It has been a bit. Unfortunately, I spent two of the past three weeks in between my last post and now back in the States for the funeral of my boyfriend’s mom. Two nights prior to heading back to the U.S., my phone was stolen out of my coat pocket in the millisecond that I took my hand out to grab something from my bag on the subway (not an uncommon occurrence here, however the timing of everything was, of course, less than ideal). Thankfully, adrenaline carried me through surprisingly smooth travels (just in: it IS, in fact, possible to travel cross-continentally without a phone) and I was able to spend a week and a half with my partner and his family. What a gift to have been able to eat ripe watermelon and go for sun-lit walks at 8pm together, small glimpses of hope amidst a devastating week.
Upon returning from such a short, intense trip home, I was struck with the realization that I only have two more months here in Argentina. I am currently learning the balance of remaining present here with my doula practice and Spanish classes, while also caring for someone physically far away from me. Many things have felt difficult about returning—getting back into functioning in Spanish, host family dynamics, the heaviness of hospital work, activating my phone (including 5 trips to the phone store), a run-down immune system, grey/cold days with minimal hours of light—getting re-acquainted with being uncomfortable. I have to remind myself to speak up when I need something, when I don’t understand the conversation or directions, when I want or don’t want something. My personality is the type that prefers not to bother others or speak up for the fear of conflict or tension, something that often causes me to trip over my own tail. However my host family continues to encourage me to be assertive and bring my thoughts to the table—that it is better to be honest and an active participant than to always try to be “out of the way.” My personal goal for the second half of my time here.
I returned last Friday and did not waste much time getting back to doula work. Last Saturday, Ana (my host mom and a practicing doula) led the first half of a placenta workshop for a group of midwives that I both attended and helped host. We discussed the purpose of the placenta in fetal development, during birth, and it’s role in postpartum. We then worked with a participant’s actual placenta (frozen for 7 months) and made art, skin salve, and capsules for her to use in the coming year. As someone who studied the very clinical perspective of birth, this experience has given me a plethora of appreciation and knowledge for the more holistic, alternative approach to birth. I understand this as a balancing act, the dynamic between medical and supplemental intervention, however my understanding of what is important as an advocate for my patients has been vastly enriched. Many of the doulas I work with are also lactation consultants, a degree that takes roughly 3 years to obtain here. The past few hospital shifts were spent mostly alongside new moms experiencing challenges with breastfeeding their newborns. I have learned so much about lactation from the other doulas, and about how to teach lactation. Next week, we will begin entering the cuarto de parto (laboring rooms) to aid in birth firsthand, which I am really looking forward to.
This week in addition to the placenta workshop, we had Crianza, a group therapy including three moms and their babies (7 months-2 years). Ana guided the group through sharing their recent motherhood challenges, successes, questions, concerns, etc. We talked about infant separation anxiety, how to say “no” to learning toddlers, how to balance taking space for yourself by setting up boundaries with your family, and how to be present with your often confusing or frustrating little ones. It was beautiful to witness the moms share advice and empathy, and to watch the babies play and eat and sleep. Crianza is one of my very favorite roles of the doula, and something that I hope to carry with me as I grow into my professional career.
I am reassured by my host family and professors (and my grocery store cashier) that my Spanish skills are improving immensely, though I think at this point I am unable to see the big picture, only that I still have much to learn over the next two months (and the rest of my life). Everything I do here involves stretching my brain around this language, and while it has been exhausting and challenging and frustrating and funny and fascinating, its incredibly gratifying to think about going back to the Health Department in Nashville and being able to have meaningful conversations with my patients there. It is also incredibly gratifying to be able to better understand and participate in doula groups and conversations with my host family. I no longer dread sharing about my day at the dinner table or asking questions for clarification. I am only just halfway through my time here and
Some sentences I have written (I took a break while at home, therefore these are all from the past week):
August 6: Today I touched a real placenta and it reminded me of those games at Halloween parties where you blind-folded touch spaghetti disguised as a brain? Is that gross to say?
August 9: My room has been moved to the living space due to house construction and my temporary “closet” is an old doll house, which just cracks me up every morning when I go to get dressed and have to sort through all the rooms for my socks.
August 12: It was 60 degrees today so, naturally, I went for a run (something I’ve never done in my life).
And, as always, some photos below.
Take care of yourselves (& those around you!)