Friday, June 22, 2007

If I Were 35 Again

When I was 35 I had a 7-year-old, a 5-year-old and two 2-year-olds. I was a busy stay-at-home mom who had deliberately quit working when my then-5-year-old was born. I had very little concern about my future career, confident that when the time was right I'd be able to jump right back into developing educational products for kids. And, although it happened before the time was right (because Tom got laid off), I was able to jump right back into my career when I went to Edmark as a designer/producer in '95. But while I've loved designing and developing products and programs like Disney and Blue's Clues PC games, classroom manipulatives, and the FUEL and CHILL videos, I can't help but wonder whether I should have followed my other dream.

I am a childbirth fanatic. I'm one of those people who loves learning about and discussing everything about birth -- birth issues, birth options, birthing trends through history, birth stories, etc. I decided to become a Certified Childbirth Educator while I was home with kids because I'd had one quick, easy non-medicated birth (Elisabeth), one long, hard, medicated birth (Peter), and a C-section delivery of twins (Aleks and Kat), and I felt that my range of childbirth experiences provided me with something to offer other women. And of course, I'm an educator at heart so the progression was a natural one. I've trained as both an ICEA Certified Childbirth Educator and a DONA certified doula and I absolutely love helping families through the whole pregnancy and birth experience. Each time one of my students would ask me to attend her birth as a doula, I felt an instant connection to the family and to the baby, and for a while I felt like I had a bunch of little godchildren running around!

Unfortunately, teaching childbirth classes and being a doula never even came close to paying the bills (and actually, I never had the heart to charge for my doula services), so I had to go back to my "real" career when Tom was laid off in '95.

But if I had it to do over again, if I were 35 again, I think I'd apply to the Seattle Midwifery School and become a midwife. It's a far different path than the one I chose (and certainly not as lucrative, which is always a consideration with four college-bound kids) but I think I would have made a great midwife. I know I would have loved it!

Fifteen years ago, midwives practiced on the fridge of both social acceptance and legality, but things have changed and now they are simply a part of the community. Fifteen years ago, leaving the family suddenly in the middle of the night for an unknown amount of time also posed significant logistical problems and were a big factor in my decision to pursue a more dependable schedule and career, but now those situations wouldn't cause any problems at all.

I hate to sound like a pessimist, but it's too late (or maybe just too early?!) to become a midwife right now. I need to support the family and I need to do it now, not "someday." I need to be able to pay for at least a substantial portion of three kids' college tuition from 9/08 to 6/12. I can't ignore those financial obligations. Tom does what he can, but he switched careers -- with my complete support and encouragement -- five years ago, so the burden falls mostly on me... and I'm OK with that. He provided the primary financial support for the family for 18 years; now it's my turn.

But still. I mourn the loss of a career that could have been. And I miss fulfilling a passion that I feel to the depths of my being and that every so often beckons me back. When, if ever, will I be able to pay attention again and heed the calling?

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