Friday, 13 May 2016

On Nurses (And How Fucking Amazing They Are, Since I'm One of Them)...

Boy (after some generic introduction or a terrible pick-up line): "So, what do you do for a living?"

April: "I'm a Registered Nurse."

Boy (I say boy because I haven't really met an actual man in a long time): visible interest in April perks up. Invariably there is a chauvinistic question about the uniform (either picturing a stripper-esque teensy white dress with thigh-high stockings or believes what's under the scrubs is a fabulous pandora's box of sexuality) or makes a remark about "always wanting to find a sugar mamma." There's probably some cheesy remark about nurses being angels thrown in for good measure. Dismay quickly sets in when he realizes I wear the equivalent of baggy pyjamas to work and while I may appear angelic, the trucker mouth and unique nursing sense of humour is a perfect addition to the fact that my scrubs are likely covered in any number of bodily fluids that no one wants to know about.

All kidding and stereotypes aside, yesterday marked the culmination of National Nurses Week (and due to technical difficulties I had to delay posting this). I haven't blatantly advertised my profession here on the blog, and I'm not one to waltz around on a high horse making sure everyone knows what I do for a living. But, this profession that I stumbled upon and have come to love fiercely, changed my life so drastically; my nursing colleagues are such brave, ridiculously hilarious, and amazing humans - I had to say a little something about nursing, at least from my perspective.

I truly lucked into nursing. I was nearing the end of a physiology degree with the intent of heading into medicine and becoming a doctor, and I was at a crossroads. I wrote the MCAT, and ended up one point short on the physics section (my arch-nemesis, fucking physics). My choices were...take the one class I had left remaining as a prerequisite for my physiology degree and fill up the remainder of a full load with classes that would lend to upping my overall average (and thus make me look somewhat intelligent), or find something that could lead to an actual job. Enter a serendipitous admission to the second degree nursing program at the University of Sask. I started nursing in May of 2006, and completed it in May of 2008 - an insanely gruelling two years that ground out an entirely different person than the one who shyly entered the lecture theatre at the start.

My convocation from nursing came along with some of the most life-altering circumstances I've experienced. The first time I left Canada was at the ripe old age of twenty-five, when I trekked across the globe to spend six weeks nursing in a rural area of Mozambique, accompanied by five other amazing women (one of whom has become one of my closest and dearest people, and my non-lesbian life partner/ex-roommate). I arrived home from three months of travel in Southern Africa a freshly single and far more adventurous version of myself (one day I'll share that break-up story with was, interesting), and started a full-time job in the real world on one of the more emotionally challenging wards a nurse could choose - oncology.

I have worked for a total of eight years as a nurse - six on oncology, and the last two in intensive care. My experience is by no means exhaustive, and I definitely have not "seen everything." I have definitely seen some things...I've cared for someone bleeding to death in a most unfortunate way. I've held dying hands and shed tears quietly in the bathroom afterward. I watch time and time again as families and friends cross the emotional chasm of "do everything," to "it's time to let them go." I have had some of the most difficult conversations a person will ever have in their life, requiring brutal honesty in order to bring someone into the reality of their situation instead of clinging to one last shred of hope. When you break it down to the absolute bear bones of reality, us nurses see and do some pretty ridiculous shit.

Craziness aside, I am in love with this job. I may not always like it (say, when you turn a patient and have to dodge actual projectile shit with Matrix-like precision), but I am in love with it. And the good - oh the good of this job - far outweighs any of the bad experiences. I've been so very lucky to derive so much good from this job. From working with some of the most courageous, miraculous and strong people who fight tooth and nail for their lives - to equally amazing humans who accept death's inevitability and the heart-wrenching fact that for some it comes all too early. Nursing has given me some of my closest and most important friends, and it has given me courage. It has given me a unique perspective on life, and allowed me to work through difficult situations in my own life with a keen understanding of where my priorities need to lie (and large quantities of wine).

Nursing is not a profession for the faint of heart, and thank goodness for that. There is no group of people I would want alongside me other than those I am deeply fortunate to call my friends and coworkers. These men and women are so much more than angels - they are intelligent, disgustingly hilarious (and I mean rankly, awfully, grossly humorous), big-hearted, caring, and empathetic individuals; I am honoured to work with them. It is such a privilege to be a nurse - we witness the amazing capacity of human beings daily, and have the honour of working with and helping people through some of their worst days. How blessed we are.


