Monthly Chai 7: November 2014


Oh, November. It always creeps up so fast. Somehow, September and October just fly by, with their gorgeous colors and crisp air…and then it’s November, which feels like the Month That Lasts Forever. I must be honest, my friends, this past month has been a challenging one…and while I love Thanksgiving, November is not on my List of Favorite Months. School itself is fine, and work (work! have I even had time to write about that yet?!) is also fine, I just can’t avoid the November Doldrums that come around when the sun slips behind the grey.

So in the spirit of openness and vulnerability, I’ll invite you in to my new office to catch up on the past month, yours and mine. I’ll crank up the heat and put my indoor Uggs on. Tea kettle bubbling, I’ll pour us each a Good Earth Sweet and Spicy tea, brewing it extra dark. I’ll pull up my Miles Davis Pandora station and let you get settled in the new comfy chair.


After asking you about your month and hearing all the latest news from your corner, I’ll share that it’s hard sometimes, knowing how honest to be about the ups and downs of life. Each person’s journey is so different. I don’t want to make anyone feel like there’s a right or wrong way to go through midwifery school. I will say, though, everyone warned me that being in midwifery school can be challenging not just for us as students, but also for our partners.

Between being super busy with assignments and clinical, never having time to cook dinner or do laundry, and always talking about vaginas at every opportunity, being the partner of a midwifery student is not for the faint of heart. I like to think that B and I figured some things out while I was in nursing school (ie, take-out is a perfectly reasonable dinner option and not just during finals week)…but the truth is, it’s hard work for both of us to make sure that we’re making enough time for each other. Midwifery school demands a lot of energy, and not always just academic. It can be hard to summon the energy to be fully present to the other aspects of our lives and relationships.

I share this not to scare people, but because I think strong relationships, of all kinds, are vital to surviving midwifery school. In that vein, I’m always reminding myself that nurturing those relationships is just as important as the papers and labs and loads of reading…the trick is learning how to balance work and home with awareness and sensitivity. Let’s just say some weeks are better than others. Just when I think I have some kind of routine down, the quarter ends and then we’re back to the beginning again.

Taking another sip of chai and casting a dubious look out the rain-covered window, I’d ask you how you find motivation on the days when it feels easier just to snuggle down under the covers. My regular care routine includes a sun lamp (essential in Oregon!), lots of Vitamin D and adrenal support herbs. I’m also much more gentle with myself in terms of the number of social engagements I commit to attending. November is my month for holing up with a book and some tea most nights per week. Or, let’s be real: just going to bed really early.


I’d also share how grateful I am to have this new office of mine. After nine years of sharing office space with B, I decided it was time for a room of my own. B works from home and is on the computer/phone all the time, which makes studying at home a challenge. So, with the bit of extra income from my new job, I’m renting a little 8×8 room near work. Most of November has been spent slowly making it my own space. I didn’t realize how much I needed this space until I had it…but now I can’t imagine my life without it. I know it’s such a luxury, especially as a student…but it has been such a gift during this dark, cold weeks. Having such a warm cozy space outside my house makes it a little easier to drum up motivation to get going on the days I’d rather hide under the blankets. 

Pausing to refill with some fresh hot water, I’d share that despite moving a bit more slowly these days, I’ve still got some exciting projects on the burners…between planning our annual Roe v. Wade anniversary event on campus with local medical and law students, stepping into a board position with Nursing Students for Choice, and settling into my own with my job (more soon, I promise!), life is feeling full. It will be interesting to see how this all flows next term when I add prenatal clinic to my schedule (can’t. wait!!!).

Before we wrap up, I’ll share the start of my winter break fun list…and invite you to share what’s on yours!

  1. Christmas Snowshoeing at Mt. Adams
  2. Knitting!!!
  3. Making lots of soups and dishes with potatoes…
  4. Reading, of course! This, and this, and this…to start.

Wishing you a nourishing November, that flows at just the right speed for you. See you in December, post-finals!


