Transitions

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Spring 2010.

After much heartache and doubt, I had just quit my job as a Montessori elementary teacher. It was scary, but I knew deep in my gut it was the right decision. I was feeling depressed about the whole situation, worried about finances, as B and I had just bought our house, and wondering what I was going to do next. I had never not had a plan and it was terrifying.

Somehow the universe had it all lined up for me. My friend Tel convinced me (didn’t take much convincing) to do a doula training and soon after I somehow got connected with Backline (now All-Options) and Planned Parenthood.

I spent the next few years volunteering as a peer pregnancy options counselor with Backline and as a patient support advocate at Planned Parenthood. During my time at Planned Parenthood I encountered nurse-practitioners and nurse-midwives practicing as fully independent clinicians, fully respected for their unique contributions. I witnessed the compassionate care that they provided to their patients during abortions and my world was blown open with new possibilities. I had never once considered a career in health care, but as time went on and I continued to discover the diverse ways in which midwives are situated to provide holistic care, I realized that I had just stumbled upon my life’s work.

Summer 2013.

I started the accelerated nursing program at OHSU, then went straight on to the midwifery program. I got involved with Nursing Students for Choice (now Nurses for Sexual and Reproductive Health). I worked as a nurse at a local abortion clinic while I was in school, supporting people through first and second trimester abortions. I knew that I wanted to provide this care someday as a midwife.

I managed to graduate in one piece, despite an unexpected pregnancy halfway through midwifery school and landed my first job right before graduation, when my little guy turned 11 months.

For the last two years, I’ve been in full-scope practice, which has been the most wonderful way to ease into midwifery as a new graduate. My clinic is a 10 minute bike ride from home, and three blocks from my son’s preschool. I have the best co-workers. I love catching babies, doing prenatals, talking about birth control, doing first Paps, exploring safe and pleasurable sex, reviewing the many options for breast cancer screening and hormone therapy and a million other reproductive health topics.

But my heart continues to be pulled back towards what drew me to midwifery in the first place: radically compassionate, inclusive full-spectrum midwifery, including abortion care. I just can’t shake that dream away. And in the meantime, it has become more clear to me that I also am not done with school (I don’t think anyone who knows me well will be surprised at this).

So, it is with boundless excitement that I announce I will be stepping away from full-scope midwifery for a while. Eight years after I first started as a PP volunteer, I’ve come back full circle and accepted a part-time position as a CNM at Planned Parenthood. I’m still pinching myself that it’s really happening.

In the time I’m not in clinic, I’ll be launching private mindfulness-based childbirth and parenting classes, based on the pioneering work of Nancy Bardacke, CNM, and Jon Kabat Zinn, who developed the well-known Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program.

I’ll be focusing in more on my work as Chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee for our local state affiliate of the American College of Nurse-Midwives. That will include developing more training opportunities to explore implicit bias, racism and white privilege in midwifery care.

And I’ll be doing more reading, writing, and research to lay the groundwork for applying to PhD programs in nursing education next fall. I’m ready to move towards academic practice and my long-term goal of innovative midwifery education and research. I want to explore how to better integrate anti-racism and equity training into nursing and midwifery education.

I want to know what the evidence-based strategies are for comprehensive nursing faculty training and program development to support students of color: how do we effectively support students in completing their clinical training without subjecting them to the chronic stress of daily microaggressions, stereotype threat, implicit bias and outright racism? How do we make sure that their transition into clinical practice supports a sustainable, life-long career?

I want all nurse and midwifery educators to be skilled and comfortable in facilitating conversations on racism, white privilege and structural oppression and their impacts on health outcomes. I want to understand how we cultivate students to be critical thinkers and creative disrupters of deeply embedded inequities in medicine.

And most importantly: I want to start doing all these things before I get too jaded and burnt out by the daily grind of our haphazard, wildly inadequate so-called health care system.

As I close out this year, I’m profoundly grateful for all of the experiences in my life so far that have led me to this moment. All of it has made me the midwife, activist, scholar, teacher, and writer that I am. I’m ready to take the next step in my journey and can’t wait to share more. If you’re interested in keep up with my classes and future research and consulting work, please check out my new website.

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