The following is the second in a series of posts documenting the path of two Graduate nurses embarking on an unconventional Health Journey… This second article discusses connections made on the road.
I met Maggie and Chelsea at a Gypsy Nurse Meet & Greet in Knoxville back at the beginning of May 2013. Maggie and Chelsea were at that point, nearly Graduate Nurses, with only a few short days left of finals and Graduation. I’m still uncertain why they chose to attend the Travel Nurse Meet & Greet but I am thrilled to have met them and been invited along on their their unconventional journey of learning, exploration and travel…
The sun has been up for a solid two hours when I finally crawl out of my sleeping bag.
I stretch and greet the fresh morning air with a yawn, slip on sneakers and decide to go for a run. As I trot along the small paved rode in the campground, I look up and can see the very tip of the Tetons peeking up over the trees. My morning run has been what gives me a rhythm in this seemingly rhythmless lifestyle and also reminds me of how different each place is. Has it been a month? That seems so strange. Our time is now kept straight by location, rather than days of the week. The past few states — South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming — have given us peace of mind and a beautiful feeling of insignificance.
Our first night in South Dakota marked the beginning of our trip beyond the west shore of the mighty Mississippi. We left Minneapolis later than we intended (a trend we find easy to fall into every place we visit) and the sun was sinking fast. We both were nervous to drive into the Badlands at night and unsure of our next move. We focused on the setting sun, a red I have never experienced in nature, backed by a delicate, light pink. We both were mesmerized. We chose to chase what was left of the sun up a hill and watch it sink. There we sat on the hood of “Wildcat” (a two-door 2001 Chevy Cavalier) and observed the beauty of a sunset in a sky that seemed endless. Behind us, the full moon was on the rise. The two orbs shared the sky for the remainder of the sunset. This moment brought us peace and we decided to hunt a campsite here rather than ride on. Our curiosity led us down a little dirt road to a beautiful spot on the Missouri River where Lewis and Clark spent time during their expedition. We set up camp beneath the moonlight and reflected on the past week.
Our journey began at The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee
Here, we had a chance meeting with Ina May Gaskin, “the mother of midwifery,” and her husband Steven outside The Farm Clinic.
We were guided through a three-hour tour of Frontier Nursing University and learned more about Mary Breckinridge, the Frontier Nursing Service, and her success in addressing the health needs of the rural Appalachian population in eastern Kentucky. We were graciously invited into the home of a midwife in Appleton, Wisconsin. She introduced us to the many medicinal herbs that can be used for maternal and child health and to her sister who practices acupuncture in Minneapolis. She also connected us with a midwife in La Farge, Wisconsin who works with the Mennonite and Amish communities and has success delivering high-risk twin and breech babies vaginally in the clinic which would be considered too high-risk and require cesarean section in a hospital.
In Minneapolis, Minnesota we visited Morning Star birth center and learned about its lending library where expecting families can check out books, dvds, and magazines about the birth process and other topics about which new parents may want to educate themselves. In Minneapolis, we contacted a craniosacral therapist and once again we were offered an invitation into a home, a gracious trend we are finding in the birthing community. While she answered our questions about craniosacraltherapy, she asked us to share our perspective on some ideas she is continuously exploring about birth. Also in Minneapolis, we were fortunate to meet with two malpractice lawyers, one who defends patients and one who defends doctors and nurses.
We drove through a herd of bison in the Badlands National Park.
We helped scout mountain goats and wrangled up six hens and a rooster in Montana. In the Grand Teton National Park, we wandered off the beaten path, which forced us to climb giant boulders that had fallen in a rockslide. This wandering was accidental, but provided us with a view of the Tetons that looked two-dimensional and uncovered the entirety of Hidden Falls that could not be seen from the trail.
We made it to Denver, Colorado in time for the Improving Birth rally on Labor Day. At the rally, we met local midwives and were invited to tour a well-known birth center in the area. In an effort to fit in while in Denver, we both threw up on Colfax Avenue on different days. One of us had food poisoning and the other had altitude sickness. While we were gaining our strength back from being under the weather, we visited Arches National Park in Moab, Utah on the rainiest day it will likely see all year.
In Salt Lake City, we met a kind woman who insisted on cooking us dinner and giving us a place to sleep for the night once she discovered we were traveling. In the morning, she insisted we take a loaf of bread, a box of wine, and our pick of cans from her pantry before leaving her house. At the hostel in Eugene, Oregon, we befriended a man who took us on an adventure to Umpqua hot springs, where nudity and friendly smiling strangers are in abundance. On our way back to Portland, we stopped in Aurora to cut into our new friend’s watermelon. As we sat on the sidewalk devouring the melon, a car pulled up and the driver asked if we needed anything. She said her husband called her to let her know two Tennessee girls who “looked like they came right off The Farm” were parked in front of the clinic. As fate would have it, we were parked in front of a family health clinic that also serves as a birthing center. The woman asking if we needed anything was the midwife who started the clinic. It had been over a week since we sought contact with any midwives and this one seemed to find us.
We made our way into Seattle, Washington and with more good fortune were able to meet with Penny Simkin who has been working in the birthing community for 35-plus years as a birth advocate, physical therapist and doula.
We are deeply inspired by how diligently she is working to improve birth in our society and pass on what knowledge she has gained for assisting women during childbirth. She teaches child birth classes, has developed models for identifying and assisting pregnant women who have suffered abuse, and been a general advocate for safe and empowering child birth in the United States.
Like with matters of the heart, a breakdown in communication seems to be a major source of conflict between different parties in the birthing culture. This often creates a lack of support for different techniques and prevents the utilization of one another’s strengths.
Each professional involved offers essential practices and tools that make birth safe and enjoyable.
In the midwives we meet, we see the power of support and a deep patient-physician relationship. Medically, we see that modern developments are saving lives when women’s bodies are incapable of completing the task alone. Legally, we understand the value an unborn life has in our society. Birth will not only be enhanced by collaboration, but is truly dependent on such for success. Every person in the birthing community has an excellent and important perspective that, with respect and collaboration, could produce great outcomes.
We began this trip with 69,945 miles on the car, are now at 79,224, and are only half way through.
Maggie: We have gained valuable insight of both the birthing community and ourselves. We are most thankful to our families and friends old and new.
If you are in the field of ‘birthing’ and would like to connect with Maggie and Chelsea, you can follow them via Facebook Maggie and Chelsea. Currently in San Francisco; upcoming locations include: Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Monterey, Tuscon (AZ), Phoenix (AZ), Albequerque (NM), Toas (NM), and Austin (TX). Show them the support that the Gypsy Nurses can provide by linking them to your contacts, offering a coffee meet-up or just say hello!
I have to say that I am astounded by the connections that Maggie and Chelsea have made along the way. There is a community of nurses out there that are just waiting for an opportunity to share their love of nursing in a nurturing and productive way. Maggie and Chelsea’s journey has re-affirmed for me the ‘heart’ that is behind the nursing profession. So much of the time, we are too busy to lend a hand, share an experience, provide mentorship. Let’s all take Maggie and Chelsea’s experiences and look to make nursing a more collaborative effort.