At the beginning of January 2018, I thought about all the inspirational birth world people I’m in contact with.
I wanted to have a pool of encouraging, motivational interviews on Midwife Diaries which also had 'nuts and bolts' strategies for the midwifery community to draw on.
I developed some questions to send out to those women and men who I know have stories to tell and ideas to add to midwifery's cultural bloodstream.
The response has been amazing. I have some brilliant advice sitting in my inbox and I'm enjoying the meeting of minds that happens when I get to post these interviews.
Today I'm sharing an interview with student midwife Kristie. Kristie actually helps me behind the scenes with Midwife Diaries and she's become an indispensable part of keeping The Secret Community For Midwives In The Making running, amongst much else. I appreciate her every day and I know she balances student midwife hood with being a busy Mum with a disabled child too.
'I'm a second year student midwife currently studying at the University of Greenwich. I've wanted to become a midwife since I fell pregnant myself at 16. Before this I wanted to be a paramedic so haven't strayed too far from my path! During my pregnancy I was regularly spoken down to, judged and made to feel inadequate because of my age. It ended up with me questioning my own abilities to be a parent and I dreaded the day I would give birth and become responsible for this tiny little being, just because of the comments of the people I met during my pregnancy experience.
3 months into my Access Course my daughter was diagnosed with a condition called Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria - which meant her body was covered in welts and wheels of burning and itchy patches most days. Her immune system was non-existent and she would find little to no relief from medicines. Her care took up a lot of my time.
University with a disabled child has been tough, and it's a big struggle to juggle everything - a lot of thanks to my friends and family for stepping in for Ava-Rose when I can't be there, organisation has completely been key - and I have a bag set up for every eventuality!
Making time for each activity is a must and I try to not overlook anything. It's tough, but totally doable and I wouldn't change one moment of my midwifery journey and balancing the needs of my disabled child.'
On with our interview:
Which book do you recommend most often to other student midwives?
The PROMPT manual* - I don't think I could do my degree without it! Fab for exams and OSCEs.
*Note from Ellie: This is the 'Practical Obstetric Multi-Professional Training' (PROMPT) manual that features best practice for obstetric emergencies. 'PROMPT' courses are run nationally and internationally and help midwives and other staff give best quality care during life threatening emergencies.
What’s the best money you’ve ever spent as a student midwife?
My pinard*. Using a pinard to listen in to a fetal heart is such a dying skill but I absolutely love going back to basics and it's something that won't fail me like technology oh so often does!
*Note from Ellie - see more on using pinards here. In my novel (which will be out this year) the main character Chloe is obsessed with using her pinard!
What is your favourite moment of personal ‘failure’ you’ve experienced in midwifery – something that you now remember fondly or have made a ‘come back’ from?
In my first year I'd forever get things wrong!! Midwives would just assume I would know and send me off to go get different equipment and I'm sure I'd spend up to half an hour looking in random cupboards and drawers for whatever was needed. One particular event that stands out was when I was sent for an amnihook - I was given clear directions but I got to the store cupboard and completely forgot all that was said! I ended up returning with a catheter bag, oops! Luckily it was laughed off by all but always best to be aware with your surroundings in placement and equipment! I certainly spent some extra time familiarising myself with equipment after this episode!
If you could put a sign up on every labour ward or work place for student midwives worldwide, with a big message for every member of staff, what would it say?
'Be kind'! Kindness goes a long way with women and colleagues. If we are always kind in our approach then we can't go far wrong.
How do you cope with the stress of being a student midwife?
Wine! Only joking, family life keeps me sane. When I get time I enjoy organising days out and activities - something with little stress just to let me chill and spend some much needed family time.
What advice would you give to a passionate, intelligent student midwife just starting their training?
Follow your passion, even when everything seems against you. It all seems to just fall into place, just don't over think it.
Caffeine or not caffeine for shiftwork?
Definitely a personal choice. I have had an energy drink at 3am on a low on a night shift before and struggled to sleep for 12 hours afterwards so it's a definite no from me!
Can you tell us about your most favourite midwifery moment you’ve had (keeping things confidential for clients involved)?
Facilitating my first vaginal twin birth. It was very early on in my first year and it was just beautiful. Had us all in tears!
What is poor advice you hear being given to student or newly qualified midwives?
To have an A, B and C plan for managing your life as a student midwife. This implies you'll always be able to cope. Life doesn't come with an A, B and C plan and honestly it just isn't practical for some people! Try your hardest and be honest if your struggling and you won't go far wrong.
What do you do when you have lost your midwifery mojo, feel unfocussed or stressed by it all?
I step back. Shut the books and just be me for a couple of days. It probably isn't very practical but it's just what we have to do sometimes!
In the last year, what is one realisation about midwifery that has improved your practice or life as a student midwife?
Everyone is an expert in their own way. We all have different backgrounds, from our own personal experiences to clinical experience and there is always something to learn from everyone. Whether it's an emotional response or strategy, different ways of practice or just advice. Listen and take in it all because knowledge is definitely power.
Thanks Kristie! I totally agree about not overthinking things. Sometimes you try so hard and think you can control everything if you just get everything 100% right. Something as complex as midwifery needs more of a 'life is messy, embrace it and see what happens' approach, at least in my view!
Thanks for being an inspiration!
And now, over to you...could you leave Kristie and I a comment letting us know your most important realisation from her answers?
And also, do you know of an inspirational student or midwife who you think I should interview? We all know and love some of the big names in midwifery but I’m very aware that many brilliant midwifery leaders do their work under the radar – yet these are people we could learn a huge amount from.
Take care, Ellie.