The future’s bright, the future’s Hospital Grey

“Nobody gets to live life backward. Look ahead, that is where your future lies.” 

Ann Landers


I think it’s important to acknowledge that this time last year, my life was slowly emerging from the epic shit show of a catalogue of poor decisions.

Boy-related, obviously. 

My life is full of strong women, and they raised me up; because it’s true: strong women build each other up.

I managed to complete my student practice hours, against a few apathetic obstacles; I finished my course; I was awarded with a PIN; I was added to the register and permitted to legally call myself a Midwife. R effing M.

Now I’m leaving my home city for pastures new and exciting and…have I ever told you how much I hate moving house? No? Well it’s a lot. A very lot. Since 2009 I have moved house SIX times. 

I accumulate shit like I’m auditioning for “Hoarders”. I need to streamline. At some point.

Anyway.

So a friend told me recently that I should just “rip the band aid off” and start my new life in a new city etc etc etc. She was right but it’s so hard to do; it’s not just the people I will miss but the scenery, the coffee shops, the familiarity, the triggers for childhood memories. It’s a bit of a wrench.

This weekend I’ve popped to New Pasture (NP) to head to Occupational Health, and to hand over all the most important documents in my collection for my DBS scrutinisation. I was also scrutinised by the efficient elfin woman in Uniform Fitting; the interim job at McDogald’s places me firmly in “Size Pie” dress. 

I decided after the appointments to pootle about NP; I drove through the areas and streets on a bit of  Brownie Trail, until I decided to do a little bit of shopping, and pop into a museum for some comedy genius level dicking about. Oh and some learning. I did learning.

I’m not sure if it was the beautiful weather, the strength of the city’s history communicated through the museum, or seeing just how close and accessible the nearest Drag venue is, but it started to feel comfortable. I started to feel comfortable.

So aside from the packing, and the moving, there’s a strong possibility that I’ve started to actually look forward to putting on my Hospital Grey dress, entering and saying:

“Hi, I’m Heather, I’m your midwife.”

Remind me of this when I’m bitching about boxes and parcel tape, please

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I got it

safety_pin2

 

In the current climate, it’s somewhat fitting that the numbers we get as qualified midwives are PINs.

Safety pins being the recent symbolism of just that: “safety”. Birth is a normal physiological process, but things can go wrong and they can go wrong quickly – if that happens, we still need to make women and families feel that they are receiving the best care they can get.

Safe, woman-centred care.

 

Lets do this.

“So are you nearly finished?” Yeah. Feels like it.

 

In terms of relating where I am in my undergraduate status for my midwifery degree, I would liken it to being T+14 (or 42 weeks). If you’re familiar with that sort of language, you’ll know that I’m now overdue and your friendly neighbourhood consultant is having a red braces day and smiling at me encouragingly as he talks about inducing this degree. Other women are coming and going, spontaneously birthing their BSc’s, some happily cradling two, while I, like Rachel Green, am still getting a bishops score of 3. Ish.

pregnant-rachel

Someone needs to get in here and hold my nose while someone else blows in my mouth so we can pop this thing right out. (Bouffay. P. Sometime in the 90s. Yes cry your tears of jealousy at my Harvard referencing skills).

If that all flew beautifully over your head, then you just need to know that due to a bunch of set backs both beyond my control and between my ears, I’m not yet finished.

Look, I know that things are worse in different ways for other people, I know that thousands of refugees would swap places with me in a heartbeat for the education opportunity and the budding career. But they can’t. So please, just for a few minutes, indulge me and read my train-written rambling.

There are few people I know who’ve had a worse relationship track record than me (in terms of being a serial monogamist); this was very kindly pointed out for me by an ex not so long ago, and while it was spiteful and it hurt, hey, who is still in every relationship they’ve ever been in? Not many.
Break ups hurt. Rejection hurts. Abandonment stings like a rubber trucker – and (cue the tiny violins) I wish that I had my mum to not just give me a hug and let me cry, but to tell me “Suck it up, he’s not worth your time.”

me-and-mum

But I don’t. Nor do a lot of people. But this is my pain, this is my problem, and you’re still reading, so I guess you have a vague interest in what I’m saying. Cheers, you’re a trooper.

