Every mother has a birth story, different for every child. I am honored to have had the euphoria of pregnancy and later birth. I also have had the heartbreak of discovering that my child would have a lifelong disability. The process of grieving for the child I dreamed of and the determination to love the child I have influenced my birth stories. I write to share their beginning in the most unlikely of circumstances.
As a senior at the Philadelphia High School for Girls, I was going to be the first of my family to attend college. I was also pregnant. My best friend, H., was pregnant too. (We still do everything together.) She was farther along than me. I told her I had no intention of carrying the pregnancy to term. Without batting an eye we planned how and when I would end the pregnancy without my family finding out. Graduation was two weeks away so we moved quickly. She borrowed her mom’s car and drove me to the pre-procedure appt and back for the procedure. I was already overcome with emotion and fear. H. was steadfast that she would be there the whole time. We did a drive by to survey parking. To our complete horror there was an anti-abortion protest in full swing! At least 300 people were blocking the entrance to Planned Parenthood. I wanted to leave but she would not let me. She was nine months pregnant and dragging me down the street, through throngs of protesters. They were shouting, shoving pictures at us, it was really unnerving. Still, we got through it undeterred. When it came time to pay for the procedure the fee was $100 more than budgeted. My ultrasound had indicated that I was further along than originally estimated. I did not have the money or means of getting it. All I remember thinking was that it was a sign from God that the entire effort was wrong. The nurse counseled me and offered financial assistance from the Women’s Medical Fund (WMF). WMF provides financial assistance to women in Southeastern PA who cannot afford to terminate a pregnancy. All she asked is that I pay back the money as soon I could. I promised.
After the procedure, my dear H., drove us back to her house. I could not go home. My mother would know something was up. As I lay there, contemplating the meaning of life and what my purpose was… H. explodes in the room to announce that her water had broken. Stunned is an understatement. How could this day have gotten any worse? Six hours later I was holding her tiny, beautiful daughter. I felt guilty all over again. I made my second promise that day. When the time was right, I would do my part to ensure that children are born into the most fertile conditions possible.
Later when I reached the seasoned age of 24, my husband and I decided to stop not trying to get pregnant. A few months went by. Then we started keeping track of our efforts. After about a year we saw an OB. The visit was two words, cold and indifferent. I sought out the care of a Midwife.
She taught me how to track ovulation and check cervical mucus for fertility. She also had me take Nettle and Red Clover to enhance fertility. The tiny, out of the box, woman rocked my proverbial world. In less than two months we were expecting. She also packed up shop to head for Peru to study with a Shaman. Midwives can do that apparently. Before leaving though she referred me to another completely different but equally amazing Midwife.
I went on to have a planned Home Birth. It was shocking experience for our whole family. I invited as many people as I could. My Midwife, Kathy, spent the night on my bedroom floor while I labored through the night. In the early daybreak hours she delivered my own, not tiny, beautiful baby girl. Afterwards my family and friends had brunch and birthday cake. I slept.
Kathy was with me through the birth of my second child and his subsequent diagnosis of Autism. Through tears I asked her if my choice to be induced could have caused it. She hugged me tight. Midwives can apparently do that too. I am finished having children but I still see Kathy. She inspires me to be more than I dreamed. She helped me find confidence to grieve for the son I dreamed of, accept the son I have, and the courage to be the Mother he needs. I used that strength when I attended the births of friends and family. Ultimately, I decided to finally heed my calling to Midwifery.
I am in my third term and doing very well. I like my courses and cohort group. The school is very supportive. It is a departure from my accelerated second degree BSN program. The pace is still accelerated but seems much more manageable with just two courses per term. I will complete all my didactic work first then move on to clinical toward the end of MSN next year. I will move into the DNP portion the program in 2019.
A low occurred when I was at Upenn and it became glaringly apparent that there was NO way I would be able to finance my education there. I was maxed out on student loans and I would have to leave my children with a sitter twice a week for class. I looked for another option in Frontier Nursing University a distance midwifery education program for nurses. It has been smooth sailing ever since. I feel like I’m on the right path for me.
My goal is to live life fully and help others do the same in whatever capacity that means for them. Just keeping it simple, and reaching as many women as I can. Ideally I dream about having a homebirth/birthcenter practice and also having hospital privileges.
How has it been raising an autistic child and especially now you are entering the birth world?
Raising my son while pursuing midwifery I only work on the weekends. Malcolm is amazed that I am a nurse. I used to be a teacher. He asks about the babies in a matter of fact way. Malcolm is a happy person. It is always sunny for him. His only complaint would come if I forgot to bring donuts home. It’s become a ritual when I go to work.
If you can give one piece of advice in terms of becoming and/or being a midwife what would it be?
I would say to research the current legislation in your state. Then consider the different avenues to practice. There are not the same and require varying levels of training and time.
What makes you up in the middle of the night?
I am always worry that I'm not doing enough for my children, for my people. I definitely struggle from 'imposter syndrome' too. I relive my shifts over and over especially when their tough.
Birth is...an unforgettable, divine and perspective altering experience.
Motherhood is... the hardest and most fulfilling work I have ever done. It can also be intensely painful and you have to acknowledge that when you become a mother.
If you were given three wishes, what would you wish for?
This is so selfish but I would ask to remove autism from my son.
I would ask for the freedom of resources to travel the world with my family.
And Peace for all.
What is the best thing about your life right now?
I actually really like my job. I'm working as a labor and delivery nurse. I love being with women during their labor. Women never cease to amaze.
What do you do for self care?
The best things I do for myself are eating well and keeping hydrated water. I cherish my alone time too. It is the best therapy.
Read more of Kamil's story and her son at http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:DuakU6czUV0J:www.sa-lives.com/entry/28/a-day-in-the-life-malcolm-el+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us