About a month ago I was in the final stretches of a long, drawn out and incredibly stressful house selling and buying experience.
I was also 30 weeks pregnant and sleeping on an air mattress because all of our belongings were packed into a U-Haul that we were paying for by the day. We ended up sleeping on the air mattress for over a week surviving on daily grocery store trips and doing laundry at my mother’s house, because of a delay in our buyers financing. Other than getting a good laugh from almost “blob-ing” my husband off the bed in the middle of the night (remember the blob? That crazy thing from summer camp that you jump onto and there’s a kid on the other side who gets shot into the lake…? anyway…), it was really starting to get old.
Meanwhile, I was feeling like total crap. “This must be the third trimester,” I figured. I wanted to do nothing but lazy around. I would go on walks but my sciatica would act up (I’ve been saying, this kid is a literal pain in my butt, haha) and I’d get out of breath so quickly. Luckily I was sleeping ok, even on the air mattress, but all that tossing and turning with hip pain made me want to sleep in all morning.My heartburn was out of this world. It was bad. One of the last days before we finally got the word that we would be closing, my husband and I decided to go on a walk in the woods, thinking it would pick up our spirits. There’s a park close to where we were moving that had about a 2 mile rolling hills trail through the woods and by the river. It started out fine, but by about ¾ mile in, I was strug-gle-ing. Big time. We had to walk up hill on the second half, and I literally couldn’t walk more than 30 feet by the end without having to stop and catch my breath. I felt like I was dying. It took forever and my poor husband ended up being late for work, and I ended up feeling like a worthless slob. Trying to convince myself it was the extra weight I had put on and the extra work my body was having to do to pump all that extra blood through my system and the fact that the baby was probably pressing up on my lungs. But it wasn’t all that. It was stress, ya’ll.
Fast forward to just a few days ago. I went to walk that trail again on my own. I had anxiety on my way there and I told myself If I wasn’t feeling 100% at a ½ mile in I’d turn back and slowly but surely keep going back and build up to where I’d be able to do the whole thing. So I started walking. And I walked and I walked and I walked. I stopped at the half-way point, not because I had to but because there is a bench right by the river and I love sitting on that bench and just watching the water. I’ve always enjoyed sitting there even before I was pregnant. But wow. I could’ve walked that whole way without stopping and I felt great! My blood was pumping, my pelvis was moving. I was vibrant! It made me think back on the past few months. How terrible I felt the month before we left and how much better I felt almost immediately upon getting to our new location. The stress and anxiety of waiting and uncertainty, and not being able to follow my nesting instincts! All that, just up and wafted away. Since we’ve been in our new home I’ve felt this sense of vital energy coming back to me that I thought I had lost. But i’m not sick, I’m 35 weeks pregnant. Growing a life, utilizing my body in all kinds of incredible ways, yes, but life goes on, and i’m living it. I went for a walk this morning and now I’m about to plant a garden bed, (late in the season, I know). I feel great.
Now, granted the stress I was under was an extreme case and it was short term. But surely smaller amounts of stress long term can build up in our bodies. There’s a lot of research out there that says as much. There’s also a lot of research out there that says being “on-call”, even periodically, contributes to stress. I actually have a whole google drive dedicated to that research and sooner or later i’ll get to putting it together for the follow up to my Women Helping Women class and call it, “Sustainable Midwifery: The Moral Imperative of Teaching Mindfulness, Self-care and Work/Life Balance to Student Midwives” But until then, just know this: stress is bad for you and being on call all the time contributes to stress. This is why I do what I do. I want to change the way it’s done. This personal experience of mine just recently highlighted that importance.
P.S. I went to a birth during that stressful week. Heartburn raging and all. And you know what I did, dropped all my stuff (talking emotional baggage here) at the door and gave that mama my everything. Because, like I say, that’s what WE do. I didn’t have much to give, but I gave her my all, even going into a deficit for her. Was that good for me? Was that good for her? I think the only reason it was ok was because I got to recover after. 100%. I was off call the following few days and knew if anyone else went into labor, my partners could handle it. I also knew that if the waiting to move to our new house continued, that I could tap out if I needed to. That two other amazing midwives would pick up my slack until I was back on my game. Bless them.
As I was preparing my talk for the MANA conference in 2016, I was inspired by the story of midwifery development at The Farm in Tennessee.