Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Paths And Where They Lead

HoneyLuna started her first day of nursing school yesterday and when I talked to her, she sounded fine. Excited. Happy about her classes. Parking was a stone cold bitch, but everything else seemed great. I'm not surprised. HoneyLuna is a happy girl, generally, and faces life and all it presents with a smile, a giggle, an attitude of getting it done.

This just goes to show that it wasn't just her height she got from her daddy. Thank God.

I remember my first day of nursing school. I was an older student- twenty-eight or something like that- and I had two children and was a single mama at the time. Everything about the program intimidated the hell out of me. I was in nursing school for two reasons: I wanted to eventually become a midwife and I had two kids to support.

You may notice that there is absolutely no mention in those reasons of wanting to be a nurse. I had experienced enough of life and was already at odds with the western way of medicine to have no sentimental ideals about nursing. I knew damn well I wasn't going to be happy working in a hospital and I was quite frankly afraid of killing someone by a drug error or perhaps even just turning them over in bed the wrong way and I felt guilty about putting my children (ages 2 and 4) in day-care and when I dropped them off before my eight-o'clock classes every morning I left their preschool in tears.

It was not a great time in my life. To add to all of that, I was, looking back, clinically depressed.
I was recently divorced, was still grieving the breakup of my family, and felt completely inadequate in every way.

Somehow, though, I struggled through and made some of the best friends of my life and my children survived and I learned to freeze yogurt for their lunches and managed to get them where they needed to be and read them bedtime stories and made excellent grades and even had a sort of social life and then I met Mr. Moon and the rest is history. I graduated pregnant with Lily, took my RN exams, passed them and then had a baby.
And I never did have to work in a hospital.

But I tell you- I will never, ever forget my first day of clinicals. The children had spent the night at their father's house and I was the only one in the house. In those days, instead of wearing scrubs for our clinicals the way they do now, we had to wear completely dorky uniforms with the FSU logo on them and white stockings and white nursey shoes and even, oh Lord, a nurse hat. I remember getting all of this costumage on and sitting on the edge of my bed and feeling so damn alone. For me, having children actually saved my life and got me through school. Having to take care of someone else made it possible for me to do what I had to do. And when the children weren't there, it was very difficult to focus on getting done what I needed to get done. With kids, you have to get up, you have to get dressed, you have to do laundry, you have to make lunches, you have to go to the grocery, you have to buy school clothes and notebooks and you simply must stay sane enough (or at least pretend to) to do all of that. When the children weren't around (they spent Monday and Tuesday nights with their father), I felt lost and I felt so lost that morning, sitting there with my white stockings on, my very long hair pinned back and up, that stupid hat on my head.

I had met my patient the day before and really, all I had to do for her was give her a bed bath and change her sheets. Simple, simple stuff. And yet, I was scared to death. Every minute I spent in the hospital during my nursing school days was a nightmare for me. If ever anyone was unsuited to nursing, it was me. But I got through it. I did it. I didn't kill anyone. I learned a lot. But I always knew I was not on a path that was mine. I realized I could do this work, even as I hated it.

I remember one patient I had. He was a patient from Chattahoochee, our local infamous state hospital for the mentally ill. And he was comatose. I don't remember what his diagnosis was but I do remember the charge nurse saying, "Oh, he's simple. Put it in one end and clean up the other when it comes back out." And what I cleaned up was so foul that the smell of it stayed with me for weeks. In fact, I got married right after I had taken care of this patient for a few days and all during my honeymoon, I could smell that smell and I thought for sure that Mr. Moon could smell it on me, although he protested he could not. I also remember that it was during this rotation that my teacher reamed me a new one for not remembering to bring my bandage scissors.

I remember a baby I took care of when I did my pedes rotation who had cystic fibrosis. He cried endlessly and the mucus ran out of his nose and mouth and my heart broke in half and I knew I could never work with sick children.

The only rotations I did in which I felt comfortable and at ease were my L&D and postpartum ones. Having self-taught myself a lot in these areas already due to my participation and assistance at home births over the years, I could do what needed to be done, I could chart with all the terms at hand. I remember a delivery I observed where the woman had already had three or four babies and she told the doctor (a resident) that the baby was coming and coming NOW. "Oh no," he said. "We just checked you. It's going to be awhile."
Of course they barely got her into the delivery room before her baby came.
And there, again, I knew that I could not practice in a hospital setting when it came to my passion- childbirth- because of the way it was handled in medical-crisis mode, rather than in a woman-centered way.

