Monday, February 11, 2008

Mama Drama

I have a story.

At the beginning of the semester, I sent a note to the course coordinator, saying that my son's birth was traumatic, and that I was a bit nervous going into the setting again, although it had been several years. She said nervous is normal, and maybe I should let the clinical instructor know how I was feeling. Done, with conversation from course coordinator attached for history and context. I ended the email with this:

I feel confident that I can handle this course and I don't want kid-glove treatment at all! I just wanted you to know that I have really strong feelings about this stuff (in other words, I will cry during clinical at some point this semester!)

No response from clinical instructor, which was fine with me. It was perhaps too informal, I'll admit. But I did just come off Psych, and we all know how it went when I cried in front of that professor.

We've been meeting each Monday since the beginning of January with no mention of any of this, other than an aside on the first pre-conference that she knew I had a child, and who else has kids?
Last Monday, I saw TWO births (amazing, incredible and I'll write them up soon, I promise!). I also was talking about my son's birth briefly with two other students in the break room while we ate, and the CI was in the room. She said, "Oh you did have a traumatic birth." I used to enjoy the shock value a little, but I normally don't talk about it anymore - honestly, people are uncomfortable when they realize the implications of the vaginal delivery of an 11 pound, 11 ounce baby and subsequent fourth degree tear. Even indirectly, one's own rectum is not an easy thing to discuss socially, I've found.

The CI and I left together that evening, and she brought it up again. She said that she wasn't sure how to respond and so just played it by ear. I told her that's exactly what I had hoped that she would do, honestly, that I wanted her to know so that she could be prepared, but not because I thought that she would need to intervene in any way. She said, in her Midwestern drawl, "You know, it's been how long, seven years? If you're still having these strong feelings, you ought to think about getting counseling". I smiled uncomfortably and waited until she stopped talking and I could get away. Again? Really? Am I the world's craziest student?

got an email from her two days later that began and ended this waywith this sentence:

Although your clinical performance has been very good, I think you should seek counseling your issues related to your childbirth 7-8 years ago...

Your unresolved long standing issues impede your ability to learn as a student and grow. Please give this matter some serious thought.
See you next week.


There's that, then.

I've stopped screeching phrases like "how would she know?!" and "impede my ability to grow and learn as a student?!" incredulously. I have stopped obsessing about what I would do if she brings it up again as justification for a poor evaluation. While counseling is in order for me (as it is for most humans who have ever experienced anything), it's not on the wait-list for things to do this semester or even this year, I think. Also, I didn't fucking ask you. I guess since I brought it up in writing, she was obligated to respond in writing. but jesus. This is so intrusive, so cold and clinical.

I was all ready to fire off an email detailing my emotional reaction to her note. My friend said, No! She is asking you not to cry on her! Don't cry on her again! Mom said the same. I am immensely grateful for their translation. One of the things that disturbed me so much was that I was attempting to avoid this sort of interaction by sending the email in the first place. I was trying to construct some distance and professional detachment around an issue that is still tender for me, but I did it in a way that put my guts out there to begin with. In a way, it seems that I invited this intrusion into my emotional state; not literally, but on a sort of cosmic plane. What was I hoping to avoid in the first place here? Would I benefit from spending some time on this? Perhaps not with a counselor, but in meditation, doing some root chakra energy work, focused journalling?

I am practicing my pleasant, competent, yet emotionally detached personna for clinical conferences. I am wondering what this means about my way of being in the world in general and as a student in particular. And I'm thinking of it in terms of the conversation that Loving Pecola and darkdaughta are having about what can be expected from the world of academia.

Tonight went well, but I did give in to the temptation to tell a short form of this story to another student who got a similar nasty-gram. I regretted it immediately - it was purely for one-upping the other student, not because she and I are close or she needed my support. I even wonder about posting it here - but will leave it for now.

The instructor did add a comment at the bottom of my clinical journal entry from last week about the births: "I think this week was therapeutic for you!"

More than you know.


the robot said...

all this righteous indignation is interesting when just a couple weeks ago, I wrote this:
I was trying to explain this to my mom tonight and I could just hear my voice ratcheting up and getting nasty-mean. I wonder sometimes when I will feel less angry about my son’s birth. It’s certainly not going to be Fridays 1-4 or Mondays 2-9p.


Loving Pecola said...

You didn't ask me, but I would say don't share your personal life with teachers. It's just too much emotional clout. Plenty rope to hang yourself with. I sometimes say "I'm overwhelmed" if they ask about something (like handling 2 clinical shifts, 1-2 call shifts, and 5 classes and a side job, every week) but even that I don't say very often...when you share yourself, you open the door for critique about your strength, your emotional state, and everything else...I hate saying this, but build a wall, and build it's to protect yourself, your's not fair, and it's not you being true to yourself all the parts of you, but it might be absolutely necessary in order to avoid that possible impending "she's not stable enough...her progress was impeded...she needs to take an incomplete in this course until she resolves...goes to counseling" etc....none of which would have been said if they *didn't* know this about you...*sigh*...these are just my thoughts, looking forward to hearing more about how you're feeling about it all...

the robot said...

Oh man. I'd very much like to talk about this more, and I have a feeling that I need to think on it some more, too. my first reaction is just a sinking sadness, a sense of preemptory loss.
I (know) that I've got build the wall. It's something that I have struggled with in every single job I've ever had. I've always admired the people that could come in to work and be cheerful, but detached and sometimes tell a story about something that happened to them as a kid, but they never offered up big chunks of their lives for scrutiny by co-workers.

And it drives me crazy when my mom goes around with her guts hanging out so to speak. She would rather embarrass herself prophalactically than risk someone else calling her out. I'm all uncomfortable and feel like I'm standing there, looking at the ground, humming, until the sharing is over.

AND, there's a big big piece of this that is rooted in a sense of betrayal. Of all people, BSNs and MSNs should be able to model for me compassionate leadership and a marked lack of capitalizing on people's miscues or identified weaknesses.

As I've thought more about this, I did want that empathy and compassion that I'm supposed to be providing to patients from my professors - I wanted them to be nurses to me.

I also think that there's real value in being "out" about our experiences in general. I understand the importance of appropriate sharing, but we tend to take that just a bit too far in this society, and what if I can either find a connection with someone by sharing an intense experience or normalize their reaction a bit by saying something brief. I just have to figure out how to jive that with people who have the power to evaluate me. Again, though, aren't they supposed to evaluate me in a nurse-y way? Am I the only one reading the chapter on therapeutic communication? Am I the only one pissed because it doesn't happen in practice either? Is this like when the other servers all gather around me to mock the bumper stickers on my car? Oh shit - are the bumper stickers on my car indicative of inappropriate sharing, too?

In retrospect, it was wicked dumb to send this email to someone sight unseen. too much trust being offered blindly...

and i guess I can learn to build the wall. but. it sucks. i thought that was one of the things that I was bringing to the table, a willingness to be present, transparency, courage, naivete. and on a personal level, how can I reconcile this with my idea that the only way I'll find love and connection is to be willing to offer out love and connection? too hippy-dippy? too abstract for emailing instructors? yeah, I think so.

this feels like that same battle I've had for a year now, about how to be a nurse without being a jaded asshole. My role models are jaded assholes. They sometimes still provide excellent patient care.

oh hell, i'm exhausted. but I won't tell my community health prof that.

Loving Pecola said...

I've been thinking a lot about my comment. Especially, what right do I have to recommend you silence yourself? None. Thanks for adding more. I'm still thinking about it, but I'm pause for midterms.

I asked darkdaughta to stop by because she talks alot about emotional excavation, and I wanted to add someone else's (more experienced) voice to the conversation...