Friday, November 30, 2007

You thought you were going to get through this month of daily posts without some looooong, rambling reflections? You were W-R-O-N-G.

During the week that Nate was off work, I was busy working myself into a lather about our future. I felt my stomach getting tighter and heavier as the week wore on. I lost sleep a few nights. I couldn't stop thinking about all the choices in front of us. Now that our lives are back to normal, I have less time to obsess over my ideas and plans and worries. But I am still mulling everything over. And today I intend to subject you to all of my jumbled thoughts on these matters. I make no promises about clarity or flow.

On my future...
I suddenly have an urge to grow up already, finish school and get a career going. I think this was all prompted by the movie I saw recently, which I wrote about here.

Before seeing the movie, I had been toying with the idea of going to art school. This year I have been focusing more and more on my own creativity, and have learned to really value this part of myself. Opening the Etsy shop has been fun and affirming. Still, I never have enough time to tackle all the projects I want to. And I suffer from a great lack of confidence in my work. Sometimes I look at other people's craft blogs and feel like such an amateur. And there is soooo much I would love to learn how to do. I thought going to school for art would help me with all these things. I saw myself learning tons of new techniques, testing my creative metal, increasing my artistic confidence, etc. I didn't have big plans for my art degree... perhaps just continue to work at the etsy shop, trying to sell my creations. Perhaps get a real job, like running programs at a museum or something. I don't know. I mostly wanted to create more, and create better.

Then I saw The Business of Being Born and decided I want to be a midwife. I think most of you know about my two births. Hell in the hospital, heaven at home, to sum them up. So I am certainly an adamant supporter of homebirth. During this movie, I cried tears of joy during each homebirth. (Watching the hospital births left me feeling numb and disbelieving, just like my own.) So, I sat there, watching these amazing women and their amazing births, thinking about how amazing it would be to participate in, or really just to witness, birth on a regular basis. The midwifery bee was in my bonnet and it would not fly out. I started to think about it constantly. I stayed up until 3 am one morning researching schools and career paths. I started to think maybe I could do this. And maybe I should. And I think I will.

Even writing about it now feels weird. I feel like a distant onlooker. It's strange that this is me writing and that I'm suddenly about to embark on such a huge change. It is scary. I am scared of midwifery to some extent. The responsibility seems a little heavy. What if something went wrong? Scary. They teach you how to deal with that in nursing school, right? I'd need a whole class in it, I think. What is most scary, though, is just the thought of changing our lives. I'm not big on stress, and me going back to school could potentially be pretty stressful. I don't want to throw our lives into chaos. I want to create a calm, warm, nurturing environment for my guys... will I be able to do that if I have tests to study for and chapters to read? Will our house be even messier than it is now? Will I ever put my hands to another crafty project again? Or am I making too much of it? Will part-time schooling allow me to get this degree without much of a strain on my family? I don't know. That is the theme of this entire encyclopedia-length post, you'll see.

I have a lot of worries and reservations, yes. But there are some up sides to this plan. If I start nursing school soon, I will be able to take advantage of our proximity to family. I'll need my mother in law's help with childcare, for one [huge] thing. And I do think practicing midwifery would be pretty awesome. Sharing that pivotal moment in people's lives. I think it would make me feel alive and connected with people in a very meaningful way. Hopefully, that passion and meaning and connectedness would rub off on my boys, even if my career meant a little added craziness in our lives.

On my children's' education...
We have been strictly public school supporters for most of our parenting careers. We always thought we'd send our kids to public school, just crossing our fingers that we'd be in a good school district (or move, if possible). This year things started to change. S is attending a nice little co-op preschool down the street. Last year I loved his teacher to death. Could not have been happier. This year... well, his teachers are both sweet. I know they love the kids. And they are doing their jobs, preparing the kids for kindergarten. But I have been disturbed by some of the trends in the classroom. There has been a huge increase in crowd-control methods. Don't talk now. Sit down. Sit still. That's enough paint. I think your picture is done now. Don't squirm. Don't fidget. Don't make a peep. I am constantly hearing these refrains as I help out in the classroom, and it makes me sad. I want my boys to be able to be kids for as long as possible. I dread sending S to a kindergarten classroom where the teacher is so outnumbered that crowd-control techniques are the law. I want his spirit and creativity to be fed, not crushed or even controlled. I want him to love to learn, and to be self-motivated in his pursuit of knowledge, not depend on a teacher to dictate when and what to learn.

