Two more assignments submitted and suddenly I'm halfway through the course. Everyone told me that the time would fly past and they were right, it really has flown. I'm looking back at all I've done and learnt and feeling quite proud of myself and yet I can still look at all there is to learn and feel overwhelmed by it all. Over the past 18 months I have seen a variety of women with very different needs,and a variety of different midwives with different ways of working. I've seen normal births and I've seen births that needed high levels of expertise in order for mother and baby to survive - all of which I have learnt from. Sometimes it can feel like what we do at Uni, is a distant cry from what we do on placement. After all our first 18 months of training has been focused on normality but of course what we see on placement can be very different. One thing I have learnt is that remaining focused on what is normal, helps to identify when something isn't within the realms of normality.
A simple example of this is when we first palpate the uterus to see what position the baby is in, in a woman who is 40 weeks pregnant. Focusing on normality, we would expect the baby to be in a head down position so if the baby is not in that position, we can identify this and then act appropriately. At the beginning of my training I didn't really have a clue what position the baby was in but with practice I soon began to be able to tell. I even managed to identify a baby in the breech position. As I've continued in my training, I've become more and more confident and even at an earlier stage of pregnancy, can often identify the position. That said, I am not afraid to say when I'm not sure and to ask the midwife I am working with to have a feel and see what she thinks. It's essential to be comfortable enough to say "I don't know". There is no shame in not knowing something, there is shame in pretending that you do.
It's not unknown for a doctor to request a second opinion and I've witnessed qualified midwives ask for another midwife's opinion. Yet I know it can be difficult to say 'I don't know'. I'd say it's probably more difficult at the beginning of your training because you don't know yet whether or not you should know the answer and whether you'll look foolish if you don't know. I still maintain that you look far more foolish if you pretend to know the answer....you will get caught out. These days when I come across a term I don't know - usually when booking someone, they mention a medical condition I've never heard of - I'll ask the midwife I'm working with, or I'll look it up. We can't know everything after all.
So if you are about to start your first placement then there is your first bit of advice - don't be afraid to say you don't know something. BUT don't wait for someone else to find out for you - look it up - google is your friend!