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Blog and a Movie

Last night, Sarah and I went to see “Julie & Julia.” We loved the movie, but one aspect of it moved me to... well, forward movement.


I haven’t blogged since June 11, 2009 (as I have been reminded by several people); I have been unable to write. Not physically, of course, but emotionally. I seem to go through (emotionally/spiritually) constipated moments which translate into no-writing periods... until I am able to work through it all and begin writing again. About mid-July, I realized I was in that place, depression descending on me like an old familiar, very heavy, cloak. I simply must write. I’ve written before about this inability to write leading to depression; how could I have not started writing again when I began slipping into the chasm?


As these words tumble out, you will see the mosaic of challenges in my life. I am absolutely not writing as a poor, poor, pitiful me; I am writing to show my underbelly and to do what I am compelled to do... navelgaze. Some people think Navelgazing Midwife means I stare at the belly buttons of pregnant women. No, it is an expression of introspection, sometimes to a level that sends me in circles, but usually lifts me to a more elevated place so I can see things I never would have seen from any other vantage point.


While I knew I wasn’t writing and had an inkling of why (because there seemed to be nothing but crappy news), it wasn’t until I was in the middle of “Julie & Julia” that it all flooded through me, making me dizzy with realization and knowing I could no longer ignore my stunted feelings.


In the movie, Julie, a woman in 2002, blogs about her goal of going through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” As expected, she learns a lot more than just how to cook. She finds her core, vowing to change her life as Julia Child did late in her life. Through writing, she shares fears, hopes, trials and difficulties, usually relating to food, but having a parallel in her 30-year old life. In one scene, she fights with her husband and he yells at her to not write about that fight in her blog – because she does write about everything else. When she sits down to write that evening, she types out a line about her husband leaving her... but after a sigh, deletes it. I know exactly how she feels.


Years ago, when I started writing my blog in earnest, I sat with Sarah at Disney’s Grand Californian, by the pool (we were dressed and alone that early evening) and I explained my compulsion to write... that I needed to write... that it didn’t seem like a choice anymore. She said something she has since repeated several times. “Write! I never want you not to write. Just don’t put it in your blog.” I can’t. I don’t know how anymore. I own dozens of hand-written journals and notebooks but once I discovered that people actually liked what I wrote, that I heard back from others about it and that it was much more tantalizing than writing on any piece of paper could be, blogging was like a drug. I also asked my children about any limitations they had about my writing about them. They all said there were none. I gave examples to everyone, including Sarah, that could embarrass them or make them angry and all said, “Write.” And so I did.


I’ve certainly had quite the experiences with this blog. Sometimes people get very, very angry with my thoughts or ideas. I’ve had to delete posts more than a couple of times because I said something so vile (according to others), it was nearly demanded. And I buckled under the peer pressure. One post in particular got so much anger hurled at it; I knew I really hit quite the nerve of the midwifery community. I dared to say I felt Certified Professional Midwives needed more education in order to practice effectively, that the education at that point in time lacked many important skills that keep women and babies safe. I demonstrated the training of a Certified Nurse Midwife alongside a CPM’s training, really just saying someone needed to correct the deficiencies so we would be more respected, even if those corrections included a formal education process. Boy, did I get the comments! From everywhere, including NARM and MEAC... the folks who do the education and testing process. Heresy! How dare a Licensed and Certified Professional Midwife not uphold everything a midwife needs to do to become licensed. After awhile, it got really nasty... personally mean... and enjoying my mental health, I deleted the post. Didn’t even save it anywhere.


Another experience was when I wrote about a client without her permission. She read it, didn’t like what I wrote and I had never been closer to a lawsuit for defamation than at that time. Besides removing every post about ANY client that hadn’t given me permission, I apologized deeply for hurting her –in public. The relationship remains severed. Ever since, though, I ask clients if I can write about them. If they have not given me permission (and I know, I know, I really should have it in writing... said that was what I was going to do, but just have not), I say nothing about them in writing. There are so many parts of my midwifery life that are interesting, wild and educational, parts that I cannot share, I really should write and not publish until I am gone. No one knows better than my former apprentice Donna. She and I would look at each other with disbelief that we were really in the midst of something so odd, so surreal, that I bet readers would think I am making it up. I wouldn’t have been. After that experience, I didn’t write for several months, fell into a deep depression that landed me in the hospital for half a second and I had to find the resolve to forgive myself and move on. It took quite awhile and Sarah’s gift of a long-haired dachshund puppy we named Cash that got me well, inch by inch. (She often thanks Cash for saving my life. I do, too.)