What about your dad then? Well I don’t know. I honestly have no idea how he feels because we don’t talk. That hurts too – but it hurt more to talk, and sometimes you have to activate a little self-preservation. It’s not a criticism, it must be incredibly difficult to know how to talk to a grown woman you didn’t see grow, especially as she is so like the woman you didn’t want to be with. I can’t imagine what that’s like, but it’s not for me to imagine; I can’t fix everyone’s feelings about me by changing myself, there’s just not the time. (Written down this might seem a bit whiny, but in my head it’s conversational. So bear with me and imagine I’m just chatting to you about it.)

My brother is pretty great, there’s no two ways about that, but there are limits to the responsibilities of a sibling no matter how close you are. Yep, sometimes you need a parent.

I’ve gone down the rabbit hole a bit there haven’t I? And yet you’re still here? Here, have a cookie. You’re good at this.

perineal-trauma-cookie(I could have tried harder to find a cookie that was less vagina-y. Sorry. No I’m not)

Back to the degree, and what relevance does this all have to that? Well there are things that have pushed me away from it, no, pulled me away from it and each of them are to do with relationships. Losing what I have in the past gives me a huge fear of abandonment, and in the majority of cases I go all in very quickly. I am very open and I wear my heart on my sleeve; some have taken advantage of that – promising me the family life and home of relative simplicity that I look for. Some use it against me to manipulate out of me what they can get. Some just feel it’s too much to handle; and some are a pick and mix of all of that. I’m not a saint, I’m a bit of a dick, I’m not asking for sympathy, I’m just trying to explain why I am so tired. Why each hurdle seems to be higher than the last but people keep telling me “You can get through this you have been through so much” Yeah. I have. And it would be nice if it could stop for a bit. Because each time I have to deal with something, it gets harder and harder to keep going. I have a lot of support – but cheering an athlete while they are standing still has never been enough to get them over the line.

This is why I am where I am, or when I am…I’m not quite sure which one is right. It’s affected my engagement with the career that I have worked so hard for, and that is the current struggle. Seeing that finishing line edge further away when I take a step towards it is disheartening.

 

However.

 

I am not dead. I have not given up. I am just tired. I have the right people around me now and I get the feeling that no one is going to allow me to quit whether I like it or not.

So, student midwives, other midwives, other people (I hear that people exist outside of the hospital walls these days, although that may be a rumour), it is hard, and your struggles are your own and sometimes you will feel defeated. I’m not ending this post with “But you’ll be fine!” because you might not. It’s just that stopping is not the same as quitting or giving up, it’s self preservation, and as we preach all day long “You have to do what is right for you” to women. We have to do what is right for us.

 

Much love

HJ

The Perpetual Student

too-tired

If I haven’t whined at you about this, then we don’t spend much time together.
And when I say “much time”, I mean between 2 and 7 minutes.

Earlier this year, I had to take some time out of the course – it’s a big deal and one that I’m too close to at the moment to express properly here. Besides, this is supposed to be a relatively quick post.

The thing is, that event has had a massive knock on effect on my training and has set me back by as much as 11 weeks. My amazing friends are posting pics of their degree certificates and starting their jobs…and I’m still playing the bursary vs eating game. The negotiation and discussion of competencies to be signed off. The travel to and from placement (43 miles one way, if you were wondering).

And it’s becoming a struggle.

I receive nothing but positivity and support from cohort and colleagues alike, but it’s like swimming the channel – although the end is in sight, the swim is making me ache, and tired, and wondering what utter madness pushed me into starting in the first place.

I have a job, but it’s miles and miles away from where I live and where I’ve trained nd it’s that double edged sword: a new start, a new chapter, but without the reassurance of colleagues I’ve worked with before. The new place are taking me based on my interview (which as intense), my application, and my qualifications; they don’t know me from practice, and I will very much be expected to do what it says I can on the tin.

Terrifying really, isn’t it?

I don’t even have a restorative comment or thought to add to the end of this post.

