Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Experience has a way of teaching you things you aren't likely to forget. It's so different than book learning. I would never say that book learning is irrelevant; I love books, I've learned a lot from them. And, especially as a health care practitioner, there are things you need to know but won't get very many chances to practice them because their occurrence is relatively rare. But there are lots of lessons that are well learned experientially.
Take knitting, for example. I taught myself the basic steps from a book. I particularly love the children's non-fiction section of the library for how-to books; they are full of color illustrations or pictures and simple language, just the ticket for learning a new skill. However, when I come across a confusing bit of pattern language, or a new little twist that I haven't done before, I rely on people who can help me make the next step, tuck the next skill under my belt.
I'm especially appreciating the teaching that happens at Casa this time around. I've caught two babies so far, both time with a patient midwife right next to me, taking my hands, showing me when to apply pressure and how much, when to back off. Simple clear language (in English) that helps me to really get this skill under my belt. They don't expect that since I've done it once, I'll do it perfectly the next time. The same patient respectful instructions are repeated as often as I need them to be, and the visuals (full color, real life), have been pretty unforgettable.
The lessons don't come in any tidy or orderly progression, either. A year ago, this really bugged me. I wanted the lessons to come in some kind of logical order, building one upon another. Now, while I appreciate that there are some things that you need to know and understand at the beginning, I realize that the logical order is each whole woman who comes to you. Each person's whole story instructs me, furthers my learning, and builds on what I already know. I need to understand what to look for in her prenatal care, what issues might be important for her and shepherd her through her birthing process, watchful of a new or already learned lesson.
The last year has been full of this kind of whole learning. The long labor lessons, the short labor lessons, the bleeding lessons, the breastfeeding lessons, the tiny baby lessons, the large baby lessons, the baby catching lessons, the suturing lessons have impacted the whole me--heart, mind and soul. I know that the lessons come because I need them, because I will use them, because they are working to turn me into a real midwife. And I am grateful for them, and all teachers who have helped me to learn them, pregnant women and midwives alike.