Sunday Morning~What are the Risks?

At my state meeting this week someone asked me what I hoped to come out of my TED talk. What was my goal? I hadn’t directly been asked that before.  I hadn’t thought about it in those terms, but it was a good exercise. When I applied to do the talk I had only thought of informing a broader audience of the problem for women in rural areas and the rising maternal mortality rate. I hadn’t thought about tangible results. I had to think for a minute about what I hoped would come out of it. I wanted to raise awareness. I want there to be a thriving birth center in every rural hospital run and staffed by midwives. I want excellent care to be affordable for all women. I want the c-section rate in this country to be lowered from 34% to 12%. I want maternal mortality to be the lowest in the world.  Of course I want all that. I didn’t say that at the meeting, though. I can’t remember what I said.  Something about raising awareness, getting us all to look in the mirror at our part in the dysfunctional system. I want us to acknowledge that we need to speak out more, stop enabling, call out the doctors who abuse women. I started ranting. It probably wasn’t very helpful.

I’ve thought a lot about what speaking out against a system means. In our own clusters we can admit to the abuse we see, we complain, but complaining is rarely productive.  Midwives have always felt marginalized. Historically, before it was culturally acceptable for men to be part of the care of women, there was an aura of mystique around the profession. But since the birth process has been medicalized, it has been one uphill slog after another just to be allowed to practice and get reimbursed for our time and effort. When there is money to be made, we are persecuted.  When there is little money to be made, we are dumped on. It all depends on the insurance reimbursement du jour. The fact that study after study shows better outcomes with midwifery care doesn’t seem to make a difference.

If we continue with this current model, there will be no option in rural areas aside from home birth and there are still places where this is illegal. So the midwives who risk their livelihood to assist women with no other option (except to travel three or four hours  in labor) can be prosecuted. And with fewer places to transfer in an emergency, it’s less and less safe. How on earth have we devolved to this?

An argument made by a male doctor, without shame, was given as: “I’ve never been sued for doing a c-section, whether it was needed not.” It doesn’t seem to matter that he then endangers the women’s lives. I hear other medical professionals cringe at this, knowing it is abhorrent. I ask, “Why don’t you turn him in? Sue him for mutilating women unnecessarily? Inform women of his practice methods.” The response is always, “If I do, then he can sue me.” Even when the abuse gets so egregious that doctors are fired or sanctioned, there is a gag order, so we can’t inform patients of his/her wrongdoing. Excuse me? Wasn’t there a tiny bit of criticism of the Catholic church for doing just this? But it’s ok in medicine?

What are the risks of speaking out? Being blackballed? Maybe. When a dysfunctional system, that more and more depends on private donations, gets publicly criticized, there is a lot to lose. And that keeps the dysfunction well fed. It is just so wrong. I get it, I get it… we’ve all got bills to pay and we need the job.  But why is this different from abused women who stay in the abusive situation out of fear or because she needs someone to pay the bills? Isn’t this what we are doing when we don’t speak out? How much are we willing to risk?

So what will come of the talk? Who knows? It doesn’t seem enough to just have the pie-in-the-sky goal. I need to stop and think what the next step should be. One nine minute talk can’t be the end of it. When will enough be enough? How many more women need to die unnecessarily, in childbirth, in 2016, in the United States? Why is it that logic has become so obsolete?  Or was it ever in fashion? How can we get more midwives into rural areas? That must start with more midwives, which, has been a goal of my national organization for decades. Our numbers are rising but not fast enough. I wonder when there will be enough of us that we all feel safe speaking out?

In the meantime, I guess I’ll watch my back.

Sunday Evening~Made it!

The Sangria last night seemed like a good idea at the time.  I had made a big batch for the christening brunch and the fruit was steeping beautifully. I thought I’d get all the prep done yesterday afternoon so by the time the guests arrived we’d be free to visit and chat. We had to get up early for mass, but I thought I’ve got this.  The sun is up by four, I’ll be up, put the coffee on and and get this written.  Hahahaha !  How very funny to think we (two of us!) could babysit for a toddler and infant, prepare for a party and welcome guests in a relaxed manner. Hahaha!

