Breathe Easy, You've Found Me ((HUGS))

People will wonder why this blog is needed, why minority midwifery student? It's very simple actually; I was looking for this blog...but I couldn't find I created it. We all have unique experiences, and every experience, every story, can help someone else. I am a black girl from the hood at an ivy league professional school. That, alone, is reason enough to write. Somebody was looking for this blog. Someone wanted proof that what I'm doing can be done - even when you come from where we come from.

To that person especially, WELCOME.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gynecology Clinical Week 11

God was good to me today.

4 patients.

All young black women.

All shocked that I was going to be their provider.

All excited. Happy. Grateful.

All reminding me of why I went into midwifery.

All taking so long to get out everything that they hadn't been saying to their health care providers (I asked). Testing me...waiting to see if I lived up to who they thought I'd be based on that initial recognition. I am who I am, so I lived up to their expectations just fine. Really, it's easy - you only have to listen, know what they're talking about, tell the truth, and help them make a decision based on whatever options are available between the two of you.

I can do that.

Over and over again, all day, I can do that.

In keeping with the purpose of this blog, I wanted to say this: If you think it matters, you're right. If you're doing it because you think it will make a difference for those in your community - however you define that - you're right. The BS of playing the grad school game, the invisibility, the isolation of being one of a few in the profession at this's all worth it for this moment.

Tomorrow I'll talk about the patients as "cases" because I think they're good examples for learning. But know that I don't think of these women as cases; they are my purpose for midwifing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Coming Out From Under

I've been laying around, but reading other blogs in the mean time. Thanks everyone for checking in on me! I've been healing just fine physically from the dental surgery (stiches have been removed) but the rest of it...the emotional and mental, and the financial burden is taking a little longer. $618 could have been two plane tickets out of here...that would have been nice, but I'm also looking forward to a childfree family Christmas here at home with just the two of us. We'll have to do something grown and sexy.

Me and the man have been dissecting that day and it's tedious. The comments folks left on that post was a great jump off point for the conversations that had to be had. But because yesterday I had yet another "I've been reading your blog!" interaction, I have a bit of writer's block, and am still trying to find a way to not censor myself...yes, I realize the irony...the only way to do it is to keep writing. I had to go back and read my own anonymity post like 5 times. I guess part of the fun of reading blogs is trying to figure out who/where the person is. Apparently, once you figure out the school I attend (which is easy to do if you actually go here because I listed my course schedule not so long ago (doh!), figuring out which black student I am is not so fact it's easy enough to allow folks to walk up to you and confidently say that they read your blog. My friend pointed out that, duh, the rest of them aren't married. How simple was that. It's stressing me out, but what can I do? Keep it movin.

Anyway. I took a brutal Patho exam yesterday. Finished fast, but it was all a blur. The GYN exam over that massive number of units went well enough, and now I'm in the middle of preparing for 2 presentations. I'm ready for the semester to be over, but not ready for next semester to start so I guess I'll just take this moment for exactly what it is.

Thanksgiving was great. Made the 6ish hour trek to the inlaws. Ate good food. Spent an obnoxious number of hours braiding my MIL's hair. Went to see This Christmas. Did some day after Thanksgiving browsing, and didn't buy a thing. Didn't study one ounce of Patho, and didn't regret it. (Screw tests that happen the day folks come back from break!) Now I'm trying to catch up, but that's fine by me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Day in the Life of Humans

Went to bed Monday night with tooth pain. Took some tylenol and thought it'd be gone by the AM. Um, no. Woke up at 2 am in agony. Took some vicodin, little relief. Woke up three hours later, in serious pain. Tried to wait for that last hour to pass before I could take more vicodin. Lasted 15 minutes and caved. No relief, couldn't go back to sleep, so it's time to find an ER dentist. Realized I had a meeting that couldn't be rescheduled and had to go to school. Called around to find a dentist, found one who said walk in this afternoon after 1. Perfect, my meeting is at noon, office is near the school. I go to the meeting and by this time I'm swaying with pain. I'm nauseous from pain. Very close to passing out from pain. Didn't mention that by noon I had already taken another 1500 mg of Tylenol and then 2 Excedrine migraine because of course at this point the pain is no longer confined to my mouth, but to my whole face and head. Then it started to swell. Meeting went quick enough, she asked if I was ok, said I looked "faint." I said "yep" and promptly went to call a cab to take me to the dentist's office.

