I thought maybe if I said it (typed it?), it would make me feel better, or at least feel something different - but I am still scared sh*tless, to be perfectly frank. Within six short months (god willing), I'm going to complete my clinicals, work on passing comps, and take my boards. And then, I'll officially be able to call myself a midwife in front of clients - something I've been feeling for months now (or even longer).
And that, dear anyone-who-may-or-may-not-be... almost paralyzes me some days. I am a terrible, awful student. I procrastinate, I get distracted, I prioritize poorly. I don't know when exactly this happened - I used to rock in high school - but at some point over the past few years (maybe once my brain cells started being killed off by motherhood?), my attention span has decreased. Somehow my remaining brain cells get overloaded, and everything I have studied flies out the window - things that I know, that I can explain frontwards, backwards, and upside down. But when it comes to spitting them out for an exam, or off the top of my head for a professor, spur-of-the-moment? Hello, pee-in-my-pants-because-I-got-nothin'! Not. Good.
Don't get me wrong - I'm working on this. (I like to think that I'm smart enough to realize that I can't be successful and still have this HUGE crater in my path). I've talked to other students, I've had study groups. I've gone to counseling. I've got awesome support from the Warm One. Some of my family recognizes how hard this is (full time grad school + working 20ish hours a week + family), others don't... but that's all right. And, I've got the Bears. (More about the Bears later on)
So, most days, I can work through the fear, and I'm good. But. There are other days.
Like, the days when I realize that, holy shit, I need to basically learn (or at least very, very deeply review every SINGLE thing I have learned since starting grad school - not to mention a very good portion of what I learned in my associate's nursing program) in the next few months. Some days - when the Bears are closing in, and I've forgotten to avoid the crater in my path - I let myself get anxious and (again) horrified, realizing that I never really learned even the basics of anatomy and physiology. Autonomic nervous system? What's that do again? Tell me more about the parasympathetic stuff, again... Oh, f*@#!
And then there's meds - I learned them enough, for long enough, to get through at the time. (Or at least - again - that's what it feels like). What's a beta blocker for, again? Double f*@#.
The basis for EVERYTHING I have learned, and need to know, is built on an awful shaky foundation (at least in my own mind). I have been flying by the seat of my pants for the past five years, milking the "fake it till you make it" mantra for all it's worth... but something tells me that as a provider, that won't cut it.
Or, the days where I remember deliveries I've seen as a nurse: moms who come in, with no risk factors whatever. Spontaneous labor, or just something "not feeling right". Baby hasn't been moving as much as usual, a little bit of unusual discharge or bleeding, sharp pains... whatever it may be, or nothing at all. Perfectly normal pregnancies - and then, when the fetal heart tones are doppled or monitored --- a "bad baby" is seen immediately, a crash c-section is called, and a little boy or girl, pulled out a thick, dark meconium is worked on in a curtained nursery for a long, long time by nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, and finally the NICU team that has flown in. Or, maybe it's a baby that looked fine throughout labor - a nice, normal, happy vaginal birth - and then with no warning, baby just doesn't transition after birth, needs help breathing, and help is an on-call doctor or an ambulance ride away (which, of course, seems like days and days with a baby that isn't breathing).
Or, the days when a baby is suddenly no longer there. Or is found to have an abnormality non-compatible with life. Or anything that will be very, very difficult to share with the parents. I am terrified that I won't have the words or the grace to share these moments with the families that need me to, the most...
Please, please, if anyone is out there and has been in this place (specifically or not), please tell me it passes...!
On "The Bears"
This is a technique that was shared with me during a counseling session when I was struggling especially hard with stress and anxiety (thanks, Dave - I hope you don't mind!). I am most certainly paraphrasing the technique, since I don't really remember how it was explained to me... so please 'bear' with me (groan!).
Setting: Wooded area surrounding a small clearing (perhaps a campsite?) with a campfire, simple block bench, etc
The Players: A handful of the Bears (these symbolize Stress/Anxiety/Fear - any negative or bothersome issues - I always picture them as cartoon characters similar to, maybe, "The Far Side" or something?) and You
(We enter the scene with You sitting on the crude bench near the campfire, maybe toasting marshmallows or a hot dog. Something's troubling you - fear? stress? anxiety? - and you realize that the shadows creeping up behind you are actually several large - albeit cartoonish - bears)
Don't Fight the bears - this will only encourage them to come back (and release adrenaline - the 'fight or flight' hormone - in you... leading to more bears --- and more stress/fear/anxiety) and... Don't feed the bears! (I.e. don't let yourself dwell on the anxiety/fear/stress/whatever's bugging you - that will also keep them coming - it also releases adrenaline) Just look 'em in the eye, say, "Hey bears, I see you there, you're right, I am stressed/freaked out/pissed/etc, and it's okay. I'm not going to feed you, and I'm not going to fight you. I'm just going to be."
It may sound silly -- but to me, it was very, very helpful. (And, in fact, as I typed this I realized how very little I've 'practiced' it lately - which can't be helping the topic of this posting.) On a side note, the ringer of my cell for a while was Mini #1 saying "Don' feed tha' bear!" - from the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh - for a year or so, which made this technique feel even more 'right' for me... every time I was getting myself worked up, her sweet little voice reminded me not to.