We've also started to be a bit concerned about him socially, as well. It's hard to find words for these concerns. Let me put it this way: Most boys S's age are watching Power Rangers and Transformers, while S still loves Sesame Street and Teletubbies. I don't mean to get into a whole, accusatory thing about tv. Am I amazed at some of the things parents let their kids watch? Yes. But do I necessarily think this makes them bad parents, or results in bad kids? No. I have a friend whose 5 year old son watches everything his daddy likes on Cartoon Network, including some things I would not allow S to watch at this point. And he is the sweetest, most gentle kid you could ever hope to meet. Clearly, the things he watches are not affecting him in a significant way. But some of the dudes in S's class this year are different. They are, dare I say, a little mean. They are tough and he is tender. And I am terrified that if I send him to public kindergarten in the fall, he will be crushed like a little bug. I know he won't literally be crushed. But maybe he will be forced to toughen up, to put on a hard shell and shove down his authentic feelings, his authentic self. That is a big fear I have at this point. I want S to grow and change as he needs to, at his own pace. I don't want any forced changes, brought on prematurely by peer pressure on the playground.

Let me just interject, here, that I know there are many, many public school teachers working their butts off to give kids a great educational experience, my mom and brother among them. I don't want to be down on teachers AT ALL. I do think the system is pretty flawed, though. And I guess, maybe I’m just a hippie who has completely different objectives for her boys’ education than the public school system does. They want kids to pass tests and learn facts and get jobs. I want my kids to feel free and create and love to learn. And then get jobs. Maybe I’m crazy.

So if public school is worrisome, time to look at some alternatives, right? We visited two private schools last week, and we loved them both. They are in Bloomington. There is also a Montessori school in Peoria that I have checked out online. Haven’t had a chance to visit, but feel confident that I would love it. I’m pretty smitten with Montessori philosophy. The problem with these schools is, big shocker, their price tags. Pretty darn costly, especially when compared to the virtually free public school option. Could we afford it? Perhaps, if we really buckled down on a belt-tightening budget. But do we really want to turn back the clock financially, back to before Nate scored this great new job? I am torn. The prospect of S attending one of these schools is beautiful to me. But it’s depressing to think of wringing our hands over every dollar for the next five years, wondering which of us most needs a new winter coat that season. Another financially quandary: if one boy goes to this fabulous private school, the other will need to go too, right? And then things could really get tight.

I have been toying with the idea of homeschooling as another alternative to public school. What a monumental shift in thinking. I used to have a less favorable view of any homeschoolers, let alone considering it for my own children. I think my low opinion of homeschooling was the result of a family full of public school educators and several encounters, in my youth, with some homeschooling kids who were, how shall I say? Not very bright. My view of homeschooling has changed a lot in the past few years. I started to read SouleMama blog, written by a homeschooling mother/crafter/author who I admire tremendously. From there I stumbled upon other home schooling blogs. Also one of my friends, for whom I have the utmost respect, told me she plans on homeschooling. So I’m seeing it in a very different light now. Done well, I think homeschooling is a very loving and gentle way of life. I think it allows children to be children. It gives kids freedom to explore their own interests and develop their creativity. I like all those things about homeschooling.

The thing I don’t like so much is that it’s ME that has to be at home with them. And I don’t know if I’m cut out for that. I mean, don’t these homeschooling parents ever need a break from their kids? It’s hard for me to wrap my head around five or ten more years of being at home all day with the boys… To be the kind of homeschooling mama I’d want to be would require a lot of change on my part. Like, changes in my character. You know, things like more patience, more tenderness, more flexibility, etc. I should probably be working on developing these traits just to be a better mom. But I don’t want to embark on a journey for which those traits are essential and just cross my fingers that they come. Especially when something as important as my boys’ education is at stake. The bottom line on the homeschooling is that Nate doesn't want [me to] do it, and neither does S. I’ll probably keep reading my homeschooling blogs and admiring those who are doing it well. But I guess it’s not for us.