And here's Miss Jessie, my HoneyLuna, and she's already been to Jamaica and set up clinics and helped people in the most primitive of conditions and now she's ready to begin her training in hospitals and clinics here, having taken her anatomy and physiology, her biology and chemistry. She won't have to wear that stupid uniform. She won't have to wear a hat. She won't have to wear white stockings. She is smart and she is curious and she is strong and that she is going to be a wonderful nurse. She has a great need to take care of others. I am so proud of her.

I was not put here on earth to be a nurse. I knew it when I was in school and I know it now. I never did become a midwife although I worked for several years at a birth center. I hated being on call, although I loved the actual births. And I had another child, giving me a total of four and God knows I am not one of those women who can handle home, children, a husband and a job. I do not do well with less than eight hours of sleep a night. It was not meant to be.

But I see Jessie and I think she IS on the right path. I think of a time to come when it will be her face and her hands that laboring women look to for help and reassurance, for technical skill and calm encouragement and I think of how much those women are going to love her. I can just see her, delivering a baby and holding it and then handing it to the mother to take to her breast. I can see this in my mind as clearly as I can see a lonely, scared woman back a million years ago, sitting on the edge of a bed, wearing a white polyester uniform.
One of those pictures was so wrong. One of those pictures is so right.

Yes. I'm sure that girl is going to make it. The next two years are going to be difficult for her and wonderful. She's going to do well. Better than well. She will get up every day and face the challenges presented to her and she will learn and she will question and she will touch the hearts of the people she takes care of.

Even without two children to take care of. That girl doesn't need a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Because she has everything she needs right inside of her. She has grace, that girl. She has light.

My path was not to become a midwife or a nurse. My path was to raise my children. I know that now.

And it's worked out.

Oh my. How well it has worked out.

Congratulations, Jessie. You're going to be a great nurse and then a great midwife. Keep your sense of humor, believe in yourself and your dream.

You'll figure out the parking thing. And it'll be gravy from there.

Just one last bit of advice- don't forget your bandage scissors. Really. Teachers hate that.
I know.


  1. Hooray for Jessie! The world is lucky to get her.

    Love you my dear Ms. Moon,


  2. Thank you, thank you, a million times over. This post is being saved to my hard drive, forever and always. I might as well get it framed, actually.

    You are so right about your path as raising up your babies into real people, Mama, and it has worked out so well. You have been a wonderful mommy, as evident in these words of love and encouragement in this here post. Thank you for seeing such a positive picture of me. It means a lot for a girl like me to have her parents believe in her so wholeheartedly like you and Daddy do. Not to mention the rest of our family and friends. It really is absolutely amazing how lucky I am.

    I love you Ma!

  3. Oh gosh Ms. Moon you are one special gal and a wonderful mother. Thanks for sharing and best of luck to HoneyLuna as she starts nursing school. She is one lucky gal to have the support of you and the hubby. Take care.

  4. Aw, congrats to you and Jessie. You're lucky to have each other!

  5. Good Luck To Jessie! Makes me almost want to have another in a few years so she can be my midwife ;) Don't tell my hubby though!

  6. Yay mama! Yay Jess!

    But, if I was 4, you were no more than 26. Heck, Taylor's older now than you were then!

  7. Ms. Bastard- The world is lucky to get her indeed. Not to mention the other three. I think I've done good.
    Love you, too.

    HoneyLuna- I know some women can have children, run a house and still manage to save the world and I'll always feel a bit guilty that I didn't/don't. But then I look around think that it's okay. It is okay.
    I am so proud of you.
    I love you so.

    Mr. Shife- You're a daddy. You know.

    Rachel- I am certainly lucky to have her.

    DTG- You're right. I think I was actually about twenty-seven when I started back to FSU. Twenty-nine when I started the actual nursing program. I was young, whatever it was, but I felt SO old.

  8. I think Honey Luna will kiack some serious nursing ass. And you HAVE done well. I relate to your comment about being a mother and raising your kids being your job (paraphrasing, obviously); I can do a lot of things, and some of them I can do quite well. I like my job, even love it some days, and I am good at it, but my calling? Is being a mom first, writing second. And so far I think you are the only person I know who can make it sound as holy as I feel it is. So-thank you for affirming that for me, even if htta isn't at all what your post was about.

  9. My path was to raise my children... She has grace, that girl. She has light.

    Her beautiful mother helped her uncover her grace and light - thus living her mother's path, to raise her babies into persons who care and can live and be and love.

