Brave Woman

Adventures of a future nurse-midwife



Posted by Lucille on February 6, 2016 at 5:05 PM

The short version is: it was awful. Scratch that. It felt awful, because it was weird and stressful, and incredibly short considering I'd been imagining those twenty minutes for the last five years and they will have a determining impact on the course of the next five. What it was remains to be seen.

The interviewers sat at the end of a long table, with me at the other end. They read the questions one by one off of a script in front of them and then stared at me blankly while I answered. Even knowing that this 'neutrality' is a practice sometimes employed in interviews in the name of fairness, I found it incredibly unsettling.

Suffice it to say that I now have eloquent, insightful answers to all of their questions composed, and that they feel like well-worn stories from all the times I've pored over them in the last few days. Those are the answers I came up with while lying awake the night after the interview. They are not the answers I came up with on the spot in the real thing.

There were several questions where I went off in a direction that I don't think was at all what they were looking for. Several questions had many parts, and I would finish my answer only to have one of the interviewers raise her eyebrows and ask if I would like to address the rest of the question. I wouldn't feel as bad about that if it had only happened once, but it probably happened every third time. There were two moments where the interviewers broke out of their careful neutrality. The first was when they let out a short laugh as I recounted my process of figuring out how to take care of myself as a doula, and I told them I had tried every caffeinated drink and protein bar on the market before discovering what worked best for me: food and water. The second was when I shared an example of a neonatal death I had witnessed in Gambia, and one of the interviewers made a choice to go off script and thank me for sharing my story. I appreciated this gesture, but was caught up in the feeling that the story had somehow come out all wrong.

After a brief blur of trying to think quickly while second guessing myself, it was over. The interviewers thanked me for my time with blank expressions that seemed more like frowns, and that was it. That was the interview I'd been working toward for the last five years. It was done. Although I'm sure there were some questions I answered well, my gut feeling as I walked away was that I had just thrown any chance I had at getting into the program out the window. Everything had come out wrong. I hadn't been able to think fast enough. In the buzzing silence of the hallway, the answers they'd been looking for suddenly seemed clear to me, and had little resemblance to what I'd actually managed to say.

I walked outside, found a quiet place to sit, and observed that I felt ill and could feel my heart pounding and my breath catching in my chest. It's kind of amazing, really, that our emotions can produce such intense fight-or-flight symptoms despite a lack of any physical danger. I didn't cry, and my numb brain noted that as a point of concern. I cry at everything. Joy, sadness, anger-- it all comes out my eyes. My therapist last year would open every session with asking me to close my eyes and bring my attention to my breath, and no matter my mood, simply shifting my attention in this way would bring tears to my eyes. A lot of the time I found it annoying. She called it a sacred release. One of my favorite bloggers, Laura Parrott-Perry at In Others' Words, wrote earlier this year about the value systems inherent in the phrase 'reduced to tears', and I vowed to say 'elevated to tears' from then on.

I couldn't cry. So I brought my attention to my breath in a different way, and started taking my vitals. As soon as I finished counting, I wrote down the number and started counting again, then again, and again. I watched as the numbers gradually settled back toward normal, as my breaths came more easily and I had to put my hand on my chest to keep feeling my heart as its beat became slower and more even. I called my dad and gave him a brief update before my phone ran out of battery.

I still had more than an hour before the evening meet-and-greet. I came up with a lot of great answers to the interview questions in that time. A lot of things I would have done differently, and will do differently next time if it comes down to it. A year seems like a long time to wait.

The meet-and-greet was better. It was fun getting to meet the other applicants, and a relief to interact with the faculty as people and midwives rather than as interviewers. I took a soapbox moment as we went around and introduced ourselves to share that I'm an advocate for reapplying. I told the applicants (most of whom were applying for the AccBac-to-midwifery option, and would thus start the program I'm currently in) about how everyone I met at the interviews for the AccBac program last year would have made great nurses, and the limited number of spots in the program didn't change that. (Did you know that to become nursing/midwifery educators, clinicians have to earn an additional degree and then accept a significant cut in pay? Right now the limiting factor on these programs is the shortage of teachers and preceptors.) I'm still not sure this soapbox moment was a good idea. I hope the faculty didn't see it as me trying to show off in any way. But everyone who had introduced themselves before me had such rich background experiences and so clearly deserved to follow their passion in midwifery that it galled me that as many as 3/4 of them would be turned away. It doesn't mean they aren't meant to be midwives, and in case they don't have family and friends cheering them on the way I do, I wanted to make sure they heard it from someone.

One of the faculty members thanked me, elaborated a bit about the shortage of spots in the program, and encouraged everyone to reapply if needed. I could have imagined it, but I could have sworn she held my gaze for a long moment when she said "if this isn't your year".

I ran into a few friends on the way home and then reached out to my people over Facebook. The solidarity and votes of confidence meant the world to me, especially from my friends who are admitted to the program. A few of them shared that their interview experience had been similar, in the sense that they felt intimidated by the scripted interactions with faculty and then left feeling like everything had somehow gone horribly wrong. This was probably the most therapeutic thing of all, as it reassured me that my intuitive sense of doom might not be an accurate measure. They obviously did something right, so if my goal is to follow in their footsteps, I will check 'feel awful about the interview' enthusiastically off the list.

I am trying to remember that getting a job as a nurse after this would not be the worst thing in the world. It wouldn't even be a bad thing, not in the slightest! I am going to be a nurse! And experience as a labor and delivery nurse would be a wonderful thing (not to mention earning my first real paycheck!). The drawback is purely that a detour into nursing isn't my first choice, and it feels painful to have such an important crossroads in my life be outside of my control. Also I would love to go through midwifery school with the peers I've already fallen in love with. But based on the people I met at the interview, I'm going to trust that incredible women aspiring to be midwives are not in short supply.

At this point I'd just like to know either way, even if the answer is that this isn't my year. I just want to be out of limbo. Based on this, I think the most likely outcome is that I will be waitlisted indefinitely.

But on the bright side, I start on the mother-baby unit next week! More to come.

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