Tag Archives: homebirth

An Interesting Conversation

Just a glimpse into some of the day to day conversations that get thrown my way. Here is a conversation online that I recently had with a woman that I do not know on a post about the safety of home birth. I will call her “Birtha.” She jumped in on the middle of conversation and here is what she had to say:

Birtha: I don’t even know where to start with all this. Clearly, as a mother, I would do anything and everything to make my child’s life better, and to give her any advantage I can give her. That is why I stupidly fell into the propaganda and tried a home birth. So I understand where the gals are coming from here. However, it is shocking to me to hear that this is being framed as a “woman’s choice” argument rather than what it should be framed as: what is best for the mother AND a baby’s health. VBAC- Say mamma wants to do one at home. Or do a breech birth at home. How narcissistic and selfish is it for a mother to risk her child’s life simply to gain bragging rights of having a “natural” child birth? Because that is what this is about ladies, and you’re all fucking kidding yourselves if you deny it. This is about being able to walk down the street holding your stretched out vagina for all other lesser epidural-receiving and C-Section-having mothers out there to see and covet. This is a female-instigated, anti-feminist competition amongst women to prove they are stronger and better than other women. Think for a moment if men started telling women to ignore the FACT that child birth is the leading killer of women on this earth, and MEN (and god forbid they be males in the dominant patriarchal paradigm of the monetized birthing industry) telling women to forgo access to life saving medicines, technologies and doctors even though hospital births are proven SAFER, ya’ll would have a shit fit. But since this propaganda is being pushed by WOMEN, women are accepting it. And another thing! (RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE) Last time I checked, midwives charge money for their services too. So are midwives now corrupted? Maybe all midwives should accept payment with dried corn or fancy lace to keep their holier-than-thou purity. Next, I am a licensed (non-medical) professional. And if anyone ever attempted to do what I do without a license, I would immediately report them to the Board which oversees my profession and lobby strongly for harsh discipline. There is a reason why licensure is required…and it is to protect the public. Just as I don’t want a cabbie doing my dialysis, I wouldn’t want Lindsay Lohan as my cabbie. If you want to practice in a PROFESSION, then get a license AND INSURANCE. Lastly, the link on the crazy fucked up things the Oregon midwives do to NON- CONSENTING BABIES…I can tell you, speaking falsities about someone’s professional business acumen is defamation per se. There is no defense to defamation per se except truth. My assumption is, any of these black dots or red squares who felt they were lied about would shut that blog down with a single cease and desist letter. Lastly…it never ceases to amaze me that the same women who so ardently condemn conservatives for denying global warming when all scientific data points to the reality of global warming, are the same women who deny all scientific data on birthing at home. Super lastly, it’s super natural for male chimpanzees to eat baby chimpanzees. In going the home birth route, I initially wanted my husband to chew the head off my daughter when she popped out…but thought it may have negative ramifications in the media so ultimately I chose against killing my baby. Not because I cared about my baby, but because I cared about what other people would think about me. Super dooper lastly, I told my midwife 3 or 4 times that I needed to go to the hospital because something was wrong. Each and every time she said “You know if you go to the hospital, they’ll give you Pitocin, and you’ll end up having a C-Section. Do you want that?” And she would walk out of the room. Ultimately, I asked her to permanently leave the room, and told my husband to take me to the hospital and to not let the midwife stop me. Why in the fuck would someone who is allegedly for women’s choice repeatedly stand in the way of a birthing mother’s knowledge of her own body’s limitations? That, my friends, is the ultimate anti-choice move, and it was motivated by her desire to keep her transfer statistics low. Ultimately, I endured 27+ hours of needless labor because my baby was sideways, and the midwife didn’t know. The stupid cunt. But would I change anything about it? Absolutely not because I’m not an insufferable, judgmental bitch anymore about the absolutism on natural child birth. Actually, i would change one thing. I would have covered up my titties before having the Cedars valet park my car. In my book, character and credibility is everything when it comes to touching vaginas. You want ad hominem? I give you ad hominem: https://supportmidwifekatiemccall.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/the-gift-i-received-june-1-2012/ You were found guilty of practicing medicine without a license. Yet you show no remorse. No wonder it is so important for you to be right about something that can be so dangerous. Because it if is dangerous, you’d have to admit culpability to almost killing a woman through gross ignorance and arrogance. Again, if your former client is a liar, then sue her. It’s defamation per se and you would win. I make mistakes all the time. But I own up to them, and learn from them. You, on the other hand, are extremely dangerous because you do not learn from your mistakes. Rather, you’ve decided to paint yourself as poster child of the Pro-Home Birth Movement, and martyr for the rights of women everywhere. I believe this conversation is over.

