In which I should know to never say never

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I'm the oldest of 12 children. My parents experienced three pregnancy losses prior to having children and were told they would likely never have children. Once they finally had a baby (me), they never stopped...until they got to number 12 that is. The first four of us were born in four years. I turned 4 years old just two days after baby number four came into the world. My mother had her hands full and I quickly learned that, at age four, I was not a baby any longer. I would go to the cradle, pick up my crying baby sister, and rock her in the big green rocking chair we had.
 I grew up fast as evidenced by the fact that I caught my first baby and became a midwife at age 18. I have never felt cheated out of my childhood or grieved my early maturity contrary to popular stereotype of how I "should" feel. I have, however, discovered that I do have certain tendencies that are highly likely a result of birth order and having so many younger siblings. 
One of those tendencies being how I feel, or rather how I have felt in the past about teaching. I tend to think it's easier and way more time efficient for me to just do it (whatever it may be) rather than teach it, especially if it means you didn't do it right the first time and we have to go back and do it again. 
Because there is such maternal healthcare crisis, the world over, there is a huge need for midwives. In 2011, UNFPA and 30 partners published the State of the World’s Midwifery 2011: Delivering Health, Saving Lives. The report, the first of its kind, surveyed 58 developing countries that together account for 91 per cent of the world’s maternal deaths. The State of the World’s Midwifery Report found that up to 3.6 million lives could be saved each year in 38 of the countries surveyed, if an additional 112,000 more health workers with midwifery skills were practicing in communities and backed up by a functioning health system.” - WHO & UNFPA

I attended a midwifery school that placed a heavy emphasis on international midwifery and maternal health care worldwide and encouraged us, once we graduated, to go out and use the needed skill of midwifery to share Jesus.  Naturally, since there’s such a large need for midwifery, most midwives practicing third world find that the most effective way to help reduce maternal mortality is to teach and train midwives.  During our community development projects in school, we would fabricate plans to reduce the maternal morality rate in a specific area. These plans usually included training both national and international midwives.  I, however, made it very known that I did not like teaching, never wanted a student, and never intended to train midwives.

Most of the accomplished midwives I worked with while practicing midwifery in the US acted as prectoprs and trained midwives.  I was constantly being asked to precept for someone and encouraged by other midwives to take on a student. No. No. No. Always my answer, “no.”  I did not want a student.
After being in Haiti for a few months, it came up that Tara, one of Heartline’s long-term staff members and (almost licensed) midwife, needed a preceptor to be able to finish her clinical requirements once she returned from furlough.  I knew it was coming…the question in which I’m asked to be a preceptor and always answer without hesitancy, “no!”   Except for this time before the automatic “no” came a pause.  My thoughts, “It’s just a few clinical requirements.  It’s not like overseeing a student’s entire midwifery education.  I can sign my name on her last few required births.”   Okay, I resigned to my always “never” answer.

I’ve come to realize that my feelings toward teaching are not really how life goes.  (Duh!)   Easier and more efficient ways of doing things in life are usually never the soul-deep, fulfilling, or grace-giving ways of doing life.  So I’m learning, as a teacher, to slow…that my rush and easy efficiency only empty my soul of the depth and wonder of a moment. 
 I’m learning that,
In our rushing, bulls in china shops, we break our own lives.” –Ann Voskamp  
 And sometimes the lives others too.

I’ve come to love this teaching thing that I so insistently would never agree to. This morning I sat next to Tara and watched her do amazing things as she helped guide a new life into the world. I sat beside her while I watched her mad sewing skills do way more than sew clothes.  Last week Beth M. and I did the same thing. I love how much learning something new and conquering a new skill brings such a sense of deep thankfulness, accomplishment and wonder to a moment.

Ann Voskamp says, “In this endless cycle of grace, He gives us gifts to serve the world.”  I love the gift of teaching and learning in midwifery and I’m thankful that it indeed serves the women of this world. 

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