Sunday, 8 May 2016

On Mother's Day...

I, am not a mother. (I know you know this, but bear with me.)

If you've been following the blog, you know I can't conceive children naturally (if you need a refresher, click here). I've spent the last number of years coming to terms with my infertility; and more recently, with the idea that motherhood, in the traditional (or maybe any) sense, may not be in the cards for me. I'm not being whiny or searching for sympathy when I say that - it's simply my reality. Regardless, motherhood is something I've coveted since I was little. I grew up in a generation where expectations of women were still entangled with marriage and child bearing (much to the chagrin, I'm sure, of feminists everywhere). And because I have the mother that I do, I desperately wanted to be a mom, too.

My mother - Momsy to me - is one of the most beautiful human beings I know. Usually I would join countless others on Facebook as they espouse their amazing mothers - but today, I have a little more to write than a status update should allow, and a new (to me) perspective on motherhood to share.

I am incredibly proud to call my mother, Momsy. She has not only sacrificed the world over for my brother and I, but is also one of the most kind-hearted, funny, intelligent, generous, and beautiful women I have ever met. But that's not the whole of it; I now realize my pride in my mother comes just as much from who she is outside of being my marvellous Momsy. She is a fierce supporter of her friends and family - if you fuck with them, she will fuck with you right back (she would not say fuck as much as I do, to be clear, but the statement stands). She is not, and never has been (at least it seems to me) afraid to be exactly who she is; and I aspire daily to carry that into my own life. I have watched her tenderly devote her time to caring for friends and cherished family members at the end of their life, and I know precisely where my inspiration for nursing came from. I've watched over the last number of years as my Momsy has grown in her own right - creating a life and an identity for herself (and dragging my dad into her bustling social life) - which is possibly what makes me the most proud of her, and gives me strength in moving forward on my own. How fortunate my brother and I are, to have such a woman to call mother.

It's obvious why I would emulate such an example and strive to be even half the mother my Momsy has been to my brother and I. Having spent many years clinging to a traditional view of motherhood that my own reality doesn't quite support, I struggle in coming to grips with my situation. Now, I realize there are couples who have adopted, women who have chosen to pursue artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization on their own, and blended families who would all passionately argue the idea that motherhood is not based solely in a biological connection. But I'm stubborn and I take fucking forever to work through things, so it's taken me a long time to envisage an alternate concept of motherhood not hinging on me expelling a tiny human from my vagina.

I spent a sunny Saskatoon Saturday with my mom and a close family friend who, coincidentally, was like a second mother to me growing up. As we sat at lunch sipping our rosé and devouring delicious pizza, it hit me - my shot at motherhood isn't completely gone just because I'm not going to pump out 2.5 kids and raise them in a house with a white picket fence. In my mind, motherhood is just as much about striving to be a strong, independent, intelligent, graceful, and beautiful woman as it is about raising children to follow suit. If my identity as a woman doesn't need to be tied to childbearing, then a mother's identity is still just as much about her being the woman she is as it is about her being a mother.

I'm beyond fortunate to have my own Momsy as a prime example, but I also grew up with women around me who I have always regarded as the epitome of strength and grace. As I navigated my way into womanhood, I was fortunate to make friends who astound me with their capacity for love, friendship, and courage. And now, I get to witness some of these same women becoming mothers themselves, and I get to participate in their children's lives as Auntie April, something I cherish every minute of. My version of motherhood may not look like what I pictured at five years old, but I can certainly strive to be a strong female example for the children around me. I may not be a mother per se, but I can definitely set my sights on being the best damn Auntie those fucking kids will ever have.

At some point I'll get the whole grace thing down, I promise.


P.S. - As always, there's been a song on repeat while I've hammered out this post. It's a song that is forever entwined with thoughts of my own good mother...I will never be able to say or do enough to express how fortunate I am to have the parents I do, but this song always seems to sum it up so perfectly, "I've got a good mother, and her voice is what keeps me here...feet on ground, heart in hand, facing forward, be yourself."

Happy Mother's Day, Momsy.