Jennifer Howard (4th Quarter, 2007)

4th Quarter, 2007
Nursing Scholarship Winner
Jennifer Howard

“And after my undergraduate degree is completed my professional goals include attaining at leas t a Master’s degree in nursing-midwifery and ultimately opening my own birthing center.”

A Portion of Jennifer’s Winning Essay:

Jennifer Howard

At first, entering a medical profession was not my choice; it was more of a necessity. My husband is an officer in the Air Force and so we are re-stationed in different locations frequently. We will not be in an area that offers the graduate specialty I had planned on pursuing, Clinical Psychology. So, entering the nursing profession is the most practical and accessible career choice available to me.

However, such pragmatism was underscored by an avid interest in medicine that first began when I found out that I and many other members of my family have Celiac Disease. I and members of my immediate family had experienced various health problems for years, but did not really take this to be anything special as we had always been rather sickly.

This changed as I started having many unexplained symptoms like severe pain in my long bones and joints and stayed very underweight. My mother took me to numerous doctors in search of answers, to no avail. After much frustration and confusion my mother began researching our family’s medical problems on the internet and came to the conclusion that we should try a gluten-free diet.

After only a few weeks without glutinous foods we all experienced alleviation of our symptoms. Subsequently I became determined to take more control of my health and began to educate myself about general health, medicine, nutrition and anatomy.

I started my own research into the specifics of Celiac Disease and disorders often associated with it, the genetic aspects of the disorder, and nutritional prescriptions for overall well-being. Much of this motivation stemmed, not only from having an auto-immune disorder which was at that time not well known, but from the disappointment I felt in regards to the lack of help my family and I received from the medical professionals from whom we had sought advice. I wanted to know what training doctors received and what resources they used in their practices that could prove to be so inadequate.

And this frustration and my research intensified when I became pregnant with my son Jack. Pregnant women with untreated Celiac Disease have significantly increased chances of experiencing complications during gestation and breastfeeding, I found out. One of these complications is miscarriage, which my mother had 13 of before having her first live birth. I was not about to risk my baby’s life by staying with my obstetrician at the time, who gave me a blank stare when I even mentioned Celiac Disease.

So I found myself a midwife, prepared for a non-traditional homebirth and enrolled in birthing classes taught by two local midwives.

By this point my interest in the medical profession grew into decided determination to become a part of it after it was redeemed, in my eyes, by these midwives. During my pregnancy, not only did I become increasingly fascinated with the capabilities of the human body but I learned that optimal health and easy birthing can be sought and achieved, in many cases, through the gleaning of information, proper lifestyle choices and the support of a caring, knowledgeable healthcare professional.

Unlike my former OB, my midwife spoke with me in-depth for an hour or more at each of our prenatal visits. We discussed everything from my emotional state, to my sex life and marriage, to my desires regarding the birthing process. Every visit was an exchange of information and a friendly, caring relationship was firmly established. Not only this, but my midwife was up to date on issues with pregnancy and Celiac Disease. All of her prescriptions and advice to me concerned dietary, exercise or lifestyle changes. She never advised invasive procedures unless it became medically necessary and she was fully dedicated to giving me (within reason) the birthing experience I desired.

And the midwives who taught my birthing classes were every bit as supportive, informed and trusting of the ability of the female body to do its job.

I learned so much from these three women. First, it became evident to me through their guidance and through the process of natural birthing that Mother Nature knows best and that the female body is designed for birthing.

Second, I experienced first-hand, with pregnancy and struggles with Celiac Disease, that health is attainable without pharmaceutical quick fixes to lifestyle induced problems. And yet, we are lucky to have invasive medical procedures for special cases and emergencies.

Overall, a nurse-midwife’s calling is to create conditions that are conducive to calm, natural and safe birthing. Ushering new life into the world is a precious, important job. By taking on the role of nurse-midwife I will be able to educate my patients in ways that will reduce many health epidemics we see in America today.

Copyright 2007, All rights reserved.

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