I moved to England when I was 19. I had £80 cash and a credit card with a balance of $300. I didn’t know why I wanted to go abroad. I just knew that there was a great, big world outside of NW Philadelphia, and I had to explore it.
I knew a girl who lived in London. She told me that if I ever made it across the pond, I could stay with her until I figured things out. She gave me the permission I needed to book a flight, which I did, later that day. I found a roundtrip flight on Air India for about $500 (which was my bank account balance), and I bought it.
A few weeks later, I was in the air.
London was cool. Dreary and busy. People walked too fast and drank their tea with milk instead of sugar. It was fun to be an outsider. Bush Jr. was president, and I got to ignore American political drama and just float along in a bubble. I met people from all over the world. I drank alcohol and stayed out late. I made a lot of friends. And I completely ran out of money two weeks later.
Money. I didn’t have any. I refused to go home. So I decided to move in with a wealthy family in the English countryside town of Standsted Mountfitchet, and become their au pair. This family had three children. They lived in a huge farm house, which I lived in with them. They paid me £120 a week to look after their kids. They fed me. I had no bills. So I was able to save some money to explore the rest of the country.
An opportunity for me to visit Ireland came about, and I took it. In Ireland, I rode on a bus with other foreigners for three days all over the country. We explored the Cliffs of Moher, Killarney, Dingle Peninsula, and some other places that escape me. On this trip, I met a man who I would date for almost three years, and who I credit for introducing me to midwifery.
After a few boring months in the farmhouse, I decided to move to Manchester where I had another friend, so I could meet more people my age. I moved in with a 40-something year old physical education teacher who was a diehard Manchester City fan, and once came home from a football game, forehead bloodied from head butting another guy rooting for the opposing team. He was kind of crazy. He drank heavily, and initially lied to me about his age. After living with him for a few months, and not being able to find a job in Manchester, he kicked me out. I’d run out of money again. I was sort of homeless that night, until his girlfriend picked me up and took me to her house.
The next day I packed up all of my shit and took the bus and ferry back to Ireland to move in with the guy I’d met on the trip a few months before. We were gloriously broke and drunk in love. He was a bicycle courier in Dublin. A shy virgo who devoured any opportunity to talk about the meaning of life. He loved Nick Cave and Jack Kerouac, and had big plans to ride his bike from London to India one day.
We lived in a dank basement flat on the north side of Dublin. It was dark and damp. The stove was five feet from the mattress we slept on. There was one window that faced a stone wall. But it was only a 10 minute walk to the city centre, and we paid €400/month to have a place to ourselves. Dublin is a very expensive city. Most people paid that much to live in a crowded house with loads of roommates. Two introverts in love – we were happy to have privacy.
But we hated the city. You couldn’t walk a straight line in Dublin without bumping into 10 people. Luckily, his parents lived in a tiny cottage 90 minutes from the city in county Meath, and we frequently escaped there to enjoy the fresh air and stillness.
His mom had been a nurse for many years, and eventually became a home birth midwife. I didn’t know what a midwife was before I’d met her. She was the sweetest, most gentle person I’d ever met. Now in her 60s, she went back to school to study homeopathy. When we talked about midwifery, I knew this was what I was meant to do. Even though I’d never been to a birth, I started devising a plan to enroll in nursing school as soon as I moved back to the US, not knowing then that CPMs existed, and that not all midwives were nurse’s first.
My visa eventually expired, and I had to come back home. I crammed in all of my prerequisites for nursing school into summer courses and was accepted into a second degree BSN program that fall.
I had no real interest in any of my clinicals, except OB. During my entire nursing school career, I was only able to witness one vaginal birth. But that birth reaffirmed for me why I wanted to do this work. It was a beautiful experience. There’s so much mystery surrounding childbirth. All of us are born, and yet not all of us get to experience a birth. The mystery and magic of it keeps me motivated and excited.
More experienced nurses advised me to get at least a year of med-surg experience before going into a specialty. One year turned into four. I was burnt out and angry, but finding a labor and delivery job felt impossible without experience. After nearly two years of applying for labor and delivery jobs, I was offered what I thought was my dream job – a full time labor and delivery RN position. However, that position did not align with how I wanted to practice, and after five months, I left.
I write all of this to say that more than ten years ago, I was called to midwifery without really knowing why. Today, with the stark black maternal mortality rate in America, I am even more motivated to become a midwife. The cultivation of more black midwives in this country is mandatory in addressing this crisis. I knew there would become a time where practicing within a large health system would infringe on my ability to practice within a reproductive justice framework. And now it’s time to build my own system, because my people need me now, more than ever.