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 work...as 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 http://distinctiontwirlersofmedway.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/happy-easter.html ).

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 seriously....one 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 Neighbours....now 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!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Do you have a mental health problem?

This week at Uni we've been talking about post natal depression and mental health issues. It was unfortunate timing that the news about Felicia Boots hit the headlines. Or was it? I do think that post natal depression is not talked about enough. Depression is a stigma and not discussed as much as it should be. Allegedly Felicia did not take the medication that she needed because she was so frightened that the medication would affect her babies through her breast milk. This is not an uncommon event, although fortunately most women do not kill their children. Do you know which drugs are safe in pregnancy or to breastfeed with? No? Neither do I. However I do know where I can access the information to find out and I also know that in some situations, whilst one drug may not be suitable, there may be an alternative. Simply stopping a drug is not the best course of action. 

Felicia's case is truly tragic but there are so many others that need more support. Mental Health issues affect 1 in 4 people every year....so that could easily be you right? I know it was me. I've told you about when my brother died and naturally bereavement can be a large precursor to mental health problems. Personally I also was dealing with a variety of other difficulties in my personal life...as mentioned before, my sister's family life wasn't easy, but at the same time my husband had lost his job, we were struggling financially and at the time, it just felt like everything was going wrong. Usually an optimistic person, I became consumed with the thought that some people were just unlucky and no matter how hard they tried, their lives would always be miserable, and who was to say that wasn't me. I had thoughts of leaving my family....not of suicide, just of driving away and living somewhere far away from them. I decided I was bad luck and I would bring nothing good to them. Luckily I have a wonderfully supportive family and friends, and I sought help from the GP. I was immediately referred for counselling and given regular appointments with my doctor. Initially my GP was reluctant to prescribe anti-depressants because I was breastfeeding and he was unsure if they were safe. Encouraged my friends, I returned to my GP armed with information from the Breastfeeding Network http://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/drugs-in-breastmilk-information-and-factsheets.html and I was given the medication that I needed. Fortunately for me, the medication and counselling I had, helped me. I recovered without any major side effects. I was lucky. I am no longer in counselling, and I am no longer on medication. However it's also not something I shout about.

If doctors are afraid to prescribe the medication that people need then it's really no surprise that women are afraid to take it, in pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding. But where does this leave the women that so desperately need help. What about those women who have serious mental health issues such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, psychosis etc... The medication that they take can be essential to them being able to live a "normal" life. There are only 13 mother and baby units in the UK. This means that any mother requiring inpatient care for a mental health issue is more likely to be separated from her baby due to the lack of this vital resource. 

The NHS offers this page as advice for anyone worried about postnatal depression.


I don't have the answers to the problem but I hope that I do remember to talk to women...to take that time and listen and ensure that they are getting the support they so desperately need. I will do my absolute best to ensure that women aren't stopping medication unnecessarily. I will encourage women to speak up if they are feeling down and I will encourage family members to watch out for the signs of postnatal depression. But this is something you can look out for too....with friends, family members, colleagues, neighbours. Not necessarily postnatal depression but any form of mental health issue. Let's break down this stigma and offer people the help they really need.