 

 

 

 

The night duty blues.. (woe is me and fuck you to anyone getting between me and my recovery sleep)

Oh man that paragraph about sleeping in the car? ACCURATE

the moderate midwife

When I signed up I knew I would be working nights. I knew it, but I looked at my mentors with excitement and intrigue – what could be more appealing than the quiet of the night and the increased rate of births? Oh holy hell, I was too deliriously in love with midwifing and pining over the moon to notice the slower movement of the staff.

Pre Night Duty

It all starts the day you wake up knowing you are working that night. If you let it, it will hang over you like a shadow, casting its weary darkness over everything you do. You cannot possibly inject any activity with your normal enthusiasm and vitality and waste precious molecules of energy that you might need to call on later. Oh no, you must be sombre and sullen and ruin a perfectly good day.

Sometimes, you might be tired enough to…

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Desperation, Deliberation…Dissertation. Part 1

It’s that time of year.

Well, it’s a couple of months past that time of year.

Today I have been the most productive yet in terms of getting to grips with how to write it.

The most important part is that I have kidded myself into believing that I understand how to write it a little bit better than I did 24 hours ago. I’ve looked at various web pages (legit) and blog posts about how to go about it – but as is everything with Midwifery, this is different.

Our task is clear: the midwife’s role in something that can improve the service. Well, I say clear, you know, like clouds are clear. Made up of lots of little droplets of clear stuff – altogether: a foggy, soggy mist.

I’m whining. I know I am. Sorry.

Truth be told I settled on the area I’m going to look at a little while ago; I was aiming to look at the maternity care for women in prison. My placement area has cared for several women in that situation and I thought it would be really interesting; with my dissertation head on I was in practice, in the birth unit and a reg had been called up to double check the perineal damage on a woman who’d just given birth on a birth stool.

birthing stool

(Image via BirthRite)

She came out after said inspection and gave her assessment adding on that there was a lot of evidence against birthing on the stool – that they were good for descent, but they tilt the pelvis the wrong way or some such. *DOINK* My ears pricked up and suddenly my improvement of practice became blindingly obvious.

Maternal position in birth and the effect on the perineum.

Yes it needed refining in terms of a title, but I knew what I was going to look at. And that’s as much as I did for the subsequent 3 months. We had an assignment or two in between, as well as a presentation and two placements, but as far as the big D went: all aboard the Nope Train!

 

So, here I am with a list of tasks that don’t even cover writing the thing yet, I am going to prepare this so well that when I come to write it it’s just a very simple puzzle to put together.

For the most part, it’s reading; so much reading. I’m pleased I’ve picked something interesting to me that will really impact my rationale for practice – the key is just to not have a nervous break down between now and 20th April

 

 

Deadline: T-72 Days

Heather x

So You Want To Be A Midwife?

Gas And Air

picstitch (1) How my life has looked for the past 3 days

And relax.

I’ve just finished a mammoth 3 nights on call and I’m shattered. It was up for every one of them, you could say we’ve been busy in our little team. I don’t think you realise how exhausting this job can be when you’re training to be a midwife, I certainly didn’t. Back then when I was a naive 21 year old, the only person I had to get up and dressed in the morning was myself and that was sometime a chore (especially if we had been out to Vodka Revolutions the night before, Vodka and a mixer for 50p, bargain!) Now I have to co-ordinate my shifts with my husbands work schedule, throw 2 children in the mix and it sounds like a recipe for disaster. But we somehow manage.

I often get asked ‘why did you…

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Support in Labour – it’s not what you think

Now three weeks into my third year and the same number into placement, I fully accept and acknowledge that not only have I not seen everything (who has?) but that I’ve only experienced the thin end of the wedge, as it were.

However, I’ve seen a range of family and friends accompanying the labouring woman and this week, after  number of conversations with mentors, midwives, friends, and family, I’ve been prompted to put it on paper. Well, internet, well, my laptop. Well, here.

