Happy New Year! I stopped doing New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago. They don’t ever work for me and never seem to stick. But I do believe in reflection of the prior year and setting realistic goals. One of my favorite conversations that has happened a few years in a row with my sister is one about goals. Sometimes this happens over a text with pictures or a marco polo, but it offers us both time to check in, offer congrats, encouragement and motivation in each of our seasons. And although this post may seen un-midwife like, these are the posts that I LOVED to read on other blogs for years. I strive to write content that I would want to read, but if it’s not your thing, I’ve got a birth story lined up for the next week! For 2022, these are some of my reflections, goals and thoughts moving into 2023.
2022 flew by! We always say that though – but this past year felt like a rollercoaster for a lot of the year and some of that was due to some travel goals. You set travel as a goal? Yes. Traveling with kids and as a family has always been a planned activity in our family. I grew up traveling a lot and believe it’s an important skill for your kids to have as well. I’ve talked about this before, but as a midwife and a mama, if we don’t plan it, it doesn’t happen. To start, we traveled to Italy with three small humans and one on the way. That was a new bar of fatigue and patience for all family members and trying to convince your 1 and 3 year olds to wear a mask on the plane was a feat all parties gave up on (even the flight attendants). Disney World proved to be a successful family vacation in the early fall and then we ended the year with some trips to the southeast to see family and celebrate a family wedding.
On the home front, we started homeschooling. When people hear we homeschool, they always ask the same questions: Did you always plan on homeschooling? How much time does that take? How do you do that with little kids? And with working?
Those answers are easy: No, we didn’t always plan on homeschooling. It was a decision we came to through a lot of prayer and research. And no, I don’t know if we will continue to homeschool forever. So far, I’m really enjoying it and feel like I am learning as much as my 6 year old. (Example: When you teach handwriting, you realize you’ve been writing some letters wrong for your entire life.)
Time wise, it doesn’t take more than 30-45 minutes. And on some days, we only do 10 minutes. We aim for 3 to 5 days a week – sometimes it’s every day. Regarding work, on the days I work, we do a lot of read alouds. Daily homeschool was a big myth for me during homeschool research. I thought it was something you had to do every day. Why did I think this? No idea. Normal school schedules have weekends off. Call it high expectations. I quickly realized that’s not the case at all. Homeschool is what you make it and how you design it. Want to study the Bible more? Do it. Want to do color by numbers for a math lesson? Do it. It’s not perfect, but we love it right now and plan to continue through the foreseeable future. (For anyone looking for homeschool information, guidance and all together awesome advice I use, and highly recommend, Read Aloud Revival Premium. No affiliations here. It was $15 a month when I joined 2 years ago and it’s been some of the best money spent for myself and my family. Even if I wasn’t homeschooling, there are so many gold nuggets about how to teach your kids, spend time with them and what resources to use for almost every question you could think of.)
And the other common question, what do you use for homeschool materials or curriculums? In fact, it’s almost the first question people who do homeschool ask each other. For math, we use MathUSee and I’m very impressed so far with the whole program. For handwriting, we use Handwriting Without Tears. Overall, I like the program, the curriculum book for the teacher is a little wordy. And for reading, we use All About Reading; for the most part I have no complaints about this curriculum either but I don’t love it as much as the math curriculum. (No affiliations to report with any of these programs.)
During this journey, I’ve found a lot of mamas that are midwives and doing homeschool with their kids. To me, the two naturally go together because both schedules are a little atypical. I also found a lot of mamas that do some work, whether full time or part time or prn, and home school. These little bits of knowledge have helped me along the way and made me feel less alone in the journey.
Short term goals for homeschooling include some pointed bible teaching, especially apologetics for kids, and even some piano lessons. Stay tuned for more homeschool shenanigans.
Other personal goals include finding and establishing community with a small group at church. We successfully did this and are already mourning the loss of our group when we move this summer.
Another goal was reading, reading and more reading. I set out to read 45 books and barely crossed the finish line of that goal. The big contributor to that win was two things: the tiny pressure behind borrowing books that have a timeline, thank you Libby and my two library cards. Honorable mentions are below and I foresee recommending a lot of these in 2023:
- Fiction: The Island of Sea Women; The Stationary Shop; Remarkably Bright Creatures; We Were the Lucky Ones; In Five Years; The Diamond Eye
- Non-fiction: This Momentary Marriage; Midnight in Chernobyl; Mamabear Apologetics; Being Mortal; Praying Scriptures for Your Children
I do have to credit having a baby at the end of the year for the time to read 10 more books – thank you breastfeeding. I’m looking forward to another great year of reading and am going for 50 books this year!
