Wednesday, 30 June 2010

A bit of time out

Three baby bumps, originally uploaded by stephalie1977.

I have my trust induction at the end of the week and as a result I have had a few days off. I can't say it's been restful, after all I do have two children under 5. However in between studying I have had the opportunity to combine one of my hobbies with my learning. I am lucky enough to have quite a few friends that are currently pregnant and three of them allowed me to take photos of their bumps today. I love photography and last year I invested in a DSLR and aimed to teach myself how to take better photos. Over this time I have learnt a lot about how to edit and how to take better shots, and I am looking forward to sharing in their journey, whilst creating a record for them.

I've obviously had friends who were pregnant before, but it's a whole new perspective as a student midwife. I am lucky to have such friends that support me and are happy to share their pregnancies with me.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Getting started

I have now been a student midwife for 7 weeks. It doesn't seem possible but we are already about to be released onto our first placement and for some it feels a very scary prospect.

Over the last 7 weeks we have been introduced to each of our subjects; some gently and others thrown in at the deep end. The biology, for example, is intense; one lecture on the cardiovascular system, one lecture on the respiratory system, one lecture on the endocrine system etc. It doesn't take long for us to realise that we will need to do a lot of self-study to keep up and to really know these systems properly.

For others, it is perhaps the midwifery skills that are more scary. Having had children myself, I found these lessons more reassuring that I wasn't out of my depth completely. Whilst I obviously don't know anywhere near enough yet about how to do the appropriate checks, I at least do know what they are e.g palpation, scans, urine analysis etc. I've attended enough of my own antenatal checks to know the drill. It's been enjoyable for me to find out what they are really doing these checks for and what the notes really meant. I remember reading LOA in my notes and I'd always assumed it meant 'left of abdomen' well now I know it means 'left occipito anterior' and what's more I understand what that means (in case you are wondering, it's the ideal position for the baby to be in, in preparation for birth. The head is down and the baby is facing towards the mothers spine, and curled round to the left of the mother's abdomen).

Academic skills has been an interesting one and it's been a challenge for some to understand why we are doing it. It's essentially a course to teach us how to do further reading, how to reference and make quotations and eventually write our assignments. For me, it's been really useful as it's been a long time since I was at school and certainly we didn't have the same resources for further reading that are around now. Those that have come from doing other degrees, or straight from school, are maybe finding it a bit easier. Though I still feel they can learn from the course.

So now I am on the cusp of my first placement and feeling really excited about it. I simply can't wait to start my real practical training. I am hoping for good mentors, and to be lucky enough to see some births. I am hoping my own experience as a breastfeeding mother helper will come in useful and that I can share my knowledge. I am also hoping to get more to grips with listening to blood pressures and performing abdominal examinations. The one thing I am really nervous about is needing to take blood. Not because I am scared of needles or blood, neither bother me, but because it was really difficult to get to grips with the technique on merely a dummy arm. With the abdominal examination, although we have only practiced with the dummies, at least we can't hurt anyone, the blood taking is another matter. In theory, we could damage nerves, or bruise the ladies and whilst I know our mentors will be on hand to support us, it's still a slightly nerve wracking thought. Still I have just over a week off now so shall of course be studying all I can in preparation......whilst enjoying the good weather ;)

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The first week

On my first day I was so excited, it was like my first day at school all over again. I had organised to meet a couple of the others in the cafe, so I wasn't worried about walking in on my own. I was really interested to see who else would be Midwifery students though and wondered what sort of age mix there would be. At 32 I expected to be one of the oldest but in reality I was somewhere in the middle.

The first three days we spent most of our time in the one lecture hall. We had talks from people from various different departments e.g. student support, library, student union; and an introduction to some of our subject tutors. It was hard going in that there was lots of sitting and listening and not a lot of doing. Some parts were also a bit repetitive too - they'd each explain how to get onto the computer system and for those of us that were perhaps comfortable with negotiating our way round a computer, found this a little tedious. But on the whole, it was informative.

