Kelsey E. Hendrix, 41.
A big part of my story is that I ended up as a nurse overseas. But it all began when I was in second grade and on the way to school God said to me: “When you grow up, you’ll be a nurse overseas.”
It was a real voice in my head that I knew it wasn’t me. When God speaks to me, this is the way I hear it.When I was in middle school, I didn’t want to do this. I wanted to be a lawyer, I wanted to be a very important person because I liked arguing. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a chef, and I thought that would be what I would do. The summer before my senior year of college, I went to an event for high school students, and I feel that God really changed my heart to make me want to move overseas and follow His plan.
In middle school, I fought a lot with my mom. She’s very beautiful. I always felt that my mom was beautiful and I was not. It’s a little piece of my growing-up story. When my parent would take me to buy dresses, nothing ever really fit me. As an adult, we know that not everything fits you, but as a kid, I think I didn’t realize that.
Sometimes I wonder what our kids think about us compared to what I thought about my mom. I thought she was so skinny, so beautiful, so perfect, and I felt kind of the opposite as a kid. As an adult now, a lot of times, I feel like, I’m so wrinkly. My second son often tells me: “Mom, you’re so beautiful.” Maybe he sees the way I saw my mom, as someone who is so beautiful, and maybe as an adult, my mom felt like she was so wrinkly. Or maybe many daughters feel some kind of competition with their moms.
When I was in junior high school, my mom and I would fight a lot. I remember once my dad said to her: “It’s gonna get worse before it gets better.” After that, my mom tried to work on becoming my friend instead of fighting with me. She would take me for coffee, and go to places just us. Instead of trying to control me, she was trying to be friends with me. Whatever show I wanted to watch, she would just sit down with me and watch it with me, even though she might not want to approve of it. Then our relationship was a lot better.
I never told her about how I felt about her being beautiful and about myself being the opposite, but I know it’s kind of tied into the cultural things that we all went through together.
I have made some significant moves. When I was four, we packed up and moved from one part of the States to another. It changed my whole world. When I was 10, we moved from Texas to New Hampshire, it was a very big cultural change. That also is a big part of my story, I feel like God was preparing me to live overseas. Because I watched my mom figuring out how to live in new cultures, it taught me, as an adult, this is what you do when you move to a new place, you get lost going places, and you do silly things that people laugh at you, but it’s fine, you know.
In New England culture, you don’t take kids to dinner parties, but it’s not like that in Texas, your whole family goes everywhere. So they would take us to dinners without knowing that we were not supposed to be there, and we would end up being the only children, and my mom would be like: “I didn’t know.”
When I was in 10th grade, we moved from New Hampshire to Florida. It was another cultural change. I was part of the Junior States of America, a group of students who wanted to go into politics and become state representatives. When I moved to Florida, there was none of this. It was a football school. It was a big cultural adjustment for our family again.
During college, I went to a four-year nursing school and became a nurse. During those years, I spent one summer in Uganda, and one summer in China.
When I was in China, our team was working with an American doctor, who was based in China, who knew that I was in nursing school. He told me: “When you graduate, work two years, then come back and be a nurse in my clinic.” That’s what I did.
When I moved to China, I went by myself to work with this doctor and his wife. She was a psychologist and she taught me a lot of things that I now do in the coaching.
I knew my husband but he lived in a different part of China. We started dating and then we both moved to Beijing. We got married and we went to America so I could go to Grad School. I studied Public Health and got my MPH. In the middle of Grad school, I had Gardner, my first son.
From being a nurse to becoming a coach.
With my first son, I thought I would just breastfeed him. He didn’t gain any weight and I ended up giving him a formula and pumping for a year because once he took a bottle, he didn’t want to nurse again.
After that, I wanted to learn as much as I could about breastfeeding. As a nurse, I had been teaching moms how to do it at the hospitals, but I didn’t know how to do all these things from my body to my baby. I knew how to help a baby nurse, but I didn’t know how to help a mom learn how to nurse a baby. I had to learn the mom’s side. I went to the La Leche League training program. After that, I had my second son Gideon. He was great at nursing as if he was born knowing how to nurse.
Before we had our third son, I was going through the 1000-hour lactation training program for ICBLC. At the same time, I was helping people with transitioning to China. Our boss asked if we knew someone who wanted to be a coach. I felt like God said this is what I want you to do instead of being a lactation consultant. I wasn’t happy about it and I told God “No”(laughs). Then God was like, do this, and I said, okay. Then I quit the training and I had someone coach me for a year because I didn’t really know what it was. It changed our marriage, the way we parented, and a lot of things. So I went to the coaching training after that.
How did God speak to you this time?
I was praying. When I prayed about lactation, it would get dark. When I prayed about coaching, it would get really bright. So I felt like this was where I had to go.
When I had my first son, I was studying in Grad School, I was working full-time, and we were taking care of our grandma as she was really sick. I would sit and rock him and read my Grad School reading to him out loud instead of a nursery rhyme. As a baby, he grew up listening to this.
