Maddie Walsh – Delta or JetBlue??

My visa finally came in the mail last week, which means it’s time to buy my flights to Hyderabad. I’ve been looking at different dates and companies, trying to find the best deal and perfect dates to travel. I have so many mixed emotions about this trip– mostly excitement, with a fair amount of nerves mixed in there as well.

I have always wanted to go to India. My aunt, who is pretty much my hero, lived in India for a year for a fellowship while receiving her Masters in Public Health. She had so many incredible stories about her time there, I knew I had to go. Then, my best friend in high school moved to Chennai our senior year of high school for his dad’s job. Since then, we’ve promised each other we would both go someday (I’m still trying to get him to come visit me this summer– we’ll see if it happens!).

When I found out that I got the fellowship, I was sitting in my honors nursing seminar. I started tearing up because I was so excited. I had been Skype-ing with the birthing center and was in awe of the incredible midwife who runs it. I desperately wanted her to be my mentor and to get to work alongside her, and now I will finally get to meet her!

In Hyderabad, I will be working at the Sanctum Birthing Center, one of the few midwife-led birthing centers in India (or anywhere, really). They use the midwife model of care, and then have OB/GYNs as backup if a woman needs medical care or surgery. I am so excited to work here. I am really passionate about maternal and child health and desperately want to work in labor and delivery someday. I want to work in low resource settings and believe that, with a new pregnancy, there is the chance to break cycles of poverty and poor health.

Additionally, I am trying to decide if I want to continue my education in nursing following graduation, or to pursue a medical degree. I am hoping that exposure to both specialties will help me to decide what I want to do. To help with this, I will be doing research to study the differences in communication techniques of midwives and OB/GYNs.

In Hyderabad, I will be staying in an apartment building that is walking distance from the birthing center. I am really nervous to be living alone because I have never lived alone before. That said, I am excited to have an apartment and be able to meet people also living and working in the city.

I am already signing up for an international breastfeeding conference in Chennai (where my friend lived!) that my mentor will be speaking at, alongside numerous other leaders in the field. In addition, the birthing center is running a four-day infant massage training while I am there. The certification is international, so I will be able to use it as a doula here in the U.S. I cannot believe how many learning opportunities have already been presented, and cannot wait to see what else is in store.

As I prepare to leave in late July, I am increasingly excited and nervous. Looking at flights definitely made the experience more real. I think it will be tough to leave my family for so long, as I will be in Ohio for an internship for the first half of the summer as well. That said, I know that I will learn and grow so much and could not be more excited for this fellowship.