Good Days on the Job

For a time, I worked as a health educator and counselor in a maternal health and family planning clinic at the same time that I did outreach in the field identifying women who were not receiving well women care. [See my posts on my visits to a topless bar or two.] Some days were a challenge, listening to all the difficulties the women in and outside the clinic were having that were difficult to address. There were a few successes I remember in my work. One was a woman who returned to the clinic to let me know that the time we’d spent together six months before, when I counseled her about relationship violence issues, that she had turned her life around. She’d used the numbers and information on leaving an abusive relationship to help her go in a new direction in her life.

A second was a young 15-year-old girl who told me that she didn’t mind if she was pregnant and didn’t need birth control that visit. Rather than lecture her, I asked to think about her child, if she was pregnant, and ask herself if she would want to be her own baby in the life circumstances that she found herself in.  When she went in to see the nurse and found out she wasn’t pregnant, she asked for birth control, though I don’t know what happened to her after her clinic appointment as I didn’t see her again.

But the one woman I remember most, who I did see more than once in the clinic and on outreach, was Veronica (not her real name). I met Veronica in a “tanning salon”—a place on a street filled with sexually oriented businesses that had a broken tanning bed and a towel on the floor for sex with clients. Veronica started by coming in to the clinic to be treated for a sexually transmitted disease and a well woman visit. Returning again several months later, she was disease free and appeared less altered by drugs or alcohol. The third time, a very different Veronica visited the clinic—smiling for the first time and accompanied by a sister. She credited my coworkers and I for helping turn her life around, but I knew we had contributed only slightly, with most of the credit going to Veronica’s family and to Veronica herself.

So even though I sometimes sat out in my car before going into the clinic and had a “moment,” wishing I could do more, I often thoughts of those times of hope and firmly committed myself to doing what I could to make women’s lives better, or be there to support them when they made their own lives better.