Backstory is important sometimes.


I’m shocked, standing beside myself, to see what my life has become. Over and over, “You reap what you sow” sing-songs through my mind and I wonder what in the world I have done so wrong as to have this plethora of sadness going on in my life. What is the lesson? (Writing this, I can hear those who despise me laughing and laughing at my difficulties, but I write in spite of their meanness. I’m trying hard to tune them out. Even writing about them gives them more power, but I can’t ignore the inner conflict pervading my self-esteem.)


Within a very short period of time, Donna left her apprenticeship, I found myself with a mere one client, I’d gained an ungodly amount of weight, Sarah and I are moving into an RV instead of a house, money vanished (it is now a year since my offices closed because of the economy), my family and I had serious communication issues (for the first time ever) and there seemed to be so many shitty things to say, I stopped writing – and found myself clinically depressed yet again. Somehow, Sarah and I remain closer than ever, each of us repeating, like a mantra, “We’ll just stick together with the dogs and we’ll be fine.” I would collapse if my relationship disintegrated; it is one of the only things holding me up at the moment.


Last night, on the way home from the movie, I tearfully told Sarah why I wasn’t writing (she gets nervous when I don’t blog), that there were so many limitations on what I could write... that I’d rather disappoint my readers than her. I didn’t want to embarrass her, either with our choices or our experiences. She, once again, said, “Write! Just don’t publish it.” And I shook my head, the words stuffed inside my mouth, unable to find their way out for the tears in their way. I was finally able to explain, once again, the bizarre compulsion to write in public, that writing in private just does not fulfill. Talking with Meghann this morning, she helped me articulate it by saying I get help, validation, friendship and companionship through sharing with my cyber and real friends. I reiterated that I don’t want to write about all these crappy things so people go, “Awww, poor Barb,” but I want to write so I can look, with an objective eye, at each situation and examine how exactly to get out of them. I know I can’t be the only one and I believe many people cannot talk about their own lives in the way I do... fear, shame, sadness in the way... so I write for them, not those that laugh at me, but for those that nod with understanding and compassion for all of us in these situations.


So, I’m going to toss this up on my blog and pick each topic independently and write about it. I just can’t keep it all in anymore. The depression has to go somewhere... it might as well find itself in my blog, the place where it transforms into light and hope... both of which I know exist just out of my reach. I’m determined to find them.

Reader Comments (26)

Thank you Barb. I understand more than I am ready to admit. Keep the thoughts coming, and we'll listen as you speak your truth.

Oh and for the record? I agree with your posting that you did re CPM education. I do. I wish I was closer to you so that we could do coffee sometime, it would mean the world to me.

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersabbath

I don't know you, except through your blog, but I have missed your voice, your story.

I can relate to the weight gain, the not writing in the blog, the depression...

I just want you to know (*tearfully*) that THIS entry was what I needed to read just now. Please keep sharing if you can...and that is a selfish request.

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAbby

2009 has been a hard year for many, my family included. More than once, I've had the refrain running through my head, "If we can just make it to 2010..." I'm sorry that you're experiencing sadness and depression, but I'm very glad that you're writing again. I've missed reading your work. Wishing you peace.

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

When I had my horrible experience with birth last time (with nursie not letting me pee...though I am strong willed I didn't fight...then keeping me in bed, holding my cervix open between contractions, having me push early, etc...ad nauseum) I remember you writing me and I felt support. Your posts, not necessarily ever directed toward me, did challenge me. I had made the choice to birth in the hospital, had I misjudged my nurse? You did comment in email to me that you knew I had made a choice based on what I thought was safest for my baby, which is true. You also commented that I would likely do it different next time, which is true (pregnant again and now I have a family practice doc rather than an OB...and am looking at the midwife in the practice. I'm also considering switching hospitals). Everything you write may not be something I agree with, but it seems to me you are one of balance and it has helped me sort through what I need to think about in birth...what I need to consider. I am responsible for my decisions, and yet I can be abused by staff. Though this is not the way staff will see things, I have to prepare for that possibility just like I have to prepare for a c-section for a legitimate reason. I have to pick a provider I can trust, and move forward in birth. Since I am pregnant (3 months) I am recalling things you have written over the last few years and taking them to heart. I believe I have healed a great deal from my last birth experience and plan to approach this one differently.