By 4 pm I thought I’d never make it until their bedtime.  Lists of things were yet undone and I started thinking they weren’t going to be. And I was right, it turns out.  Wasn’t going to even try. By the time guests started arriving it seemed a lot easier to just dip into the Sangria than try to figure out what else to serve. More guests. More Sangria. Oh, others weren’t arriving until nearly midnight? Oh, that wasn’t anticipated. More Sangria was consumed than should have been during that interlude, but it was a rollicking good time. Slept through the sunrise. Did get up to make coffee and get to mass on time, but that was touch and go for everyone involved.  Only the baby was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed; the rest of us were moving a little slow.

The little angel was welcomed into the community with grace and love. The flowers never made it from the garden to the table, but the food did, in great form. Piles of clutter I had planned to sort and store were swept with one swipe into a box and hidden behind a chair.  There! That was easy! It was a great party that lingered into lolling and story-telling over a bit more Sangria until the last guests made their way home and the clean-up commenced. And now as the angels are asleep and the kitchen restored and I settle into an evening of hazy gratitude I figured I put this Sunday ritual back on the list.

The TED talk went up on the website this week. I held my breath as I watched it. It’s hard to watch yourself.  I thought I could have done better. But it’s done. It’s up. It’s shared. I’ll look ahead to what comes next, and in the morning when I can think straight, maybe I’ll have a better idea of what that is. Tonight, it seems like all that comes next is bed. Very soon.

Sunday Morning~What's News?

I’ve started this ten times today. Everything I write seems so stupid and trivial. I’m getting ready to go away and wrote some pithy little stories about organizing my life in order to leave it for a year. Those stories seem ridiculous now.

I haven’t listened to the news much over the past weeks. I was enjoying the quiet. I found myself less stressed, less caught up in commentary that meant nothing. Yes, I was thrilled Tuesday night when it became clear Hillary was making history and listened to her speech with delight. But after that, I wanted it quiet again. I wanted to enjoy the blooming lilacs and lupine. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many birds in my backyard. All different kinds. I don’t know their names or recognize their song. I love watching them, though. I don’t hang any feeders. They just seem to be foraging for themselves. They remind me of the scene in Cinderella when the birds were happily making her dress for the ball. I love that scene.

We arrived at church at eight this morning just as the news was coming on. I shut off the engine as the theme song for Weekend Edition was playing. Mass had just started. We sat in the front pew. The sermon wasn’t poignant, though I listened. I thought about forgiveness. I thought about what it really meant to ask for it. We sang On Eagles Wings for the offertory. I love that song. We sang it at my mother’s funeral. It always comforts me to think of being held in the palm of God’s hand. I like the idea of shining like the sun. The song sounds very hopeful to me. I like it. It makes me cry because I always think of my mother and how strong she was. We had coffee hour after mass but I couldn’t stay long. I had to get home to finish making pasta salad and potato salad for a graduation party today. Young, bright, gifted kids are graduating from high school today. They are having a party afterward. They should be happy and proud. My friend had to work yesterday and didn’t have time to make the salads. I wanted to make them for her. Some summer people were back in church today. I was happy to see them. We got in the car to come home.

George and I were chatting about the people we saw at mass. I was telling him about some he hadn’t met before. I told him about Bruce, who was so good to Jordan. I was happy to see Bruce again. I started to say something else, but George cut me off.  Maybe he didn’t hear me. Maybe he was excited about what he had to say. He realized he cut me off and asked me what I was going to say. I told him I couldn’t remember, which was a lie. I just didn’t feel like talking anymore so I turned the radio on. Fog had rolled in since we had driven by the lake an hour before. The fog was thick. The lake seemed dreamy.

Twenty people dead. Many more injured. Killer dead. Orlando? Disney world? What???

Same spot where I turned on the radio fifteen years ago on the way to the SPCA to pick up a new puppy. What? Did you hear that? A plane just hit the World Trade Center?

Raise you up. On Eagles Wings. Bear You On the Break of Dawn.

Now fifty people.

Pasta salad, potato salad. Graduation. Summer. College. Friends with friends.

Make you to shine like the sun. Nothing else matters.




Sunday Morning~Home

It was fourteen years ago this week that Joe left. June seventh, to be exact. Milestones often strike me when I see the announcement of a birthday of a child I delivered.  I saw one this week and thought, “Wow, he’s fourteen! It must be fourteen years since Joe left!”  I remember the birth. I remember writing the delivery note in the chart. I remember writing the date at the top of the page and thinking, “This is the date that my life is falling apart.”  Then the years go by and kids grow and wounds heal and life goes on and I don’t dwell on the past, but I see the eager athlete whose team just won, and think, “Wow. It’s been fourteen years.”

