I want to take a brief moment to recap this "Ways I've Made Money" writing exercise. I’m at a major crossroads moment in my life right now. In order to fully navigate the vocational aspects of my world, I’m writing in chunks about all the ways I’ve made money over the years as a sound boarding exercise for myself and anyone else interested in following along. Writing in this Field Notes location creates accountability for myself to power through and complete this personal writing mission. It’s my hope that these entries are a celebration of the neat things (and some of the not-so-neat things) I’ve had the privilege of doing. At the end of this exercise I hope to have a little more clarity about what I'd like to do next and be open to the opportunities that might come my way. This particular entry is about one of the most profound jobs I ever had and one that probably taught me the most valuable skill set of anything on my resume: remaining calm and centered in the face of total upheaval.
To pick up from last Field Notes entry, after I birthed our daughter, my midwife CB asked me to come work for her. She said I could bring my baby and I didn’t even hesitate. I had a full body YES and even though it paid half the wage of my last job, I didn’t care. If we’d tried to find childcare for our daughter and navigate all those logistics, it’s doubtful I’d have stuck with nursing her. In fact, it’s doubtful my hair salon job would have even paid for the childcare itself. Would it have even been worth it? I can’t really get lost in all the “what if’s” though because the hand I’d been dealt was to start working at a freestanding birth center where women could have their prenatal care and childbirth experience in an old, two-story house instead of a hospital. The building itself was over a hundred years old and it was furnished to look like a high-end bed and breakfast. To get to go there every day was a total dream. To support women through one of the most life changing events of adulthood was an honor and a privilege. And, bonus, I got to bring my baby to work with me every single day!
My time at the Birth Center was totally amazing and I have extremely fond memories of this time in my life. I’m friends to this day with many of the women I met who were coming there, just like me, to have their babies. I was the first person they talked to over the phone. I was the first person they met when they came for a tour. I scheduled prenatal appointments, filled out birth certificates, filed those certificates with the state of Texas, set up sonogram appointments, performed medical supply inventory, ran errands, helped host a monthly “Maternatea” for new moms, called insurance companies and generally learned every last bit of the birthing business during my years there.
I witnessed at least a few hundred births while working there because not only was I running the front office but I was also serving the midwives during the births. They took care of the laboring women while I took care of them both in equal measure. Eva went to work with me every single day and I nursed her right there at the front desk, not caring who walked in the door. It was a birthing center for crying out loud! In fact, my daughter (and later my son) also witnessed untold numbers of childbirths because she was strapped to my body in a sling the whole time I was bustling around during births.
And there are so many stories I could share. Births that went haywire. Births that appeared as though they came straight from a textbook. Births that accommodated crazy-ass family drama. Births that graciously accommodated foreign religious customs. Births that were utterly transformative to all of us witnessing and births that we were all glad to have gotten through. Pregnant women are super high maintenance. It’s a fact. And I could be compassionate about that because I’d just been pregnant and I’d just given birth myself. There was no one better for the women to confide in than me. As I mentioned, I’m still dear, dear friends with many of those women.
Eventually I’d learn to draw blood and even perform a pelvic exam. I even considered, for a hot second, to become a midwife myself since I was half way there already with a science degree but in the end determined not to. Having a new nursing baby was enough! I filmed countless births for people. I saw women’s vaginas do totally amazing things day in and day out. And I had to do it all with absolutely no reaction. The women and their husbands were watching our faces for how to be. I had to be centered and calm and even when I knew good and well this birth was going to be a transport to the hospital. It was literally my job to play the part and be a calm agent of transition for the mom, her family and probably most importantly, the midwives.
My dear sister-friend Lara also worked there. She and I were thick as thieves and delighted in tag-teaming our work with the patients and midwives. She had a young son too and our children essentially grew up together. Truly, it felt like we were a family working day in and day out in this giant two story mansion on Swiss Avenue.
When I became pregnant with our son, I kept right on working at the center. Paul and I had to do some creative rearranging of our schedules to accommodate our toddler Eva but we managed and when it came time to have our son Jiri, I decided I didn’t want to birth him at work (too weird!) so I got cleared for a home birth. He was born at our home in the bed we still sleep in. The year was 2001.
And then I got to take him to work with me. Eva was too old at this point and so me and my boy became completely conjoined in the baby sling while toddler Eva bonded even more deeply with Paul. I continued to nurse Eva until she was about five and it was fine because I was nursing her brother at the same time. For the record, I absolutely loved nursing my children. I loved being the example at the birth center for moms who were facing that sometimes difficult decision. I was a huge advocate for it and know in my heart many babies were nursed because I showed their moms it was not only possible but the best thing for them both.
There are SO many stories I could share about working at the center. Dramas. Foibles. Miracles. All of it. There’s the dildo story. There’s the foreskin story. There’s the sixteen year old gal, thirty weeks pregnant, who walked in off the street wanting an abortion and I responded by saying I’d adopt her baby right then and there. (Obviously that didn’t happen, there was another outcome, but still.) Those stories will have to be held for a later writing project. Lara used to joke (very seriously) that she could write an entire screenplay about all of us ladies working there. In fact, we used to fantasize about who would play us in the film. I learned so, so, so much from my coworker Lara, the midwives, all the birth assistants and doulas. The entire staff was female and the only men that even came into the building were fathers. Chief midwife CB was adamant that fathers caught their own baby. She said it bonded men to their children in unspeakably powerful ways. After witnessing hundreds of fathers catch their children, I can say that I agree 100%.
At some point I naturally started to drift away. Other possibilities were starting to take shape in our lives in terms of how we made money. And when my son became too big to come with me to work anymore, it was time for us to start shape shifting. The year was 2003 (or so).
Periodic updates from Aurah in the Field.