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.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I Realize

In the comments of my post about stress and race and health disparities, dark daughta said this:

"I'm going back up to read some more. But I wanted to stop here for a quick sec:"maybe the reality is that they don’t want to"It's hard to ground in the reality that white domination IS about giving certain people a disproportionte amount of stress so that others may experience joy and well being.People of colour and poor people carry the burden so that white people and affluent people don't have to.That's the point of this sick little game we call domination.This is a screaming affair when we think that all the helping professions are peopled overwhelmingly with white people and with affluent people.This is the reason why things don't seem to get any better. This is the reason why it seems like such an awful struggle for those who try to make change from within these power structures.Most governing structures aren't designed to make change. They're designed to uphold it while maintaining the appearance that they are trying to make things better.So, they do their "research", they write their documents, their papers, they publish what they've "found". But that's as far as it goes because that's as far as it's supposed to go.This is where the dance happens. People with good hearts and some politics who understand that there is power inside certain helping structures, inside certain service professions try to utilize these papers to make change.But it's like trying to shoe horn a whales fin into a man's shoe. One wasn't meant to fit into the other. It just isn't supposed to happen.It's a ritual dance. An energy absorbing dance. An emotion screaming, hair pulling out dance.And when it gets to be enough, when the crying and struggling and hoping for some sort of substantial change inside any given system or profession gets to be enough for those who struggle, when enough is enough, they say you're burnt out.They never say, the system was designed in such a way so as to wear your resolve down, to grind you down until nothing remains and until you blame yourself for not being smart enough, strategic enough, enough of a player of the game. It's your fault you, not the system buckled.Don't buckle. But I think you realize what you're dealing with as you study midwifery, no?"

What you’re talking about is what I call one of my conspiracy theories. I do realize it…what I’m up against…the situation as it stands. I realize it’s not supposed to get better…it’s not supposed to change…it is my opinion that this is why we have committees in institutions, to keep track of how much “progress” is being made so that if at any point there is a threat of changing the balance, it can be stopped dead in its tracks. I realize that the illusion is that by working hard and playing by the rules (most times :O) things will begin to change. I realize that the master’s tools are not supposed to be able to dismantle the master’s house. I would love to create change by stepping completely out of the preset world of academic midwifery…in my dreams I am a homebirth midwife warrior who works with teenage women in my community…not just to catch their babies…but to talk…to listen…to teach…to learn…to live out my days surrounded by life and death and love…and then I would go to those places where the academics gather and say whatever it is I need them to hear and then turn around and walk right back out…home to my family, where I’m home schooling 5 kids with the man, and peeling yams, and then locking myself into a room of my own to write until I fall asleep with the pen in my hand until the phone rings and it’s LaCreshia on the other end saying can you come now? But alas, I am not that girl, that woman, just yet…and truthfully, maybe never. Right now I am still enchanted by a real size paycheck that will pay everything on time and leave a little for world travel…by owning a home of my own…by king crab and good steak…because I’m tired of quiet hours and no smoking and cars that break down and loans and ramen noodles. It’s a step up from roaches and slum lords and section 8, but, still, it aint. Even if I believe that you can never escape your class because it’s learned and it’s your teeth, and your speak, and the way you hold your silverware, your book…wait, if you’re holding a book at all…I still want it…because I’m tired of not having it. I want to know what it’s like to paint my walls without fear. To pick out my own refrigerator. To buy what I like when I like, even if I do see the lack of discipline it encourages.

Even in my frustration at myself for whatever I feel like I don’t do…I still realize that the system, this country, has failed me. Better, that it was never for me in the first place. That all I was ever meant to do was work for it, for them, until I could no longer work or lost my mind. I know that I’m supposed to break my back for it, and then be grateful that I was allowed to do so. And, I realize that what I’m doing can be considered just that. I realize it, and it hurts. I’m trying not to buckle, but it’s hard. I’m trying to play the game, but I’m tired. I’m trying to do the dance, but it’s not my kind of beat. And it becomes more and more obvious as time goes on, which is why midwifery in this place is so hard.