On the Thursday and Friday we were lucky enough to have a lie in.....well those of us without children did we didn't start till 11. We had the theory of moving and handling, theory of resuscitation and our first Biology session. The Biology was the first time I felt I was in a proper lecture and learning something.

One thing I hadn't been prepared for was how tired I was. We really didn't do very much that first week but I was coming home starving and exhausted. I could literally fall asleep at the drop of a hat and for someone who usually takes a good hour to get to sleep at night, this was a bit of a shock. I was very reassured when I spoke to the others about this, as they were all feeling the same. It didn't take too long to settle down luckily.

So that's the applying, preparation and first week covered. I hope you are enjoying reading my journey so far and I hope it's useful if you are thinking about applying to Midwifery too. If you do have any questions, then do feel free to ask :)

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Neverending form filling

I very soon discovered that the majority of my preparation for Uni involved a lot of form filling - a 36 page bursary form and then the 24 page Dependents form to accompany it, then the health questionnaire, the student loan application and the registration forms. It took a lot of time to make sure I filled them in correctly as well......having to check what childhood illnesses I'd had was not something I'd expected.

The bursary form was definitely the form that gave me the most headaches....having to find my husbands P60 from 2007-8 was a challenge in itself, and then the obvious discrepancy with the fact that he'd been working then and wasn't now. It took a few weeks to gather all the information together but once it was sent off I could relax for a bit. Even the uniform order form gave me some headaches as the measurement guide didn't match up with my usual size, nor even close to. I tried ringing them for some advice but that didn't prove to be very useful. I ended up ordering a size bigger than my usual and hoped for the best...luckily when it arrived it fit just fine.

Once I got my signed form back from the doctors, which took a ridiculous amount of time, considering he just had to sign it, I posted that off to Occupational Health and organised my health check with them. I'd started my Hep B course of injections when I dropped my form in to be signed so the health check was the final thing I needed to do. The day before my Health check I had my second Hep B injection and also a Men C jab. Sadly that night I was very unwell and ended up having to cancel my appointment the next day. The nurse was not very happy with me and reminded me that I needed health clearance in order to start my course. I re-booked my appointment for two weeks later and it was all fine. Finally a shopping trip with my Mum to get some new clothes, pens, paper and a bag and I was all set.

All that was left to do was wait for my first day....

Thursday, 17 June 2010

To Interview...

In preparation for my interview I made a list of potential questions I might be asked and thought about how I might answer them. With a bit of research I managed to compile 3 sides of A4 paper with questions I could be asked, and I prepared myself to be asked any of them. I made sure I was aware of anything happening in the media that could relate to Midwifery and I read my monthly issue of The Practising Midwife (TPM) cover to cover.

On the day of my interview, I woke up feeling as excited as I used to feel on Christmas morning. I got my bag ready, including my list of questions and a copy of TPM to read. I drove to the University, leaving in plenty of time to allow for traffic. As I pulled into the car park "Greatest Day" by Take That was playing and it really made me feel good about the interview ahead. I made my way to where I had been instructed to go and waited with the others that being interviewed that day.

We were soon taken to a room and had the format of the day explained to us...we'd start with a Maths and English test and providing we passed that, we'd go through to the interview stage. I was not too worried about those tests until that moment but once I turned my paper over I was quite relieved to see it didn't look too difficult. Some of the English questions made me doubt myself a bit due to it being multiple choice....if I'd just had to put the answer it would have been far easier. Anyway I finished first and went to have a coffee. Gradually the others all joined me and we discussed the sounded too worried about it.

Anyway at 11 we returned to the room for our results and only one girl hadn't passed. It was horrid when she was taken from the room as we could all guess why. But that was swiftly forgotten as the relief that we had passed overtook us. We were then given a talk about the course from one of the tutors and then a current student also spoke to us about her experience of the course. We had the opportunity to ask questions and it was really good to hear her opinion and get a "true" view. We then had another short break before the interview itself.

