The Beginning of the Home Stretch

Every year, the first year students of our program throw a send off party for the second years as they wrap up their didactic requirements and prepare to head off into integration (an 8 week final practicum very similar to a medical residency, in which we essentially live the life of a full-time nurse-midwife, working all clinical and call shifts with that midwife and taking on as much leadership in clinical care as one can without being fully licensed).

As an acc bacc student I attended this party and felt such awe and inspiration, watching how  confident (even though they said they weren’t) the first and second years seems as they shared advice about how to survive life as a student nurse-midwife. I simply couldn’t imagine how in a few short years, that would be me–catching babies, running prenatals, attending to patients’ every day health care needs. It was both wonderful and yet impossible to imagine.

Last year I ended up not going, because I was still in my first trimester of pregnancy and simply too fatigued to make it. I hadn’t started taking call yet and while I was starting to feel comfortable in the prenatal care setting, I still felt like a complete imposter.

Tonight, though, I attended the annual send off as a second year. It was such a surreal experience, and in many ways, isn’t quite as immediate for me because I’m a quarter behind the rest of my cohort (having a baby in the middle of midwifery school will make you adjust your timeline a bit!).

But.

As impossible as it was to imagine a year ago, I am a different midwifery student now.

I’ve been a part of over 50 labors and 20 births. I’ve logged almost 450 hours of L&D call, with another 200 hours to go before integration. I’ve seen over 80 individuals for prenatal care. I’ve been involved in over 30 postpartum visits and over 60 gyn visits. I’ve placed 10 IUDs. And I have almost 400 hours of RN experience in a primary care clinic.

More importantly, I’ve started to find my own voice, however shaky and uncertain it may be, as my preceptors start asking me to sit in the driver’s sit and take the lead. They ask me what orders I want placed and they type it in the computer and click “sign.” Done. They ask me how I want to manage a labor and why, and then step back and let me see the outcomes of those decisions (within safe parameters of course). They ask me for my understanding of the evidence and then tell me to go in and direct the conversation with the patient about why we’re making the recommendation we’re making. That I’m making.

It is terrifying but also…I’m starting to remember why I’m here, finally starting to feel more at home in this role. There was a period where I kind of forgot, where the pattern became “just get through this term, survive in one piece, don’t ask for too many extensions from one class.” Having a baby cured me of any last vestiges of perfectionism in my work (oh, don’t worry, the impulse still lingers…but oh so faintly now). As my preceptors move back and encourage (read: push) me forward, I’m remembering that I was drawn to this work because I love talking about the things that matter most to people: how to feel good and safe in their bodies, minds, and spirits. There is nothing more satisfying than partnering with a patient to come up with a plan to help improve her quality of life.

As I sat around listening to my fellow cohort offer wisdom and advice, I was struck by just how much we have learned in this past year together and how much more at peace we are with how much there will still be to learn upon graduation (suturing workshops, anyone???).

There’s still a lot more to come before I can say I’m on the home stretch (this spring I’ll be cramming another quarter’s worth of call into 8 weeks so I can have enough of my integration done that I qualify to participate in Convocation with the rest of my cohort)…but it’s beginning to feel like it’s possible, which is more than I could have said a few months ago.

I wish I could say there will be time for more blog posts, but I’m not sure I can make that promise…so if it’s quiet here till August, know that I’m sending love and solidarity to all you midwifery students out there balancing school and family to pursue this wild journey of becoming a midwife.

[This is where, if I had not been busy wrangling a wiggly 5 month old, I would have inserted a picture of the freaking AWESOME uterus cake and uterus piñata that the first years made us for the party. Ah well…letting go of the perfectionism in action!]

 

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