It's one of those perfect autumn nights here in Chicago-- they kind that makes us put up with the summers that are too hot and winters that are too cold.
The last two days I've plowed through a staggering amount of school work. Tomorrow I'll plow through some more. It was quite a week. It began Sunday with the first day of my new clinical rotation, OB. The teacher had tried to moderate our expectations; the last rotation, fewer than half the clinical students got to participate in a birth. Furthermore, she told us, because it was a Sunday (7 am to 7 pm), there was less chance-- the hospital typically didn't schedule induced births on Sundays.
It was, therefore, pretty humorous when all seven of us (two more of my clinical group have dropped out of the program) assisted in births. I assisted in two. The second one, I got to do just about everything but cut the cord. I helped with the mother during contractions and birth, did the "Apgar" assessment-- the one and five minute assessments of the newborn's well-being-- dried the baby off, checked her vital signs, weighed her, then took her to the nursery, gave her her hepatitis b and Vitamin K shots, put the erythomycin gel in her eyes, cleaning her and brought her to her parents.
Because of various circumstances, I was not at my son's birth; these were the first births I've been at. I don't know how one can see a human being draw its first breath and not be awed and humbled. It was life-changing.
In the meantime, various things have brought me some peace of mind. One of the biggest ones was a few weeks ago when Larry, one of my closest and oldest friends, finally found a journalism job, after over a year of hustling to make a living since being laid off by a major east-coast newspaper (along with most of the rest of the staff). I was also relieved to know another friend, who is prone to negativity, has a more positive outlook than he'd had recently and a plan. I was also relieved to find out that my son is addressing a major health issue that he'd ignored for a long time.
I also made a tough decision, but one that I think is right. I was faced with not having enough money to finish school, with only a little over a semester to go. I decided to pull some money out of a retirement account I'd set up about five years ago. I had long hesitated to do it, but realized that it was an investment in my future-- I can't tell you how many people, including my clinical instructor last rotation, who, like me, got into nursing later in life-- told me that I was making one of the best moves I could have made in getting this nursing degree. It means my kids not having to worry about where college money is coming from. It means not being able to retire at a reasonable age. It means being able to take vacations again. It means not living in fear every day that a car breakdown is going to throw my finances all to hell. It means being able to go out for dinner once in a while. In the end, the sum I took out is going to be trivial compared to the benefits of finishing school. And I'll be able to replenish the money pretty fast once I am working.
One other decision I made was to stop drinking entirely until I'm done with school. I had come to the realization that what I considered "normal" drinking was pretty excessive. The crowd I went to school with and hung out with when I was done drank a lot. I'd come to realize that what I considered moderate was not all that moderate, and that it was interfering with the grueling pace I've got to keep for the next six months. When I'm done with it all (god willing and the creek don't rise), I'll have a glass of champagne or red wine to celebrate and assess whether I can drink moderately.
So tonight, I'm here on the back porch on this chilly November sipping grape juice out of a wine glass. It's begun to rain a little bit. I'm feeling pretty exhausted after studying most of the day. But I'm also feeling pretty satisfied.