07 September 2005

Spilt Milk

I just spilled all the milk I just pumped on the kitchen counter and up my sleeve. After the obvious thought “this is where crying over spilled milk comes from,” I thought of a class I took in graduate school about nursing leadership. The majority of the course was a snore of 90 minutes on nursing history and the greatness of the profession. If only I had been a knitter earlier on my path to becoming a midwife. It was a great class for knitting. All I can remember now was the time spent discussing a seminal publication called “Novice to Expert.” The highbrow content of Patricia Benner’s classic demonstrates how one travels along the learning curve (steeply or not) to arrive at that place of dependable clinical judgment and truly caring practices-- the kind of knowing that others look to for answers.

Ten years later my classmates and I have all arrived in our own way. I opened a private practice and caught a bunch of babies. I started a free clinic. Others became professors, researchers, and went on for PhDs. And most of us, being women of childbearing age, became mothers.

So how it really goes is this: I spilled the milk, shouted one of many expletives I’m trying to curb before my 10 month old starts to talk to strangers, had thought #1 about the crying, started to cry, then had thought #2 about Benner’s book. In that milky moment I realized that I have done just the opposite. I have gone from expert to novice in the steepest un-learning curve known to womankind. I understand less and less every day.