NS May 10th, 2013
I stopped writing two years ago. Just like that, I stopped.
After six years of solid blogging across several websites, working hard to grow my audience and hone my skills, I gave up. My journalism degree was gathering dust while I was wiping snotty noses so I put it in a box and then up in the loft, its golden embossed letters a painfully-etched reminder that I’d never made it. My blog was popular in a small niche circle but I’d come to realise that a book deal wasn’t coming, a job at a newspaper or magazine wasn’t going to fall into my lap, and the possibility of being any kind of professional writer had faded into the sunset of my 20s.
I lifted my fingers from the keyboard, put the cap on the pen and deleted the feed readers, apps and Tweet Decks that had up to that point been daily sustenance, like air or water. I made a conscious decision to stop seeking out stories of injustice and oppression, the tales of sadness, tragedy and misery that were my bread and butter, creatively. Sure, I could also write about funny and heartwarming incidents but those were mainly to do with my own life and I was becoming increasingly averse to writing too much about my family lest I contribute to their therapy bills later in life.
So I stopped writing and concentrated on life’s simple pleasures, my doula business, my friends and my family. I felt an intense need to disentangle myself from the dark, overwhelming, distracting and all-consuming tentacles of The Internet and The News. No more did I want to read horrific and idiotic comments on news articles, or Tweet more with strangers than I communicated with my present-day, living and breathing friends. I started reading books again. I lost 15 pounds, went to a few new places, cultivated new friendships and tried to formulate new hobbies (though I never did get past learning two songs on the ukulele or three rows on my knitting needles). I chose to stroll amongst the roses and notice their sweet smell instead of their sharp thorns.
Yet at the same time I didn’t want to be a 30-something who never realised her dreams, morphing into a regretful woman or someone who was just happy enough. I had a supportive husband, two hilarious children who I loved with all my heart and a burgeoning business as a birth doula. I kept telling myself I should be happy with that and stop depressing myself with all the ‘might have beens’ and ‘could have dones’.
But I still wanted idealism and passion and the ability to do great and wondrous things, though perhaps at something more realistic than writing [It pained me to write that sentence, let alone think it. Something more realistic. Pfft. I am now a caricature of a TV sitcom dad who warns his artist son or dancer daughter that they have to choose a more pragmatic career and get their head out of the clouds]. I was also drawn to returning to work in a more regular, full-time capacity, in a career that would pay the bills if I needed to support myself. While Noble Husband and I have a very strong marriage and he’s always supported me being at home with the kids or doing part-time work, I know all too well that I’ve been disadvantaged economically and professionally because of the years I spent raising our children and writing for free or very little. As a feminist woman raised by a strong working mother, I’ve always felt a bit nervous about relying on someone else entirely for my livelihood. I’m already way behind where NH is in regards to pensions and I have to think about making some of that up so that I’m not destitute in my old age.
But what did I want to do? If I couldn’t move people and effect change with my words, I was going to have to do it with my hands and my heart. So I began asking myself: What makes you tick, Noble Savage? What do you care about more than anything in the world? What or to whom would you be willing to devote your life?
It took me awhile and I lay awake for many a night before finding the answer, which is: Women. Specifically, the appreciation, empowerment and advancement of women.I believe that women are so much mightier, beautiful, intelligent and capable than we ever give ourselves credit for. Women may not hold much of the power in law, government, religion or society but I have seen the inescapable, bone-shifting potency of raw female power in moments of life, death, birth, tragedy and joy. I see it in the wise eyes, strong hearts and clear minds of the women I’ve been blessed to know in my own life and those I’ve supported as a doula.
The epiphany settled upon me after one particular incident. I was in a hospital room, clasping a woman’s (my client’s) hands as the grey-pink light of a new day peeked through the frosted windows. She was looking directly into my eyes as she knelt on the bed and prepared to give the final pushes that would bring her baby into the world. She needed my presence to keep her grounded and so we were locked in this very tender embrace, our hands gripped tight and her head on my shoulder as she rested between contractions. Suddenly, her look changed from one of quiet determination to one of wild despair as she clenched my hands harder and whispered something I couldn’t hear. I asked her to repeat it. “I’m going to die, I’m dying” and said in a panicked voice, as if she had resigned herself to it and there was nothing more to discuss. I took her face in my hands and said kindly but firmly, “No, you’re not dying. You are so alive. You are giving life. And you are amazing.” She looked up at me, smiled, and on the next push her baby was born. Afterwards, she hugged me and told me that when I’d said those words and seemed 100% confident in her, that she suddenly knew that it would be okay and that she could do it. I left that room so high on endorphins, oxytocin and emotion that I still get a rush just thinking about it.
I guess you could say I had a spiritual awakening, but it had nothing to do with religion. What I realised is that my centre, my passion, my raison d’être is women, and that I had the capacity to help women in a way other than in my writing. Indeed, in a more physical, life-altering way.
The other thing I’d come to realise is that I love working WITH women too. I know many people bemoan all-female environments and I’m not saying it’s always easy, but I detest the idea that women are back-stabbing, catty, emotional vampires who will turn on a fellow female in an instant if she thinks someone is prettier, smarter, or getting more attention. I’ve never felt more inspired, empowered and safe as when I’m in a room full of like-minded birth workers. I was at a conference recently and the array of intelligent, kind, witty and determined women in my presence was almost overwhelming. I felt so lucky to be there amongst them, amongst people who, like me, want to help women and help make things better for us all. Sisterhood is powerful.
And so I decided, after this long, emotional process of reevaluating my dreams, that just because one dream may never come to fruition doesn’t mean it hasn’t served its purpose. Writing led me to politics which led me to feminism which led me to women. Women led me to motherhood and guided me through it, and so now I try to do the same by being there for them as a doula. And now I’m ready to take that one step further and become a midwife. I spent all of 2012 applying, interviewing, testing, waiting and hoping and just confirmed a couple months ago that I will begin training in September. Yep, I’m going back to university to get another degree, this time a BSc in Midwifery. Maybe I’ll even get the ol’ journalism degree back down from the loft when I qualify, so it’s not lonely up there on its own.
If you’d asked me 10, 5 or even 2 years ago if I wanted to be a midwife I would’ve looked at you like you were crazy. But now I know it’s what I was meant to do all along and that everything up to now was a stepping stone to this destination. After all, midwife literally means ‘with woman’. And with women is where I want to be.