Monday, August 29, 2016

The Further Adventures of Chico's Embattled Midwife

This not-working,
this not-feeling like mopping again
this cleaning out dusty corners,
I sit and stare at my phone,
willing an arm to just
reach out of it and pull me
into the next chapter.

I scribbled this not-poem into my journal exactly two weeks ago, on the girls' first days of school. I have always worked to provide for my family, to serve and better the world, to make my days meaningful. Yet, since the probation of my nursing license began in February of 2016, I have not worked a day. The Board of Nursing denied my home birth practice as a work site for my probation, (without being able to provide me with a single reason why, I might add). Nonetheless, with that work site denial, they shut Sacred Ways Midwifery down.

I used the first four months of my probation to dive into a creative project that had taken on a life of its own. In late June, I completed my manuscript, a midwifery witch-hunt and travel memoir titled Relax,Nothing is Under Control; A Family Pilgrimage to India. I was grateful for the space the BRN's shenanigans had made during those weeks when I lived, breathed, and dreamed my book. Now my manuscript is being shopped to literary agents, a process that mostly involves – molasses. I mean, waiting.

While the languid summer heat stretched its arms across our Sacramento Valley, reality settled itself like a blanket over my summer plans. Sure, go camping, go to festivals, have fun with your family, but also, it is time to find a job. Two reasons: 1. I cannot finish my probation and clear my license if I do not work for six months as an RN. And, 2. there is the eensy teensy matter of living off of our dwindling savings for the past months because my husband earns about half of what we need for our monthly budget. Yikes.

So between family trips, I went in search of RN jobs, figuring I could land a position in OB, family planning and reproductive services,or home health. All of which I am extremely qualified for and experienced in. For the first twelve of these jobs, I was turned down , due to my license being on probation. Ouch. Big Ouch. Each interview involved walking in wearing organic lip gloss and my grown-up clothes, carrying my fat Board of Nursing probation folder to explain with an outer smile and an inner wince that I am a wonderful Yale trained nurse with twenty years of experience who just happens to be on probation but you really should consider hiring me anyway. And each time the sinking feeling I got as I was smiled at and told “You are amazing and over-qualified but No Way” was like swallowing a stone.

While camping up at Juniper Lake, at music festivals in Oregon, and on Mt Shasta, I lay in my sleeping bag while Adam and the girls snoozed around me and grappled with these things: I may end up surrendering my RN license because no one will hire me! I may have to move away from Chico to work, or commute three hours to the bay area, or look for RN work in prisons, or go back to school to learn an entirely new profession, or, or or.

My friend Kelly came over one evening and looked at my home office, with my wall of beaming, baby-holding mom photos. “You need to take this bulletin board down. And put up something else. Something representing your present, not your past,” Kelly said. So we took down the pictures and cleared out my closet of birth supplies. The following morning I made a new bulletin board display; a few of my favorite birth photos, along with pictures from India and Nepal, pictures of my family, of my ancestors, of Burning Man. It felt well-rounded, beautiful, and more representative of ME.

Tranforming my office seemed to work a bit of magic. On the thirteenth job interview, I was hired for an RN position in a local convalescent home. But I still cannot work a day until the Board of Nursing approves the work site for me. Which could take....? A month? Two? And will this new employer be patient enough to wait for that, really? It seems so, although I am done counting chickens when it comes to RN biz.

Ten days ago I received an email with a job offer that combines my three loves: Midwifery, travel, and teaching. While the pay is minimal, the position is very part-time, so I can also work that RN job my license depends on. I have been hired as the Global Service Learning practicum instructor for the Birth Institute, and I leave for a month in Guatemala next week, taking four students to learn from Mayan midwives at ACAM, a Mayan-run birthing center in the Western Highlands:

 Check out this incredible organization for the preservation of Mayan Midwifery  here!

Suddenly I have a calling besides a sink full of dishes, a purpose besides shopping for kids' school supplies, career moves that are beyond scrolling for RN jobs I know I will be turned down for. It feels that there are building blocks for my future in global maternal/child health being set. I feel inspired, fired up, happy to be using my skills and talents instead of watching them lie fallow and whither away. I am grateful for this opportunity provided by the dynamic team at the Birth Institute and will keep the community posted of my experiences among the Mayan midwives of Guatemala.