The last thing I want to say about deciding where to send the boys for school is that I know it is a problem of privilege. That I can even think about alternatives to public school means I am extremely fortunate. If we do end up choosing public school, I know the boys will be okay. They will survive. Surely they will find other little boys who are tenderhearted there, and maybe they can stick together. Public school is not the end of the world. I know that, and I don’t want to come across as a stuck-up brat. I went through public school and was not traumatized. What I’m talking about here is not protecting my sons from some kind of danger. I’m merely thinking about the very best option for us. It’s not a choice between bad and good, it’s a choice between good and better. Like I said, I have always believed that public school would be good enough for my kids. Now, as the first day of kindergarten approaches, I am wishing my kid could have the very best. I guess it’s only natural. I wish I knew what to do.

On the possibility of moving...
After we left Chicago, I thought I might die from a broken heart. I missed the city so much, so viscerally, so intensely. I catapulted down, down, down into a postpartum, postChicago depression that lasted three long months. After I resurfaced from those dark days, I still really loved and missed the big city. Nate and I both did, and we talked about moving back, maybe in 3 years or so.

Then, once again the internet made me question all of my plans. I read several blogs by women who live in the country, whose children have oodles of space on which to run around, whose families are at one with nature and the seasons, etc. I started making offhand comments to Nate about how we should move to the country so the boys could breathe. He dismissed me as completely nutty. Then, one beautiful autumn afternoon, Nate and S had a grand time running around in Nate's parents yard (they live in town, by the way). They came inside, smiling and rosy-cheeked, and Nate said, "Maybe you're right about moving to the country." I laughed and thought he was kidding. He was not kidding. Then I thought, "oh my gosh, we could really move to the country. But should we move to the country? SHOULD WE???" I have not been able to stop thinking about it since then. And now I am writing a book about it, which you are currently reading.

The way this country move works into our overall plans is this: If I decide to go to school for nursing/midwifery, we would like to be closer to Peoria. There are a couple of nursing schools there, and it would be closer to my mother-in-law than we are now. She is an integral part of the plan, as I must feel that T is getting the very best childcare available while I am in school. And is there any better childcare than a grandmother's childcare? No, there is not. She'll probably love that little monkey better than I could. But I digress. After I finish nursing school, we could stay in the Peoria-area, or (my preference as of this moment) we could move back to Chicago.

I like the idea of my boys getting tons of fresh air every day, of running until their legs give out, of splashing in puddles, of studying tree bark, etc, etc. But what if my country itch is just a misguided romantic illusion? What if we get a country house and my boys don't want to explore the great outdoors? Also, if it snows will our roads ever get ploughed? Will there be scary, wild, rabid animals? Will we be able to find a house that isn't falling apart? Are houses in the country all old and drafty? I don't want to be freezing cold all winter.

I am in love with the idea of more space for the boys, especially when they are young. But, as you can see above, I have a lot of reservations. Another big concern is whether Nate and I could find time/energy to take care of our outside spaces properly. Nate says he isn't worried, but I can't understand how we'll find time for it, when we can barely find time to keep the inside of our home tidy and in working order.

Here is the final question I'm going to allow myself to ponder in this post: If we spend some time in the country now, would the boys hate us for moving to Chicago later? Would they feel terribly claustrophobic in the city? If they don't want to leave central Illinois, will we stay? And will I hate myself for giving up my dream of getting back to the windy city? Ack! I just don't know.

For the past few weeks I have been going out of my head with the prospect of all these decisions. They feel huge and life-altering. And why are there so darn many at one time??? I don't know how we're possibly going to decide all of these things without the aid of a crystal ball. Writing them all down is a start, though. So that' s done.

If you've made it this far, I commend you. Or I pity you. I'm not sure which.

Also, this is my last post for the month of November! Posting every day was not that hard. It was even a little fun.



Anonymous said...

I thought I'd offer a little bit of a reality check for you regarding midwifery. Now, I am not trying to totally discourage you, but I do feel you need to have an idea of what it REALLY is like being a midwife and going to school with kids.

I interview slews of women who tell me they want to be a midwife, much for the reason you said: to be with women at the pivotal moment of birth. I need to tell you that being at a birth is the tiniest fraction of being a midwife. And if you are a Certified Nurse-Midwife, it REALLY is a teeny part.