3 hours, 1 minor surgery to remove two impacted, infected teeth (1 of which was a wisdom tooth) with stitches and everything, and $618 later, the whole right side of my face was numb and I was told to make it to Walgreen's for my prescription and home safely. But of course I had to go to work right then, so I took some vicodin because I didn't have time to get my prescription filled. Left prescription for the man. Went to work, drooling, but numb and therefore pain free. I took the vicodin at 6 pm, I had to work until 10, so I figured the pain pills would wear off right when I was getting off work and that I'd still be numb anyway. No problem because the man would be there to pick me up and I could take my real pain pills and go to bed. But what I hadn't accounted for was the numbness wearing completely off right as the medicine was wearing off...oh. my. goodness. Tears.

But it's ok because I get off in like 15 minutes, no problem.

Except 15 minutes...25 minutes...35 minutes...45 minutes later I am STILL at work...waiting on the man to pick me up. I could've gone home 30 minutes ago, except I don't have any keys (which he knew when he dropped me off) so I'm waiting because if I go home, I still can't get in and it's COLD outside...and when the cold hits the side of my face...oh my. I'm thinking he's out gathering the items I need from the store (soft stuff...which I don't each much of, so it means sorbet, basically, some kind of heat source and my pain meds) cause that's where he was going when he dropped me off, and he'll be here any minute. I kept hoping. All the while, no more numbness, no more pain pills. Tears. Finally I get on a bus home. I figure I will sit at my neighbor's place until he comes home. OH! And he did not ONCE answer his cell phone. I called a million times, and then I thought...Oh! It's probably dead because I knew he hadn't charged it the night before. So I get off the bus...and there is our car sitting in the parking lot.

Tears dry up, FUMES commence.

I ring the doorbell a million times. He comes to the door. Groggy. I don't speak, I just walk to the kitchen looking for bags and pills. There are none. Looked in the oven because I asked him to bake me some sweet potatoes when he got home so I could also have something HOT and soft to eat. Oven ice cold. Still no words. Then, I look in the refrigerator, hoping to find something...anything. Something is leftover Chinese food from yesterday. Now, it's 10pm, and I haven't one morsel of food since 7pm the day before. Tears, tears, tears.

Then quiet RAGE:

"Am I to understand that you have not only not baked me a potato or picked up anything else soft for me to eat after I have come from having my gums sliced open, teeth removed and then sewed back up...but that you have actually eaten what was left of the food I did have knowing I haven't eaten since yesterday? And that not only did you forget to pick me up, but that you also have not even attempted to pick up my percocet? I just want to be clear."

"I fell asleep."

"Oh but not before you ate my shit though." I laugh, and that's the end of the conversation because I am too angry. too hungry. in too much pain to keep yelling.

I say "Ok" and exit to Walgreen's.

Today I dropped him off at work and he didn't get out. The cold has hit my swollen face to bring him there, and now I'm in pain again and I'm pissed.


"Are you picking me up today?"


He gets out the car.

And I will be there because I wouldn't give him the satisfaction of not showing up on a day when he's expecting it and therefore prepared with a back up ride. The vindictive me says wait until a month from now, when all is forgotten.

When it's 20 degrees outside, and he has no bus money.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Why is my Gynecology, Exam 2, over 10 units?

  • HIV
  • Gynecological Physiology
  • Vaginitis (yeasts, BV, etc) and STDs
  • Paps and Gynecological Cancers
  • Urinary Conditions (UTI, Kidney infection, etc)
  • Menstrual Disorders (PCOS, DUB, fibroids)
  • Breast Mass/Diseases (cancers, mastitis, etc)
  • Climacteric (Menopause)
  • Unplanned Pregnancy (including abortion lecture)

Unreasonable. Every time I step out of the fire, they throw me back in.

What can I be thankful for?

  • Some of the stuff on the exam will be stuff I've seen in clinical...that helps
  • It's the only exam I have next week (Monday).
  • Next week is Thanksgiving. (but for some reason teachers love to have exams the Monday following the holiday...tis year it's Patho. There should be a rule...)
  • I'm getting closer to the end of the semester...and I'm passing...although Stats exam was questionable this morning...