Lastly, and not really a goal, but an achievement nonetheless, we had a successful home birth and a healthy baby boy! Praise God!
Moving onto professional goals…I’m presenting at a national conference in May and I’ll have butterflies for the next six months about it. My presentation is on fistulas in the obstetric setting. It will be a story interwoven with pathophysiology and clinical practice applications. I also have a poster to present on my quality improvement initiative that I ddi for my contraception tool. I’m hoping to hand out contraception tools like halloween candy. I had some prior faculty and close friends that were great encouragers about applying to present – you know who you are and thank you. It’s not hard to apply but you do have to take the time to put your presentation together, tailored to the theme of the conference, and submit an application. Those were all new opportunities for me.
Other professional goals are blog related. You guys, the behind the scenes of a blog is another language. This past year I had to learn how to set up an online store and accept orders. Then I had to learn about taxes for small businesses and ask questions like: Do you charge taxes for a digital good? Then I learned about how to set up an email list and how start a landing page. There was a newsletter launch for me – which proved to be one of my favorite things to send each month and continues to evolve as I think about how to make it better or more helpful. And instagram, don’t get me started. Bless those accounts that are purely to teach you how to do things on instagram. If it weren’t for those accounts, I wouldn’t have any idea what to do between stories, reels, posts, etc. I’m desperately trying to understand how people prefer content and adapt to that. It’s like trying to learn a new language that changes every month, sometimes even more often. This is also the reason why I cannot mentally handle more than one social media platform. Going forward in 2023, I’m striving to plan and publish great content. That’s such a simple sentence but it’s such a time consuming endeavor. I still really love blogging as a hobby and hope that passion continues.
A big success on the content side was the TEMPLATES! Wow. What a God thing. I had no intention of making those templates. The idea came to me after publishing. a comprehensive post on preconception care. After I finished the post, I thought, why is there not a handout to go over all of this? Preconception care should be a part of a well woman visit (to any applicable patient, i.e., one that is not preventing pregnancy, desires pregnancy, or is actively trying to become pregnant). Get your free preconception tool over on the TOOLS & HANDOUTS page.
The templates are so helpful in clinic as well. I found myself using them at over 50% of my prenatal visits and also found myself writing down a lot fewer recommendations on paper towels, business cards or heck out slips. For my new OB visit (the first pregnancy visit), I standardized my clinic flow to use the IOB template, the OTC meds handout and a handout on aspirin (March of Dimes) or group prenatal care depending on which was more appropriate (often times, both were appropriate). This year, I’ve got a wonderful series of postpartum templates and a well woman visit template in the works. Revisiting the postpartum period for the fourth time has renewed my spirit that postpartum women need a lot of love and they need it for months after the birth. And if my friend Tina and I can align powers, we have a shared decision making tool in the works about elective induction.
And then, there was working part time. When I left the Air Force in 2021, I knew I wanted to keep working. I only applied at one practice because I was looking for a busy, high risk setting and was fortunate to get offered a position. I struggled at that time with accepting a full time position because the hours per week were more than 40 and it was salaried. A dear friend of mine with more children advised me to work part time and cherish those extra hours with my babes. I took her advice and it was perfect. It was also one of the more important decisions I feel that I made with work and family. This summer, I’ll stop working for at least a year and that’s the first break I’ve had from work since I was 13 years old. (This is outside of my maternity leaves – which we would all agree are not breaks.) I’m nervous about this break from work but am looking forward to it. I’m not opposed at moving into teaching, blogging more, or just playing on playgrounds the entire year.
To recap…What went well in 2022?
- Traveling was fun and adventures were had. We didn’t lose a child.
- Homeschool got off to a great start and continues to be an unexpected joy.
- Prenatal templates were a success. Blogging continues to be a rewarding challenge.
- Small group at church that is amazing.
- Reading for me. Reading with kids. All great.
- Part time work worked well. Catching babies is as fun as ever.
