Apologies for being MIA, I’ve moved provinces for a temporary stint into the BC midwifery world and well, things have been busy.
A month off
I came to BC in December, our month off, to be present for my sister-friend to deliver her first baby. She had a wonderful, straightforward vaginal birth, labouring at home until 8cm. Then we had a harrowing drive to the hospital where she almost jumped out of the moving vehicle … and then we had a baby at the hospital! So privileged that the timing worked out for me to be her doula.
After a lovely Christmas with the new baby and my family, I geared up for my third-year, 1 month elective. In third year, McMaster students are allowed to self-organize a one-month elective anywhere in the world. Some of my classmates organized placements in Guatemala, the Netherlands, or New Zealand. Given that I eventually want to land in BC, I reached out to a Vancouver midwifery clinic and lucky for me, they miraculously had no students in January. In fact, they had room to accommodate 2 students, so a fellow classmate and I were welcomed into the team.
Week 1 – BC Placement
On our first day of orientation I felt really excited and nervous. I haven’t done anything remotely midwifery related since last April … and that was … almost 9 months ago! Would I remember what to do? What if I was bad at this? What if I regressed back to the junior skills I had?
Questions and confidence swirling about in my brain, my classmate and I went for a beer to organize our schedule. We landed on a 24h on, 24h off rotation. The student off-call would do clinic, and the person on-call would attend any births plus all post-partum visits.
The first week was hell. I was so tired, and did in fact, forget all the things. Things that came to me fluidly and without effort last year were now forced, awkward, and filled with gaps. Not to mention, things are slightly different in BC than in ON. My brain and body had also forgotten how exhausting midwifery life really is, never mind how hard it is to do that PLUS complete online school assignments.
The other difficulty that I didn’t anticipate was trying to keep up with the social expectations of being in Vancouver. Before this, every time I came home, I came with a free schedule – but this time, I was trying to do school, midwifery, and keep the same level of social outings as before. Trying to do it all was really pushing my energy levels to their limits. The breaking point was about 8 days in, when I found myself almost falling asleep in front of a client. That day I also had to bail on my third set of plans with friends that week. I had a bit of a meltdown that night; did I choose a job that would keep me from hanging out with my friends? Would I be that friend that committed to something but then always had to bail at the last moment?
I know that my reason for cancelling plans is a legitimate one; a birth, or a client needing me. But my friends and I have never had to make these accommodations before, and I was feeling sad about how I wasn’t able to manage it all.
A midwife’s guidance
After the mini-meltdown I chatted with a couple of my preceptors. They both gave me warm hugs, smiles, and told me that it would get easier once I graduated. They reminded me that as a student, I had taken on 2-3x more call days than they did. That when you are a fully licensed midwife, you don’t have nagging school work occupying hours of your time. Rather than think of myself as failing to accomplish it all, they advised me to keep trying to take on only what was necessary. It was exactly what I needed to hear.
I’m on the right path, and things will lighten – they are just hard right now.
So that’s what I did. I scheduled my social commitments with less frequency and I re-learned how to midwife: prioritizing sleep and healthy eating and minimizing procrastination. I threw myself in to doing my best every day and on clinic days I did either clinic or homework; not both. It was hard for me to say no to the opportunity of attending clinic, but I knew I couldn’t do it all anymore. By the end of the month, I felt like I was really managing and gliding through things with confidence and energy. I was back in the swing of midwifery life, and it felt pretty awesome.
Today, I feel more ready for 4th year than ever. Isn’t it interesting, though, how I needed someone else’s permission to prioritize my self-care, rather than giving it to myself?
Thoughts on my experience
I loved this placement. The midwives were great teachers and I respected them as professionals. The team of 4 had amazing communication that made continuity of care a non-issue, and I always felt like they had a lot of trust in us, the students. It never felt like we were less than they were, and it almost felt like I was coming to work with friends. The midwives created opportunities for me to suture (two complete repairs from beginning to end!), begin IVs, insert catheters, deliver babies, and more. My biggest growth opportunity was in documenting, charting, and taking pages; I never had much chance to do this in previous midwifery placement as I was busy learning so many other wonderful things. So, I was really pleased to be able to flex this documenting muscle in Vancouver. The midwives were great at providing me with templates to follow, as well as patiently waiting for me to write things that took me at least 3x as long to write as it took them.
In the end this placement was a bit of a tease; being home with friends and doing midwifery at the same time is my dream come true. It was hard to leave it, but now I know for certain that I want to come back and work in BC. Even though the social demands were a struggle, I still felt like my life was more full; I walked everywhere, went out for dinner and drinks with friends, enjoyed the outdoors and my mountains, and just felt at ease. I’m super happy.
Here’s to 2018 and being able to do this permanently!