Another week in the life of a nursing student.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

And I Quote:

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world, far more revolutionary than socialist ideas, or anybody else's idea because if you have power, you use it to meet the needs of your community. And this idea of choice, which capitol talks about all the time, "you gotta have a choice." Choice depends on the freedom to choose, and if you're shackled with debt, you don't have freedom to choose."

MM: "But it benefits the system if the average working person is shackled with debt..."

"Yeah, because people in debt become hopeless, and hopeless people don't vote. See they will say that everyone should vote, but I think if the poor in Britain or the United States turned out and voted for people that represented their interests it would be a real democratic revolution. So they don't want it to happen, so keep people hopeless and pessimistic. I think there are two ways in which people are controlled; first of all, frighten people, and secondly, demoralize them. An educated, healthy, confident nation is harder to govern, and I think there's an element in the thinking of some people - we don't want people to be educated and healthy and confident, they would get out of control (laugh). The top 1% of the world's population owns 80% of the worlds wealth. It's incredible that people put up with it, but they're poor, they're demoralized, they're frightened and therefore they think perhaps the safest thing to do is take orders and hope for the best."

~An English man, former member of the parliament (?)

Yes sir. I've heard it all before, but still, thank you for saying it yeat again.

I only got halfway through Sicko, before I had to turn it off. It's not new, what's being said, but it's painful. It's everything you already know, but have tuned out so that you can be numb. It requires people to admit that they just don't give a damn, or that they're lazy. One of the conversations we had at happy hour last week was about this idea (brought up in a discussion about this book) that most people don't really know about poor people in this country...that people are just completely ignorant to the fact that so many children in this country are living at 200% below poverty, or what poverty in the U.S. looks like ( I think the figure is about 40%). But I (along with others) argue that this is simply not the case. People know. They do. Maybe not all, but most of them definitely know. I said, "I don’t think that folks are just that ignorant. I think we want to, have to, believe that they’re ignorant because otherwise we have to deal with the pain of knowing that they know and just don’t give a damn." That's something that came up again as I was watching this film. Our own government conspiring against us (us, conspiring against ourselves) on purpose, watching folks die, killing them by refusing to provide''s...nauseating? There are no words.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Wednesday Off

Yesterday was my day off from everything and anything I didn't want to do. Here's some stuff I did do:

:: Watched this beautiful engagement video. You can visit the photographer's site (and watch the video) here. I have a lot to say about materialism (my own included), extravagant engagements/weddings that immediately turn into failing marriages, but I tried not to take it there when watching this video (don't forget to turn on speakers). I just let myself watch this couple and their family, a full (10?) minutes of black love on screen. (Is anybody else starved to see more images of us like this?) I won't let myself comment about anything other than the moment (hours long) they were in and how wonderful it made me feel. I especially love the moments when their loved ones are holding hands around them and praying...10 different times...10 different rooms...10 times the prayer. The time and thought it took to coordinate. The hope everyone has for them and their future. It's beautiful.

:: Watched a lot of TV, mostly stuff I had saved on TiVo. I've been watching Gotti's Way which is about hip hop head Irv Gotti's life and family. I was all set to hate it, but I actually like it. Him and his wife are separated but he still spends a considerable amount of time at the house (he has a spot of his own as well). 2 episodes ago, they were arguing about how to raise their children. He said that the main responsibility of raising the boys should fall to him because he knows what it is to grow up male in this country, and she has no idea. He wants them to be ready, and strong...often telling them to "man up." She "hates" when he tells them that and wants them to have the space to cry and talk about their feelings, which he of course is not feelin.' She says the boys are afraid of him, and she told the boys that "daddy cries, too, and it doesn't make him any less of a man." He says that he does not step in and make comments when his wife is talkin to their daughter, "tellin her that women shyt" and he wants her to back off and give him the same room to raise "his" boys. Me and the man talk about this a lot, so it's interesting to be allowed into someone else's kitchen as they work through it. I also watch the Salt-N-Peppa show, which is less and less interesting to me as it goes one because I find Salt so processed (in that Pleasantville sort of way) that it grates my nerves. I caught up on a lot of TV yesterday.