    Thank you for your generous gift in words, of the things you learn and see in your own life. Today particularly it lifts me up and I hope you don't mind and hope in fact you consider it a grace that in you I've found a mother-surrogate since my own has passed on.

    No pressure - just that your expressions of love and caring and recognition really moved me. Thank you.


  10. Good luck HoneyLuna!

    The whole not saving the world while raising kids? Probably quite a lot of world got saved for them. I know that feeling, too, but I try to remember that it wouldn't be any better if I raised them worse because I insisted on teaching as well just now.

  11. Robin- He'll never hear it from me.

    Kori- I think Jessie will kick some nursing ass. And maybe that whole motherhood thing IS what this post is about.

    Mary- You know my name is Mary too, right? My real actual name is Mary Moon and I would be honored to be someone you think of as a surrogate mama and I am sorry yours passed on.

  12. Good news for the world to get a nurse like your Jessie!

    I'm impressed that you stuck through all that nursing stuff with little children -- very impressed. I might have turned into Nurse Ratched, if I did that.

  13. Mwa- We do what we can. We do what we have to. We do the best we can while we do that.

  14. Elizabeth- I was Nurse Scared Off Her Ass.

  15. I can relate to so much of your dismay, drive, etc having once been that single parent too. I try NOT to remember those days as you're right, they were hard.

    But, now you have this glorious child whom you're proud of...and those days are long past. Congratulations!

  16. Thought-provoking and affirming! Bringing up children is the most important thing people can do. As Jackie Kennedy said, "If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much."

    You have definitely not bungled but succeeded mightily!

  17. Marsha- I think I've blocked a lot too.

    Joy- Lord. I have made some mistakes. But- like chickens, children are fairly hardy.

  18. I love this story. Everything has worked out indeed. It is nice to read, because I feel I am here on the earth to raise my children. I have many career ideas in my head--birth doula among them, but mostly I feel called to be a mama. Good luck to Jessie, as she sets out on this new journey!

  19. Direct entry midwifery courses.

    And lots of observation of home birth midwives, to see what birth can be like.

    Is that not a good idea?

    Lovely post. Good luck, Honey Luna!

  20. The world needs nurses like your daughter and not like me. You know my story--it just wasn't meant to be. And I couldn't be happier.


    It's brave to admit that you can't or won't do a job like that.

  21. Squirrel bacon! That would be tiny. Two birds, one stone...

  22. Ms. Jo- Direct entry is good and I believe in it but it disallows a lot of opportunities. Also- squirrel bacon? Would I have to smoke it?

    Aunt Becky- And BOY! do I respect the people who DO do it. Bless them.

  23. Can you believe the zinnias? They are wilder this year than ever. I get my seeds at TARGET! In the spring, they have the best. I swear my secret is just loving them so much they don't want to let me down. My neighbor D. and me, the one who "needs" them.

    There are so many varieties now. The ones that look like dahlias, the huge ones, bolds, pastels, ruffles, cones. And of course white and GREEN! If you like to cheer yourself and others with bouquets, zinnias and sprigs of lavender or rosemary are all you really need.


    is what we are talking about. I'm not far enough along to figure out how to substitute that for the Glimmer (my southern remembry blog) that always pops pop up when I commentate!

    Oh and btw, I am getting lavish compliments on me on a summer cardigan. It came from Costco. It looks hand knitted, 3/4 sleeve, sage green with big huge loopy knitting, so not hot, just enough for northern Virginia's cool evenings.

    My husband gets beer there too and lately I get outfits!

  24. Dear MM,

    What a delightful post. Its great to see you embracing yourself in this way.

    And I have an opinion (shocker!) about the super dooper rock star save the world get a phd and join the junior league type mommas. (Some of my best ex friends are those kinds of mums) I think something(s)or someone(s) along the way suffer, we just don't always see it (them). Many times, it's the kids. So, there you go. Another way you can know that you really did done good, and there is no question how it was done. Good ole fashioned grit, diligence,focused love and attention.
    xoxo pf My God, you ARE a rock star!

  25. Oh boy, I get this one too. I had the career I always (thought I) wanted, money, success and with the divorce the freedom I had long yearned for. I was never even going to date again. HA HA HA HA HA!

    No. 2 husband shows up, then baby boy. I was 40. Talk about rocking my world. I tried for five years to do it all but just could not. My husband was traveling more and more and my hours were awful. I was going to have to hire someone to live in and raise my son. I could not do it. I walked away. I raised my son and gladly opened my door every day to many lonely children. I am so so grateful I was able to do it.


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.