The Wounded Healer

In today’s midday conversation with my wonderful housemate, I was sharing some of the challenges I am experiencing in my transition at the moment. She was asking me how I was feeling, and what I needed.

I mentioned to her that I needed to be acknowledged as a wounded human, and not a wounded healer. Her reaction affirmed the thoughts that formulated after – when a person known as a healer experiences pain and distress, the assumption is that we are somehow way more equipped to handle and transcend suffering than the average human being. The tragedy of this is that healers are, in fact, very much human and because of the healing work they engage in, are prone to being affected by pain and suffering on a level the average human being is not necessarily completely conscious of.

Wounded healers, in my personal experience, are less likely to be vocal about their troubles, sometimes less likely to demand a pity party and much more likely suffer alone because others (and sometimes themselves) assume “they got this.” People around them tend to assume that healers can also magically heal themselves and have a much better rebound time than most folks, so why would they the same level of attention as the folks they serve?

The truth is, healers can be susceptible to incurring an incredible amount of trauma. First, the healers I have come into contact with choose to transform into channels of healing because they have experienced a deep excruciating level of pain. This pain woke them the hell up; it awoke something in them to use their troubles as the very medicine to bring them out of it. That’s the first step to being a channel for healing: healing yourself.

Second, they decide to facilitate healing for others. That is to say, there is a difference between curing and healing: curing is the act of restore someone’s health in which they are not necessarily involved in the healing of themselves. To cure someone is only to address the symptom and not the underlying psychosomatic roots of their illness. Healing requests the active participation of the ailing individual to engage in facing themselves while the healer is only holding the space for them to transform. It is not out of the question for a healer to be retraumatized or triggered by those that they are holding space for. The healing sessions can also be draining because of the amount of time, energy, lack of food and sleep that is required at times (for me as a birth doula, that could mean anywhere from 7 to 24+ hours of being present for a birthing woman). And because of this, healers have to also be healed.

When I use the word healer, I don’t mean just the typical image of a sage, shaman or medicine person. A healer is someone who facilitates healing, and in my broad definition, that can be any person on this planet who has decided to heal themselves and have in turn used their experiences to bring healing to others who want it. Musicians, painters, writers, doctors, librarians, mothers…anyone can be a healer in their own right because the truth is that we all have the capacity to heal ourselves and others. It is those of us who have consciously and powerfully made the choice to make healing their path that are pointed at as healers. Regardless of a title, a healer’s suffering needs just as much attention as the next person.

Becoming a Student Midwife: A Childhood Dream Rekindled

My sister friend Caroline once asked me what I aspired to be as a grown-up when I was little. My memories took me back to the kitchen set I got one Christmas. It was my world. I loved to pretend to cook and make new dishes, often just with corn flakes and Cheese Whiz mixed up. I wanted to be a mother one day. I was also fascinated my doctor’s kit that I had gotten as a present. I had a stethoscope, syringe and blood pressure cuff. I stored it near my kitchen set and told everyone I would be a doctor one day.

Those dreams faded in my teenage years, as I found myself struggling with mathematics and science to the point of barely passing the Chemistry and Earth Science regents, bombing the Physics regents and getting by in the math sequential courses. I decided quietly that if this was such a struggle, becoming a doctor was never going to happen. I assumed it meant I wasn’t smart enough; I was in honors classes and all the other students seemed out of my league as they seemed to master what I could not.

Slowly, the dreams came back into focus in college. Being away from NYC gave me the chance to tap into my earth mother and I gave up tight jeans and acrylic nails for flowy skirts and bare feet in the grass. I learned how good my body felt when I became vegetarian, which rekindled my desire to heal my self and others. Shortly after college, I made the decision to become a holistic health counselor. This was a wonderful pursuit because although I did not complete the program I had started, the love I had begun to cultivate for my female body and healing it led me to midwifery.

I became a birth doula two years ago to learn what it was like to be in the presence of birth and also because I didn’t think I had the ability to learn medicine and be a midwife. Yet, after the first birth I attended, I knew right then and there that I wanted to be on the other end of the bed. I had to conquer so many fears to finally get to this point. Last June, I lost my job, boyfriend at the time and apartment in a matter of 48 hours. A couple of days later, I was on a plane to Puerto Rico to be with Myrna for 9 days. On that trip, I affirmed that what would make me happiest in the world is to be a midwife and nothing else.

I will be starting nursing school this fall, with the intention of pursuing my M.S in Midwifery. I have hesitated to call myself a student midwife because I wasn’t in a master’s program yet. A few weeks ago, I shifted my perspective. Although I will be a certified nurse-midwife by the end of my studies and be well-versed in hospital births, my heart is in the push to reclaim the sacredness of birthing for my self and for womyn worldwide, both in a medical environment and at home. My holistic, veggie-loving, granola self will be ever present because it is my reality.

I have chosen to identify as a student-midwife because it is a commitment I have made to myself. It reflects the work I have done for the last 2 years, the research and articles I ingest daily about pregnancy and childbirth, the empowerment work I do with the womyn around me, the advice I give pregnant sister friends, and my own desire to nourish my body when it’s my time to become a mother. I believe that we must tell the Universe what we want out loud so that it may conspire in our favor.

I want the Universe to know exactly what I want. I am praying for the strength, perseverance, wisdom and love I have to be ever flowing as I finally pursue the ultimate dream of my life and in turn help womyn claim their inherent power, ensure that the next generation is born into a loving environment and give the world hope that another way of being is possible for every single one of us.