Writing…and reading

I’m in the thick of application essays right now, my brain is stuffed with new ideas as I try to bring it all back down to the essence of why I’m called to this work. There’s so much I’m interested in, and sometimes it’s hard to find a way to tie it all together in a neat package…but I think I’m slowly getting there.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading lots, gathering ideas for future research and also just doing some fact-finding for some recent clients.  Among some of the goodies on my readers (electronic and old-fashioned) lately:

Easing into Fall

The past month has flown by…after summer finals ended the first week of September, I had a few days to finish packing, and then we were off to Korea for a little over two weeks. It was an amazing trip–we made lots of new friends, spent a ridiculously small amount of money on astonishingly good street food, and got to spend time in the southern part of the country as well.

It was good to get out of the country for a while. It was a chance to let myself put all thoughts of midwifery aside, and just relax. While it wasn’t a vacation per se (I was also engaged in a birth search), it was time that allowed me to step away from the nose to the grindstone approach I’ve been taking for the past year in finishing these pre-reqs and reflect on my next steps.

Of course, what ended up happening was that I met an amazing fellow Korean adoptee from LA who’s working in perinatal mental health, and we had many late night conversations about adoption, parenting, full spectrum doula work, mental health, midwifery…and how much work there still is to be done regarding women’s reproductive health and sex education in Korea.

So, yeah, needless to say, my passion was rekindled, and I’m scheming up new projects and ideas for research.

I’m back in Portland now, and already finishing up the second week of the fall term. I decided to go easy this fall, so I’m just taking microbiology, which honestly, is really two classes. Lab and lecture both meet twice a week, and there’s so much work that it feels like it’s worth every one of those five credits.

But this was the class I’ve been waiting for…I knew it would  be fine, and so far it’s been every bit as fun as I was hoping it would be. It’s nice to come back full circle…the instructor I had last fall for cell bio is teaching my micro class this year…it’s been a pretty easy transition home in part because I knew that I’d be in good hands for this class.

This weekend we’re taking it easy…heading out for a weekend trip to rest a bit…but when I get back I’ll be launching full speed into application season. I’ve had the application questions printed out and on my bulletin board, but next week I’ll be starting the writing process. I think it’s been good to take a few weeks off from this process–I feel like I’m coming back refreshed and more eager than ever to get this process rolling!

Turning the Corner

I’ve been a bit relaxed these past few weeks on the blog…and by relaxed I mean non-present. We’re already into week 3 of the term…just took my first stats test today. Nothing too complicated. In fact, I’m finding that aside from the rather tedious homework, I’m actually really enjoying the class so far.  Granted, this isn’t rocket science (just standard deviation and z-scores…) but I enjoy reading research and thinking about all the cool projects I’d love to explore someday…which leads to me to think about how I could design studies of my own.

So, when registering for my last official term of pre-reqs this fall, I signed up for Stats II along with my Microbiology class. I’m pretty stoked for the fall–I’ve been pining for micro since I first took cell bio last fall. I loved the professor, and now I’ll get to be in her class again, as she teaches her speciality.

I got my transcript review back from the main program I’m hoping to attend, with a thumbs up on all my classes.  As long as I pass the next two terms  with B or better, I’m all set. To apply, that is. Applications open September 1, which has me both super excited.

In the meantime…I’m reading up on respiration and digestion for my first A&P mid-term next Tuesday…and when I’m not doing that, I’m reading something from this stack.

I’ve also got two clients who are hoping to meet their little ones in the next month…and I’m on pins and needles waiting to hear back from GOAL about my application to First Trip Home 2012. Hopefully I’ll find out tomorrow!! Also looking forward to another shadow day with a wonderful CNM I know here in town. I’ll be observing her on call during a day shift at a local L&D unit…can’t wait.

A Glimpse of the Future

This morning, after finishing my lab final for A&P II, I raced over to hear two very dear friends, just recently graduated as nurse-midwives, present their integration experiences to their midwifery faculty and current cohorts. It was fairly casual, but a wonderful chance to hear more details about what integration’s like.  I feel like I have a much better sense of what to expect during those last weeks of my midwifery training, and the diversity of settings that are available.

