Amber is a doula near and dear to my heart. She came to the first DONA doula training we had in Chico, and we fast became friends. Her heart truly lies in serving women during the birthing year. It was a natural bridge to apply and be accepted into Chico State's Nursing Program. Here Amber likens the feelings and changes she has experienced during her first semester of nursing school to those pregnant and birthing moms pass through -- pregnancy and birth -- truly the metaphor for the transitions we face in life.
Doula work made me fall in love with birthing women. The sacredness and magic that surrounds them as they work so hard to bring their babies into the world is intoxicating to be around. After working as a doula for the past seven years, I made the leap to enroll in nursing school, with the goal of working as a labor and delivery nurse for a while, then becoming a midwife.
I had no idea what nursing school would be like, only that it was extremely hard to get in to. I am now in the last week of my first semester, with four more semesters to go, and honestly, I can't believe I made it through my first semester. Nursing school is hard, people told me. I had no idea just how hard it really was. But now I truly do.
As a doula, I have been right there when women who were so elated to be having a baby before labor began, suddenly expressed that they just couldn't go on. And I was there when, indeed, they did go on to birth their baby, despite all their doubts. They made it through the other side of labor and birth. It is this inner journey and challenge that I have witnessed so many times that has helped me get through this first semester.
I have often thought of the strength I witnessed as a doula, to get me through the tough days of nursing school. As I held on for dear life, going through the rollercoaster of emotions, joys, and challenges of becoming a student nurse, I drew some similarities between nursing school and becoming a mom.
Stage 1: Wow! I'm pregnant! (Or I can't believe I got into nursing school!)
When a mom finds out she pregnant, some great emotion is sure to overtake her, whether it be elation, surprise, sadness, or anxiety. At first she might not believe it's really happening, but eventually the reality settles in.
When I found out I got into nursing school, I cried. Getting into nursing school in California is no small feat. I was one of forty students to be accepted (out of 174 applicants!) and I was in total shock that I actually got in. I started dreaming and planning, and getting ready for the semester to start.
Stage 2: Wait, I didn't know I was signing up for this!
After the initial shock, joy, or acceptance settles in, the gravity of the life altering event which is motherhood is realized. Hopefully she won't get too overwhelmed by all of the choices, options, and decisions she needs to make as she prepares to go into labor.
My pride that I got accepted into nursing school was quickly forgotten as I settled in as a student. Beginning the first day, we had reading assignments and a presentation due. It became clear that yes, I had accomplished a huge hurdle by simply getting in, but the hardest part was yet to come.
Stage 3: I can not possibly go on any longer
This is the point at which moms who were planning a drug-free birth use all of their inner strength to just make it through the next breath. Thinking too far into the future leads to desperation and fear that it will never get better.
There were many a days this first semester when I just wanted to curl up into a ball and not deal with the stress, and the huge workload, and the pressure to not mess up during clinical. Some mornings I was in tears as I got ready for school, and I had to take a deep breath and not think too much about what was due the next week, and how I had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning the next day.
Stage 4: I did it!
Whatever her doubts, whatever her fears, she did it. Even if things didn't follow her carefully written birth plan, she accomplished what she set out to do: have a baby. The journey there was important, and she went through many travails to get there, but the fact that she herself grew a baby and birthed it is something no one can take away from her. She feels part of something bigger than herself -- a connection with all other mothers that have come before her and given birth.
Despite my tears, and my anxiety, and my mistakes, I have made it through my first semester. I have one more week left in my first semester of nursing school, and I have so much more respect now for nurses. My aunt who's a nurse recently told me "this will be the hardest two years of your life" and I don't doubt that she's right! But another nurse family friend told me "if you can make it through the first semester, you will make it the whole way."
Stage 5: Be gentle with yourself
New moms might feel lots of different emotions after the birth is all said and done. Maybe they are disappointed with how they acted, maybe they wish they could go back and do things differently. But then (hopefully) they look down at that sweet new baby, take a breath, and realize no matter how they did it, they accomplished a major feat. They deserve to be pampered, and they should know how strong and courageous they really are.
I've made mistakes this first semester that I desperately wish I could take back. But you know what? When I stopped hounding myself, and looked around at my classmates, I realized we're all making mistakes. That's the beauty of being a student. That's how we learn. I know I did my best.
Nursing school is indeed so much harder than I ever imagined it to be. I simply had no idea what to expect. I prepared for it, printed and read all my syllabi before class, had all my supplies in order, but there was simply no way to make this semester easier. There was no way to get around the stress and the emotions, I simply had to go through it.
Just as a mom must go through her labor, whatever twists and turns it takes her on, she will have that baby in her arms. And I will graduate with my Bachelor's of Science in Nursing and become an RN. I just know I will.
Amber is a Birth and Postpartum Doula, certified though DONA. She is also a Placenta Encapsulation Specialist. She has participated in a volunteer doula program, helped start a local doula group, and Was trained to assist midwives at the Farm with Ina May. Putting these skills to work, she has assisted a few different homebirth midwives. Nursing school was her next challenge, with the future hopes of working as a midwife. She is an asset to families with her caring, quiet, compassionate ways, and this will carry over to all she does in the birth world. She is on hiatus from births right now, but continues to offer placenta services.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)