photo credit: Hayden Hendrick
Seasons, isn't that the fashionable way to describe the various circumstances, colors, and climates we experience throughout a lifetime? If so, over the past year and a half, the leaves of my life have without a doubt turned from green to red. After 13 years at home full-time, homeschooling our kids, a variety of reasons and situations led us to consider if it was time to make some changes. No matter how obvious it seemed that we may need to alter some areas of our life, the idea of change still felt terrifying to me. I fought it initially. Thinking through what's best and healthy for an entire family, each person with individual needs, felt daunting. This is the life of a woman, isn't it? The constant, vast realization that each of our decisions deeply affects the lives of the people we love most. It seems our personal health is wrapped up in the health of the people we cherish. This is what makes women's health incredibly complex. No woman exists as an island. Her well-being is oftentimes inseparable from the well-being of others.
photo credit: Hayden Hendrick
Thankfully, as we began discussing what it might look like for our kids to transition into "regular" school and for me to work outside of the home, we had time to think through what would be a good fit for all of us. I'm grateful the decision didn't have to feel rushed, and we had time to begin working towards our long-term goals without feeling overly panicked. I know this was a gift, and I'm grateful. I've had time to think about what I want to be doing in a couple years, and decide what work seems valuable enough to pour part of my life into. We all knew this time of transition would involve a great deal of work and study on my part. Aaron and the boys have been incredibly supportive of this intense season of learning and "becoming."
NURSING SCHOOL ---
As many of you know, I decided to go to nursing school. I knew for sure, if I was going to start working again, that I wanted to concentrate on some aspect of women's health. When I decided to get a nursing degree, I also had a strong hunch that I'd end up becoming a midwife. A nursing degree seemed like the smartest, first step. I also felt it would buy me some time to really explore my options, receive input from others, and get a better grasp on the actual healthcare needs for women in our community. I also needed time to consider our own family dynamics and to strengthen my ideals about healthcare, in general. I've enjoyed nursing school a lot. I'm grateful for the education and skills I'm learning, and unless something strange happens, I'll be an RN by the summer of 2015.
While I've been in nursing school, I've been working towards officially becoming certified as a doula. I'll be finished in April, and as time permits, I'll begin taking on a few clients, especially focusing on women who are desiring an unmedicated birth in a hospital setting. While I believe all women deserve support during labor (no matter where or how they choose to give birth) my hope is that my nursing background, time spent in the hospital, and knowledge of the natural birth process will be a good fit for women who specifically want a natural birth in a medical environment.
I also started working as a birth assistant for Toni Kimple, a local midwife in town, who owns a birth center. She has 28 years of experience and is truly an asset in our community. It has been interesting to live and work in both worlds - spending some days working in the hospital and others assisting with out-of-hospital births. Getting to do both at the same time helped solidify some unknowns for me. I've developed a great deal of respect for the medical community and yet, what I hope, is a realistic awareness of its shortcomings as far as women's health is concerned. It's taken me a couple years, but I've finally come to the conclusion that the hospital and the highly-medical model of healthcare doesn't feel like a good, full-time fit for me. Not only do I feel more at home in a birth center with women considered low-risk pregnancies, I also see a lot of value in pursuing a more holistic model of care. Even though I'm still in nursing school, I went ahead and enrolled in the program offered by The Association of Texas Midwives to begin working towards a license in midwifery. Thankfully, Toni, with Jubilee Birth Center, has offered to be my preceptor. I'm grateful she has agreed to take me under her wing and for her years of experience as a midwife. There's also another midwife in Jubilee Birth Center's practice, and I look forward to learning from Andrea and working with her as well.
As I've thought through my ideals about women's health, becoming a nurse and a midwife have definitely felt like steps in the right direction, but a piece has been missing for me. What do I do with the awareness and appreciation I've had for the growing body of research related to the role nutrition, and plants in particular, play in our health and well-being? What do I do with this passion I've had for organic gardening and incorporating more plants into our family's diet? How do I connect nutrition and the power of plants to nursing, midwifery, and support for laboring women?
I was thrilled when I realized I could learn under Aviva Romm, a Yale-trained medical doctor who is also a midwife and licensed herbalist specializing in women's health. The program she teaches "uniquely integrates traditional herbal wisdom, clinical experience, and critically reviewed botanical and scientific evidence for the prevention and treatment of common women's health concerns." When I finish the program, I'll be a Certified Women's Herbal Educator. I enrolled in the program yesterday.
Although I was nervous at first, this season of learning has been exciting, and surprisingly, a lot more natural than I thought it would be. While it sure would have been easier to find one program or one campus that could teach me to be a nurse, midwife, herbalist, and doula, such a wonderful place or program doesn't exist. It's been work, but I feel great peace now that I've found the unique elements of education that I personally have felt I needed in order to provide the kind of care I'm envisioning for women. I'm hoping to bring all of these pieces together into something helpful and holistic for women in our community.
For those of you who are wondering, "How are you doing this all at one time," the answer is - I'm not, thankfully. Although I've enrolled in the midwifery program, I won't start the book work until early May. I don't have any classes for nursing school for three and a half months. During the break, I'll focus on midwifery and the herbalist course I'm taking. I'll take my RN licensing test early in the summer of 2015, and hopefully finish up the midwifery and herbalist programs within the following year or so.
I loved the season of full-time mothering and homeschooling (most days) and am grateful for that extra time with my kids. It was right for our family, and in the midst of it, I could not have imagined anything else fitting us so well. Surprisingly, this season has felt just as right and good. These men - big and little - in my home have been supportive, and we've had people in our life who are helping us make sure our kids feel cared for and supported as well through all of these changes. I guess what I'm trying to say is, when I look back, those green leaves sure look beautiful to me, but so do these red ones I find myself surrounded by these days.
Cheers to a season of learning! My heart is full as I think of the women and babies I'll help serve one day - all of us learning to be brave together, growing in our trust that God put great care into creating our bodies, and He's given us gifts from this earth to nourish them and keep us well.