So all of this is to say that though you are feeling down about life for different reasons, know that your wisdom as a midwife who walks that thin line in the medical world, has helped. You and I are very different women with different world views and approaches to life and yet you are able to make a positive and compassionate impact on me. You can challenge without making me feel like either a victim and weakling or an idiot. You challenge women to take charge in birth, but also to heal and handle whatever happens because we can only do so much...we can only predict so much...we can only impact those around us while we're in the midst of labor so much. Once we are on that ride for that day, we have to cope with how it goes. You have taught me this. So, I would hope you wouldn't be so down on yourself, though I completely understand that life sometimes almost forces this.


August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

Hugs, Barbara. I love your writing, and I have learned much from it. I have a ton of respect for you and look forward to reading more of your blog. I agree with Sabbath... if we lived closer, I'd love to go have coffee. :)

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeanestMommy

I'm glad to read your words. I mentally refer to you as the "omphaloskeptic midwife". Great word!

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElisabeth

Barb, I think writing posts like this is good not only for the author, but for those who are experiencing and surviving challenges similar to yours. I've missed your posts to and am glad that you are back!

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen @ VBACFACTS.com

Oh hugs Barb, I had no idea although I suspected things were tough out your way since you've been getting progressively more quiet. I get the same way when I'm down, I need to write but I can't find the motivation to do it. These last few months I've scarcely blogged for some similar reasons, I'm afraid of what would happen if I really let loose in the public eye. Even though I don't have anywhere near the number of readers, the ones I do have are near and dear. I don't want to be a negative nelly, but the world is really getting me down lately.

I hope you're finally able to write a bit and get some of that navelgazing out of your head and onto the screen.

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStassja

I am one of many who will encourage you to keep writing and healing through it. I have the same impression of private journaling. It feels like almost...an empty page until someone else says "yes, I hear you!" (really hard to describe).

I found your blog 6 months ago and have read every post. I have been entertained, amazed and educated by you. This is not flattery. This is fact and truth; You have had a massive impact on my life and the lives of my "someday" babies.

I have hope for you....

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I've missed your voice, and I understand far, far more than you know or would ever imagine.

It's been a rough year, hasn't it?

Your voice DOES make a difference, and I understand the need to write...I don't because of a violation years ago, I can't bring myself to put some of my thoughts down to paper, I talk to R or my friend A, I cry, I scream, but I can't write...silly no?

You are Welcome to write about me, and H, or what I've told you about C - and I'm willing to put it in writing..so there!

We've got to get together sometime...fat chicks need to stick together! :)

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJill H.

Thank you all for your empathy. It means so much and has kept me writing. Thank you so, so much.

August 22, 2009 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Barb, I have been following your blog for years now. I find it to be one the best birth blogs out there. I thought it was strange that you had not been blogging, but I understand so well. I have been going through a depression of my own and I definitely stop reaching out to people when I feel so low. I do get frustrated with the fact that I can't talk about the negatives on FB, and so I don't even post right now because it seems so fake. Most people only talk about the wonderful events of their lives, and this bothers me, especially when I only seem to be on a roll with not so positive things going on.
You have deeply influenced me, and I love your honesty. It's so refreshing. I needed to read this today. Thank you.

August 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

I know exactly what you mean about writing for an audience now as opposed to a journal. I also know exactly what you mean about not writing for fear of upsetting people. I removed my blog for that very same reason and I miss it for the exact same reason you said you miss yours. Maybe now that you've found the way to keep going, you'll inspire me to do the same. Maybe. I look forward to reading your thoughts again. You've always been an inspiration to me. Thanks for coming back.

August 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKarelle

I love to read your writing. I often feel as though I should write also but when I sit down to do it, I end up deleting stuff and not being able to get my point across. I think so much of what I would like to write about has so much back story that I get lost in the back story and how to get the point across. I was watching an interview late last night with Quentin Tarantino and I absolutely loved watching him and listening to him speak. Most of the films I have seen of his have such underlying stories and after watching a piece I often think what was the director trying to get me to see or feel with this film. He made a point that he would not like to do biographies of anyone but that he might do something like the day Elvis walked into Sun Records and what possessed him to do that , what brought him to that exact moment that day. That he doesn't like to hit the nail on the head, just graze things with a glancing blow. Get people to think and the more complicated a character is the better. All this to say I love the way you write. It is captivating and enjoyable to read. I don't think its about agreeing with what I read but more about examining why I would agree or disagree with what you write. Key is you get me to think. The world is a better place because you blog your voice and we are able to read it. Keep on:-) Love and compassion to you and may the light at the end of the tunnel continue to get brighter as you write!

