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.