Monday, October 1, 2012

A Midwife for Tight Places: Meet Brooklyn Mom and Veteran CNM Elissa Marsh

On the eve of my oldest kid's 14th birthday, GITP has a special guest blogger tonight, Elissa Marsh--the certified nurse midwife who greeted me at the door of Manhattan's only (now defunct) free-standing birth center 14 years ago tonight. I wasn't in labor, but my water had broken nearly ( 15 hours?) before and it was time to check in at the Center and figure out what to do. Elissa and my great doula (Lijah Friedman) tossed out ideas for kickstarting my labor. I paced the birth center, wearing the cute stretchy black dress with the criss cross back I had set aside to give birth in (no tights--it was still a warm fall). I had no idea what I was in for. Truth be told, I had imagined I would be strolling serenely around the comfortable and cozy Elizabeth Seton Birth Center, sipping from a mug of tea, simply pausing to give birth when it was time.

Five hours later, the decision was made to transfer me to (the also, now defunct) St. Vincent's Hospital, which was around the corner a couple of blocks away. We walked, a surreal caravan. It was Friday night, and the West Village streets were loud and crowded. St. Vincent's had been the epicenter of the AIDS crisis in the '80s. Klaus Nomi had died there. Dylan Thomas had died there, too. My contractions stopped. Elissa got me into the hospital and into a bed. (CNMs had delivery privileges at St. Vincent's). I was hooked up to an IV of pitocin. My labor went so long that Elissa's shift ended, but she promised to check in. Five years later, Elissa would be the midwife at my sister's Elizabeth Seton birth. As she had in my case, Elissa would make the tough decision to transfer my sister to St. Vincent's where my nephew would be born by c-section. "He's so beautiful," Elissa eventually came down to the lobby to tell me and our friend, visiting from Utah. Elissa--the midwife who gets us out of tight places.

1.  Are you in a tight place? If so, what are you doing about it?
Totally and kind of always.  Financially, especially. No matter how much I have there’s always more needed, it seems.  I make a good salary, but I always seem to need more, which is kind of sad.  I am the single parent of two teenage boys. My ex-husband--who I divorced long ago--died last year.  It was hard.  So I have these two boys and I'm the only surviving parent. It’s intense.  There's a lot of testosterone in this house.  

I’m trying to really think about finances, because it’s not easy.  My boys eat an enormous amount.  They’re like vacuum cleaners.  I’m trying to be more cognizant of what I’m spending money on and why.  I'm also trying to take care of myself, so my boys can have that as a model.  I’m not just their mother.  I’m a person, as well.  Thinking about exercising, doing yoga, and all the things I put on hold when their father was really sick.  And I got a puppy, and that was the best thing ever.  There’s no way you can be depressed when you see a puppy bounding down the hill.  I bring him to Prospect Park in the morning and it’s this incredible thing.  I did this for my sons and for me.  

2.  What do you want to get done this year?
The year starts now because we've just had the Jewish New Year.  For me, I want to get my finances in order and feel like I’m not a slave to money.  I want to get a routine for myself, something for me, not just for my boys.  Going out more. Working out more.  I also want to feel like my kdis are more independent.

3.  What inspires you? 
I love what I do.  I really do.  I’ve been doing it for 21 years.  I started in a city hospital.  Elizabeth Seton was the ultimate for me.  When that place went under, that was like a death in the family, for the women we served and as a community of midwives.  But I never get tired of my job. Seeing new life never gets old.  It’s pretty amazing.  I’m not in private practice, so I don’t have the same connection, but special things happen, even still.  I’ve delivered someone I had known since 4th grade.  I feel like I do a service for the people that I’m with.   A lot of the women I currently work with are from the Medicaid populatio, and aren't treated very well.  For the most part, in general, the doctors don’t really talk to them.  They don’t seen to get the emotional support they need, and I love that I can provide that, even in a now limited way, given the restrictions of my current hospital schedule. 

4.  What's your favorite legwear?
I used to be a tights and skirt person, but now it’s jeans.  I love jeans.  In the winter, I only wear boots and jeans.  

Elissa will be participating in Miles for Midwives this Saturday in Prospect Park.

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