Me: So, if you were at a birth where a mother refused transport as a student, you would just leave I assume? If you truly believe birth is so dangerous, my guess is you would anticipate the need for someone with skill to be present. Yet you attack me for saving a life? I don’t know where all your anger comes from, but I pity you. I was a believer is self-ownership and liberty long before I was ever pursued by the medical board. I pray nobody ever goes through what I did, including you. That is why I continue to fight for your liberty to birth (or not) wherever you like. Attack me all you like, but if the tables were turned and someone wanted to force YOU to birth at home (as you allege your midwife did), you would kick and scream for your right to do otherwise. Funny you posted this and not the response to it. https://supportmidwifekatiemccall.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/a-more-detailed-response/
Birtha:Why haven’t you sued your former client, her husband and the acupuncturist for slander and libel if what the three of them are saying is false? I cannot believe you have not taken responsibility for your actions even after this. There is a phone. There is 911. You were not, and are not, the victim. Would I leave? No. Would I try to birth a baby myself, and sew someone’s snatch without a license? No. And you have yet to respond to the study I posted. And I read your second post. The more detailed response. The “contradictions” of the mother you point out are collateral matters and do not change the reality of the situation. Your attorney’s statement in open court does not disprove anything. Attorney comments are not admissible evidence. Just because the plea offer is not in the records of either party does not mean it did not occur. Just because the mother did not see your hands ungloved while extracting the placenta does not mean her husband or the acupuncturist did not see your ungloved hands. Just because the father saw you holding a phone does not mean you actually called someone. Did your defense attorney subpoena your phone records to prove a good faith attempt to contact one of the unlicensed midwives you allegedly called? Your last link just attempts to obfuscate. But importantly you admit to practicing medicine without a license. And you need not worry about a Board going after me. I would never do something like this in a million years.

Me:I’m still not at my computer. I have not sued anyone because their stories corroborate mine in the most important places. I was not found guilty of not calling 911. An emergency situation was proven by the three medical experts and the EMT who was present. The question was whether I practiced medicine. I did. I’ve never said I didn’t. I’ve only said that if I had not someone may have died. That is all. The recent anonymous letter does not say who it is from, so who am I to sue, especially since it says the opposite of what the witnesses said under oath. So, either the author was not one of the witnesses or the author is guilty of perjury. Either way, I have no way of knowing who wrote it. And may I remind that the only LICENSED medical provider at the birth ALSO did not call 911. Why do you think that is? There is a PICTURE of my gloved hands. Phone records are inadmissible as hearsay. The father did not just see me with a phone, they also said I called the midwife. Nobody saw you when you were alone with your child, does that mean you are guilty of beating him? I’m very concerned about the path we are on here… A sad future for our children indeed. It now appears you are just wanting to attack me personally. Why is that?

Birtha: Just in case anyone one was wondering: 1. Phone records are not inadmissible hearsay. They are an exception to the hearsay rule if verified by the custodian of records of the service provider. 2. If someone defames you online, you may file suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against DOES 1-100, and then use the case number to issue a subpoena against the ISP to gain identification information of a) the owner of the email address and/or b) the computer from which the message was sent. 3. Or you can just go sue the only other three people in the room with you and subpoena all their computers to find out who it was, and dismiss them when their computers turn up nothing. 4.  here is a copy of the midwife’s IC agreement: http://www.centerfornaturalbirth.com/documents/welcome/CNB_Informed_Consent.pdf You will see there is nothing in there regarding the fact that 37% of all nulliparous women stand a chance of transfer to a hospital, nor are there any references to increased infant mortality. Also interesting, is that a birthing mother must agree to go to the hospital upon recommendation of the midwife. (Meaning, if the midwife is responsible, and recognizes an emergency situation, even if the mother does not want to be transferred, she has waived that right to object to transfer.) You will also note, the midwife agreement only covers LICENSED MIDWIVES. Not aspiring midwives or shoe salesmen. 5. Just for your info.
Me: ‎1. That’s not what my judge said in court 2. There was no ISP as the letter was posted publicly by a third party who said she got it from a friend who got it from a friend and refused to disclose her source. Further, you think I have money to hire a PI or something? I’m a single mother over here who’s job has been stripped from her. 3. Three people in the room? Who are you talking about? 4. That’s not MY IC or the midwives I work with. And yes, agreed… all the more reason the only LICENSED person at the birth I attended should have been the one to recommend the hospital and yet she argued against my recommendation.
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In Conclusion

Today is my friend’s birthday. He is a single father  in the middle of a messy custody battle. DCFS is involved. I don’t claim to know anything about his baby mama’s case. But regardless, he felt the need to ask DCFS for permission to have me come over to his house. You know, because I’m a felon and all.