August 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterecurlycue

Sometimes life is hard and sad and I'm sorry you're in that place right now; I hope you'll pull soon find the tools you need to claw your way out of that dark place, so you can see the beauty and feel the joy life has to offer, even when things are hard.

Thanks for writing again. You helped me so much when I was trying-to-conceive and then when I was finally pregnant, although you never knew it; your honest, balanced writing helped me choose a hospital, midwife-attended birth that worked out beautifully for me and my baby and I can't thank you enough for that. Before I discovered your blog I never would have known to question my ObGyn's c-section rates or to seriously consider the option of a drug-free birth (which I had! and loved!), but your blog really opened my brain to the possibilities.

Even when you're writing from a dark place, I'm interested to hear what you have to say, for my own benefit and because I've come to care for you as I've come to know you through your blog. I don't know if we'd be friends if we met, but I like to think we would.

Be well and please write!

August 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

Barb, You are my hero. I don't always agree with everything you say, but most of it I do :) You are an amazing and talented writer. You blog is enjoyable, entertaining, and thought-provoking. I have missed your writings here! I look forward to your resumption of this blog!!!!!


August 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBethany midives

I was starting to wonder if you were alright. *hug* Strength, Love, Light and courage will help chase away the darkness of depression.

August 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSoire

Barb, I'm so glad you had this realization and hope that it allows you an exit for much of this depression. I understand the depression and the need for an outlet. I need to find my outlet, I'm glad you found yours!

Many warm thoughts,

August 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I'm so glad you're back, and I"m sorry that things are tough with you right now. I *just* graduated and will sit the NARM in October. I feel like you mentored me in many ways, even though some of your feedback was difficult to hear. I've learned and grown by reading you, even when I wasn't in school. Your many words were a part of me becoming this new midwife.
I'm glad we get to share you some more. Your words are important. Especially now.
With love and wordy thoughts.
Louisa Xx

August 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMorag

Hi Barb! I've been reading for a while, but haven't commented yet. I've definitely missed your writing and I'm glad you're back. I really hope you start to feel better soon. Depression can just be so hard sometimes.

I stumbled across your blog in the months after having a miscarriage with my first child. I've always been interested in women's health issues, and I was compulsively reading about pregnancy and birth. I don't know why, but I've always felt like your blog was one of the resources that most helped me get over my grief about losing the baby. Just seeing that things can and do go right, without interventions--it really made me feel better, you know?

I feel like I've learned and gained so much from your writing. You have inspired me to change my career plans. I'm turning my back on my psychology degree to study nursing with the hope of eventually becoming a CNM.

And since you're going to be living on that RV (fun!), maybe if you're in my neck of the woods when my husband and I finally decide to go for another child, you'd be interested in being my midwife? ;)

August 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Thank you, Barb. Your writing is a precious gift to all of us, whether midwife or mother, doula or doctor, agree-er or dissenter. I, for one, am pleased to see you writing again.

August 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaKou

I found your blog just as you were pausing in early summer... I found it at a time when I was discouraged with the birthing movement and your words REALLY made me believe again that reasonable people can say things not along the party line, and say them well. You have encouraged me to stay working at it, to start thinking about writing too. I am so glad you are back.

August 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRA

Everyone's words are so healing. I've read them all to Sarah, who initially didn't want me to write about the things going on, but, the morning I finally wrote, she woke up and whispered, "Write." Her blessing means so much, but YOUR words are all validating, over and over and over again. Thank you.

August 28, 2009 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I'm so glad you're writing again. I've missed reading your words.

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristy

Hi Barb, I'm late to come back here... I kept checking and didn't see anything so I guess I quit checking until tonight. I'm so glad to read that you're blogging again. Life can be so very busy, and you're right writing can be very cathartic. I may need to take it up again myself, haven't ever had a blog but used to keep a journal (wrote almost every day). Haven't even read your more recent posts (looked them over on my way here), had to pick up where we left off... it still amazes me how I found this blog in the first place... was searching for a midwife who might travel since there aren't any locally (nearest is 100 miles away)... it's a long story but I am none-the-less glad to have found you. I hope you are encouraged to continue to share your heart in spite of any criticism, and I know God wants to bless you through it.

Again I'm glad you're back, and I pray you and your circumstances are on the mend.

Sincerely, C

October 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterQ

Have spent a couple hours catching up on the last few months. Every time I check back I fall in love with your blog all over again!

November 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterreeciebird

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