Universe isn’t having a good laugh at us in those moments when we think we’ve got a handle on expectations.
I only say this because this term, right during midterms in week five of the term, I discovered I was five weeks pregnant.
“Discovered” makes it sound like I stumbled across a novel new molecule in the lab previously never before identified, which isn’t quite accurate, since I’m very familiar with the clinical signs and symptoms of pregnancy. Clearly, I recognized those symptoms early in myself, and in fact was 90% sure I was pregnant even before I peed on the stick. But I certainly wasn’t expecting to be pregnant. Since 2012, I have assumed I was the quite happy owner of a Paragard IUD. Apparently not.
The details of what happened with the IUD aren’t really pertinent here, except to say that the pregnancy was confirmed to be a singleton and intrauterine, not ectopic, and fortunately, I do not have an IUD floating around somewhere in my peritoneum.
Regardless of what happened to my delinquent IUD (I feel compelled to say: rest assured, dear reader, losing one is very rare and despite everything, I still consider it a highly effective form of contraception), here I was, five weeks pregnant in week five of the term. It was very, very early. I had lots of time to sit with this news and consider my options. Despite four years of service as a pregnancy options peer-counselor for Backline, I never expected that I might need options counseling for myself. I expected that any pregnancy I might experience would be meticulously planned. After all, I do live with a software engineer. And I’m an INFJ. And a Capricorn. Did I mention he’s an INTJ and a Taurus? Yeah, we’re methodical, plodding planners over here. Spreadsheets with formulas, the whole nine yards.
This? Well, this was most unexpected.
I still don’t have words to express the flood of emotions from those next two weeks. It felt like time had stopped. Suddenly, I existed in an in-between space where I had to choose between two very different visions of my future. I was vaguely aware that Real Life, with its due dates, quizzes, clinical shifts, etc. continued to flow by…but I wasn’t fully present for any of that during those weeks (HUGE thank you to my cohort for helping me survive those first few weeks!!!).
I thought about my birth mother daily, wondering when she “discovered” she was pregnant and how she sat with that newfound knowledge, how she carried it—and me—in her body in the weeks before she told anybody else. What were her daily thoughts, her worries, her hopes? Did she know right away? Did she know what she was going to do right away? At five weeks pregnant, I strangely felt more connected to her than I ever have in my entire life. I know next to nothing about her story…but now, well, at least now we share the singular experience of an unexpected pregnancy, even if it is more than 30 years apart and with an ocean between us.
I did all the things I offered to Backline callers: I considered the pros and cons, where I saw myself and my husband in five years. I parsed out where my head was versus where my heart. I sat with each of my options, trying them on “like sweaters,” as my friend R. would say. One day, I would plan to continue the pregnancy and parent. Another, I planned to terminate. The one sweater I didn’t need to try on was the adoption sweater. I didn’t need a day, nor even an hour, to know that wouldn’t be an option for me.
But otherwise, we took our time. We talked a lot and listened deeply. We sat in silence. We vented, we shared our fears and our hopes. I went to work at the abortion clinic on Saturdays like usual and I felt more fiercely than ever before that abortion must remain legal and safe (really, the experience of working in an abortion clinic while pregnant is a post for another day).
In the end, we decided to continue the pregnancy. Even so, it was not a straight-forward decision.
While I love babies, I’ve also spent the better part of 15 years working in some capacity with children from birth through age 12, as either a classroom assistant or teacher. I don’t claim the title of child expert, but I can say with a fair level of confidence that I have a pretty intimate understanding of what we’re about to get into. Parenthood is messy. It’s not always fun. It’s definitely not always cute. I don’t automatically squeal with delight when other people tell me they’re pregnant. Instead I ask them how they’re feeling. I want them to know it’s ok not to feel 100% excited and ready to join the baby-crazed mania of our culture. I want them to feel like they can truly talk about their hopes and their fears, and that it’s ok to have some ambivalence about being pregnant, even after you’ve made the decision.
I am grateful that I have the kind of friends that offer this same safe space for me to explore my own hesitations and ambivalence. It has made all the difference for me this term. I can’t imagine parenting without the kind of community that we have already built for ourselves. I don’t think there’s anything else as crucial to helping you get through the Unexpected Moments of life than a strong community.
So…here’s to the unexpected. Here’s to a wild ride that’s about to get more wild. Here’s to my midwifery education, about to become enriched with a kind of learning I never could have anticipated. And here’s to transformation, with all its potential. Not sure I can say I’m ready, but my seatbelt is fastened.