As a midwife - and especially as a CNM - your life is filled with politics, doctors who think you belong at home or only as nurse instead of "managing" labors and births, a zillion phone calls, text messages and emails from clients every day, leaving your family for DAYS on end tending to clients and, among many, many other things, putting you and your family last behind every client and your work.

Midwifery is a calling, not a vocation. Midwives make so little money, it is just sad. If you want to be a hospital CNM, that will garner you more cash, but you will also have a buttload of payments in malpractice insurance.

Nursing school is at least 3 years mega-full-time. Then you work for at least 1-2 years in L&D before they let you into the Master's portion of the Midwifery program. Since you are looking at moving, I'd encourage your finding a place that also has a midwifery school, not just nursing.

I missed Thanksgiving this year. I've had babies on Christmas, New Year's, every one of my childrens' birthdays and my partner's more than once. I've missed family reunions, fancy dinners and a zillion dates.

What I've gained has been spectacular! Don't get me wrong. But, if you are in this for the "beauty of birth," I encourage your being a doula instead. Midwives, especially CNMs, *struggle* with the issues of power, politics, supervision, etc. It ain't pretty in nursing school, either. It is HARD and takes MUCH more time than anyone would ever tell you about. If someone told you, you'd never go.

SO... if after ALL that, your heart is still driving you full force into midwifery, then it was meant to be and NO obstacle will get in your way. You have to be in a place where you explain to the family that you are leaving -again- and they will get on without you just fine. It's the way of a midwife. :)

Feel free to email me anytime. And read my blog for more insight to midwifery. Because NONE of what I said even touches your fears of "if something goes wrong." It does, it sucks, you cry for a year and you keep moving forward. It is the reality that you hold 2 lives in your hand at every acceptance of a client.

I hope you see my gentle eyes looking at you while I say all of this.


Maiasaura said...

Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to share your experiences with me. You certainly have given me a lot to think about.

Can I ask you a few questions? Are you a CNM? And, how did you know you wanted to be a midwife? I'd be interested to hear how you made that decision. If I don't hear back from you here, I'll try to email you soon.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Licensed and Certified Professional Midwife - in California. In CA, you have to have 3 years of school plus an apprencticeship in order to become an LM. CPM is another designation nationally. It took me 15 years to finally be emotionally and spiritually ready to be a homebirth midwife after watching a mom die in the hospital in 1987. I've attended about 900 births now and have been IN birth for 25 years. I've happily worked side-by-side with CNMs and LMs from Florida to Texas and now here. When I worked in the hospital as a doula (before the word existed!) in 1987-1988, I worked with amazingly kind docs and CNMs and RNs who taught me *much* about birth, hospital and normal alike. Unfortunately, there is no one left to take that time and I cherish it like you can imagine.

I was dragged kicking and screaming into midwifery! I never liked kids (except my own), and certainly didn't like bodily functions! but kept being invited to births as a support person for single friends and then even married friends. I'd already had one kid in the hospital (in retrospect, a horrid birth... then, I thought it was great!) and then when I had my second, an unassisted homebirth (the craziest thing I ever did), it was like the sea had parted and I KNEW that I was supposed to BE in birth.

I began reading voraciously - I couldn't stop - and the tide of being invited to births gained momentum. I had two young kids at home, but left anyway.

When I had my third in Germany, it was easier because I had someone else to nurse my baby while I was at births (she became my partner and now we are together 21 years) and I just kept going and going. I always found an "in" to get to births. I'd help soldiers for free. I learned Spanish so I could assist migrant Hispanic women. I volunteered at shelters. I just kept going and going and going.

I went to midwifery school in El Paso, Texas (Casa de Nacimiento) and got a license in Texas, but still wasn't ready to use it as a solitary midwife. I worked as an assistant to CNMs in a birth center in Orlando for a couple of years (attended about 200 births there) before, eventually, moving back to San Diego and getting my license there, while also volunteering at a local hospital with a doula program in place.

I've been a homebirth midwife for 4 years now and it is HARD. Blessedly, the kids are grown - 25, 23, 21 & 21 - so I don't have childcare issues, but my apprentice just had her 9th baby and it is a distinct challenge (I see it ALL THE TIME) going to births with young children. When I was working and the kids were younger, there were times the kids were alone because no one could be with them. I parented by phone (no cell phones, either, in the olden days). It wasn't fun, but it was my reality. Gloriously, they have great memories of my working and aren't resentful at all, but there are *plenty* of children of midwives who are extremely angry about their mother always getting up to go take care of someone else and missing their recital or school play or, or, or. We/They just hope they eventually understand and accept their mother's calling.