:: I also watched some movies. Chuck and Larry Get Married, which was only ok, until the ending court scene which made me think of life and friendship in a good way...about what it is to be a partner to someone without the being in a sexual relationship...about how much you can know a person, love a person, be a pillar in a person's life, and not be their actual partner/spouse/lover. Diary of a Mad Black Woman, which I've seen a million times because I really love Kimberly Elise in anything she plays, and I'm also a Tyler Perry fan. Also, Reign Over Me (which was my second dose of Adam Sandler that day, and ALL I could take) which also stars Don Cheadle. That one was good. There were some snags...Sandler's character's inflammatory remarks, and the flatness of Jada Pinkett's character come to mind, but overall, good film about grief, and PTSD, our tendency to want people to grieve the way we want them to, and in the time frames that we set. About what we think it is to live a "normal" life and what's acceptable behavior for adults.

:: I went to happy hour with two women from my midwifery class to celebrate the end of physical assessment and the survival of a really tough couple of weeks. We also went out last week, but this time was a little different because last week we pretty much stuck to clinical topics (what we're learning/not learning, etc) And this week we waded into more controversial territory...our own lives, beliefs, and current events local to us. That's where it got a little sticky because we're all strong minded, opinionated black women. I welcome dialog because I feel starved right now, but I must say, I was still starved when I left, and not the least bit exhausted, which is how I usually feel after 3 hours of conversation with black women who are talking about their lives and how the hell to move through them. In short, I was a little disappointed. Happy for the time we shared, which was needed, but disappointed at our inability to really take it there. I ascribe this to not really knowing these women yet, to only having just met them, really. At least that's what I'd like to credit it to...because to say that it's probably more like, once again, meeting over drinks with black women who aren't willing to go the distance of getting into the kinds of conversations I want to get into is a little crushing. People almost always get that "oh no, here she goes again with that black talk/that race talk/that woman talk/that poor people talk" look on their face. Like I'm supposed to look at my life through a different lens...put down my brown shades. Step over the elephant in the room. Ignore the sighs from privileged black people who are tired of hearing about "other" black people who complain too much about what the hell is going on. Avoid these conversations, mute my thoughts, because they just wanna get along. Maybe it's the exhaustion. We're all so tired. Who has time to think about anything other than cells, germs, symptoms, treatments, and patients. Maybe that's how they feel, they just can't take one more thing to think about, it's much easier to agree to disagree, or say "that's just how people are," without doing the work of understanding why people...why WE...are the way we are. I think one of the women would talk about it, but takes a while to warm up, plus she's's's ok, you can get heated, my feelings won't be hurt, or maybe they will be, but so what, that's what happens when impassioned women you think what I'm saying is BS? Tell me. I think you're smart, and witty, and have some experiences that I don't, and I want to hear what you have to say! Or, in the case of the other, she's just tired of the conversation. But what can I say? I am who I am and she is who she is. Do you think what I'm saying is BS? I wish you'd just say that because I think some of what you're saying is safe, and over conciliatory . And I think sometimes defensiveness is a protective mechanism elicited to keep from having to feel all that stuff that you have only just been confronted with in this, your (first?) attempt at friendship with someone who shares the same skin as you but not the same upper-middle class/beautiful text-book diversity of color west coast neighborhood/very little KKK-esque racism upbringing...and does not feel the need to ignore that to make you feel better. I hope you continue to talk about what it is you liked and didn't like about the life you've lived. I also hope our conversations become messier, less safe, less defensive...more time goes on. But even if it doesn't, there is love, because even without naked, vulnerable conversations, we are here, black women, learning midwifery together and the journey is definitely smoother than it was for all of those women before us who had to do it as the only one in the program. I asked them about what they wanted to do after school...what kind of midwife? practicing where? with whom? why? These are the things that go through my mind all day long, and I'm longing to talk to some other folks who are thinking about it (I think I need to visit my neighbor, N, it's been a while and she definitely talks about these things...I miss you!) I feel like I have to be conscious right now of what I'm learning, how I'm learning it, and WHY I'm learning it because if you aren't careful, you come into these kinds of programs believing in empowering women (and yourself) to trust birth, but walk out believing in something that only resembles empowerment...But some people aren't worried about it all. They'll deal with it when it gets here. That blows my mind...I tried's not for me. I have found that my goals need to be written to be realized...otherwise I end up any-ol-where with any-ol-body doing any-ol-thing feeling like I'm wasting precious time.