It was the day of Zack’s prom that Joe actually moved his stuff out. Which means that it’s also been fourteen years since Zack graduated from high school. Joe didn’t take much. He had no place to go for one thing. Apparently he hadn’t thought things through very well, but I guess my questions were getting intolerable, as was my crying, so he needed to leave. So, with a forced smile on his face, he packed up some things and walked them to the car as kids were arriving at our house to get ready for prom. He smiled and said “Hi!” to them as he was leaving. I thought I was dying. No one asked him anything. Not our kids, not other kids. No one asked where he was going. He gave no explanations. It was the creepiest afternoon of my life.

I plastered a fake smile on my face as if this were not really happening and went about painting toenails, finding curling irons, pressing tuxedo pants, taking photos. I kept telling myself I could fall to pieces later.  I had to get through the day first. The kids will be out late. I could cry as much as I wanted in the evening. I think I made some food for the kids.  There were lots of kids here, four or five girls giving pedicures to each other in the greenhouse and the same number of guys getting dressed upstairs. I loved that we had created a home where this was possible; where kids could gather and be comfortable. We planned it that way. We spent years planning to build a house where friends could gather. And he walked out in the middle of the dream-come-true. Ah, life.

Now, after my recent weeks of traveling and distraction I am back in this home getting ready to leave it for a year. I’ve thought long and hard about what to do with this place while I’m gone. I’ve loved sharing it. I love opening it up to those who need a place to stay. It’s a lot of house to care for and I have developed my own systems over the years (fourteen of them!) to do it myself. I love caring for this place. I do get overwhelmed at times when I let the chores get ahead of me, but in reality, I enjoy home-maintenance.  My soul is here. It’s funny, because when Joe left I immediately thought I’d sell this place.  I thought there were too many memories and I couldn’t bear it alone. But several angels swooped in to guide me through that hard time. One in particular told me, “There is nothing that needs to be done in this house that you can’t learn to do. Nothing. Don’t give it up.” And he was right. And I thank God for him. I call him Clarence.

So I’ve been scurrying about, repainting, planting, cleaning, packing, organizing and am grateful for the time alone here. In the next few weeks the house will be filled with family and friends again. We’ll celebrate James’s christening, some birthdays and graduations. We’ll have good-bye dinners and a holiday weekend. Our spirits will move through the spaces with comfort and familiarity. The memories range from one end of the spectrum to the other–––joy and heartache, celebration and grief. It’s all part of the fabric of this place. This is not a commodity. I can’t imagine selling it. This is not just a house.

In 1993, we stood and watched the backhoe dig the foundation and thought, “My God, what are we getting into?” Months later we took baths in the kitchen sink when we had no other plumbing. All of us, down to the six year old twins, worked hard to create this place. We shingled the outside together, we cleared brush and had bonfires, we mixed cement, we drew plans for gardens, we dug and sifted and planted. We had family dinners with food we grew. We had entire teams over for pre-game pasta suppers. We turned the yard into a grand festival for Rachael and Kyle’s wedding. It’s home. It’s my mooring and anchorage. No matter how much I travel or how long I’m away, I feel the doors to this place are arms outstretched to welcome me back. The tarnished knobs that feel so familiar in my hand as I turn them, are handshakes that say, “Welcome home. We missed you.” The windows reflect back at me and thank me for the hours I spent painting their mullions. They remind me they could use another coat when I get a chance. I thank them for the view, the sunlight, the moonlight, the breeze.

I look around at the masks and art we’ve collected from our travels. I love how it all seems part of the landscape here. Part of me. Part of this family. I try not to collect much anymore, thinking I already have more than I need.  But I know this next adventure will also have it’s place in this house in one form or another. My freshly painted walls will always have room for another friend. It’s the study I’m painting. It has needed it for a while, another winter project I’m just getting to. In choosing a color, I must admit, I am influenced by the names given to the swatches. I ponder and ponder, I look in various lights, I put the swatches side by side and when I narrow it down to two, I admit I go by the name. It was the choice between Metallic White or Silver Lining.

I went with Silver Lining.