Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Shoes and Sadness

It’s been a year. And the feelings are big and the loss is bigger and the distance covered between where we are and where we need to be sometimes feels overwhelming.

 

As many of you know, one month ago our program was terminated. Without going into the specifics, no part of the decision makes any sense. Our program was fully funded through tuition and provincial funds. The university supplies one quarter of Canada’s annual midwifery graduates. We were slated to begin our placements within two weeks’ time. We had collectively survived long-term lockdowns, last minute relocations for placements, a clinical learning environment based around COVID precautions and so much more. We have proved our dedication and our resiliency. All to have our program eliminated by some professionals in suits who, due to a provincial government washing its hands of a publicly funded institution, did not owe us any kind of explanation. 

 

And so, I have processed my grief the best way that I know how. I’ve moved as loudly and as quickly as I can towards the making sure that there is knowledge and will and energy to move my classmates and I to whatever is next. And overall, whether by virtue of people doing their jobs or the pressure we tried to keep on them, it worked. My classmates and I are being transferred to other institutions where we will be able to complete our degrees. Our placements, we are told, will be honored. And we are nothing but grateful to the institutions who have turned on a dime to accommodate us at the last moment. It’s going to be ok. But it’s also very, very not ok. 

 

My response to unexpected, negative plot twists is to move quickly. I don’t sit and wait well, and I don’t have an overwhelming amount of trust in institutions to ensure good outcomes for me. But I trust my voice, and so much to the chagrin I’m sure of some, I’ve used it. When news of our program termination came, in the middle of our first day of a two-week clinical intensive I moved as hard and as fast and as loudly as I could in as many useful directions as I could find, only because it was the only thing that was soothing. 

 

Today is the International Day of the Midwife. Today, we received confirmation from our adopting institutions, which is what we had been waiting for. It is good news! What I had not expected was to be confronted on the flip side of it with a heavy grief. The weight of a midwifery program is heavy. Apart from learning to be responsible for the lives of birthing people and their babies, the learning is unrelenting, complicated, and on the whole not always kind to its learners. We see obstetrical violence. We see problems that are bigger than us. We see love and heartbreak and indifference, and we are forever being evaluated. It’s a lot. But we had each other. We knew who our professors were. We knew our support staff. We knew our “home” and we knew that at the end of all of this awful pandemic learning and pandemic year, that we would finish together. 

 

Except that now we won’t. Now those who have taught us and watched our growth…won’t get to share in our victory the same way. Won’t be the ones giving us our degrees. And it feels like such a stupid, unnecessary loss. Like a divorce that no one has asked for. 

 

It’s been an unimaginably difficult year. Though I know that “this is the place” I never bargained that things would be this hard, for this long. I’ve always envisioned the end as a victorious one. COVID took so much from us. I never thought that our program, our class, our network, would be taken from us too. 

 

And so today, on this International Day of the Midwife, I claim sadness for the cost of this profession. I claim sadness for people who wielded power over us, not understanding the thousands of babies our hands would deliver. I claim sadness for the communities who won’t be served by us or those who would have followed us. I claim sadness for our professors and staff who worked tirelessly to train us, and who were terminated en masse in a zoom meeting, without severance. I claim sadness for francophone and Indigenous students and communities, already underserved who will see even less linguistically appropriate care. And in my own vanity, I claim sadness over those damned red shoes and what they should have seen. 

Monday, March 2, 2020

In Which Sam Reminisces And Update is Given

It's been awhile, friends. Mostly because life has moved at a dizzying pace and we are only now briefly catching our breaths. And so, on this auspicious eve of my 33rd birthday, it seemed an apt time to reflect and update on where and how we have landed.