It was also a great glimpse into all the things that we never think about: namely, the business side of things.  Several of the presenters touched on the financial aspects of starting a private midwifery practice, or working in a HMO, or in a FQHC, or even working within a hospital practice. It was interesting to hear them muse on the ways in which providers balance the needs of their patients with meeting the bottom line.

As someone considering applying to the National Health Service Corps to help fund my midwifery education, it was especially great to hear my friend Laura present her integration experience in Chinle, AZ. One thing I noticed was the way in which everyone else talked about “patient populations” and what the “social” challenges were (complicated social history includes anything from drug abuse to domestic violence to poverty, etc).  The assumptions underlying some of the “social” challenges were pretty pervasive, and it made me think about how I can maintain a sense of openness to meeting people where they are without coming to conclusions after just reading a chart or doing an intake assessment.  It’s one of the things I love about being a doula–I have lots of time to get to know my clients without feeling rushed to make assumptions about their preferences.

Mostly, though, I left feeling a renewed sense of motivation and excitement for this path to midwifery.  Sometimes (perhaps especially) in the midst of memorizing blood vessels, it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture.  Hearing my friends and their cohort share their culminating experiences was a good dose of inspiration, and wonderful glimpse of where I hope to be three or four years from now.

Speaking of school…

I’ve mostly finished my nutrition take-home, and my lab final for A&P is done…so now I can focus on the lecture final on Tuesday, and my final oral presentation for Spanish, which is a group presentation.  And then I’m done, and free until June 25th!  This summer I’ll only be taking two classes, which will feel positively luxurious! Looking forward to checking two more classes off that list…


Oh, I know, I have a loooong ways to go…but it felt so satisfying to check off the winter term courses in the countdown widget on the right (scroll down).

And, just because, I checked to see if any grades were posted this morning…and my A&P instructor had indeed posted!  And…it was an A!!!

Truth be told, I was not quite sure, especially after that last lab final…but I definitely felt a surge of relief.  I know grades aren’t everything, but it’s really hard not to feel the pressure of getting straight A’s when I think about how competitive some of these programs are.

Anyway.  I’m about to shut down my computer for a week (!!), as I leave in a few hours to visit a dear friend in CA, who’s due with her first wee one in early April.  Not to worry, I’ll be bringing some reading with me…the first few chapters of my nutrition text, and a couple of books I ordered from Amazon, one on DNP programs and the other on nursing theory.  Yes…I am one of those people who actually likes reading about theory. For fun, I’m reading Siddhartha Mukherjee’s Emperor of All Maladies…there’s a reason this book won the Pulitzer–it’s fascinating and incredibly well-written).

And yes…I am one of those people considering applying to DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) programs in midwifery.  I know they’re pretty controversial, but the more I read about them, the more I can see the value of extending entry-level education of advanced practice nurses to the doctoral level.  If nothing else, the thought of a more extensive clinical residency, with research opportunities, is really appealing.  I’ve been talking about it with people and still haven’t come to any conclusions yet (hence the book), but I’m looking forward to hearing more people’s thoughts and experiences.

Muscles, Be Done!

Had my A&P I lab final on Thursday.  We’ll see.  I’m not sure how I did…all those flexors and extensors of the hands and feet…my goodness.  I ran into a current CNM student I know–she’s finishing up the program I’ll be applying to this fall.  She laughed, and reassured me that most health care professionals forget those muscles promptly as well, unless they really need to know then on a daily basis.  Whew! A lunch date with a fellow alumna from my undergrad alma mater who’s also a student in the same program was a good reminder to stay focused on the big picture…and I left that coffee date more excited than ever to continue this path to midwifery.

But back to finishing this term…

With the lab final off my plate I’m focusing now on the lecture final.  Most of it will be nervous tissue and spinal cord related, with a bit of cumulative stuff too: muscle contraction, feedback cycles, the main types of tissues, bone regeneration…I think I’ll do okay on this stuff (I’m much more of a process-oriented person!), so hopefully that will tip me over the edge for an A.  We shall see.