After we moved back to China, that was when my life changed the most. Even though I lived in Chengdu and Beijing before, moving to Xinjiang with a child, was different. When all my Chinese friends asked me about my one-year-old son, and why I hadn’t potty-trained him, I realized that I had to do a lot of cultural adjusting and things to learn. At that point, we could speak Chinese, and we had already lived in China for three years, I thought like I knew something, but really I knew nothing. I cried every day, during the first year. This time I was in a different culture and I was a stay-at-home mom. Every day I would watch my husband leave for work, and I would just cry. The nice part about it is that I found other moms, every day we would go to the park all together with our kids, eventually, we formed our little mom army. It was great.
I lived 15 years in China, 12 years with children.
Our four kids somehow provide opportunities in our work that we never thought about before. I never would have done La Leche League if it wasn’t for our kids. And that opened up the doors to all of the friends from the moms that lived in our neighborhood that I would have never met, that they also wanted to nurse their babies and be natural moms.
I only had one brother, and I wanted our parents to have a lot more kids. I never understood why my mom didn’t have more kids. The doctor’s wife I worked with, had three kids, and she told me she always regretted not having number four. It was her only regret in life. I really admired her and tried to listen to everything she said to me. And I always remembered that. So I want to have more kids.
With my first kid, it was easier. I had him in the summer. When the school year started, I went back to studies and work. The only thing that changed was that I would work at the children’s hospital and I would just take care of the children as part of my job, but after having my own kids, I began to feel very strong emotions inside. Then it was really hard to work and it made sense to me why some people stop being pediatric nurses after having kids because it's hard to deal with the emotions inside of you after you have your own kids.
How well do I know myself?
When I was younger, I thought I knew myself more. I think as we age and grow in life lessons, we know there are more parts to us. So, we were very simple, it was easy to know ourselves. Before I got married, I knew who I was and why I was doing things but then the more I added to my life, there were more parts of me, so there were different parts of me. It’s not that I know myself less with my age, it’s just there are more facades to know.
When I was just by myself, it was easy. As a wife, I need to work to help my marriage, and as a mom, I need to work with four sons of different ages.
Some people say 40 is midlife, some people say no. My personality actually changed since we moved to Georgia. There are several reasons: for coaching, we always use the strengths finders, I know my five strengths from before and my five strengths now are very different. My trainer in coaching school said: If you are coaching a client who is in midlife, or who has passed midlife, then you need to re-give them all of these tests because they will have had a transformation.
I also had a transformation, entering this second phase of my life coincided with moving to Georgia.
I feel like I know myself quite well, but when I was younger I would have been more likely to say, I’m exactly like this. Now I want to be more adaptive to a situation, and more curious about the people around me. Instead of saying, I’m X, I try to be more interested in other people and more curious about how can we adapt a relationship that we’ll work together. I try to live not in my personality traits but in the community and partnerships more. I don’t enjoy being by myself. I enjoy being in community, and working in partnerships. My personality is like, I can do everything by myself, but to me, it’s not enjoyable, it’s just forceful.
We came here seeking Chinese culture. Georgia was a different version of cultural shock. I was searching so much for Chinese things. I’m not Chinese, but my heart thinks it’s Chinese.
What gives me hope?
Of course, God gives us hope, that’s the ultimate truth. But I think we can see God in other people too. The more I live in different places and meet people from different cultures, the more hope comes from those relationships. The more people you meet and the more friendships you make, the more love there is and more community there is. Seeing God in other people through the love they give you and through the love that you have the opportunity to give to them, is the most beautiful thing because together we can all work together to create this kind of project where women are loved and taken care of and not just pushed aside. My ultimate goal from doing the work for La Leche League was to help moms have the relationship with their kids that they wanted to have and I think that comes from coaching, instead of just demanding things from our kids, we help partner with what they want to achieve. Helping other moms to get to that point where they're able to partner instead of being controlling and authoritarian parents.
One of the biggest challenges for women in my community is the phenomenon of Trailing Spouses, who go for their spouses’ jobs. Their biggest challenge is to find the ability to have a great level of satisfaction in their work. They aren’t there to work but usually, they are very highly educated people. I see a lot of times women constantly trying to create something and it’s very hard for them. Following the husbands and wanting to also have their career potential fulfilled, is a very difficult position to be in.
Several women at the international church here came with their husbands who have really good jobs and they are highly educated. They want to contribute to the community but they don’t necessarily see ways to participate in the community because they don't have language skills.
From my experience with La Leche League, I like the idea of combining coaching with projects that serve mothers’ well-being because, if we can help moms achieve their goals with their families, they can do anything. If your family is unsettled, then at work you cannot really thrive, because you are distracted. Either that or you’re shutting off your brain to that part that you need to heal. So, if we want women to feel fully connected to all of their bodies and brains in life, we need to help them heal in their relationships with their families so that they can excel and reach their goals.
If the organizations can provide women with coaching to be able to achieve healing their relationships with their family, themselves, and their work, and to understand their mind-body connection, that would be helpful.
I have two goals; one is to create a coaching program for foster families; the foster children don’t often have conversations around their life goals, and foster parents don’t often have the emotional and mental support they need to thrive. Coaching for a whole family creates opportunities and new thinking patterns that support them in creating their new life!
My second goal is to partner to lead a Natural birthing center where women are supported; to lead and direct this center so women can be supported in birthing, mothering, life, their emotions, and how they choose to live out their work life.