The end of July saw us leave our long time home and trek, like compass inept pilgrims, first west to the BC coast and the island to spend time with family before the big haul east. We relished our time in sunshine and with loved ones and, the day after Leo's second birthday, left for our trek east. We took the scenic route down through Salt Lake and across through Nauvoo which meant we were able to see a number of historic sights significant to our faith, as well as connecting with old friends we would never have otherwise seen. Two parents. Two vehicles.  Two drivers. Three kids piled into a five passenger vehicle because the van was temporarily converted to a cargo vehicle. It was an adventure and we loved most of it ;)

The end of August to mid December saw us settle into our new temporary life, and we completely fell in love with Sudbury. It had beautiful nature at our back door, wonderful people who came out of the woodwork, and an endearing sense of community. The semester was more or less exactly what I would have expected with six classes. It was intense and often insane and the library and I became best friends as I fell in love with the science and learning of midwifery. Jim proved an incredible partner who held the fort far better than I ever did, and after an intense week of six finals exams in seven days we made it through the semester and home to Alberta for Christmas. The lottery of clinical placements allotted me a summer placement, but given that our housing situation was only valid until mid December we opted to move in January to the greater Toronto area where my placement will be and where we hope to be able to stay for longevity's sake.

And as I sit here, writing and reflecting on where we have arrived one year after my last birthday it feels...so different. During our time on the road and again at Christmas the only word that accurately described my feelings was "un-tethered", purely because all of the tangible grounding influences in my life were temporarily gone. Posessions were in boxes, anything we were using was borrowed from family, we had left our friends and community, and there was nothing to touch to bring me back to a sense of center. It was temporary, but uncomfortable. And now as I write from my new kitchen in my lovely rental where I am once again surrounded by the comfort of my own things, the tether feels reinstated but the center is yet to be found. The city feels overwhelmingly large, the reason for being here not yet active (as I'm "off" until April), and we are largely unknown quantities in this new community. We will find our space and we will make our community and this experience of "newness" is par for the course. But the nostalgia for the community we left is always there. We are in flux. We won't always be, but it's giving us a fun chance to flex our juggling muscles.

Our life in this moment is so different than it was a year ago. Jim now holds the fort like a pro, and the kids when they crawl into our bed at night snuggle up to him. The nostalgia for the home and life we knew still hits all of us, but I feel so blessed for this new family culture we are getting to forge together as we rely more heavily on each other. The boys have managed the transitions like champions and my nightly prayer is that this new normal will continue to work and flow for us, and that if it doesn't that we might have the courage to readjust. So far, so good, and I am so grateful. Halfway through last semester a dear friend shared the quote "honour the space between no longer and not yet". It hit alllll of the feels. Because we won't ever be quite what we were a year ago, and we have not yet reached the summit of this mountain. But when we do? I swear I can already see the wind blowing up tufts of hair on my men's heads and feel it in my own. And that feels like a good centring point for now.

If you are in the GTA we'd love to see familiar faces and have room!


A snowy halloween


A date out to see Come From Away


Snuggles with the snuggliest dude



Baby Dino 


The aquarium and visit with cousin


View of the CN tower 


Walk along Lake Ontario



Sunday, July 21, 2019

In Which the Long Goodbye Comes to an End

I've moved a lot. Like...I think we are nearing the 20's at this point (but let's not count). It's part of the territory when your dad is a career naval officer. I have been exposed to so much good, and so much love, and so much world, and I wouldn't trade any of it. But as a dear friend once indicated, it means pieces of my heart are scattered far and wide, and that goodbyes are my least favorite thing.

This one has been a long one. The wonderful blessing of having so many transfer credits was that we were miraculously able to stay home for year. And it's been a full one of adventures and late nights and hard work and happy tears. It's also been a year of dialing back and carefully relinquishing and preparing for a big shift. And as I sat in my beautiful church congregation today for the last time, and as I write at this kitchen table in my mostly packed house, the length of the goodbye doesn't make the sting any less.

Living in this place, nestled in the northern part of a northern country in the northern hemisphere with a culture and land mass that, before our arrival had been largely foreign to me, it has become home. A home to this girl who regards the concept pretty fluidly. 

And so it only felt appropriate to pen an ode to this time of our lives. In this special place we brought three little boys into this world. We leaned on each other and our friends heavily. We laughed and learned and felt so much love. That is so much of what makes a home, isn't it? Laughter and love. And there has been so much of it here. 

A wise and beautiful friend had a poignant moment during a time of change in her life once, where she was reminded the importance of looking back even as she moved forward. We don't know what the future will bring. We hope that it will be a stronger family and another degree. We are excited and optimistic mixed with a healthy dose of anxiety. But with this week of goodbyes and so long's and good lucks I look back and my heart is overflowing with love and gratitude for this season of our lives. For the friends it brought us, for the reliance and trust it has fostered in each other, for the lives it witnessed us bear, for the growth it allowed for and the lessons it taught us. 

Life is good friends. And hard. And magic and heartache and joy. Today I'm just leaning hard into gratitude for all of it. 


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

In Which an Overdue Update is Given

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Life is busy. We like it (usually) that way). And it isn't likely to slow down anytime soon.

Acting on more than a few nudges and promptings and with a five month old baby, last January I did something out of my comfort zone, and applied two of Canada's midwifery programs. I think I did it partly so that I could say I tried, and put the dream to bed. Sane people don't go back to school with small kids in their 30's. They don't move across the country and take their families with them. Besides, there are only six midwifery programs in Canada (one being open only to residents of Quebec) and they are very competitive with an average of 400 applicants vying for, program dependent, 12-30 seats. It wasn't going to happen and I was ok with that. But I needed to stop researching programs at 3 am while nursing babies because I don't think most sane people do that either.

And then the unthinkable happened. I got in. And a world of possibility, anxiety, and adventure opened up like a chasm demanding consideration. Jim had been 100% on board since I had applied. "If you get in of course we'll go" he'd say, while my risk averse self kept saying "no we'll just think about it". God bless husbands who push their wives in the right direction when they need to be pushed. The stars mostly aligned, they credited far more from my first degree than I ever hoped they would, and so we have managed to live one more year in Alberta before the big move. It's been full. I've still been working two days a week and taking distance courses to fill gaps and most nights have seen me working until 11 pm on assignments because trying to study with three small ninja turtles awake just isn't possible on any planet. But I think I know how lucky I am to be able to work this hard for something I want this much.

I remember vividly Leo's birth. There was a female resident there that day. Just a young thing, she looked to be in her early twenties but she was excellent. I remember lying there on the birth bed holding my newborn and feeling the most ridiculous yearning to be her. To be there as women delivered their babies. To guide them through the process. To be their care provider. I brushed it off as ridiculous, because it was. But it just wouldn't go away.

Twenty months later here we are. Still ridiculous. Still unable to brush the feeling off. All of the coursework I can complete before we can go is done. We have a summer to make memories and enjoy the midnight sun and love on all of our friends before we turn our lives upside down. And it feels almost like being 40 weeks pregnant again when I couldn't wait to see what life would be like on the other side and I knew my body had done all it could do. You know it'll be different. You just don't know how.

The anxiety is real, but writing has always let me put my feelings in places that somehow made them more tangible and thereby more manageable. I know that there is no small amount of risk being taken here. I know that I'm relinquishing my status as a primary parent to a rockstar partner, and that that handoff is going to be hard for me. I know that the program is rigorous and that we will all pay a price for me to do this. Writing that last sentence I can't help but pause, because I don't know if that's fair. Daring in this kind of way means I may fail. We may fail. But there's lessons even in that.

Send your prayers over the next three years. We'll need them, and we'll love you for them.

PS Lest you forget what any of us look like, here's some snapped photos from a recent trip to Jasper. I'm not the greatest at taking photos, taking risks is the current project I'm working on ;)







Overheard

Life is busy. Like real busy. This morning we did the standard mad morning rush for school. Part of Adam's school curriculum includes swimming lessons with his class. While packing lunches this morning I asked him to grab his swimming stuff.

