Sunday, January 10, 2010
Reflections - my Christmas letter
Happy holidays! It’s hard to believe that we will soon be in the year 2010. I still find myself writing a 19 instead of a 20 occasionally and yet it’s been a decade since we feared the big Y2K. Would the computers crash? Would the world end? Neither happened and we kept truckin’ through life’s adventures. As I reflect back on the first decade of the 21st century it is hard for me to even begin to process how many experiences I’ve had and how much each has changed me. Ten years ago this month, I was finishing my first semester of college at Oglethorpe in Atlanta – I pulled my first all-nighter (which caused me to be very discombobulated and physically quite ill), was beginning to fall in love for the first time, made my first multi-state drive without one of my parents and experienced for the first time how “home” can be simultaneously intimately familiar and strangely foreign. How my self and global understandings, heart, faith and knowledge has changed since then! Adulthood: joyful lessons, painful ones; acute experiences, subconscious processes; life. For better or for worse, till death do us part, this beautiful chaotic world and I play a game of chess with God as our referee.
Five years ago, December 2004. This month five years ago, I was anxiously awaiting my Peace Corps deployment for
(1/05). I was excited and scared without any idea of what my upcoming journey held. I had just attended a presentation made by two of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” and was deeply inspired by their story of strength, courage and survival – reinforcing me desire to work internationally, though at that time the idea of it was fully romanticized. I had birthed the startling thought of becoming a midwife, but it was on hold as I continued substitute teaching, tried desperately to make sense of my “Teach yourself Thai” CD set and attempted to see as many friends and family as humanly possible before departing for the next twenty-seven months. Thailand
Two years ago I sat in this same computer lab trying to figure out how to convey the overwhelming experience of my first semester in grad school, nursing school and time adjusting to being back in the
after a long absence. I was overwhelmed, overworked and feeling quite insecure, incapable and discouraged. And wondering if I’d made the right choice in changing my career path and spend way too much money doing so. United States
December 2009, today. I can’t say that my fears and doubts from two years ago have totally disappeared – they still resurface now and again. But, here I am finishing my last few assignments of my last classroom semester at Yale School of Nursing. It seems surreal that in a short five months, I will yet again don the black cap and gown, adding a hood this time, and walk across a stage for the third time in my life. Soon there after, I will wear the catcher’s mitt alone, without more experienced and confident hands covering mine as new life after new life enters this world from the love of couples, powers of women, creation of God and the guidance of my two hands. These very hands that have dug in the mud, cramped from holding a pen, held crying babies, clapped with joyful children, turned pages of a musical score, felt for fever, struck piano keys and spoken the common language of gestures and humanity when I had no words that would work. I don’t know how these chapped, nail-bitten, well-used hands can be deserving of such honor. I often doubt that they will know what to do when I instruct them to work on their own without guidance from more experienced hands. And yet, I am assured that every novice midwife has these same thoughts, worries and pride that her own hands can guide a new life into existence.
In the past year, I have helped guide eight babies from water world to dry land – seven alive and healthy, one stillborn at 22 weeks. All beautiful. I have learned to blindly measure the diameter of a cervix using only touch and the movement of my fingers. My accuracy of identifying fetal position in utero with my hands outside the belly continues to improve and each time the fetus tries to kick my hands away as I push and prod, I can’t help but laugh with the expectant mother. I have hugged women in joy and in sadness, in comfort and in pain. I have helped women slowly lie down and held others up through labor pains they thought they surely could not endure. I have counseled, taught, guided and encouraged. Midwifery is not a profession for the weak – it enters your soul, ruins your sleep and occasionally takes over your mind. I am daily challenged and rewarded. Moreover, I can’t believe it is I who is taking on this journey. And as this nearly fatal academic journey comes to a close, the real journey is just beginning. I have great hopes for my Christmas letter next year!
The experiences of this year are not all held within the context of midwifery, however. In April, I took the national nursing certification exam and am…wait for it…officially a registered nurse. That’s right: Emily Lawson, RN. After receiving this license, I worked as a summer camp nurse at a camp in the Texas Hill country. I was the only medical professional for around 200 hundred people at a rustic camp 30 minutes from the nearest hospital and at least 10 minutes from cell phone service (we did have land lines). We had some scorpion stings, sprained joints, burns, ingrown toenails and multitudes of cuts, scrapes, bruises and splinters. I am now officially an expert tweezer! We also had the swine flu.
Yes, we were confirmed H1N1 recipients. It hit us 10 days before the end of camp in a sudden wave that went from one to twelve over night. On the worst day – before sick campers started going home for their seven day quarantine – I had 23 sick campers with at least 10 spiking fevers over 103F. I was rounding on them (in protective mask for those confirmed cases) in three different cabins (boys and girls quarantine bunks) every four hours taking temperatures, icing hot foreheads and armpits and distributing Tylenol/Motrin and meals. I think I got eight hours sleep in four days. My adrenaline kept me going. And despite living with fifteen of the invalids for several days I never got sick. Man, eating that street food in India really paid off. Go, immune system, go! It was an exhausting, challenging session and first nursing “gig”. But, for once I felt like I knew what I was doing, was appreciated (the directors, staff and campers made sure of that) and had something to contribute. It was such a meaningful change from my two years of feeling incompetent that I didn’t even mind that I wasn’t sleeping – and that’s a first!
As most of your know about and helped fund, my last month of summer found me building houses in Beius, Romania with Habitat for Humanity and then traveling in both Romania and northern Turkey. It was a perfect ending to a fabulous, and much needed, summer. The build in Romania was the most productive of the international builds I have done – we were working on a group of duplexes for former soviet orphans, now adults without support systems and often with very little education. The future home owners were fun and friendly, many with pretty good English. I learned that Romanian is the fifth Romance language, but alas, that connection didn’t help me speak it! Inspired by this build (and my past two International builds) I applied to be a Habitat International team leader and was accepted last week! In the upcoming months, I will attend team leader training and then begin to plan a build to Thailand for this summer. Let me know if you want to join the team – I deeply believe there is no better way to experience this diverse world in which we live.
So, as I finish up my last days in New Haven before heading to Houston for the holidays and next semester (will be at a Houston Birth Center for my full time midwifery integration) I simply take one assignment, one emotion and one interaction at a time. I am thankful for your continued support and love through this journey we call life. I could not keep dreaming up my wild plans without being surrounded and cared for. Thank you. Have a joyful and blessed holiday season.
Posted by Emily at 10:57 PM