March 1st – December 2nd 2018…..Student-midwife at Maternidad La Luz, El Paso, Texas.
The last nine months of my life have been a whirlwind of learning. Grasping and gaining so much knowledge has transformed me into a new person, both as a human, but as a future midwife. How can such a short time create a new person? How symbolic that my time at Maternidad La Luz (MLL), to create me into the midwife I need to be for future clients, is the same time it takes to create a new human!
I didn’t get to where I am by myself! My husband and my children have been my greatest supporters. We missed each other immensely, but somehow, we made it! We survived. I missed a lot of important life events while I was gone. Those can never be replaced. But, we will make many more memories.
While at MLL, I had NINE preceptors, total. Each one of them so unique, and so special in their own ways. Each preceptor with differing views and methods. Each one with different likes and dislikes. Each one ever so willing to teach and guide. I love everyone of you. You have created someone who is hungry to learn, and who will always be willing to accept when I don’t know something. I will always remember your “look it up in the protocol book” saying, and I will always be looking things up!!!
Patti and Fina, who have been at MLL for many years, are some of the most amazing people, also! While they are not preceptors, without them, MLL would fall to pieces. ¡Ustedes dos son unas de las más bellas en el mundo, y como las quiero y las extraño mucho! ¡Nunca me voy a olvidar de ustedes!
There is no other place in the world like MLL. MLL not only is a clinical site, but it is an academic site as well. Because the academic director knows all about what NARM requires, she has all the paperwork needed to complete the documentation. She knows every detail that needs to be documented for our logs. This translates into our preceptors knowing that they need to sign us off on our logs.
Now, here is the tricky part, that is difficult to describe…Because I am already enrolled at MCU, a MEAC accredited school, I only needed a clinical placement. So, while I was at MLL, I was there only for the clinical portion of the program. I still attended several MLL classes, especially the skills classes, but the most classes were not a requirement, neither was the homework, because of my enrollment at MCU. This is the reason why I “only” was there for nine months. I was there for clinical work. My academic work is still through MCU of which I still have one semester to complete. All my logs go through MCU, and are verified by MCU. BUT, I couldn’t have completed my clinical work in such a quick manner if it were not for MLL.
Because I had both MLL and MCU logs to get signed off, it was double signatures for my preceptors, but they never once denied me a signature. They understood the importance of getting everything signed-off and signed-off in a timely manner. I have heard of preceptors denying signatures to their students, or making students wait weeks and months before signing logs, but this never happened to us at MLL! After every single shift, I would ask for their initial on logs. At MLL, falling behind even one week on initials, is like falling behind one month in “real-time life.”
Many have called MLL “bootcamp for midwives”, and it is so true! We learn quick, and get in there and begin doing prenatals, attending births, and doing postpartum appointments on the first day in the clinic. Additionally, time is so different at MLL. One day in the life of MLL is equivalent to one week in “real-time” life. So, after 9 months of MLL life, it was the equivalent of about 2 years in “real-time” life.
What makes MLL the most unique? The clients do. Without the clients, MLL would cease to exist. The clients trust MLL to provide them with quality care. They trust their pregnancy to MLL! Being in the border city of El Paso, Texas, the majority of clients were from Mexico. So, all their care must be done in Spanish. Since Spanish was my first language, picking up the midwifery Spanish was easy. Learning Spanish midwifery was/is so extremely important to me, because I want to be able to provide midwifery to the Spanish speaking community in my city.
I was able to complete 6 full continuity of care clients (FCOC), all my partial continuity of care clients (PCOC), and my “other” births. I gave care to more pregnant people than that, but several of them transferred for various reasons. I gave each one of them individualized care. Each one was unique in their needs, and each one received the care they needed (of course always under the supervision of the preceptor). In all, I attended 73 births, with many more labor sits than I kept track of, and I completed all my clinical requirements and skills at MLL!!
Once going “on-call” began, life took a turn for me. I no longer had a life. My life was the clients and being on shift. When I first began in the clinic, I requested 12-hr shifts. But the way it worked out, I was at the clinic all the time. I was there for shifts, and then for citas (prenatal appointments). There was never a day I wasn’t in clinic, because citas needed to be programmed on our days off, if possible. I then requested to be on 24-hr shifts, to see if that would help me not be in the clinic so much. It did! I felt like I had a bit more time to myself and wasn’t in the clinic all. the. time. But then I was on 24-hours shifts, which was so exhausting. Sleeping on days off was essential!