Yes, I realize what I’m dealing with, dark daughta, and it keeps me up at night. I am supposed to want all of this because that’s what it means to be a first generation college student. I’m supposed to want it because they never had it…because our car was always worth more than the house we lived in…because the schools never intended to prepare me for it… I am supposed to want it because I’ve just paid $100,000 to have it. And most days I do want it.

But there are days. Days when I think…but this isn’t even what you want…this isn’t what’s going to help the people you keep saying you want to help. How many black girls are gonna make it to the schools I’ll end up teaching at? Already they tell me my research interests won’t earn any funding, and until I have position in hand, I should read/write about this instead, because this is where the money is…so, really, what do I think I’m doing? It’s all swirling and I’ve been struggling with what to do and when to do it and why. About whether I really can make change from the inside, or if I really do have to do the work of creating a way of midwifing that speaks to me, specifically...and if I'm willing to give up the security of academia to do so.


Anonymous said...

A white woman... (well, Hispanic)... do I have a "right" to comment? Gonna anyway.

It's really hard when I hear the glowing idealism of young midwives-to-be. So many say how they want to "change the world," or serve a certain community. It's hard because I know the reality from living it - from idealism to what really happens.

What happens is you serve the women that come to you - and they tend to be middle class. One needs to make buckets of money or have someone who supports you financially in order to do births for free, which is exactly what would happen if you were working with those teens you visualize serving.

When I worked at Planned Parenthood, our clientele was pregnant teens (some as young as 13), 95% black, and inner city Hispanics, usually second generation, but sometimes first. we had CNMs do their prenatal care, a social worker to help with the on-going life struggles and a nutritionist to keep them on the right track food-wise. It was/is a great system that is still in operation here in California. Is this something that interests you? Those CNMs didn't do birth, though, but working in offices and clinics allows CNMs to *be* CNMs, but not have to contend with the randomness of call.

When I see idealism like yours, I try hard to never say anything to squash it. Who knows? Maybe you ARE the one that will "change the world" of midwifery and birth. Someone has to! Why not you? But, I have written about the difficulties of birthwork and get plenty of comments that I am a dream-squasher and how dare I inject the calling with such mundane facts as poverty, the struggles to find clients, how hard owning a business is, etc. But, I think women should know these things so they aren't blind-sided by them when (not if) they happen.

If I were younger and could do math, I would have been a CNM in a heartbeat. The financial security must be exquisite! I would purposefully choose to work in communities with poor Hispanic women, tending to the clientele of my dreams, yet still garnering a paycheck that would help me survive better than any money in homebirth allows me.

You, too, can work in the population you want while being a CNM. You will easily find the women you want to serve because CNMs in most communities get the poor women _ we've already had this discussion, remember?

I can remember the slow dawning on me that I would only be able to affect one woman/family at a time. It is painful to see what birth is actually more interventive, uglier and more marginalized that it was 25 years ago when I started. It's all we can do. Standing firmly in our space on earth and affect who we can. If that is a lot of people, as Ina May does, then great! If it is a few people, like we do in blogs, fantastic. If it is one person in our own small lives, we have done a wonderful thing for another human being.

Writing books and articles is probably the best way to affect change. Working through grant projects, to me, is a HUGE waste of time and expense when your skills could be better utilized in a hands-on setting. But, I know that in order to be "heard" by your professional peers, unless your articles are peer reviewed and published, no one but us froo froo fringe will even listen.

It is hard.

But you can do it.

Loving Pecola said...

What about this post makes you question your right to comment?