I also know this about myself: I can very easily crawl into a hole of self-reflection, solitude, and (as one of my best friends calls it) arrogant aloofness (she, I, we haven't decided is this is good or bad), that serves me perfectly well. But I'm trying to be a person who dialogs more often, who makes herself more available for conversation...more social, less introverted...I am a 15-year only child, trying to learn to play with others, despite the fact that I like to play by myself. But I'm starting to think that the street lights have come on, and therefore it is time to go home and read a book.

Maybe I'll come out and play tomorrow...maybe I won't.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007 is MY BODY...isn't it?

I passed my Patho exam over genetics. There was one major concept that just confused me more and more as I continually looked at. I decided that I might miss every one of those questions (almost 25% of the exam), but I will not miss any others. My exam grade reflects that, exactly. A pass is good enough for me in this course. Every time I see the dean she asks me about Patho because I really, really struggled with Biomed (its precursor) and a LOT of students get their "you're a failure, drop out of school immediately" letters for this course. Last time she saw me she said "well it must be going ok, I don't have any letters with your name on them!" I laughed and said "so far, so good." Glad test two is over.

Yesterday I took a Primary Care for Midwives exam over headache, HEENT, respiratory, endocrine, and asthma. That one can go either way, but I'm close enough, I think.

This morning I took a physical assessment lecture exam over integument, peripheral vascular, lymphatic system, and musculoskeletal systems. A pass is expected. A couple hours later I did my final exam/comprehensive checkoff for physical assessment. A head to toe physical exam in 30 minutes, with explanation. That wasn't very good. The teacher kept stopping me in the middle of the exam, asking me questions about where things were...and then she said "inferior" means "above" and of course I corrected her, which was frustrating because here we are having this conversation in the middle of my check off when she was NOT supposed to speak or ASK any questions unless at the end I had more time left and she wanted clarification. I would have much rather lost the one point, than to take 3 minutes explaining it/answering her questions. And it happened more than once, so I ran out of time. And I said to her "I didn't think you were supposed to ask questions while I was doing the exam. There isn't enough time even without the Q&A" And she replied "well, I didn't always know what you were doing, so i had to ask to be able to give you the point." I let it go at that because I knew that some of the things that she was asking about might have been easier for her to see if my partner and I had taken off all of our clothes. So, long story short, I passed it, but that's it. Which is good enough, because I know I would have gotten an honors, had I not run out of time...which I wouldn't have done without her interruptions. All I can say is, I. am. so. glad. this. class. is. over.

I'm glad that knowing what I was capable of, and what I would have earned, is actually good enough for me, despite the grade. Some folks don't have the same peace of mind when they encounter the same injustice. (wink ;o) at my lab partner) But I wish her peace of mind, too, even it's only from having conquered the check offs, never to have to do them again.

I am trying to separate who I am, and know myself to be, from who they think I am and want me to be. It isn't easy. This whole semester I have fought to keep my clothes on in this class. As a future midwife, I'd like to think that I am adamant about women being able to advocate for their rights, and backing them up if they are new to such practice or otherwise find it difficult. So I found it very ironic that I was finding it so uncomfortable to fight for my own right to keep my clothes on each and every week while being "inspected, auscultated, percussed, and palpated." This is absolutely my right, so why all the internal conflict? The unfairness of taking points from my partner for my refusal to remove my clothing made it difficult. (luckily, this turned out ok for both us) but it has me thinking...if they had not conceded, and we did not continually have the same "your body is yours" midwife checking us off, would I have held my ground? When my partner's grade was on the line...would I have held my ground? If they said, you do this or you don't pass the class...if you don't pass the class, you must leave the program...would I have held my ground? Probably not. I probably would have taken off my clothes obediently (probably would have sued their ass soon after, but still) and that does not sit well with me. To think that I am telling/showing/ensuring women that they absolutely own the rights to their own bodies and I don't feel that I have the same rights...or, more clearly, I recognize the right-and believe in it fully, but would not have had the courage to demand it, makes me ill. Am I really so stuck on this institution that I would really do something I feel so physically, mentally uncomfortable with just to stay? What else am I willing to trade my basic right to my body for? Today, enrollment at ivy1...tomorrow my entire soul. Slippery slope.

But for now, I'm done. So I am going to breathe today, party tomorrow (cuz I just finished a CLASS, HELLO!), and get back to work on Thursday.

But for now...I have a class from 3:30-5:30 today, then...









You get the point...