No, I’m not quitting midwifery. This post is actually about choosing midwifery. Actively choosing it. But it’s about quitting a lot of other things that came before it.
Permission to Redirect Yourself
In our American culture, quitting is seen as failure. I’m here to tell you it isn’t. Quitting is not failing. Quitting is recognizing that whatever it is you’re doing is not right for you. It’s course correction. Redirection.
If you need to quit something, no matter how deep you are into it, realize that changing course is not failing. And even failing isn’t so bad. Failing just means you weren’t meant for it.
I’ve been reading some books about personality types, and one that has been particularly useful is the collection of information available in the books discussing Strengths. The StrengthsFinder is a tool to help individuals and companies discover their strengths so they can use them in their favor. And one of the lessons learned from their materials is that it’s ok to recognize your weakness, and yes–to quit. It’s okay to give up on something when you realize you aren’t meant to do that thing. Focus on your strengths instead of punishing yourself for your weaknesses. If it means changing who you are and fighting against your strengths, it’s not going to work for you in the end.
Skills and knowledge can be learned, and sometimes it’s a struggle to learn them. But figuring out your strengths and knowing how you learn can make that easier. I’ve had to make that adjustment in my midwifery training. When I saw that one way of learning wasn’t working for me and was causing frustration and burnout in my education, I changed the environment, changed the teacher, and now I’m learning a lot and it’s actually sinking in. There’s nothing “wrong” with the former teacher, and nothing “wrong” with the old way I was learning. It just wasn’t a good fit for me and how I learn. It’s right for others; it’s not right for me. Simple as that.
Looking to the Past
When I first graduated high school, I spent a semester overseas at bible college. I thought I might be a missionary. Once there, despite enjoying the environment and experience, it just didn’t seem like what I was supposed to pursue. Missions will always be a big part of my life, but at that time, I felt I needed to return home, grateful for the experience I had and the relationships I’d developed.
When I returned to “real life”, I decided to pursue the one career that had interested me most towards the end of high school: Physical Therapy. I loved to dance, though I knew I would never be a professional dancer. But I wanted to work in physical therapy with dancers. Having the knowledge of how dancers move and use their bodies, I thought it would come naturally. I worked for a short time as a restaurant server and an in-home caregiver while I started my general education units at the local community college until I found a job as a Physical Therapy Aide. I loved working with clients and learning about the body, but it just didn’t feel right. So I quit.
While in college, I took American Sign Language as my language credit. I fell in love with the Deaf Community and the language, and so I changed courses and decided to pursue ASL Interpretation as a career. I wanted to focus on 1) special needs classrooms and 2) medical interpretation. Two things I enjoyed and was gifted in: education and medicine. But financial aid was dropped when I made $300 too much (but still couldn’t afford classes out of pocket) and I had to stop college before I could finish.
I switched directions again and found a job at my childhood church’s school, and thought for a time that I would become a teacher. The work came naturally to me, and it was nice to have a predictable schedule, even if the hours were long. But something still wasn’t quite right for me. I took some classes online (through an affiliated university that focused on Christian education), which were informative, but ultimately I changed courses yet again. This time to become a parent.
I got pregnant and was determined to be a stay at home mom. I put off all serious pursuits of a career, being too discouraged at my previous “failures” and not knowing what to do with my life. Between children, I worked part-time teaching Infant Sign Language, and developed an interest in birth.
Around the middle of my second pregnancy, my midwife (and very dear friend) said to me, “Grace, you should be a midwife!” But I shrugged it off, not considering myself “good enough” for such a beautiful, intense, highly skilled profession. But over the years, it tugged at me. I became a certified doula, a postpartum doula, and a breastfeeding counselor. I hoarded information on the subject and soon things clicked for me. It made sense and it was something I was familiar and comfortable with. The idea of being a midwife didn’t seem so intimidating or impossible.
It All Comes Together In the End
Those attempted professions may seem disjointed and completely different. But now looking in hindsight, I can see how they have each contributed to my current pursuit of midwifery.
- Missions. While I know I have not been called to be a full-time missionary, I have seen how my experiences in missions work will contribute to my plans for the future. In the midst of my midwifery training, I’ve developed an idea of how to blend these passions. There are field hospitals in developing nations which serve primarily refugees. When I become licensed, I would like to go semi-regularly (every few years) to give the local and long-term midwives some respite. My goal is not to westernize anyone or do any “mission tourism”. I just know how intense that work is and want to give the workers who are committed there a little rest. But my understanding of missions, regions in need, and international travel will contribute to my preparation for that work.
- Physical Therapy. Understanding how the body moves, muscle groups, different kinds of movement and positioning… These are all so important for pregnancy health and for birth. Not only that, but working in the physical therapy office was my first exposure to things like charting, diagnostic codes, and insurance billing.
- ASL Interpretation. While it will be rare for me to have a Deaf client, the fact that I can communicate with them in their own language is helpful. But in the more generalized sense, the willingness and understanding of entering another culture, adapting to their ways, and finding ways to communicate–that is helpful as well. Being in the Deaf Community was a wonderful experience and I’ll always have a place in my heart for them. Also, because my focus in ASL Interpretation was medical interpretation, I had taken medical terminology courses, which have been very helpful in my midwifery education.
- Teaching. Education is a big part of midwifery. We educate clients on pregnancy and birth, nutrition, general health, and physiology. And when we have enough experience, we also educate new midwives as we take on apprentices. Being comfortable with teaching, understanding different learning styles and methods, and adapting to the learner’s needs, are all aspects of education that will be useful in midwifery.
Being okay with quitting means appreciating the time you had in that field for what it was. We are always learning, even (sometimes especially) from “bad fits”. I learned a lot in my previous apprenticeships, even if they weren’t the right fit for me. I learned not only about midwifery but about myself. I found my limits, I learned about how I respond to stress (so that I can identify it quicker and put up boundaries as needed), and I learned that it’s okay to quit.
If you’re not in the right place, change it. Find your strengths and use those instead of fighting yourself over your weaknesses. Of course be responsible and don’t sabotage yourself. But if you’re really not in the right role, or the right field, then figure out what is right, and make the change. It might take a few tries to figure out what exactly is right for you, but each time you quit and try something new, you get a little closer to knowing.
If I hadn’t quit those other professions, I wouldn’t be in the one I am now, which truly is right for me. Quitting isn’t about giving up or failing. It’s about choosing something that fits you better. So I quit a few times–but that freed me to choose midwifery. And that’s the right choice for me.
How about you? Have you quit something? Or do you feel you need to? Share below your experiences with quitting!