You're not crushing any dreams here...I don't believe my posts are seeping with idealism. In fact, just the opposite. What I see when I reread them in the brightness of day (cause I'm often typing the middle of the night when I'm awake) is that I am trying to figure out what I *can* do since I *know* I can't do it all. That is why homebirthing with teenagers is "in my dreams" (because I *know* that it would require my being supported financially by someone else, or another job on the side, or something else...and because I know that the life I think I want is not conducive to this...I pointed this out, in addition to the reality of there not being enough hours in the day to do everything I'd want to do in a perfect world...hence the reason for my writing all of this!) But I don't believe that thinking I can change the world is idealism, I think we all change the world everyday, in our own ways. So when I say I want to make change through midwifery, I'm not thinking worldwide overhaul of the profession! LOL

Yes I know about working at Planned Parenthood as a CNM, half of our class does their clinicals there with CNMs or WHNPs as preceptors! When you go through the CNM program, you'll probably do a (nother) stint there as well!I just happened to be placed at a university clinic. Sometimes it intrests me and sometimes it doesn't. A lot of times when I think about it, it's more about my considering to be an abortion provider, specifically. (Yes I realize that that's not the primary role of the CNM in that setting, but it's something I've been thinking about...even in the few states where that is within the scope of practice for CNMs)

Other times I'm sick of institutions and just want to do my own thing...and I'm not saying that in ignorance of the work required...

I'm glad you commented, experience is always welcomed. It's very fitting that you mentioned squashing dreams with never have to worry about that here. But I'm glad you brought it up because I've been meaning to say it to all of you...this is not the blog where you hold back what you think when commenting...sometimes I wonder if you guys are doing that...don't! LOL I understand this whole "censor what you say as to not influence someone's thought process as they're trying to figure out something very important for themselves," I have a friend who I think does it all the time, but that's not what this blog is for. Say whatever you want. Cause of course I'll be saying whatever I want! LOL

(Please remember this when I get down and dirty with myself about Casa, soon!)

Anyway, yes, I'm thinking about what I'm going to do with my life, and how I'm going to do it in a way that honors who I am and what I want, and then how that fits, works, or doesn't, with the rest of my life, especially the man and our future chiren.

Dark Daughta said...

Loving Pecola, thank you as always for thinking and asking yourself questions and for not being scared or put off when the reality of your choices doesn't line up with the path you thought you'd be on.

As I blog, I'm sometimes saddened as I read wimmin who desired particular things, who made choices that were the best possible ones they could make, which take them away in some ways from what they originally wanted...when these wimmin try to convince themselves through increasingly high levels of lying and denying, subtextually, that everything lines up. It's like that old saying: You made your bed, now you'll have to lie in it. It's as it they say to themselves I did this, it hurts my head, it's confusing, but I'll have to play like things are exactly unfolding according to my specifications.

It's so sad when I see that happening. There is no space of reflection created by them where they can acknowledge how layered and complex everything is, how contradictory life can be.

I think it's healthy of you to want to examine the various pieces and influences flowing through your life right now.

Even if the field of choices are imperfect, at least you'll be able to say you examined all the nooks and crannies.

Navel Gazer, I was curious about why you started off an otherwise solid comment in the way you did.

Are you saying you feel as if you don't have a right to comment?

Are you saying you don't feel on solid ground to comment?

Are you saying with your location as a light skinned hispanic woman it is uncomfortable entering a conversation and joining words with two black wimmin?

I'm curious because you sort of gave away your meaning, sort of handed it over to Loving Pecola or to me in a way that said maybe you didn't feel safe enough to actually claim your true meaning.

Was there something there that you could expand on or share so as to deepen the conversation and lend more meaning to your comment?

Sorry for coming across all facilitator like, Loving Pecola. I just want to understand where Navel Gazer is coming from.

Anonymous said...

You know, the on-going discussion about race and class and midwives who work outside their race and class and how they shouldn't because they *really* don't understand? That was where I was coming from. That maybe I don't *really* understand LP because I am not "in her shoes" race-wise.

I definitely wanted to say what I wanted to say - and feel what I have to say is valid - but I have a distinct feeling that what I say *is* seen as "*sigh* she just doesn't understand what I am saying because she is 'other'..." even though *I* don't feel I am "other" at all.

And yes, the discussion *was* between two black women and it felt as if I was eavesdropping and then leaning over and poking my nose in. And being white made it even more obvious that I (probably) shouldn't have been eavesdropping in the first place - and *certainly* not talking to you all when you were busy!