Just now he contacted me to let me know he is not allowed to associate with me. He got a “finger wagging” from the social worker.

Ironic that. Ironic all of it. I’m now too dangerous to associate with children, or even be present in their home. Hurry up and hide them! This midwife is dangerous.

It’s taken me a good couple weeks to write an update because the update I have is so heart-wrenching for me I couldn’t bring myself to write it.

A couple weeks ago on… oh, never mind, I’ve apparently blocked the date from my memory… I signed away my right to: 1. Have my midwifery license in the state of California and 2. Ever defend the Medical Board’s accusations if I attempt to ever obtain a medical license from the state of California for any reason ever again. Read: Never work in the state of CA again… not even if I went back to school and became an MD.

If California was like so many other states and recognized a woman’s right to birth WHERE and WITH WHOM she desired, I would be able to work outside of the megalomaniacal Medical Board.

In exchange, I get to relieve my pro bono attorney who has been tirelessly fighting on my behalf without a penny since the fall of 2010. I also get to know that I will have “surrendered” my license as opposed to having it “revoked”… semantics, really, but one that may make a difference in another state.

If I fought the Medical Board any further, I ran the risk of them back charging me tens of thousands of dollars. And, well, as a single mama with no ability to work in her profession, I really can’t afford that.

And, honestly, my supporters are tired. I watch the responses to my emails dwindle as time goes by. And my local birth community is too busy to care, most of them.

None of this changes even if my felony conviction is overturned after appeal.

The thing I find most ironic about this is that this state has many midwives who have been found guilty or plead guilty to crimes– most after the death of a baby– who are still working here, peaceful as peaches with their licenses intact. And further, let’s not get into the doctors who have continued to work.

So, I claw at the dry earth around me and hope to carve out some essentials as the kids and I attempt to make ends meet while I’m forced to remain in this county by the CA probation department. Without a job.

I clean houses, and babysit and teach classes here and there. I scrub toilets and paste canvasses and run errands for people. Whatever it takes. My friends at least trust me for these things.

And I see my children barely at all.

My daughter has taken on irrational fears ad nauseum and my son is incredibly angry. What do I do about it? Nothing. I don’t have time.

And I dream of the day when probation is done and I can leave this awful, ignorant, assaulting state. When I can burn the bridges I had with the Socialist Republic of California. And I look forward to another life in another state where midwifery laws aren’t so ridiculous.

But I’m ANGRY. I’m oh, so angry. My family’s blood is in this land. Our tears, our sweat. I’m FROM this place. My grandfather and grandmother served here as medical people. Gave their lives to the health and well-being of its citizens. We volunteered and voted and went to church.

And now the taxpayers of this state have seen fit to strip me of all of my life’s work, my family, my friends, my roots. They have seen fit to toss me out and give not a care to whether we live or die. Is a cage worse than being exiled?

Well, I guess I could stay… but then I would continue to work these 10-12 hour days and my children would be missing two parents instead of the one.

The words I want to write here are not suitable for children so I will leave this at that. Image


Phoenix Rising

Well, after all of that work, I dropped off of WordPress for over a month again. This time I just needed some time to sweat, garden, cry, dig, dance, and sweat some more. It’s been a grueling process. But just as I was about to dig myself into a little hole and never venture out with my outside of the box thinking again, I was given a bonfire of encouragement from Pete Eyre and his voluntaryist and libertarian friends.

I was so blown away to hear of all the stories they have to tell. My story is NOT unique. I just happen to have been involved with midwifery. So many other trades have been affected by the prosecution of victimless “criminals.”

Pete’s encouragement came right at a moment that I about cracked from the craziness of it all: the Medical Board of CA sent me a letter asking me to allow them to continue the hearing I must have before them (to decide if I will have my license revoked or be put on probation for eons). This was a request THEY made because they wanted to have the hearing next January 2013, not this June 2012 as scheduled. When my attorney agreed (hey… big deal… I can’t practice anyway, what does it matter to me?) they sent him the stipulation for me to sign.

