I’m ready to confess: I think I’m quitting school.
I’ve walked around for weeks feeling like a fraud as people asked about my classes and my long-term plans. I don’t want to be a nurse anymore.
After Genevieve died, I couldn’t imagine any sort of job that I would want to do. The only thing that mattered to me in those early months was taking care of Greg and Eleanor. The only job that I could imagine wanting to do was helping other people in crisis. I really feel that the nurses who took care of our family in the hospital saved my life. When no one else knew what to say to Greg and I, they did. They swaddled Genevieve in blankets and used her name and treated her with just as much gentleness as all of the living babies. Their work had meaning. Immense meaning.
I had lost interest in writing and editing and politics, but here was something important that I could do. The huge demand for nurses definitely helped push me that way, too.
Psychologists say that you shouldn’t make any big life changes in the first year after a baby’s death. No job switches. No moves. Just take time to adjust to your new reality. But knowing that I was losing my job at the paper, I felt that I had no choice but to make a life change. I also knew that if I quit my job without a plan, I would only spiral downward, so I planned.
I don’t regret starting the classes for nursing because I did learn a lot, and I got a boost to my confidence when I was at a very low point. But the further out I get from Genevieve’s death, the more I find myself loving the things that the old me loved. I like reading good journalism and literature, and I like following our often-ridiculous political process. I feel a little rush walking out to fetch the New York Times on Sunday mornings.
As a few friends have pointed out, this doesn’t mean that I can’t be a nurse. I know that I can be a nurse, but I don’t think that I should be a nurse. Yes, I’m good under pressure, and I like science. But most of the nurses I know are very warm and patient, and I don’t think either of those terms has ever been used to describe me. I fear that I’d turn into that nurse with the scowl, you know, the one whose shift can’t end soon enough? And now you’re reading this and thinking that I’m a cold, impatient person and wondering why I chose to have children in the first place. I really am pretty sweet to my own offspring, and to my husband (sometimes).
But what of helping people? Well, I’ve also started to think that my plan of working in labor and delivery would be traumatic. I would sob if I saw another family in that situation — probably not what they need from their nurse. I absolutely do want to help other families who have lost babies, but working with a nonprofit would be a better way for me to do that.
So, to summarize: I’m now an unemployed editor and writer. Hire me!
(I’ll always be nurse to her.)