Mostly, I’m excited to be done so I can go visit my friend BH in CA next week.

Also…this was a good reminder to take time for self-care. I may not relax “intensely,” but as a doula, the message about the importance of balance resonates. This week was a little nuts–I started the week by driving to campus on Monday to study at the library, and ended up in a car crash that required extensive repairs at the collision center.  It didn’t help that it was the week of finals…but last night a friend came for dinner, and we watched Goodbye, Lenin (which is awesome–you should see it if you haven’t). Today I feel more relaxed and ready to hit the books.

[Friday Wrap Up]: 6

Whoa, Nelly!  Things are starting to wind down this term (what?! when did that happen?!), and I’m starting to feel the pinch.  Our final lab practical is next Thursday–it will cover all the bones and muscles we’ve learned in the last three weeks.  One more week of lecture, covering the spinal cord and cranial nerves, and then lecture final is Tuesday the 20th. On the 23rd, I head to CA for a few days with a dear friend expecting her first baby in early April.

And although I should probably be studying for finals on my non-class day, I’m opting instead to attend a workshop on infant adoption for nursing students.  Although I’m not a nursing student yet, I have friends in a local nursing program who are involved in their school’s Reproductive Justice/Nursing Students for Choice chapter.  They’re putting on this workshop, along with some staff from the local Boys and Girls Aid, and I’m super interested in how this will be presented….and to get a sense of how nursing students are prepared to support women who may be planning to place for adoption. More next week.

Other random bits that have crossed my mind in between cramming more muscles into my already full brain:

  • Where are all the Asian and Asian-American midwives?  As a Korean-American adoptee, I keep my eyes peeled for anyone who looks like me in the world of midwifery.  I know of one student who’s also Asian-American…but have yet to meet either a CNM or CPM who identifies as A/AA/PI. There’s this midwife whose site I stumbled upon…but we don’t live on the same coast!
  • Guess I’m not the only future midwife who worked in education first…like me, Makeda got her MEd first, then went into midwifery.  Maybe someday I’ll get to meet her–sounds like she does fabulous work in global maternal health.
  • I really want to see this film, which chronicles the experience of several midwifery students at Maternidad la Luz, down in El Paso…hopefully the doulas and midwives in my community can come together to host a screening this summer.
  • May have stayed up too late last night reading just one more page of this book, recommended to me by a friend. I agree with a lot of it (ie, our health care system is in dire need of major overhaul)…and yet other parts are a reminder of why I feel called to midwifery as opposed to pediatrics or obstetrics. It’s well-written though, and a great insider’s look into the how it’s becoming harder to just practice good, common-sense medicine in an age of managed health care and absurd malpractice lawsuits.

[Friday Wrap Up]: 4

Second round of midterms are approaching on Tuesday. Bones, joints, and muscles.  Not so much names of bones and muscles (that’s in lab), but function. Soo. Much. Information.  It’s all interesting, but there’s not enough hours in the day.

I am looking forward to my volunteer shift at the Planned Parenthood clinic tomorrow, though–even if it means I’m gone most of the day.  I serve as a Patient Support advocate, accompanying women through their abortions.  It’s like being an abortion doula, except they don’t call it that. It’s been almost a month since my last shift, and I miss it.  The providers, many of whom are FNP’s and CNM’s are amazing, and I always leave with a renewed sense of passion and commitment for this path of full spectrum midwifery and women’s health.

Unrelated…a friend in nursing school shared the website for an amazing org in Mexico, Mujeres Aliadas.  This is really exciting stuff.  To be added to my list of possible international travel options, for sure.

Also, super excited about the local midwifery study group that I’ve been invited to join.  It’s a small group of mostly aspiring home birth midwives, but they’re letting me in anyway.  The first meeting’s in a week, and we’re going to be talking about physical assessments.  I’m beyond ridiculously excited, and have been looking at stethoscopes tonight instead of studying the physiology of muscle contractions.

And, this student midwife blog.  I can’t stop reading.

Is it dorky to be so excited about my first stethoscope?