In the stipulation, the wording said that I agreed that I had been found guilty of practicing negligently (something I was never even charged of!), that I agreed to have my license suspended (huh? Don’t I need a hearing before they decide that FOR me?) and that I promise not to be found in any place where “midwifery might be practiced” including employment, other than as a patient or the family member of a patient.

HUH??

So, I asked my attorney to politely decline their continuation request. I may be tarred and feathered, but I’ll be damned if I’ll help them do it.

Oh! And in case you, like me, are wondering why I can’t just send them their silly paper and quit even TRYING to practice in the People’s Republic of California, there’s this regulation that keeps things from being that simple.

So my hearing is in six weeks. I’ll keep y’all updated on what happens, but my hopes aren’t high. Nothing about anything related to this process has produced anything but disillusionment in me. Which is a LOT for an idealist at heart to take. Especially one who was also a statist. Heck. I was basically a socialist until this whole thing started. Now I truly fear for the future of our country. We continue to encourage our publicly funded civil servants to make more and more and more rules and laws and regulations.

Oh, and my book will be out soon. Please order a copy if you haven’t. It is the first and only place that I have told my story. You can pre-order it here. The forward was written by Dr. Stuart Fischbein and the Appendix of action items was compiled with an introduction by Pete Eyre; Like two solid bookends on a very messy, emotional female memoir.

My appeal is also still in process… it’s a bit like watching hair grow and hope it doesn’t become ingrown in the process. I am so grateful to my appeals attorney. She rocks.


It’s Been a While

Life goes on. I’ve moved after finding some work under a rock and pushing it around a bit to make it grow.

I miss midwifery.

I’m planting a real life garden to help me process my philosophical one. There are lots of rocks in it and the weeds are outrageous.

I plan to warm baby chicks and eat their eggs when they are bigger. Happy Spring!

And I’m writing. Writing, writing, writing.

This book is done. Please order it.

And I’m working on another.

I still have three days of CalTrans. Apparently I’m not ready to be done with it. I will get to it during spring break and my kids can be cared for.

In the mean time, I’m still trying to swallow the pill I’ve been dealt. It’s monstrous. But there will be glory when I’m all done. And God is here to guide me.


Day 14: 187 Hours Remaining

Be careful what you wish for. I was blessed to have BOTH Wendy and Eric to walk the street to the shelter this morning at 5:30. I think I’m going to go a little earlier and wait in my car for one of them to walk with in the future. I felt far less anxious with them by my side. Wendy’s love is amazing. She lights up like sunshine and stares fear in the face. She politely smiled and wished a good morning to people we walked past. So different from my stiff avoidance. My fear intensifies when someone looks at me.

“Well, this is my home. These are my people.” She told me later. “I have a purpose here and it’s not jes ta work.”

“I see that. I watch you.” I acknowledged that her position on the front lines of this battlefield is clearly ordered by a higher calling. Her faithfulness to her post convicts me to the core.

The entire staff shows this grit. They are like warriors with years of experience, standing watch and reaching out to those who truly want what they have. But they have the wisdom to know who is manipulating them, too. There are no pearls being thrown for trampling.

Tucked next to Wendy throughout the day are her weapons: a well worn Bible, a Big Book with a crumpled dust jacket and a Daily Bread. She slips me a little baggie of instant coffee and gives me a cup of hot water. I praise Jesus for my own weapon of choice.

So much of my midwifery training comes in handy here. Coffee has empowered many a midwife to push through the long nights of sweaty hurrying up and waiting.

While taking the laundry across the courtyard today, a gruff, chubby man hollared at me, “You a hard workin woman! You got a hard workin man?”

“No.” And then, with a quick second thought, I added, “Do they make those?”

He laughed.

On my way back, he prodded more deeply, “You lookin for a hard workin man?”

I held back my knee jerk reaction to say that, yes, I am, but that he was clearly not that man. Instead I laughed and told him, “No sir. I’m looking OUT for my children right now.”

He nodded approvingly. “Thas a good woman right there. Well you let me know if you ever back on tha market.”

I will give this culture one thing. It is a direct one. You know what you’re dealing with. It’s on the surface and in your face. Sometimes more than you know what to do with.

