Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Public Health Doula, MPH

Family and friends and celebrations have come and gone, graduation is over, and I can now say that I officially have a Master's of Public Health!

To be honest, it feels a bit anti-climactic - my last semester was busy, but mostly with things besides academic work, particularly once my thesis was done at the beginning of April. Unlike the end of my undergrad degree, which was a relieved crossing-the-finish-line feeling, my graduate commencement was more of a "oh, hi finish line, I knew you'd be around here somewhere" feeling.

Still, I am happy and proud of my shiny new graduate degree, and I'm hoping to put it to good use in the near future...whatever form that takes. In the meantime, I want to take a moment to appreciate how much writing this blog, and reading/connecting with other blogs has been an amazing education in and of itself over the past two years. It's filled in some of the spaces a public health education doesn't address, when it comes to my own particular interests. I've learned how to monitor the heck out of a program in my MPH education, but I didn't have many opportunities to debate the nature of informed consent, hear stories from women who felt judged for formula feeding, or gauge how public health recommendations look to, and are interpreted by, the outside world.

I've also valued the opportunity to connect with like-minded people around the country and around the world. The issues of sex, reproduction, reproductive health, abortion, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, our agency as women over our own bodies...these are complex issues with many layers of thinking and learning to work through as we talk about them. Sometimes it feels frustrating to feel like you're starting over at "101" level every time you try to discuss them with someone new. I have been so lucky to find people who are already thinking about these issues and their interconnections, and can not just meet me where I'm at but push me further.

It's also deeply enriched my doula practice. I learn about new topics, techniques, research, and ways of thinking about and conveying information to others. More and more frequently, I find myself referring clients and friends to blogs and to blog posts for questions like understanding rising c-section rates or writing a birth plan. Sometimes I think the blog world should be required reading for new doulas (and other birth professionals!) It expands my worldview beyond what I just learn/hear in my training or from other people locally, and helps me contextualize doula practice in the bigger picture of birth issues and activism.

Finally, I have loved building a small but growing community of readers for my blog. Posting about wondering where to find doula clients and having so many wonderful and generous suggestions was such a help for me, and a boost to my confidence. I am so grateful to all of you who commented on that post, and to all of the readers and commenters out there!

I'm not sure what's next for me as a doula and a newly-minted MPH, but I'm excited to be starting work half-time next week at the hospital where I've been training to be an LC. They are hiring me temporarily as a "breastfeeding specialist" (since I'm not an LC yet), to do several night shifts of lactation support a week. This will be my first experience doing lactation support in the hospital solo, not to mention my first experience working nights (well, I've stayed up many nights as a doula but this seems a bit different!) I am excited and of course at least a little nervous, and interested to see where this leads.

I'm also not sure what's next for this blog - between graduation and traveling, it seems to be that just like last year, May has been a vacation month from blogging! And while it always seems like there are a dozen posts or news items a day popping up in my blog reader or news alerts that I could link to and talk about, it's seemed harder recently to actually get those into the blog. With a shift in my work and to some extent my focus, my posts may change too - more? less? different topics? We'll see!

I do plan to do a post soon on applying to and choosing an MPH program, since I have had several e-mails about that from readers and I would really like to help people understand more about the degree, what it can do for you, and what you should be thinking about when applying. As always, I am open to other requests for topics! Just comment, or e-mail, and let me know.

In the meantime, I hope you'll keep reading, and commenting, and linking, and e-mailing! Every time I check my subscriber stats, I do a little happy dance that more people are interested in what I have to say (because as anyone who knows me will tell you, I love to talk) and I hope that community keeps growing.


JMT said...

So many congratulations on your degree! I hope that you will find the right place in your life for your blog, and selfishly, I hope that ends up meaning you write a lot. Yours is one of the names that I really look forward to seeing pop up on my reader.

Looking forward to the MPH post you mentioned. I'm in my second class as a non-degree student now at the BU SPH and will be applying in October. One of the things I'm anxious about is having my undergraduate professors write recommendations. The two people I'll ask are both theoretical linguists and I'm not sure how to advise them to speak to my well-suitedness for a MPH program. Especially since the last time we interacted, I was breaking the news that I was dropping out of a linguistics PhD program! So any advice you have would be great. (I'm definitely going the MCH route at this point.)

Molly (First the Egg) said...

Congratulations! On the degree, but also on your new adventures in lactation consulting (err ... 'specializing'), etc., etc. That's all very exciting.

Sally said...

Mazel tov, Rebecca!

Emily, Anthro Doula said...

Congratulations! How exciting!

I'd be interested in reading your MPH post as well. Although I've already applied and been accepted to an MPH degree program, I'd love to hear your thoughts about different programs, your program etc. Unfortunately, I already know my particular COPH is not exceedingly strong when it comes to birth/breastfeeding. Their MCH dept focuses a lot on adolescent health and HIV/AIDS, which is still interesting. So if you know of ways I can work my interests in as much as possible I'd love to have the advice!

Best wishes

Jill--Unnecesarean said...


Amy Romano said...

Congratulations! I hope you do keep blogging. I love your perspective. :) Good luck with what comes next...

Rebecca S said...

Congrats! From another Rebecca, MPH...! So great that you're joining the ranks of public health folks who listen to women and care about birth. It is interesting how you describe your MPH program. Mine was almost exclusively focused on bioethics law and policy (that was my track, after the core courses). It ultimately led me to law school, so now I've got a shiny JD too.

Keep writing! All the best.