knowing at 24/24
I woke up the morning after my last exam (a brutal 19 page thriller that had me in near hysterics as all good lastest/hardest exams do) a trifle surprised to be conscious. But there you have it, I am (all hopeful pass marks considering) half a midwife now. Mid-midwife? Some sort of strange crossover mark has been reached somewhere between wringing the cramps out of my writing hand and gently slipping the umbilical cord around the body of exam-time baby number seven (born at home in what I can only describe as the most normal of family evenings complete with matching striped pyjamas, prime time television - Medium was on, if you must know - and mama on the lazy boy calmly having a baby in 30 minutes flat).
And so, when you cross over, I suspect it is a human reflex to look back over your shoulder. Perhaps assessing the terrain from a new and hard fought perspective. Last night, my classmates and I went out dancing until the hours when we'd normally be measuring newborn head circumferences - I arrived home just before torrential rains descended at 3am. The stress and struggle flittering away with each bump of our hips and arms. But below that desperate need for pseudo-reckless diversion we held tightly to the things we now know:
If you go to bed with dirty hair, you will get called out in the middle of the night and you will feel skungy and unkempt the entire time even when up to your elbows in everyone else's body fluids.
The minute you are on call, you will receive repeated, aggravating phone calls from people you don't want to talk to at all hours of the night, however, you will be forced to pick up the phone each time they ring anyway - just in case.
You do not actually need sleep, caffeine, or sanity to function.
Coming home to a warm bed at 5am is far more important than who is actually in the bed making it so.
You will only be asked to find the item the hospital store room has run out of when it's 3am.
One day you will be really thrilled that you just did your first vaginal exam. And then you will be slightly mollified that it was thrilling.
Popcorn will fix anything.
Human flesh does not feel like lamb hearts from the grocery store when you are sticking a needle & thread through it. Try not to look so surprised when you realize this. Someone's husband may be watching you and wondering why you are making that face in that particular situation. The minute the midwife leaves the room, the woman in labour will start to push the baby out (note: this is actually ok!). Listen. When a woman says "I'm having this baby on Thursday" she probably is, and you waking up every 16 seconds on Wednesday night will be fruitless, not to mention make you very tired on Thursday when she is actually having the baby.
Sometimes "I feel like pushing" means the baby will shoot out like a bullet 3 seconds later. Sometimes it means that you will not be going home for the next 6 hours. Sometimes it means both. Don't even try to guess which.
Somewhere, someone will think that you are Normal, and will gasp in relief that they have found you amongst a sea of bizarre freaks. Be sure to revel in the moment.
Don't be surprised if, at the end of your semester you have forgotten what looking human is like and you stare in awe in the mirror for 20 minutes after the application of eye-liner.
Birth is the everday miracle
And when you leave your stunningly ordinary few hours spent amongst the striped pjs, cups of tea, bad American tv, a newborn baby and lots of questions from the resident seven year old, what will actually ring in your ears well into the next morning is - "hey, thanks for being such chill midwives"
Hey, thanks for getting me here.
* as in years/weeks - me