MLL is not for the weak. It’s a place where one WILL learn and get the skills needed or go home. When I first started in the clinic, I called my husband after every shift crying my eyes out, telling him, “I just want to go home. I can’t do this anymore.” I was exhausted beyond what I have ever been in my life. I cried and cried and cried. I was in pain physically, and the only way to be able to sleep was to take 800 mg ibuprophen. I was also in pain mentally and emotionally. I missed my family SO much. I cried myself to sleep every night. Eventually, I acclimated to my new normal, and I no longer needed ibuprophen every night. I eventually stopped crying every night, also. I always missed my family, though.
The two illness I got while at MLL was laryngitis and a terrible kink in my back. I still was in clinic with both, though!! With the laryngitis, I used a mask, and whispered to clients. The funniest part was when people (clients, midwives, other students) would whisper back to me!! With the kink in my back, I just “toughed” it out, and waited until the kink resolved, about a two weeks! It eventually got better, and I was back to “normal.” I still went to clinic.
I arrived at MLL ready to learn and jump into doing all things midwifery. I left MLL knowing how to attend to low risk pregnancies and births, knowing when something is out of range, and knowing how to handle emergencies. I learned to do blood draws, and am very good at them. I also learned how to place IV’s. While IV placing took me a bit longer to master, I can now place IV’s! I’m thankful for an outside source who was willing to help me and my friend Angela practice on him, and become proficient in IV placements.
I couldn’t have survived MLL without the support of my husband and children, but also without the support of my wonderful friend Angela! We had known each other only online, through our school (MCU). We ended up becoming roommates, and supported each other by debriefing the difficult births, and celebrating the easy births. We brought each other food during long labor sits. We had each other’s back!
My family support while in El Paso, was my cousin, with whom I stayed when I first arrived in El Paso. She and I got along so well. When I moved out to be closer to the clinic, we still hung out together and went swimming and out to eat. I love her so much and am so eternally grateful for her love and care of me!
My cousin made caldo, and she left me a little note saying there was some soup for me!
I, also, learned that allowing ourselves to take time off to grieve, mourn, pour ourselves out completely, to be able to return and begin giving again, is essential to healing from traumatic events in midwifery.
Yes, MLL’s program is difficult and extremely challenging, but if I can get through MLL, I can get through anything. Yes, plenty of times, I just wanted to quit…During a difficult birth outcome, I thought there was no way I could be a midwife. But with the support of all of MLL’s staff, my interns (I missed you all after you graduated!!), my classmates, and my husband, they helped me move forward, and not get stuck in the tragedy, which could have been so easy to do.
This picture was me after participating in a sweat lodge ceremony, where I was invited to attend by the abuelita to work through my grief and pain with my preceptor who was also going through her own grief.
Angela and I were able to take off for an afternoon to the not-so-nearby-nearby hot springs. We were only there a couple hours, but it was so good for my body to be in the hot water filled with amazing minerals, to help in the healing process.
I kept a journal of my experience at MLL. I don’t think I’ll ever write it all out electronically, but my experiences are recorded, both the high points, and the low points. I’m so thankful that I recorded my experiences. This was a time in my life that I don’t want to ever forget, and I have not only my memories, but a written account of my time at MLL.
It’s been almost two weeks since I have been home, and I am still in recovery-mode. My body is the worst hit by the clinical placement. I am still sleeping a lot, and just laying around a lot at home. I am spending time with my children, just being home with them. I might just need a few months to fully recover. I have heard from many other students who have said it took at least three months to get back to “normal.” I feel like this will be true for me as well.
I will incorporate many things I learned at MLL into my own future practice. When I am qualified to be a preceptor, I will incorporate a lot of MLL’s methods into my future apprenticeship program. I appreciate everything I learned at MLL. I appreciate every staff member, my preceptors, resident staff, my classmates, and the clients. I am forever grateful for everything I was taught. I am, also, extremely grateful to my husband and children who supported me.
I have one semester left at MCU, then I can apply to take the national exam. I look forward to completing the academic work!
More pictures just for fun: