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.