Having a child drastically changes your point of view. Something I’m sure I have heard a dozen times over, but until it happened, never rang true. Even in the steps towards the birth; taking classes, reading the first three pages of the birth book we had been assigned, reading a couple chapters of the fun male focused “be prepared” book. That was about it. The moment my screaming pink mucus covered child entered the world I felt the earth tilt on its axis, and found a version of love I never knew was possible.
A brief step into backstory. I spent the larger portion of my life as a sailor. Not just any kind of sailor, but a tall ship sailor. Working on replica vessels, purpose built education vessels, and even a cargo ship under sail. I found a love of sailing, and all things nautical in my high school years, and followed the maritime life for a solid decade. When my wife and I moved to the Seattle area it was only natural that I would continue working in the maritime industry in some aspect. With a family, I wouldn’t be leaving the dock for months at a time, but being an engineer, I felt confidant finding a niche where I could work on boats in a maintenance capacity from shore. A hydraulic engineering company was the first to pick me up, and so a hydraulic engineer I would become for the next five years. I loved the hands on and physically demanding work. I was proud to say that I got dirty in my job every day.
After the birth of my daughter, our Doula posted a wonderful message on her facebook, exclaiming: “It is rare that She works with a partner that She thinks would make a great doula.” That planted a seed in the back of my mind that slowly grew over the next year. As I continued to work with hydraulics and the fishing industry in particular, I felt a growing sense of dissatisfaction. Not in the work that I was doing, as I still enjoyed it, but more that I was missing something I got out of sailing. I missed feeling like I was giving back to my community. Working on educational vessels, teaching youth, that really fed a hunger in my being. I considered volunteering at the zoo, or at the center for wooden boats. My job schedule which consisted stretches three to four months long working 60-70 hours out on the docks just did not allow me the consistent contribution that volunteer organizations hope for. I also noticed more and more that the dirt that I was so proud of accruing in my daily labor, was coming home with me. Heavy oils and chemicals that take weeks to work their way out of my skin. Bilge grime and rust from crawling around the insides of boats. Aluminum and steel shavings from just passing through the shop. I hated that no matter how careful I was, I was bringing these hazards home with me. Washing my hands half a dozen times before I picked up my child wasn’t even getting it all off. What was I passing on to her? I came to the decision that by the time my daughter was three I wanted to be out of the industry. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t suffer the hearing loss that some of my co-workers had, that would affect my ability to hear my daughters’ laughter. Or the bad knees that would slow down my ability to play with her.
My plans were given a kick of acceleration however when we came back to the shop at the end of a day to discover that one of the guys had lost his finger. Doing a part of the job that we do nearly every day. That I myself have done a hundred times. A heavy piece of machinery moved and he had lost a body part. Lucky that was all he had lost. There were awkward meetings about safety immediately afterwards, but within a week it was back to, “put your nose to the grindstone, and get the work done quicker!” No lessons had been learned, and I couldn’t imagine a price that I could be payed to put myself at such risk. Not when I had a family.
A class at Bastyr university was upcoming in a couple weeks. If I could get in, I could make that first gigantic step towards changing my world, in a direction to match how it had shifted with the birth of child. I am lucky to have an amazing wife who supported me in doing so at an accelerated pace to what we had initially planned. That class was available, and I did get in, I'll talk about that next.