A new title for my blog, and a new phase in my life. “On Birth and Life and India” is now “On Birth and Life and the World,” for you see, my clinical birth work has made it to America. In just a few weeks, I start my nursing and midwifery education at the Yale University School of Nursing.
While I am thrilled beyond belief for the start of my midwifery training, it’s also sad to say goodbye to my phenomenal doula program in Brattleboro. I completed my doula training at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital in October 2010 with Dawn Kersula, a birthing center nurse, lactation consultant, Lamaze instructor and master of all things perinatal. It was a whirlwind of a training, and I felt completely overwhelmed afterward. It’s scary walking into a labor for the first time! But Dawn believed in me, and I’m so grateful for her confidence, which got me started on this path.
Last summer, I came home from India and found the BMH doula program revamped. Debbie Partrick, the nurse manager of the BMH Birthing Center, and Carol Schnabel, one of the original doulas, had redesigned the doula program to encourage more doula assisted births in our community, while continuing to offer emotional and educational support to the existing doulas, and offering training for aspiring doulas. In the last year, we’ve met monthly, with a different educational focus during each meeting. We’ve had visits from the local midwives, a staff anesthesiologist, a physical therapist, childbirth educators, and Brattleboro Area Hospice. With other BMH doulas, I’ve attended workshops on lactation, infant led attachment, skin-to-skin, and a Penny Simkin webinar on trauma. And then, of course, I’ve also been the doula for seven women and their families in the past eleven months. I’ve seen natural births, Pitocin inductions, epidurals, and adoption. I’ve been at birth that kept me up all night, and births that have gone so fast I’ve been home in a few hours. I’ve mopped amniotic fluid up off the floor, cut an umbilical cord, and had two moms tell me that my massages are so good they’d pay me to do it when they weren’t in labor (yeah, I’m bragging). It has been an educational, motivating year, and I am so lucky to have been a part of this incredible hospital-based doula program. For a small town, Brattleboro is truly fortunate to have such amazing birth support.
This weekend I attended what might my last birth as a doula. It was an absolutely beautiful and inspiring birth (though really, aren’t they all?). It was my first birth in several months, and as such was the perfect reminder of why I’m embarking on this crazy, intense adventure to midwifery. Everyone in the room knew of my midwifery plans, and took the time to do extra explaining. When I visited the family the day after the birth, the new parents gave me the usual thanks, but also told me how they believed I would make an incredible midwife, how grateful they were to be matched with me, and wished me luck on my path. It was awfully sweet.
On Monday night, the doulas had a gathering to celebrate the year anniversary of the rejuvenated program, and to say goodbye to me and another doula, Jesse, who happens to also be starting the same program at Yale (how nice to go with someone I know!). Debbie, the nurse manager, surprised Jesse and I with gifts, and cards signed by the doulas and the midwives. It was incredibly moving to read the messages of support and belief. Two of the midwives attended the celebration, and wrote me notes as well, offering their confidence and help with whatever I need (and their jobs, though I think that’s at least 50% a joke…). It has been such a comfort and a blessing to hear from so many people who believe in me as a midwife, and who are—already—willing to help me any way they can. Women with children who say they wish I could have been their doula or midwife, and women without children who hope that I will be. College professors who see exactly how my academic background would have set me up for a career in midwifery. Friends I haven’t spoken to in years, who hear that I’m starting the nurse midwifery program at Yale and simply say, “of course you are.” The nurses and midwives I’ve worked with, who can see my potential and are hoping to see me come back with a plethora of acronyms attached to my name. Just as Dawn inspired my own confidence when I started as a doula, all these people in my life have led me to believe that I’m prepared to be a student midwife.
Now I’m here, sitting at my kitchen table in New Haven, ready to begin my next great adventure. I’ve got my stethoscope, my bandage scissors, and a big tuition bill with my name on it. The Yale shuttle rolls up my street every fifteen minutes, ready to take me to the medical campuses. And I’m ready to go.