It's so funny (not ha ha) that I am even having these thoughts. I *rarely* think of race or class - and that is another discrepancy with you both... it comes up a *lot* and I am forced into thinking about it. I mean, my kids are bi-racial, for crying out loud! But, I feel so "other" in conversations with you both sometimes. (Other times, it is just women yacking.)

But, it's apparent that race plays a giant role in your lives - because you are black? And I am forced to reckon with your experiences through reading and responding to you. I am given glimpses into your lives that would never have come to be without reading your blogs. I am able to "touch" your experience through your words - and it is so different from mine! Yet, I believe, we three have MUCH more in common than not. (And I started to write "but I could be delusional in my white world," but re-considered writing that because it is rather racist and not so nice to my own Self.)

Does this help explain things?

Dark Daughta said...

Thanks, NavelGazer for answering my question and for being so honest. I appreciate it. I know that I have felt a strong sense of kinship with you in those moments when your voices play across the screen. I'm right there. Not so much with Disney. ;) But seriously, Loving Pecola, can I thank you for making this space by writing yourself so clear...and confused and willing to sit with it? I'm having a conversation I didn't start. That's so exciting! Navel Gazer, I told Belly Tales that I have an agenda. I want to talk to the midwives. You're all so KEY. The beginning of life on this planet. The guardians. I know I'm sounding romantic. But I can't help it. I think you're all so important in these conversations about race. I just get frustrated when I see some/most of you trying to creep back out of the room when conversations are happening. You're portals through which so much will emerge. I think that the conversation about race can work that way, too, if all of you are willing to take the risk and extend the leadership roles you already have in homebirthing wimmin's communities. You'll be part of the change I'm seeking. Please consider entering the conversations on my site whenever, both of you. Even as they're jagged and messy and emotional and scary, know that I create them in part for all of you. Love, darkdaughta...

Loving Pecola said...

I read and sat with these comments for a while (over the last day or so) and I'm still thinking. I had a mind to pull out your last comment NgM and start a new post with it, but decided against it. I was ready to respond based on my perception that you seem... irritated? frustrated? angry? the recent conversations about race and class and midwifery- it is the first two paragraphs of the last comment that bring me to this assumption...and at times I wasn't sure if it was sarcasm or *emphasis* that you were trying to relay. But later you just seem to be thinking, so I figure, "it ain't me, she's just thinking" So I don't know.

Anyway, not because I shrink from confrontation, but because I was thinking about how I don't want what you said to be the center of my blog (making it more about you and your feelings, and less about me and my thoughts/experiences), nor do I want to take what you said out of context based on my initial reaction to it, I decided not extract the comment. But I will say this: it very closely resembles the frustration that my classmates exhibit sometimes when I (dare) speak...their sighs...their impatience with my speaking my shit...funny because it almost always comes after them speaking their shit...not funny because I almost always let them say their shit first...I have two mechanisms for dealing. I either keep up the much needed/wanted convo, or I say "ok" and back the hell away...back inside my own head, where what I think can be cultivated without the direct influence of those who might believe they know more about me and my experiences than I do. Today I choose to engage because I feel like you have so much to say, so much I could learn, which is why I came over to your blog and thanked you for stopping by and put out a welcome for you to continue doing so...but I don't think it's shown up yet?

There used to be a third option, in the beginning - but it didn't last long...where I would continue talking, but on their terms, avoiding topics that I knew were problematic to them, only saying things after they had been well re-hearsed in my mind, so damn diplomatic, as PC as possible. I can be good at this when I want to, mostly when networking/making small talk with folks who are in a position to give me something I might need later ;o) But otherwise, I try not be in the business of censoring myself in that way...but of course there are days when the mask is on fairly tightly in order to keep me sane.

For me, YES race is a gigantic part of my life. But it's not only because I'm black. I know *plenty* of black people who don't talk about race AT ALL, and who get tired of hearing other black people (or any people) talking about it. It has more to do with really trying to understand who I am and why I am who I am, and for me, there is absolutely no way to get to that without talking about/dealing with race. (this is the shortest way I can explain it)

As always, thanks for your visiting, and input,

PS: And thanks darkdaughta for the encouragement to keep writing it down. Because of bloggers like the you guys, more and more of what's in my head is making it to the page...