As all good interview prep will tell you when you’re looking into midwifery – this is woman-centred care (and by that I do not intentionally exclude people who identify as an alternative gender). The word means “with-woman”, don’t rock up to that interview and tell them you love babies. Nuh uh. Don’t do it. Instead you’re encouraged to talk about the midwife’s role in cring for a woman and her family, and one of those “unlearnable” skills is building rapport quickly to start forming a trusting relationship.

It’s important in all the areas of maternity care, but arguably most pressing in the birth rooms – how will you help a woman listen to her body and make the necessary choices if you’re a stranger she can’t relate to? It’s hard work, but doable – it’s much easier to help her focus and calm those manic moments if your voice is one of clear, calming, (sometimes) firm tone.

Now I speak as a student midwife – that’s my frame of reference here, but I’m writing this to address anyone who has been signed up by the pregnant person to be there for her birth. You have a responsibility. You really do. The main part of that is done – you turned up. You’re there! Even if you feel nothing else you do is helpful or of nnote, you met her first request – you’re in the room.

Michele Odent has plenty to say about men in the birth room and how they shouldn’t be there, and in a lot of ways I agree with him, but in one identifying factor, I have to amend it. It’s not restricted to men. It’s applicable to anyone who is present and thinks “I’m helpless here, I’d better do nothing at all!” or “I’m in the way!” or just plays on their phone.

Cut it out, sunshine.

As the old adage goes “anyone can deliver a baby” – that’s true. As the course and NMC requirements go, not anyone can be a midwife. Well with  fat personal debt, and  dissertation on the horizon, and all I hve achieved so far, I kind of hope that not just “anyone” could do it. Makes me feel less special 😀

Not anyone, however, can offer the support wanted by a woman that could come from her husband, or boyfriend, mother, sister, friend – you have that special bond that has elevated you above all others to be asked by her to be present.

If nothing else, get a chair or the birthing ball, or plonk yourself next to wherever she is labouring and just be present. That is all you have to do, I promise! Fulfill her requests for drinks, or something cold, or to bugger off and stop touching her hair, but know it’s not personal. The one thing she should be listening to above all else is her body and sometimes your helpfulness can distract her from that, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you.

The need to soothe the pain of the one you love is overwhelming, and it’s hard to watch, but that’s not something to dwell on – do what you can, don’t worry about what you can’t. You don’t have to solve the problem, you don’t have to mke her feel much better, you just need to be there as required.

Women and potential birth partners should really have more of a discussion about what they want from someone else during their labour, and I think it’s probably something that should be considered by midwives in week 36 appointments, it’s something I’ll be asking women when making notes about their birth preferences.

Next week: social media and phones in the birth room.

It Wasn’t Supposed to Be Like This

She stands beside the incubator, her eyes fixed on her tiny little boy.

I’ve offered her a chair but she knows that if she sits down she won’t be able to keep her eyes open, so exhausted is she from her almost constant vigil at her baby’s side. The only time she’s left the room is to go and express breast milk, clinging to the hope that one day her baby will be strong enough and well enough to drink it.

Despite her exhaustion she doesn’t want to sleep because she knows that this could be the last day, these the last hours and minutes and even seconds that she has to commit each and every detail of him to her memory.

She doesn’t have those lazy mornings and those soft, sleepy hours in the middle of the night when there is just you and your baby and you have…

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Gin and Tonic Cupcakes

Midwives like gin.
Mostly true.
Midwives like cake
Mostly true.
Re blogged because awesome.

Bake It Instinct

For the last month or so I have pretty much only been making salted caramel brownies because they are everyone’s current favourite and they freeze well and they are easy to convert to gluten free by just switching the flour and they taste so good. Anyway, finally I have made a new and exciting thing: Gin and Tonic cupcakes. Gin and tonic is by far my favourite alcoholic drink and with a friend’s party coming up I thought it was a perfect excuse to try something a bit more grown-up.

BSMkFkuIQAAHmsc.jpg-large

It was based on a recipe I found on Katie Cakes but slightly modified in places:

Ingredients:

For the cakey bit:

  • 175g unsalted butter softened
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 4 tbsp tonic water (I used Fever Tree – yum)
  • 2tbsp gin (I used Hendrick’s)

For the icing

  • 250g unsalted butter softened
  • 500g icing…

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