I prefer this to the backbiting, secret, whispering slander that my case was spawned in. I’ll gladly spend a day on Skid Row with it’s abrupt, angry, misfits of society. I’ll happily embrace it’s in your face people standing alongside the staff heroes that shine like brilliant, strong giants of experience. I’ll spend a lifetime here over a day being slandered by my sisters in birth ANY day.

A man with an accent that tickles my ear with a hint of Bangalore is singing Milli Vanilli while a man with turretts belts out his ticks and a transvestite brushes his hair. The absurd nature is overshadowed by the pain of a movement of healers who stab each other to get ahead. The insanity is far less dangerous here.

 


Day 10: 210 Hours Remaining PLUS FIVE

I was put on laundry duty.

The transgender individual who normally does the laundry wasn’t in today, so I was next in line. One of the dryers broke, so I did about 15 loads of wash with one dryer. It’s good to have a change of scenery. With my attention span I need a change of perspective regularly to keep me engaged.

I was being trained by Charlie, a Coast Guard vet. He had moved to California from New Orleans a couple years ago. When I asked him why, he said he just needed to get out after Katrina.

“There’s a tree branch done come straight through our windaw. Whole downstairs was a’flooded deep with wata. We done fixed it up, shor as kin be. But I’s done wid dat place. So I left. My kids is grown. My step son’s gots a job washin dishes at a countra club. I tol him I’s proud a’im. Him workin a job. Is a good job too.”

I asked him how he likes California.

“I love it, I sho do love it! I love the diversity here. All kindsa colors an foods. Back in N’awlins, I thought there be jes black an white!”

He works here at the shelter and lives up the street at a hotel. And he’s happy as can be. He makes me wonder if my standards for happiness are set too high. When I compare my life with the rest of the world, I’m a pretty blessed woman. Like Wendy and her “Praise Jesus!” all day long, Charlie’s joy puts me to shame.

I’m in the front office when Greg, the supervisor tells me, “You’ve been leavin at two. You know, you supposed ta stay til 2:30.”

“I haven’t been taking a lunch and have just been working straight through. I have kids that walk home from school at two and I don’t want to leave them waiting too long. The night shift told me that was ok…”

“Well it’s not ok. I can’t let ya do that.” Greg looks irritated.

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

“When it come time to count up yo hours, I gotta take the lunch into account. I gotta minus a half hour for lunch.”

“So all my days are seven and a half hours, not eight?”

“Thas right! You a smart one!” He smiles at the fact I know my math. I am not smiling. I’m adding five more hours to my total. Like Joseph and seven more years for Rachel, what can you say?

A stone faced female staff member I haven’t met yet, pokes her head around the corner. “Thas an honest worka you got there, Greg!”

Greg looks at me, sizing me up. “Well, she bettah! She’s needin to reform herself!”

“Reform? What fo? She do somethin bad?” And then she looks at me. “How many hours you got, honey?”

“280.” I feel like I did when the jury was checking me out on the first day of trial. Looking for some visible clue of my innocence or guilt. If anyone ever tells someone they are “judging them” again, I swear. Most people don’t know the first thing about judgement.

“Woooweee! She sho’ DID. She sho’ did do something BAD!” And the verdict is reached. No more questions. No more interest. Just judgement. And she walks away. As does the supervisor. Satisfied that I have had my corners sufficiently folded in. That I have been neatly placed on the shelf I belong.

I go back to folding sheets. The tears are right in the back of my throat again. Stuck chi, in that same spot. It burns. My throat desperate to keep those tears in subjection. Occasionally I clear my throat to let out some of the tension. My brain races to find something else to think about.

“Praise Jesus!” I hear her coming across the courtyard. Wendy is smiling like a beam of light, right at me. She stops at the laundry room. “That laundry is sompin else, ain’t it? Whas wrong, honey?”

“Nothing. Wow. It’s been a day.” I lie.

“Don’t be lettin nobody steal yo joy, y’hear me?” How does this lady know so much?

“I know. Ain’t nobody can do that but me.” I’m not going to lie, my speech has started to take on the color of it’s surroundings by now. Just like my appearance.

“I’m glad to hear you understan that. Joy is right here whenever you want it. Ain’t nobody can steal it but you given it up all on your own.”

And she walks away, still smiling. The ex-crack addict, or whatever she was. Beaming.


Day 9: 218 Hours Remaining

After a couple days of recovery and making some difficult, heartbreaking, necessary arrangements, I am now doing the morning shift. I’m wondering if the additional sleep will be worth having my children walk home from school alone. They’re big kids, I know, but I’ve never allowed them to do this before. And they’ll need to wait on the porch for me while I race on down the freeway to them after I leave the shelter.