Spoiler: he didn't.

We realized this halfway to school. Today was a work day for me (I work two days a week at Adam's school) and so turning around to grab it wasn't an option. The best I could pull off was when I took Ben (who's in morning preschool at the same school) home for lunch to the babysitter (Auntie's who babysit are angels sent straight from heaven) and grab it then. The timing was gonna be tight. Like I said, it's busy. I was pretty sure I could pull it off but I wanted to let, if nothing else, the potential for natural consequences to sink in for a minute.

And then, as concerned as a six year old who might miss swimming with his class could be he said: "mom can we say a prayer that you can get them to me in time?"

Mom heart melted. "OF COURSE WE CAN PRAY"

Adam: "but what if it doesn't work?"

A conversation on faith ensued. You only need a little bit of faith to work miracles. But knowing it might not work is part of the gamble, and acknowledging doubt is part of practicing faith.

Little brother Ben to the rescue "Mom, don't worry I have LOTS OF FAITH". If it was a competition Ben wins on pure exuberance alone.

Adam doing his best to grasp the concept: "no too much isn't good either Benny! You have to have just ENOUGH faith"

Further conversations on faith and a prayer ensued.

The boy got his swim trunks by the skin of his teeth.

Hopefully lessons on both faith and listening to mom made a dent.

Life is busy. But it's pretty great.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Overheard

After a late night out with the girls, I was struggling to get out of bed. The boys had been parked in front of the TV for about 10 min when Ben had done something to offend Adam. Adam runs upstairs looking for a referee.

Adam: "mom! Benny did (I can't remember what)"

Me: "ok. Tell him to stop and if he does it again, I'll take care of it"

Two minutes pass, Adam runs back upstairs.

Adam: "ok mom. It's time to kick Benny".

I'm suddenly no longer sleepy.

Me: "What? Why would I kick Benny?"

Adam: "...well you said you would"

Me: "I said I would TAKE CARE OF IT. I'm not the Mafia"

Adam leaves disappointed.

Luckily, they do generally get along remarkably well.

An Auspicious Eve

It's currently 11:09 on March 2nd. To most, this isn't particularly meaningful. To me (a general non celebrator) it signifies the eve of my 31st birthday. THIRTY-FIRST. And I find my feelings are a bit of a mixed bag. I am getting older. This cannot be denied. I am also a fully fledged, fully exited of my twenties adult (and have been for a year. It's just hitting hard at the moment). I feel like this should mean that I should have my s*** together, but sadly that's not really the case. I still have THREE family portrait sessions, beautifully done, and only one photo hanging on my wall, because the others didn't fit the frames properly and I couldn't be bothered to reprint and get hanging nails. Homemaking skills? Nil. They say the grass is greener on the other side (yes I know you should just water your own), but so much of my twenties seemed to be looking forward what would come next, that I feel like I should be more educated/eloquent/well read. And I DEFINITELY need to figure out makeup. This part of my teen years was completely skipped over and I'm realizing that my days of being able to coast on what my mamma gave are coming to an end.

In short: I'm a hot mess.

Realistically, I shouldn't be surprised by the above statement. But even as I type, my inner advocate is rising like the warrior she is. I managed to scrape together a degree with no student debt. I managed to put a pretty smart guy through law school. I also played a pretty big role in getting him a pretty great job. I managed and was blessed to birth three hilarious, rambunctious, healthy and interesting kids. And I have even managed to juggle some kinda cool part time work into that mix some of the time. Bonus points for keeping four extra people alive ON THE DAILY and not losing my cool more than a handful of times a week despite doing more on less sleep than maybe I ever have.

Alright 31. I may not have accomplished all my goals before your arrival. That second degree is slowly edging off of the back burner. And those family photo's are definitely not going up by midnight. They may never. But when the grandkids find the photos buried in some box at the estate sale, at least there'll be evidence of some kind.

The first 30 were relatively classy and totally awesome. Bring it 31. I'm ready for you.