Sunday Morning ~ Filling the Basket
Mtanga ukoma mdi kusomera. ~ The basket of maize looks good when you have really topped it up.
~ Chewa proverb
October 13, 2019
This week I drove to Brunswick for a TEDx celebration and reunion for those who’ve participated in Maine since it’s inception ten years ago. The TEDx talk I did was in May of 2016 and is one of the most exciting and scary things I have ever done. I don’t think I ever would have been chosen if it weren’t for my luck to have friends who believed in my message and had skills to make a professional one minute video to submit with the application. My friends Kathy and Desiree had the knowledge and skill and generously gave of their time. I totally credit them with my being there. I so badly didn’t want to let them down. Once accepted, there was the writing and re-writing of the script, the practicing, the re-learning how to hold my body, stop pointing at the audience, stop swaying, remember the pauses and (not being a theater person) oh my God, it was hard. I felt so much pressure. I felt like I had nine minutes to make a difference in women’s lives. TED talks can be so powerful and I thought I had a chance and didn’t want to blow it. I watched about a million TED talks in the months leading up to it, and learned a lot! I watched some of them several times trying to glean from the speakers what made them powerful and riveting. I prayed. I did the wonder woman pose trying to gain confidence. I freaked at every criticism of my posture and gestures thinking I just wasn’t going to be able to pull it off. I wondered how people got through this? I’ve done scary things before! I’ve done lots of public speaking! I thrive on it! What was so terrifying about this? The lights! The rules! Still, it was an amazing experience and I am so grateful for it. I was euphoric when it was done. I received lots of positive feedback. But the women I spoke about? They have not felt any benefit.
I arrived at the celebration and mingled with the crowd. i didn’t see anyone from my May 2016 group there. I found my coach and reconnected, telling her how much I appreciated her. I chatted with some people from other groups, some were organizers some were speakers. I asked all of the speakers, “Was it the scariest thing you’ve ever done?” and there was a pretty good consensus that, yeah, it was. One guy I was talking to who’d done a talk in 2013 asked me about my topic. It didn’t take me long to get worked up into the frenzy that motivated me to do the talk in the first place. I started ranting about what’s happened in the rural parts of the country for maternity care for women. How the c-section rate is astronomical and is killing women, especially poor women and women of color. I was in a froth again and he asked, “So what came out of your talk?” I stopped and thought and said, “Not much, if anything.” Then went on saying, “It was a different world then. There was so much potential and there was so much hope for women’s issues. It was spring of 2016. We were about to have our first woman president and the focus should have been on how we should be cleaning up our act, refocusing our priorities, and joining the rest of industrialized countries with offering health care as a basic human right not an expensive luxury. We should have been addressing our gender inequalities and discrimination. But then November happened and the world changed.” I didn’t need to say any more. He nodded. He’d been mayor of a city in Maine for six years. We talked about the changing tide now in our state and both expressed hope that the pendulum is starting to swing. We’ve got a great woman governor, we’ve got potential for a brilliant new senator who is motivated to work on this. I told him about my dream of starting a graduate program for midwifery in Maine and we kicked around how to go about that. He finished his beer, I finished my cider. We exchanged business cards and moved on to other conversations with other interesting people.
I’d thought about whether making the three hour drive to this party was worth it and decided to go, noting I could visit friends and get some errands done along the way. It was a luxury I am privileged to have. I traveled three hours in my well serviced car with a full tank of gas on dry roads. The foliage was spectacular. But imagine being a woman in active (painful) labor in a car that has no gas, faulty brakes, and bad tires in an ice storm traveling three hours to the closest hospital that will care for you. That ride would not be pleasant. But that’s what we are forcing women to do. It’s inhumane. It is a crisis. I got to sip a drink and schmooze with people as we ate fabulous food. I am so well aware of my privilege and fortune. I left there thinking, thinking, thinking, very glad I went, needing to do something tangible.
I’d been thinking for some time about how to get a graduate program for midwifery started in Maine. Having more midwives is a very realistic solution to this problem but there are very few educational programs and none are in Maine. I’ve talked about it but didn’t know how to go about taking the first step. This reunion was a booster shot and motivator. I drove to Husson University parked in one of the lots and walked around looking for the nursing school. I found it, went to the deans office, introduced myself, and asked the secretary if I could make an appointment to talk with the dean. I was expecting a refusal or at least some hassle, but she said, sure, next week? We set a date for when I’m back from my current trip and then she asked, “Can I tell her what it is about?” I said, “I want to talk with her about starting a midwifery program here.” Then thinking she was going to act as if it were a ridiculous request, I added, “I know it’s a tall order.” The secretary wrote it down and said very sincerely, “Oh wow! She is gonna love this.”
Step one. Done.
Love to all,