Not racing too fast of course, I don’t want to do a detour through a jail cell before I get to them.

Waking up at 4:30am this morning has me feeling like a million bucks. Like a breastfeeding mother at 3am who is grateful she can now lie on her stomach and doesn’t have to pee every 10 minutes like she did just before she gave birth. It’s all in the perspective.

The shelter staff is all up in a tizzy. Greg, the supervisor, manages the shift. He and a guy named Jim are hollering loudly at each other from a bathroom. It’s 6am and the place is bustling with activity. Homeless folks don’t sleep in here.

Apparently one of them decided to make pies in the bathroom with his own poop. It’s all over the walls and floor. While I didn’t see it, Jim gives us a colorful description after it’s all been cleaned up. The hard things are laughed at here until the pain is all gone. Kind of like in midwifery. This part feels very familiar.

A beautiful black woman is in Pilar’s post. I introduce myself and begin my toilet paper rolling habit. She counts sheets, sorts towels. “Praise Jesus!” she tells each one. She counts the vets on her roster. “Glory to God!” She blesses each name. She sits at her desk and pulls out a Bible and begins to read.

After a few minutes I ask “What are you reading there?” She reaches a finger up behind her back at me to shush me for a moment. When she’s done she looks up.

“I’s prayin. You got’sa put yo ARMOR on here. Ev’ry day!” She stands up to resume her work, humming gospel songs.

Eventually, she is joined by Paul, a heavy set, soft spoken bear of a man. He asks me why I got so many hours and I tell him. Each time I tell someone the story it feels better in my throat. Years of a knot in there. Chi stuck right where my cry is.

Paul asks questions just like everyone else. Did the baby die? Was the baby hurt? Did I get my license, etc.

He concludes by saying, “Well, blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.” Tears well up in my eyes to hear someone who actually gets it.

As I begin my routine sweeping of the bed area, I notice a vet laying down with his boots on, staring at the ceiling. His expression blank and broken. After sweeping around him for at least five minutes he suddenly looks startled to notice I’m there. He’s a white man with a greying beard. I think he’s older than me, but I can’t really be sure. A lot of the vets look older than me, but their birth years betray them. 1982. 1984. I remember what I did those years. Where are these boys’ mothers? Broken hearted and wondering where they are?

His sad, blue eyes, look at me like I’m very far away. “How are you?” He asks. I lie and say I’m fine. He lies and says he is too.

“I’m just gunna lay here and rest awhile.” Yeah. Me too… I’m going to rest here sweeping and scrubbing all of the backwardness of my prosecution away. I’m going to brush away how Operation SAFE Medicine decided a midwife with no losses was unsafe.

The vet and I were both being pursued by Operations.

I step outside into the sunlight. I’ve never seen the courtyard in the sun before. At least fifty homeless men and women are sitting, lying, sleeping in a sun that is growing warmer by the minute. They smile and laugh and discuss sports and politics. The feeling reminds me of a campsite in the morning. Only without the campfires and coffee. But the camaraderie in the early morning air is almost joyful.

My moment of rest is interrupted by a scrawny scrap of a fellah. “Ma’am. There’s a vodka bottle in the toilet. I needsa sheeyit.”

I walk over to the bathroom and remove the bottle. When he sees me, he has that same face the woman who screamed about the bed bug did. I think white folks don’t normally take care of business down here.

“You did dat? You took care of it?” He says. And I hold up the bottle in my gloved hand.

“Have at it.” He is relieved.

“The VOA has been around since 1896. Here in the drop-in center we serve the homeless and provide shelter, job training and housing assistance. We have a large veteran community and work to reintegrate them into society. A lot of them suffer from PTSD or traumatic brain injuries.” The tour guide has five young women following him. All of them are obviously dressed down to “blend in.” Their badges say they are psych students. They ask questions about the center’s programs.

I feel proud of the staff here. A lot of them have come from the streets themselves. The female students look well-bred, well-groomed. Yet somehow they are the backdrop and the tour guide is the diamond for me. With his missing tooth and rough, cigarette smoked voice, he shines like a jewel in all this despair.

As the students pass me, one of them stops and turns towards me with a pitying look. I turn and look in the window and realize that I look like everyone else in the place: sweaty, matted hair, faded clothes with scuff marks I’ve picked up cleaning… Funny how chameleon a caregiver can be, no matter where she is found.