The Next Generation

Minneapolis

Mill City, Minneapolis: site of the first annual NSfC Activist Summit!

No, this isn’t a post about Star Trek (although, I may have watched it from time to time with my dad).

It’s actually a post (finally) about my amazing weekend in Minneapolis for the first annual Nursing Students for Choice Activist Summit. It came at a great time–I really needed a reminder of why I’m subjecting myself to the stress that is otherwise known as an accelerated nursing program.

It’s so that I can become a full-spectrum nurse-midwife who provides comprehensive reproductive health care.

Right. Check.

There’s something so powerful in being in a room full of your people. Do you know what I mean? It’s that feeling of walking in, and recognizing yourself in the people that surround you: We are all here because we are dedicating our lives professionally and personally to ensure that everyone has access to quality health care, including abortion. We’re here because we believe that nurses are leaders in this work.

I’ve been at other conferences related to reproductive health and justice, but always as the younger, not-yet professional. At those conferences I see where I would like to be in ten years. I see the communities that can be built when we network across the country to collaborate together. But that’s not quite the space I’m in yet. I’m hungry to connect with others who share my experience, who are in that messy phase of becoming the kind of health care provider they want to be.

Papaya2

Practicing MVA during the “papaya workshop”

What made this weekend so rich was that it was geared specifically to where I am in my professional development as a nursing/nurse-midwifery student. The workshops spoke to the particular challenges that nursing students face in getting the education and clinical training opportunities they need to become competent providers. We learned strategies from each other about how to  advocate for more reproductive health material in both undergrad and grad nursing curriculum. We practiced our decision-assessment and counseling skills. I also really appreciated the chance get hands-on and practice both an MVA and an IUD insertion.

But beyond the specific skills and strategies is something even more valuable to me. What I carried home with me and continue to draw upon is the sense of community we cultivated. There is a new generation of nurses rising up. We’re eager for change. We see ourselves as leaders in the expansion of full-spectrum reproductive health care. It’s incredibly exciting to be a part of the culture change within the world of nursing that will lead to more nurses being involved in abortion care and family planning. Who says we need to wait until we’re RN’s, or CNM’s, or NP’s to start advocating for change? Not us! I look forward to staying connected with the new friends and colleagues I’ve met and continue to support each other in our work.

(Hats off the entire NSfC team that made this gathering happen–you folks are amazing and wonderful and made this first summit an awesome experience!)

 

 

[Friday Wrap Up]: 30

So many articles this week! Some of the highlights: exciting news for APC’s in California, one woman’s experience of a later-term abortion, new trends in prenatal screening, a call to action to end the shameful shackling of laboring patients in prisons, and an awesome, awesome story about transgender parenting from Canada. Read on!

California Expands Abortion Access!

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday expanded access to abortion in California, signing a bill to allow nurse practitioners, midwives and physician assistants to perform a common type of the procedure, an aspiration abortion, during the first trimester.

Oregon, Montana, Vermont and New Hampshire allow nurse practitioners to perform such abortions, which use a tube and suction, while several other states, including California, permit nonphysicians to provide drugs to terminate pregnancy.

But the new California law goes further, allowing a wider range of nonphysician practitioners to perform surgical abortions. While other states have passed a tide of laws restricting abortion access, California has gone against the political tide.

It Happened to Me: My Late-Term Abortion Was a Nightmare, But It Didn’t Have to Be

Stories like this break my heart…and make me angry. As an aspiring abortion provider, I can’t fathom how anyone involved in abortion care would let personal judgment get in the way of providing compassionate care for their patients, especially in situations like this. I want to believe that all health care providers bring good intentions to their work…but experiences like this remind me that we have a long ways to go.

Was I expecting too much, some special treatment because I wanted my baby, because I felt like my situation was particularly emotionally fraught? Maybe I expected the clinic to feel sorry for me, and they treated me like any other woman having a “regular” abortion. Except no abortion is a “regular” abortion, and no woman having an abortion should be treated with suspicion and disrespect. Every woman having an abortion for any reason deserves a little kindness and warmth. It could make a world of difference.

Breakthroughs in Prenatal Screening

“Breakthroughs”…but with a lot of nearly impossible ethical dilemmas to ponder. I so admire the work of thoughtful genetic counselors–it’s not an easy job and the growing number of tests makes this one of the more dynamic professions in health care today. Unfortunately, this article doesn’t really delve into the ethical questions of what it means to have more testing available, however, it does touch on some of the financial aspects of testing–which really, is another ethical dilemma of its own.

In the nearly four decades since amniocentesis became widely accepted, new techniques have gradually improved the safety and accuracy of prenatal diagnosis. Prenatal tests for more than 800 genetic disorders have been developed. And the number of women who must undergo amniocentesis or C.V.S. has been greatly reduced.

We Need to Stop Shackling Women in Prison–Now

The headline says it all.

One of the first women who shared her story with Birthing Behind Bars was Linda Rosa. She learned that she was pregnant with twins after entering jail in 2008. Linda Rosa recalled being shackled each time she was taken to see the doctor: “They used to shackle my hands and my legs. I would have to walk with the shackles on my legs, which would leave cuts on the back of my ankles.” Linda had to undergo a C-section and was shackled while recovering in the hospital. She recalled having stitches and staples from her c-section and shackles on her wrists and ankles when she visited her newborn babies in the ICU. “Everywhere I had to go, I had to wear shackles,” she said.

Transgender Pregnancy: The last frontier in assisted reproductive technology

Loved. This. SO. Much. We need to hear more stories like this. It’s so important.

It took nine rounds of intrauterine insemination for Heller to become pregnant. The first four experiences at a Montreal fertility clinic had been quick and impersonal. But their fifth try was worse than usual. The doctor rushed in, never said hello or gave his name, never looked at the women. He asked “insemination?” and they said “yes.” He was quick and rough, Heller recalled, and she bled afterward, something she’d never experienced. He left the lamp on between her legs as he rushed out of the room, they say.

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.

 

NP’s on bikes!

I love this!

Mobile Medicine: the clinic that comes to you!

Midwives have been doing home visits forever, it’s true…but it’s less common to see conventional medical providers doing home visits. I think it’s a huge loss…there’s so much benefit to being able to spend time with a care provider in your own home.

I can totally see myself building a midwifery/family nurse practice like this someday…

Even better–she rides a bike!

(And for those here in the PNW who remain dubious about bike riding in the rain…Jody works in Bellingham. I could imagine situations when a bike ride might not be feasible, but for the regular day-time appointments, I think it would work out just fine.)