I was one of the first to be interviewed and it was nice not to have to hang around and get nervous. I was interviewed by one of the tutors and a hospital midwife. They were really friendly and made me feel at ease by being so welcoming. They asked me 5 questions, including why I wanted to be a midwife and what I'd seen in the media recently? Due to my preparation I didn't hesitate at all with the answers and could have talked for ages. Everything I said I linked to the role of a midwife and how I thought it would help me. Both the tutor and the midwife smiled and nodded at me throughout so by the time I left, I felt it had gone well. The next 5 days were horrible, waiting for news. I had no clue at all when I might hear but as each day went by, I felt less and less confident....good job I only had to wait 5 days lol.

On the Wednesday I finally got the call and I could not stop smiling when they told me they were offering me a place. Not only offering me a place but offering me the opportunity to begin in May instead of September which was just perfect for me. I was on my way....

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Going from dreaming....

When I was at school and thinking about what I wanted to do with my life, I briefly thought about Midwifery. However I wasn't very good at science, and despite being at a Grammar school, I was encouraged not to take a Science GCSE. On this advice I immediately shelved the idea of being a Midwife and instead planned to become a teacher....but that's a whole different story. On finishing my A-Levels, I did in fact do a GCSE course in Human Biology but at that time I was still on the track to teaching.

Needless to say teaching did not work out for me and I floated for years not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I worked in sales, I worked in catering, I worked in an office....nothing really inspired me. As mentioned before, it was the birth of my second child that made me really return to the idea of being a midwife. After her birth obviously I was a little busy with a newborn and a 2 year old to think about and take care of, so I decided not to do anything about it yet.

When my second child was 14 months old, my husband became out of work. After a couple of months, he'd not managed to find a new job and we started to look around at the different options for us. I decided to just look into what I would need to be able to apply to become a midwife. I went along to an open evening and chatted to some lecturers. I made contact with one of my own midwives and asked her advice about what I could be doing. It became evident at this time, that I did not need to sit any further exams as the results I'd achieved at school were adequate. I decided to sit an OU course to refresh my brain a bit and so I could show some recent study experience. I was already working as a volunteer with the local breast-feeding support group and occasionally helping out with a teenage mum antenatal group and I was a member of the MSLC (Midwifery Services Liaison Committee). I subscribed to The Practising Midwife and started looking at the University websites.

Over the coming months I wrote and re-wrote my personal statement for my UCAS application and filled the rest of the form in. In the September I was finally able to submit the form and then the waiting to hear from the Universities began. I was lucky that I didn't have to wait too long before hearing from one of the Universities and I was invited for interview......which I shall tell you about next time....

Monday, 14 June 2010

So why midwifery?

When I told people I was going to be a midwife I got a mix of reactions..."oh I'd love to do that" or "rather you than me" but many people wanted to know why.

I've always loved learning about pregnancy and birth. I found that I remembered things I'd been told, read or watched without any effort at all and whether I needed to know or not. I'd watch every program I could about pregnancy and birth, and would daydream about what kind of midwife I would be.

With my first child, I was induced in hospital. I won't say it was a bad experience because it wasn't but it wasn't how I'd have chosen things to happen. Then when I had my second child, I had the most amazing home water birth. I had the two most incredible midwives, that had supported me through my pregnancy and I was lucky enough that they were the two present at the birth as well. They had taught me everything I knew about the optimum position to be in for birth, positions to labour in and what I could use for pain relief. In short they gave me all the information I needed so I could write my birth plan. They also made sure I had all the information I needed to make decisions if things didn't go to plan; which fortunately I didn't need. With my first child, I was a mere participant in the birth; with my second child, I gave birth and they supported me. It was then that I truly knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life, with more clarity than ever before.

I want to give women the chance to feel involved in the birth of their children. I want them to feel that they made decisions, even when it perhaps doesn't go ideally to plan. I want them to feel a part of the whole process. I want them to feel proud and empowered like I did after I gave birth the second time. Two and a half years on and I still feel a glow about my second child's birth.

So it's got nothing to do with babies's all about the women