Seems like I spend a lot of time telling women in labor to breathe, but I really need to take a moment to remind myself of this as well. And breathe again. “Overwhelmed” doesn’t even begin to cut it these days. Burnt-out seems closer to the truth sometimes. My schedule is relentless, and now that I am 8 weeks into my Integration, the pace is really beginning to take its toll. One of the worst things about my program is the way that our Integration coincides with our Complications class, which is, to put it very mildly, an extremely difficult class taught by a professor that is detail-orientated to the point of almost being obsessive. Luckily, my program has seen the problem in this, and I am part of the LAST class which will ever have to Integrate and take this class at the same time; future students will Integrate during the summer semester, after all of their classwork is done. Which is great news for them, but unfortunately, this doesn’t help me so much right now in the thick of things.
The problem with this schedule is twofold. First, I am working a full-time midwifery schedule, approximately 42 hours a week, which means 2 clinic shifts and 2 labor and delivery shifts, which is probably highly acceptable and do-able if this is all that you’re doing, but on top of this, I am also up to my neck in schoolwork, which means that I never truly get a day off. My three days off during the week are spent trying to desperatley catch up on my classwork, which I am chronically behind in, and trying to sleep and maintain my fragile hold over my health at this moment in time. One of those days off is actually a school day, anyway, where I am in class for most of the day, so it’s not really a day off anyway.
The other problem with this is that none of this comes easily to me. It’s a really difficult schedule and a really difficult job, and the hours are really long, and if I were a midwife who had been doing this for years, sure, I’d have long, hard days, but there would be a routine-ness to them which would make it a lot easier to get through, and a knowledge and confidence which would also make it a lot easier. As it is right now, my brain is struggling all the time just trying to make sense of everything that’s going on at the clinic and on L&D: chart review, identification of problems and abnormalties, appropriate management of said problems, plus just trying to actually spend time with the patient, hold her hand (if at all possible) through at least one contraction (not always possible, because I’m doing the job of a real midwife, which means that if a patient comes into triage, I have to leave the laboring patient to triage the new one). When I come home at the end of the day, my brain hurts, and I am always so totally exhausted and worn out, physically and mentally, that sitting in front of my computer and trying to tackle my homework is absolutely impossible. I need my days off just to recover from my shifts, but alas, my days off are not really days off. My days off are spent trying to make headway on my homework. For example, next week I have a huge presentation on alloimmunization in pregnancy due, which is not exactly the easiest subject in the world to parse. This week I have a case study to do; we have a new case study to do every other week. Oh, and don’t forget our upcoming exam, or the huge, terrifying, awe-inspiring Comprehensive Exams which are just around the corner. And when I do spend time willfully blowing off my homework in order to rest and recover and try to replenish myself (physically and mentally and spiritually and emotionally), or spend time with my beloved boy (which is part of the replenishment), I feel inordinately guilty about it, because I know I have a mountain of homework waiting for me, which really needs to be tackled. Writing this post is willfully blowing off my homework.
And then of course, there’s the terror that runs through me when I think about the fact that essentially, I only have 6 weeks to go until all of this is over. That’s it! Just six more weeks of being a student, more or less. Just six more weeks before I qualify, and suddenly none of this will be under someone else’s license, with someone else watching my work and backing me up and making sure I don’t miss anything really important. Just six more weeks, and suddenly the full weight of responsibility will be mine, and mine alone (although, I do think that most jobs will offer an orientation to a new grad, which means there will be at least some cushion built in initially….assuming I can find a job). Argh.
Which is not to say that I’m not enjoying my final days as a student, because I am, on some level. But on some level, this really feels like boot camp, and it often seems like enjoyment is not what this is all about. Survival might be the better word. But hey, I seem to be surviving. Somehow (and really, I am continually surprising myself this semester), I actually seem to be holding up okay. At least, my grades are good so far, and all of the feedback I’ve been receiving from my clincial site has been positive and constructive. My preceptors think I’m doing great. They think I’m exactly where I should be, progressing at the level I should be progressing at, and have no doubt that I will pass with flying colors. They’re convinced that I’m going to be a fantastic midwife someday. From where I am in the trenches at the moment, though, I am not as convinced of this as they are.
I usually try to keep the details of the daily grind off of this blog, because really, who cares about the minor gripes and inner politics and daily ho-hum which is a part of any graduate school experience? And yet, when I speak to other graduate students, or to midwives fondly (or not so fondly) recalling their student days, it seems like there is a pretty consistent phenomenon which occurs towards the end of the program, and for the purposes of posterity, so that someday I can look back on this and remember exactly what it was like, I’m going to try to record all of this here. I think the phenomenon is something akin to: I am SO SICK OF ALL OF THIS, I JUST WANT IT TO BE OVER REALLY REALLY SOON. And yeah, that’s pretty much where I’m at. Feeling simultanelously very very ready to graduate, and simultaneously terrified of it.
So, this probably isn’t the post to read if you’re on the fence about going to school to become a midwife. Really, truly, it’s worth it. I know this deep down, and there have been so many amazing moments in the past 8 weeks that I can’t even begin to tell you about all of them, even if I actually had time to write about them. Some really, really amazing births. Some truly awesome prenatal sessions. Some days when I am so caught up in the middle of it, in the very thick of it, I think I am the luckiest women in the world doing the most amazing job ever, up to my elbows in vernix and amniotic fluid, teaching women about their bodies and contraception, helping them breathe through their contractions, catching babies. It really is a very special thing, this whole midwifery business, and those are the moments when I see the little glimmer that reminds me of why I wanted to do all of this in the first place. But the exhaustion is omnipresent, and on some days, the exhaustion outweighs the glimmer, by a long shot.
I guess on the bright side, when I am actually a midwife, and all I have to do is the work of a midwife, without all of the course-work on top of it, it will feel like a piece of cake by comparison. I. CANNOT. WAIT.