Although I worked as a Registered Nurse for many years, I was always trying to get out of it because it was not my forte in the first place. I was just sixteen when I graduated from high school. There were aspects of working as an RN that I did enjoy. But it was the old-fashioned hierarchy, the baggage associated with how I got into it, the system itself, and the career limitations I found to be demotivating, stifling and restrictive. I felt trapped in a cage.
The direct patient care and advocacy was the most rewarding part. Up until the early nineties, it was not a well-paid profession. The only reason for the decades of low pay, is the fact it is a female dominated profession. The work itself can be taxing – mentally, physically and emotionally. The stressors are compounded for single mothers who work as nurses because of the long hours, shift work, fatigue, and difficulty with child care.
For about ten years I worked in a very busy labor and delivery unit. In addition to caring for women throughout their labor and delivery, we had to clean the rooms after each delivery, rinse all the linen, soak, wash, and autoclave all the instruments and repack the delivery bundles. The janitors would not wash the floors unless they had been cleaned by the nurses first. We had to move furniture all over the ward non-stop, in order to make room for the next patients. It was a constant game of musical beds – without the music. They have made improvements to the labor and delivery units over time, but aspects of it were still quite archaic back then.
We could not ignore the task of charting every fifteen minute heart rate and blood pressure checks, as well as getting a mound of paperwork done after each delivery. The legal documentation was the only thing that mattered if anything went awry. You could not afford to get your priorities mixed up when it was busy, or it could be catastrophic. For example – people have a tendency to bleed (especially red heads – believe it or not), and sometimes they bleed profusely. In maternity – they can bleed out in a matter of minutes.
There is no room for error when it comes to the need for early detection of fetal distress and postpartum bleeds (and premature labour). Due to the unpredictable and often precipitate nature of labour and delivery, I estimate having delivered around two hundred babies over the years. In some cases, unknown to the general public – the delivery room can be as hair raising as anything you can imagine. It is difficult to overcome the fear of having to handle, let alone resuscitate – a two pound baby.
Following the years in labor and delivery, I did stints in community mental health, long term care (to include psycho-geriatrics), emergency, some medical-surgical, and often as a hospital-wide float. From newborn to ninety – there are some poignant realizations stemming from the nursing experiences. Being witness to so many people coming into this world, as well as caring for those who are leaving it, has a lasting impact. The astounding thing to me – is how unique each individual is, in every conceivable way.
Not one of us has exactly the same experiences – from how we come into this world, to how we make our final exit. Getting hung up at the “spines” as they call it in the labor room – is when the baby’s head cannot get past the small bony prominences in the pelvis. Something as simple as the presentation of the head can lead to a cord around the neck, a cord prolapse, a failure to progress in labor, an emergency cesarean section, and in some cases, injury to the brain.
We have no guarantees in life – from conception, until the time is ripe for the forces of nature to plunge us into that first uncharted trip through the bony pelvis. That’s just to get us here, for our personalized and idiosyncratic journey. Along the way choices can be limited, or completely taken away from us. In reality – it’s all somewhat of a crap shoot.
Who can say what kinds of things will happen to any of us? But throughout slogging out the twelve hour night shifts and trying to think of a different way to make a living, I tried giving birth to many ideas as well. From the time I was a student nurse, I shopped in thrift stores, and found it way more interesting than any other kind of shopping. I soon became hooked on collecting vintage clothing.
To justify the addiction – I started to view vintage and designer items as being like penny stock investments. There was a reasonable expectation in my mind that if taken care of, they would increase in value over time. The idea of having tangible products appealed to the poet in me, as I do sometimes have my head in the clouds. Thoughts and ideas (and stock market investments) can go up in vapour, whereas palpable things stay put.
The oldest, and some of the most exquisite dresses in the collection are still in storage. Since I started collecting, I wanted to prove that the material landscape of the dispossessed (or throwaways) is of greater interest and value than new things that are mass produced and bought at the mall. Vintage hats and antique lace really inspired me for some reason.
The same thing applies to the internal landscape of the dispossessed. If adversity does not destroy or make us bitter – it will gift us with autonomy, courage, and artistic expressions to share with the outside world. We may need to go to battle with our past – in order to salvage our own souls, as we traverse our peerless internal landscape. Entelechy is the survival of potential.
For a few years I left nursing and worked with a PhD research scientist who had an incredible academic record, twenty-two years of post-secondary education. His PhD was in linguistics with other degrees in math and computer science. We published maps and did special applications contracts using advanced remote sensing technology. We also published a Cities From Space Series using the Landsat satellite data. We sold a couple hundred thousand satellite image maps during that time frame. This was in the late eighties, before satellite imagery was available to the public on the Internet. Advanced remote sensing technology was still in its infancy, but for a micro-enterprise of just two people, we did publish and expand on different uses for the remote sensing technology and digital image processing.
After a couple years of publishing satellite imagery, getting more creative with the mapping elements really started to appeal to me. I started buying old atlases and maps from thrift stores to study the early artistic collector’s maps. I went to trade shows with the maps and saw all of the other creative arts projects that were on display at the shows. Along with the maps and Cities From Space series we published place mats, fridge magnets, and huge wall murals for fire control rooms, real estate, Geological Survey Canada, and many others.
What I learned is that good product is very time-consuming to make. Once it is made – it still has to be marketed. I started my own company, Quiet West Publishing & Marketing and began working on a mosaic and map to cover the entire BC coastline with multiple artistic elements. This was a visionary overlay, with the additional dimensions of true ground and shoreline features. The creation of the Inside Passage Legendary Map came from the exposure I had to satellite image mapping technology – combined with the poetry and art. I saw this as being the ultimate blend of ideas.
BC has thousands of micro-entrepreneurs and artists. They are highly concentrated on the Islands, in and around Nelson, among the Aboriginal people, and basically all over BC. The gift show typically featured a BC Creative Arts section. Hand made jewelry, pottery, artwork, and wood items are the most predominant. But the sky is the limit – and the birdhouses are so cute!
For the most part – the creative arts is about doing a labor of love. There are certain parallels and analogies surrounding the birth of an idea – and how they can take on a life of their own. Labor is central to our lives in more ways than one.
The basis of an entrepreneur’s optimism and repeated efforts – in spite of the odds and the risk she faces, is aptly reflected in a quote credited to Napoleon Hill: “More gold has been mined from the thoughts of men than has been taken from the earth.”
And to that quote – we can take the liberty to add women, right there beside the men. Why? Because the poverty faced by women, also affects the children women give birth to.
In addition, being robbed of our potential is worse than a protracted labor pain. It is one long and extended contraction, until the adversity gives birth to change. We do not deserve the pain and struggle of poverty and hard work without reward, or sufficient support systems. The children who happen to be born into that cycle do not deserve to be dehumanized either. It only creates confusion and withdrawal surrounding thinkable outcomes.
It is time to start mapping it out – and change the archetype.
Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2018). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.