Does that help?

Bonnie said...

My mom did the whole back to school thing with three little kids. That is why I was doing my own laundry and knew how to clean a toilet before 4th grade. I think we're better for it.
The other thing - when you have a real yard to play and live in the house isn't always quite as messy because the kids are outside playing all day. (Or was that just us.)
Two things to think about.

Maiasaura said...

Barb, thanks for sharing more of your story. It's so interesting where life can lead, right? I'm subscribed to your blog now, so I'll keep following your stories.

Bonnie, I think those are both great points. Thank you.

Jay M. said...

I loved that you stuck with the daily posts for November, and I looked forward to reading them every day.

I don't have much insight about possibly becoming a midwife, but as far as schools are concerned, I wouldn't give up on public schools just yet. I think the concerns you have are valid, and I definitely appreciate wanting your kids to have the opportunity to be creative and remain kids for as long as they can. But we all went to public schools growing up, and I think we turned out all right.

I think you have a fairly unique perspective being in the classroom regularly, and you get to see firsthand how the kids are being taught. As a mother though, it's your instinct to be protective. Observing someone else essentially raise your child every afternoon, you'll probably tend to notice all the things that are done differently than you would do them. It must be tough.

There are also more alternative public schools, that focus on more individual education, creativity, and life skills.

This is the site for the school I went to growing up. It was a little different than most, I guess. I checked the site and there are still four teachers there from when I was K-5! I don't know if there are any in your area, but it's worth a look, and it's nice to know there are other options besides ridiculously expensive private schools.

I hope everything works out. Looking forward to seeing you guys when you come up!

Maiasaura said...

Hi, Jay. Thanks for appreciating my November efforts. It was fun, and I think I'm going to post more often from now on.

I think you are right about my protective urges... I used to feel like I could keep this school thing in perspective, but now that it is almost here, I find it harder and harder. I guess this is why there is a cliche of mothers crying on the first day of kindergarten.

I wish there were more options within the realm of public school in this area. I'm afraid there isn't much variety. But, if we were to move back to Chicago, I'm hopeful that we could get into some kind of alternative public school. Down here, they don't really exist.

Thanks for your thoughts. And we'll see you soon!

Housefairy said...

I MORe than understand what it was like to see the "disturbing" trends in the other children...we have so much in common...I was 22 when I had my Greta, 25 when I had Mickey. We put her in a sweet little nursery school, and it was quite darling when she was 3. She played with the little cute toys, I met a few moms (although they were so old and weird I kinda felt like the babysitter) and the teacher was a grandmotherly angel. The next year, the shut up sit down we dont color the sky pink, dearie BS started and I was sad. The kids, especially the boys, were really into some stuff like Spiderman that blew my mind. We liked teletubbies and Beatrix Potter. Greta was very much still my little tot--still occasionally tandem nursing with her baby brother, still happily sat in her little high chair, slept in our room... I couldnt believe how quick these parents were to force their little ones to "grow up" and "be cool" and thats when it really hit me that feeling of Holy Crap I cant send her to public school! I would either have to change everything that was going so sweetly and lovely for my little family or else "hide" everything I was into and start saving up for Spiderman tickets and little 4T slut clothes. I looked into homeschooling and felt no worries at all about the early years. We continued on living and playing and as you know, we are still going strong today! now my kids are 10, 7, 4, 2 and I am expecting a baby in June. Homeschooling became a huge lifestyle which is all fine and cool, but in the beginning, it really was just a mom and her little ones, living their lives. Making crafts, baking treats, going to libraries, watching Maisy, dancing, etc. It doesn thave to be some big freak out with all these math books and stuff, it really, really doesnt.

Please email me if you want more on this


being a midwife is my latest dream and i am lucky enough to be assisting and apprenticing woith my own midwife, but for the next several, several years, maybe 5 or 10 or more, this is where I am going to stay with it. I know that I will be better equipped mentally and realistically when I am an older woman and my kids are older. I could never, never "be a midwife" right now, and that is totally ok.

Love ya