Catch Up Monthly Chai

Monthly Chai, a sweet blog tradition started by Stephanie over at Feminist Midwife, has been a part of my blogging history since the beginning…although in recent years it’s been more like a once a year Reunion Chai. No matter. Sometimes I just need to sit down and write out all the things on my mind and in my heart. When someone asks me these days what my life is like is a midwife, it’s sometimes hard to know where to even start.

Do I dive into the sometimes grueling but also wonderfully rich and rewarding hours of clinic visits, sometimes seeing as many as 18 patients a day for concerns ranging from painful periods to prenatal visits to postpartum depression to recurrent yeast infections to low libido in the perimenopausal period? There’s certainly a lot I could share about the spectrum from routine to complete left-field that I can encounter from one patient to the next. It’s humbling to be reminded so many times a day how much there will always be to learn…but it’s one of many things I love about this work: I never, ever get bored. Also, I’ll be precepting for the first time this fall and I am over the moon excited.

Do I sigh and talk about my frustration over our low birth volume so far this year (not just our clinic, the whole metro area, really), and my wish for more consistent labor and birth experience on my call shifts? Or the fact that despite the low volume, I’m loving feeling more settled on the L&D unit, knowing and being known by the nurses and hospitalists I work with? The sense of relief of being in my second year of practice and just a wee bit more settled, more comfortable with what I know and don’t know, is real.

Or maybe I just head straight into what has become a quickly growing passion for perinatal/reproductive mental health. Some of my most meaningful clinical experiences so far have been with patients struggling with perinatal depression, anxiety, psychosis, and premenstrual dysphoria disorder. The more I care for these patients, the more I want to learn. I have been so lucky to be able to attend several great mental health focused trainings this year. Being recognized by my OB/GYN colleagues as the person “who loves this stuff” and having patients sent to me because of it has been incredibly gratifying. Here is also where I put in a little plug for the amazing Adria Goodness, PMHNP, CNM and her online course on Advanced Evaluation and Management of Psychiatric Illness in Reproductive Age Women. It is worth every penny, and no, she did not pay me to write this.

Likely somewhere in there, I’ll excitedly mention the year-long online training I’m starting next week to become a facilitator of Nancy Bardacke’s groundbreaking Mindful Childbirth and Parenting curriculum. Inspired by the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction model of teaching mindfulness skills, Bardacke (a CNM herself) tailored the MBSR curriculum to the specific needs of pregnant and parenting families. Having completed an 8-week MBSR on my own earlier this year and experiencing how transformational it has been in my personal and professional life, I am so, so excited to begin this training and deepen my own mindfulness practice. Next month I’m hoping to participate in a weekend mindfulness retreat for health care providers…a much-needed time to step away from the hustle and remember how to just notice.

And then I’ll just roll straight on into a slowly evolving pathway to my future return to school for a PhD. A recent presentation I gave in implicit bias in midwifery education has sparked an exploration into doctoral work in nursing education, researching what’s working and not working with the implementation of meaningful structural changes in curriculum, admissions, hiring, and leadership development to infuse midwifery programs with diversity, equity, and inclusion.

How do we measure progress? How do we measure success? What are the obstacles to more widespread change? How do we do a better job recruiting, retaining, fully supporting, and graduating more midwives of color? And same with faculty? I’m eyeing this great looking program in Diversity and Inclusion Leadership at Tufts and wishing it was online. I’m talking with anyone who is willing on their own PhD journeys (interested? contact me! I’d love to chat!), and trying to figure out timing of it all.

Because you know, there’s the fam, too. Little Tahini just started at his new Montessori school, which we are so excited about. It’s a 5-7 minute bike ride from our house, and 2 minutes from the clinic and hospital…which after our former commute, is simply heaven.

Now that he’s almost three (what the what?! how did that happen?), I finally feel like I can more fully engage intellectually and have been reading up a storm, making up for what feels like lost time in the fog of sleepless nights of nursing. A sampling of the teetering stack the bedside table right now:

The New Leadership Challenge: Creating the Future of Nursing, by Sheila Grossman and Theresa Valiga

Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement, edited by Kimberlé Crenshaw

Systems Thinking For Social Change: A Practical Guide to Solving Complex Problems, Avoiding Unintended Consequences, and Achieving Lasting Results, by David Stroh

Intersectionality in Action: A Guide for Faculty and Campus Leaders for Creating Inclusive Classrooms and Institutions, edited by Brooke Barnett

Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive: 10th Anniversary Edition, by Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell (in my mind, required reading for anyone parenting or thinking about parenting)

and for fiction, Dream Country, by fellow Minnesotan and adoptee, Shannon Gibney.

In closing, I’ll share this wonderful Op-Ed by Michelle Alexander, which speaks to my current state of thinking about the political chaos that’s happening right now. It’s a good reminder to keep focused on the bigger picture. There’s a lot happening right now to resist, no doubt. But we need to keep dreaming for the world we want to see. There’s no shortage of new visions to midwife into existence.

As always, I love hearing from you. What are you reading, listening to, writing about? What would you research if you had unlimited NIH funding? Where do you want to vacation next year, what continuing ed events are you stoked for next year? Find me over at Facebook or Instagram.

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