In childbirth, transition is often the most difficult part. This stage where the cervix goes from 8 to 10 centimeters dilated is challenging, sometimes causing a laboring mother to doubt herself and become negative. It is the darkness before the dawn.
Don't worry. This isn't going to a birthy post, all you non-birthy people.
I'm in transition in my life, and it is challenging. I'm going from my twelve-year career as a teacher to (hopefully) a full-time freelancing career as a birth and post-partum doula, birth instructor, storyteller, and teaching artist (yep - eclectic mix). Just like that laboring mom perseveres because she knows that on the other side of all that discomfort is the joy of holding her baby, I'm trying to hang in there because this life that I can imagine in my head seems just so perfect for me and my family.
But I'm not there yet. First off, I'm only trained to be a birth doula right now, and I don't have clients banging on my door just yet. Which isn't to say I don't have clients. It's happening - just very slowly. And the exciting part is that attending births confirms to me - more and more each time - how excited I am about this new path and how fulfilled this career makes me. I've felt this sense of intuition with my laboring moms - a sense of how far along they are in their labor, how far they have yet to go, what they might need to make them more comfortable. It brings me such a sense of satisfaction to see a woman and her loved ones on this incredibly important day, and to do what I can to help everyone feel respected, valued, and cared for. (Oh, and hey - if you want to refer some clients to me, or if you yourself are interested in working with me, feel free to check out my doula website.)
I'm also working part time at a local preschool. This is a pretty fabulous job to have for many reasons. First, I really love the people there, and there's so little drama (especially compared to the wonderful world of public school teaching in high-need areas). The kids are adorable and very sweet. My darling Sam attends my school, so I'm able to visit with him twice a day and nurse him on site. (Which means NO MORE PUMPING. Can I get an amen?) It gives me a regular salary and benefits while I pursue my doula business on the side.
Working part-time means I have more time to be there for both my kids - including Stella. I've been to her school to volunteer and eat lunch with her and I pick her up earlier than I was able to last year. It gives me more time to cook good food for us and keep our house relatively clean. And it gives me more time to balance work and family and spouse and me - that elaborate equation that, if done properly - can lead to a really harmonious life.
So, that's the good news. The bad news has almost everything to do with money. I earned my national boards last year, plus I had several years of teacher under my belt, which means my salary was pretty high (for a teacher, mind you). Doing what I do earns me less than half of that. Less than half. And our family of four is really starting to feel the pinch. We're not extravagant people. We don't eat out much. We don't buy a lot of clothes or download a lot of music. I don't get manicures, Dave doesn't buy guitar accessories. We're selling items we have that we no longer need, we're cutting expenses that we don't really use. We're really, really working, but it feels like an uphill battle.
And sometimes, when my faith and confidence and resolve are a bit weak, I feel totally selfish for dumping a relatively successful career to pursue this passion. True, I got to the point where I resented all the hoops I had to jump through, all the people I had to appease, all the soul-stripping standardized testing BS I had to employ, just to try to find some level of creativity to reach maybe one student that year. I was sick and tired of making my over a decade's worth of knowledge and expertise fit into some other mold created by someone who has less experience than I just because someone thought it "looked cooler." I was at wit's end with working countless hours to grade papers and plan lessons and fill out paperwork while much of the world envied me for "getting off work at 3." And I was really sick of squeezing in time to read everything I could get my hands on about birth, like it was some silly comic book I had to hide from my strict parents. I was sick of constantly running running running to get things done and barely seeing my kids. And speaking of my kids, I was tired of snapping at them every five seconds because I'd endured so much attitude and verbal abuse and sometimes even threats of physical abuse from my troubled students all day.
So, yeah. No matter what, I wasn't going to be able to stay at that job, even if it promised a middle class salary that would sure come in handy now.
I made this leap because I knew it was right. And I know this transitional period won't last forever. I'm going to get more and more doula clients as the months go on. I'm going to get trained to be a birth instructor and a post-partum doula, which is both very exciting and a future source of revenue. I'm going to put together a curriculum as a teaching artist who specializes in storytelling and slam poetry, and schools in my area are going to hire me to teach those almighty common core standards with a whole heap of creativity on the side. And maybe, just maybe, if I really wish upon a star, somebody might even want to pay me for my writing and storytelling some day, too.
A year from now, when people ask what I do, I'll get a glow in my eyes, and my lengthy answer will either bore, confuse, or intrigue them. And I - the woman who double majored in French and Drama and really wanted to major in maybe five other things, too - will finally live a life that incorporates all my professional passions and leaves me time to care for the family I adore as well. I just have to make it through this transition first.