In the last two years I have changed my work-life balance. One may look at my 4 or 5 spinning plates and not find a shred of balance…It’s a practice; not a destination. At least that’s what I tell myself. One of the ways that I have radically shifted my life is not being on call anymore.
I started being on call nearly 20 years ago, working with adolescents who were becoming young parents or were already parenting. And then I shifted into being on call as a midwife attending births 13 years ago. Pagers and phones have accessorized my outfits and my social life for the majority of the last 20 years. Literally everyone in my life knows the drill…sometimes I am here…and then I am gone.
It was a good run while it lasted. I loved that work. I loved that liminal space in a person’s and family’s labor and birth where so many things were happening that were unseen, but so incredibly palpable. It was so rich. Like everything you can think of when you imagine abundance, fullness, and the most beautiful things in life. Not everything was hands-on; in fact, there was a lot of hands-off. But my heart and my mind were always on. Always. On.
It was powerful, thrilling, and exhausting. Like my own birth. And at some point my strength diminished. I needed sleep. I needed to not be Always. On. I needed to not be feeling like I was slipping away and becoming less and less myself. I felt like I was dying and didn’t even know it.
My heart and mind were in constant demand by everyone around me; everyone except me.
That’s kind of what postpartum feels like. You’re not just tired; that is an oversimplification x 1,000. It’s more like you have disintegrated. Slipped away. Sometimes completely unnoticed by everyone, including yourself. You feel like you are dying sometimes.
There’s a video making the rounds about the dim and raw reality of those postpartum moments, and the decision to keep it out of a mainstream television event. Keep the postpartum experience unnoticed by everyone. Can’t help but reflect upon that irony.
If you haven’t checked it out, take the 90+ seconds to notice: https://youtu.be/3GePXGfRP04
I still provide midwifery care in a very different way now. I midwife students, newly postpartum families, growing docs. And finally, I am midwifing myself. I have to say, I am really mesmerized by this rich, liminal space. It’s a little scary, really hard, and mostly powerful and thrilling.