Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Who do you talk to?

I have many good friends and am lucky to be blessed with a close family. I rely on them all to bolster me through the good times and the bad times in life, the same as most people. However who do you talk to when you've had a bad day or week at work?

It isn't so easy when you are a midwife to talk about your bad days. There is patient confidentiality to consider - you can't always share your great days let alone the bad ones. If you don't agree with your boss then most people have someone they can blow off steam at. When you are a midwife though, a bad day can be due to a variety of different reasons and not all are easy to discuss.

There can be the bad day where you started the day with a headache, had a bad nights sleep and then had care of a lady who was frightened and screamed through her labour and whilst you try your best to support her, it might be her way of getting through it. I want to be clear here that I'm not blaming the woman for screaming and neither am I saying the midwife doesn't care or want to help...just that it can be hard going.

Then there are the hard days where you don't don't get a break because it's just too busy. You left home at 7, barely had chance to have a wee or a drink and return home exhausted by 9. And potentially facing having to do the same again the very next day.

And then there are the days where you care for a lady where the pregnancy has not been successful - either due to still birth or an abnormality perhaps. You can walk away proud of being a part of someone's journey, supporting them in heartbreaking circumstances in the best way you can but it can be such an emotional roller coaster too. Now I can't talk for other midwives but I know that for me, the first time I dealt with this situation, it changed me. It came home with me, it interrupted my dreams, it made me hug my children closer and it almost made me wish for another baby of my own to hold and cherish. It's not something I can talk about with friends and family....and not just because of patient confidentiality but also because it's not really a part of midwifery that people generally want to hear about. I have friends who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, thinking of having their own children, have relatives or other friends having children and baby loss is not an easy topic to talk about. I want to be sensitive to them and their own fears about pregnancy and birth. For the same reason I don't really talk too much about obstetric emergencies, instrumental deliveries, unexpected admissions to special care or anything else that might frighten them.

I am often told what a lovely job I have and yes it is so true but there are also the days when I could almost scream that it isn't so lovely all the time. I don't sit cuddling babies all day....I deal with life and death. Having said that...I love my job and I find it a real honour to do what I do. The human body continues to amaze me with the miracle of life. The women in my care inspire me and put me in awe of their strength and courage.

I am lucky to have fantastic friends who are also midwives who I can talk to, as well as my supervisor and staff who were on shift with me. They help me to debrief and talk it through and share their experiences with. They help me to find ways to manage and cope. And my friends and family support me still...even though I can't always talk about it much, I know that they are there for me.

So one bit of advice to any student or newly qualified midwife out there,  don't bottle up these experiences and think you are the only one finding them tough because you aren't. Talk to your fellow midwife friends, your supervisor or someone you can trust.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

No longer a student, not yet a midwife

So here I am - stuck in that place in between being a student and being a midwife. I have a job but I can't start until my pin comes through, my CRB check is complete and my references are done. Yet I am also no longer a student. 

It's an odd feeling to be truthful. Everything feels a little surreal - I am waiting for someone to tell me it's all a joke, of course I can't be a midwife, I don't know anywhere near enough yet. I know more than I think I do of course, and yet at the same time far less than I will need to know. I am aware that the coming months will be hard hard as it was when I first started my training, if not harder. When I first commenced my training, I used to finish each day of placement with a horrendous headache because of the high level of concentration needed. As I will no longer have that safety net of a mentor, I will return to that high level of concentration, in an effort to ensure that I remember to do all that I need to do. I will probably check and check again, feel unsure and uncertain, unused to being able to make my own decisions despite the fact that I have been doing just that for months. I am predicting exhaustion, tears, headaches but at the same time I am expecting shifts where I come home and realise that I did a good job, that I got it right, that I was an advocate for women, that it's all starting to make sense. Gradually I hope that my confidence and experience will grow and the good shifts outweigh the bad. 

I am naturally nervous. Being a midwife isn't like starting a new job somewhere else. You really do hold lives in your hands. You want to provide a good service to the families in your care, and ensure that their experience is a positive one whether it is on the labour ward, in clinic or on the ward. What a midwife does matters, it really matters. It matters to me anyway and I have no doubt it matters to the women and families. 

I am now trying to enjoy this time out...spending time with family and friends; having a real break before the next step on my journey to truly becoming a midwife. I am almost able to say "I am a midwife"....and yet that still feels just round the corner.......

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

I did it!

