Yep, gang, it’s been a while. I’ve decided that my life feels like being nipped in the ankles by schifty-nine chihuahuas. I’m learning to listen to one thing at a time and just DO instead of wondering if there’s something else more important I should be doing.
Onward with my story-
From April 1995 until I started grad school in 1998 I worked as a labor and delivery nurse, first at Cleveland’s county hospital for about two years, then University Hospitals of Cleveland.
I’m probably going to contradict myself a lot. I needed to put a part of myself to sleep in order to function in these high risk settings, but I also learned how to handle emergencies. The term “county hospital” conjures images of dark hallways and outdated equipment, but Metro was in many ways nicer than some other hospitals I’ve seen since then. I saw technology overused, but I also saw many occassions when judiciously using technology very likely averted a c section.
I could spend several postings on various stories from those days, and I’m certain some will surface now and again. The big picture, though, is that the fishhook in my mind persisted. For as battered as I sometimes felt to work where I was working, I kept in touch with my midwife side by reading a lot and, for whatever reason, not losing sight of what I ultimately wanted to do.
And I’ll leave the stories at that for now. What I want to convey now is the theme of my life and career: when it’s time for me to go into a certain direction, my path is not just clear but lit with neon lights and flashing arrows.
One of the reasons I wanted to work at University Hospitals (UH) is that I felt like it would get me one step closer to grad school. UH is affiliated with Case Western Reserve University, where I got my BSN and where I wanted to go for my Master’s.
Well, whaddaya know, on Day One of corporate orientation who should sit next to me but a CNM, new to UH but not to midwifery. She would be working half with the hospital and half with the nursing school, restructuring the midwifery program. I introduced myself with the subtlety of a sledgehammer: “HI!! I’m SO GLAD to be sitting next to you!! I want to be a midwife!!”, and eagerly dove into how excited I was to be working at UH. Her reception of me was, let’s say, RESTRAINED. Which is more a reflection on my degree of enthusiasm than her reservedness. It isn’t hard to be less enthusiastic than me, the way it isn’t hard to be taller than me.
(Spoiler: Gretchen ended up being my graduate program advisor, and we still talk every so often.)
I didn’t see her for quite some time, but not long after I started I worked with another midwife, Cheryl, and her student at a lovely birth. Karen, the student, was from CNEP, a distance learning program that’s affiliated with Case but is otherwise its own entity. When I saw her again a few weeks later she said, “You know, the regional CNEP coordinator is in town for a social we’re having. You might want to see if she’s available and chat her up a bit.”
The “chatting her up” ended up being an impromptu interview. I started filling out the application. Not long after THAT, I interviewed for Case’s program with Gretchen and her then co director, Marsha.
The confidence of knowing I was a good candidate allowed me the luxury of looking at the curricula of each program. I had to humbly admit that I may not have the discipline to do the CNEP program, which requires boatloads of self direction. I JUST KNEW I would do better with the structure afforded by classrooms and human interaction.
Throughout this process, I was working full time, and blossoming like a poppy. Since Metro, the county hospital, is where I “grew up” as a nurse, I was never quite able to shake the image the old school nurses had of me, the new grad who was all mouth about wanting to be a midwife but fell apart in emergencies. I used to denigrate myself a lot for that, but more than a few nurses since then have told me I sounded like a normal new grad. When I got to UH and jumped right in, I started thinking, “Wow. Maybe I DO know what I’m doing.”
And then I got accepted to grad school.
Such is the journey. I couldn’t see my own progression from new grad to competent nurse-it happened when I wasn’t looking. Too bad it has to be accompanied by such self doubt. At least it did for me. I read over my old journals and feel a little sad for the nurse I once was. I’d like to go back in time and tell her how great it’s going to be in the future.
But, knowing me, I wouldn’t have listened anyway.