Anonymous said...

I don't think I was angry or even frustrated when I wrote. I thing my emphasizing certain words could be seen that way, though, but I wasn't.

I don't know what to make/say about the race issues. Honestly, I think I would be one of the ones looking at you in class thinking, "Do you *always* have to bring this around to race?" - IF that is what you are doing when you say you talk about it in class.

Why *is* race so important? I know that when I move to Hawai'i, I will be in the minority and I know race is a HUGE issue there. I guess because I am white, I just don't understand so clearly what being black/Hawaiian/Hispanic/etc. has to do with anything/everything. But, whole groups of people are clumped together because of it, so there must be something. (I know. I need to write in my own blog about this... not trying to make this about me, but you *have* provoked thought and questions that I feel are relevant to your original post.)

Is my not getting it, racist? Am I baffling for not understanding why race is so important?

Allll that said, I keep reading you and Tenacious *because* I am trying to understand! There must be something to it all because you keep writing about it. If it's important to you, it's important to me.

Dark Daughta said...

Navel Gazer, I think I would be a little slack if I didn't point out that I think you know that race is important. I've been reading you move back and forth between defining as white and defining as hispanic. From what you've written it seems as if you've been "passing" as white for quite some time, perhaps for most of your life. In one of your comments on this post, I think you might have even referred to your children as mixed race. I think if race wasn't important, you would be able to give space for all of who you are, you would have been able to grow up doing this. I don't know a lot about how things are in the states. But one thing I do understand is that its not safe for Hispanic people just like it isn't safe for Black people. Only thing is, if you're light enough, it's possible to hide and to hide one's children from the ever present danger posed by white supremacy. I think this has always been a difficult conversation between black wimmin and other wimmin of color who have light skin. Our experiences of race are different because of the camo some have which allows them safe passage through the white world. Navel Gazer, I don't know who your family was, but they gave you protection, I think when they maybe either encouraged (?) or allowed you (?) to move through the white world in ways that would allow you to be understood as a white woman. Navel Gazer, most of what you've written here on this post resonates with the fact that race has been hugely important in your life, as a purposeful absence, as something that has been hidden away in plain sight. From this place of understanding as best as I can, the stuff you've brought with you, I'd have to say that race, as hidden, obscured, tucked away, rendered confusing, perhaps a little conflictual, is just as important for you as it is for Loving Pecola and I. I suspect that you may be trying to offer stuff that you walked in with to us very subtly. As I read you, I see you leaking bits and pieces of who you are. I think what you're leaking is important enough that it should have a place of honour on your blog. Don't hide these bits of who you are away in Loving Pecola's comments section. As long as you keep them here, you can only express and experience them at the backdrop of our experience as Black women. What you know, what you avoid, what you've been taught should be inconsequential about you and about your family deserves to occupy central stage without having to battle it out for validation.
Have you been ignoring the voices again, Navel Gazer? :)
Love darkdaughta

Midwife-to-be said...

At the risk of making an unrelated comment, I came to your blog in search of help. I, too, am a student midwife, and I have read your blog from time to time. I don't read it more because of a supreme lack of time (as I'm sure you can relate). I came to ask for input, and the discussion the three of you are having underscores my questions. I am faced with having to do a senior paper in the next year and a half. I am new to midwifery and one of the things that struck me is the lack of diversity, in both the practitioners and clientele, primarily in the homebirth arena. I was shocked the day I read that the VAST majority of subjects in the landmark homebirth studies are white. I was disappointed. In retrospect it seems like common sense, but I was disappointed nonetheless. As the white mother of a biracial daughter, I am supremely aware of my inherent inability to explain what it is like to live in this world as a black woman. I can't give her insights and information to get through the racism I know she will experience. So I am left to do what I can. I am toying with the idea of researching why (outside of economic factors) minority women choose not to utilize homebirth services. I guess my question is, would it be offensive for this type of research to come from a white woman, and do you think it would be useful? I am also looking for woman and midwives with intimate knowledge of the subject to interview. I realize you are busy, but I would love to get your input and honest criticism.