A couple things were hard this past year.
Two things in particular. One, being pregnant for the fourth time made for a very tired Jamie, mentally and physically. Aside from the normal fatigue of pregnancy, I chased three littles and did a lot of single parent ops (the husband did a lot of traveling). Bless my phenomenal nanny because without her, I wouldn’t have worked. We don’t have any family close by where we live, so she is our help. I only offer this because sometimes people look from the outside and say “She makes it look easy.” I offer the transparency because it’s not easy; but for anything that you love and feel called to do, it is worth it to try and make it work.
The second thing that was hard was precepting. And precepting pregnant. Oh, it was actually precepting pregnant with a mask on – thank you COVID. I had two difficult students this year that stretched me to, almost past, my ability to teach while simultaneously offering patience and encouragement. This was a new level of stretching for me as a preceptor and involved talking to faculty way more than I generally like to do. It also makes me understand why some midwives do not take students. To that end, I’ve got some things to say about precepting and students in some future posts that I hope are helpful to other midwives. The biggest thing that holds up the midwifery profession is that there aren’t enough preceptors to teach students. It’s the number one thing that program directors cite time and time again.
I also continued to work hard at providing evidence-based medicine in a group of providers that don’t always do so. It’s my own hill to climb but patients continue to be astounded and appreciative, especially when this is combined with shared decision-making. I’ll give a couple of examples: I had to explain what shared decision-making was to a practice manager; I had to pull ACOG guidelines to demonstrate that a breast exam and a pelvic exam are not mandatory components of a well woman exam and then, had to explain all the other components of the exam/visit that can be addressed instead; I see patients that are given aspirin with no indication and patients that should have been on aspirin and it was missed on the regular; and a large percentage of patients that would benefit greatly from group prenatal care but it’s not even offered or addressed.
These problems aren’t specific to my practice; I’ve seen these everywhere. But it continues to be a daily struggle in team based care.
As for goals for 2023, some remains the same and some will be a new frontier. Finding personal time in a new stay at home mama schedule is going to reign at the top of the list for a while. Stay at home mamas – I’m ears WIDE open. Tell me all the things you do to balance home and personal sanity. I’m praying about the next steps forward professionally. Is it time to teach? Time to go prn? Maybe find a combination of both? Time for a break? Ideally, I don’t want to be away from the bedside for more than 2 years. Reading 50 books seems reasonable at this time, especially because I have 8 books on my Kindle to read right now. My pelvic floor is a big goal this year too. I’ve done pelvic floor therapy in the past and Lord knows the muscles need some therapy after they expelled a 10 pound baby 2 months ago. For the blog, more content, more templates and possibly an online course?! The past few years I’ve had more religious centered goals but those are really hard in my daily schedule right now. So this year is a little different, Bible time is with the kids and a one year bible; prayer is the main focus and prayer happens in all the tiny cracks throughout the day. Jesus knows how loud and crazy my house is.
Some things that really helped day to day last year are still front and center this year. I try to do one thing at a time – this includes things from the dishes to writing a blog post. I am really intentional about my time I have that isn’t interrupted – if I have 20 minutes where al the kids are napping, I’m either sleeping or doing the task I have written on my to do list. Google Keep still reigns as my digital sticky note platform. But sometimes I still send myself a text message so it doesn’t get lost in the pile. I only clean one kitchen counter at a time. I say no to things, and I let it be. I make dinner around 3pm each day – this takes the pressure off of everyone and allows for all inevitable delays around dinner time – or, I bypass all of that and just use the crockpot. I try to savor the silence. Sometimes I drive my car around by myself in complete silence. It’s rejuvenating. I try to set clear boundaries – though this one is a struggle with some family members. I try to explain my expectations to my spouse – this is always a work in progress but my marriage is always better for it. I’m trying to get every good book recommendation I can because there’s just too little time to read the books that aren’t good. And if I can do something earlier in my day that helps me later in my day, I try to do those things first.
I’m not perfect by any means.
I do like to think I’m getting better at knowing myself and taking care of my family.
My systems get more of a fine tuning each year and less a total revamp.
I’m doing a better job of prioritizing what needs to get done by what’s most important (God, family…).
To me, these things have to happen first and happen somewhat successfully before I can pour into someone else as a midwife.
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year.