Last week I was given the classification for my degree and I am very proud to tell you that I achieved a 2:1. We're now into the final pieces of paperwork and sometime next month (hopefully) I'll get my pin and be a fully qualified midwife. This month I shall attend an interview for a job and I know I've got my fingers and toes crossed that I'll get it.

It's an odd feeling right now. I'm exhilarated and slightly scared. I am scared of no longer having that mentor looking over me and ensuring that I'm doing things correctly. Yet at the same time I am looking forward to working independently, taking all that I have learnt from my various mentors over the past three years and developing my own practice.

I am proud to be able to say that I've made it. I have managed the demands of academic life, placement and family life. Once a long time ago, I began a journey to be a teacher and over half way through the course, I failed a major assignment and dropped out. At that point I thought I had given up the chance of ever getting a degree. I had no idea what I'd do with my life and didn't really think I'd ever make anything of myself. However I feel that I have also never really given up. I have always forged forward with the belief that there is something better out there for me; that I could do more.

I am not the greatest student, I wouldn't consider myself particularly academic. When I was doing my teaching course, I averaged very low marks, scraping through each assignment. My assignments as a student midwife, have been varied....some I've got it right and others I've not done so well at. I have taken something from each experience. I have literally taken it one day at a time, one challenge at a time...never daring to think beyond being a student and simply doing my best. I also could not have done it without the amazing support of my husband who always believed in me and my family's never ending support.

At the moment I am making the most of a little time off.....spending time with my children, seeing friends that I've woefully neglected over the past three years, spending time with family, catching up on my knitting and spending time preparing for Twirling Nationals with my daughters' twirling group (if you are interested you can follow them here ).

It's been a long journey and in so many ways, this is just the first step on the next part of the trip. I shall aim to continue to tell you all what it is like to be a newly qualified midwife. I am looking forward to taking that step but for now I shall enjoy spending time being me.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

TV programs

At the moment there are numerous tv programs, both reality and fictional, that are showing midwifery or birth stories. Many of them irritate me for their inability to get things right.

For example last week in Casualty, which I have watched since I was a teenager, one of the characters was supporting her husband in hospital when she felt a pain in her stomach and worried that there was something wrong with her baby. The nurse laid her hand on the woman's stomach and reassured her "there is nothing wrong with the baby, you are in labour". I mean contraction....yes that's how we diagnose labour these days. I can accept that there are some inaccuracies that don't matter to the public but surely most people know that labour is not diagnosed after one contraction. Then, because it's Casualty, they kept her in A and E rather than send her to maternity and they didn't even call for a midwife. It was ridiculous from the word go and it didn't get any better. When the fetal heart was at 90bpm, they merely called for the A and E consultant to deliver her and then called for a Special Care Anaesthetist when the baby needed resus. Pfft.. A small bit of research and this could have been handled so much better.

So then let me move onto don't judge my choice of programs....I know it's rubbish but that's partly why I watch it! Like Casualty I have watched it for a long time and I'm not ready to stop yet. It's what I call my "no need to think about it" tv. Anyway they have had an ongoing storyline about two women who are pregnant, Sonia and Vanessa. Sonia has been planning a home birth, with the support of a doula. When her labour begins, her partner Toadie, panics constantly and tries to convince her to go to hospital constantly. When her waters break, she requires an urgent transfer to hospital and whilst it hasn't been aired yet, we know from the advert that following delivery Sonia is going to have some kind of collapse. When Vanessa goes into labour, she is declined the epidural at 8cms because it's too late to have one and then we see her being condescendingly praised whilst being encouraged to push her baby out a short while later. So now we know where the producers of Neighbours stand on the idea of home birth?

Why can these producers/directors or whoever is responsible, not just do some research into what is accurate and believable? It surely can't be that difficult. Anyone who has worked on a delivery suite knows how dramatic it can get. It already is a life and death situation and we don't need to make up details. There are also the beautiful labour and births that would make for wonderful viewing - we don't always need the drama! If all we ever see is things going wrong, then how can women believe it might just go right? Not every woman needs a hospital and doctors. Many many women could deliver their babies at home safely with the care of their midwife. Many women give birth in different positions to just lying on a bed. Many women never see a doctor throughout their pregnancy and labour. Most babies are born and require no resus at all.
Of course some women will need an obstetrician to lead their care and some women will require a hospital but it's not all women and this should be recognised in dramas and soaps. And it should not be seen to be unusual or weird but just one of the possible choices that women make.

I'd be happy to voice my opinion to any producer considering a birth story in their programme! Make it realistic.....that's all I ask!