Isn’t it amazing how sometimes those with the hardest path in life can be the most upbeat?
Natalie Corden is a midwife who has blogged publicly about experiencing infant loss and postnatal depression. She’s one of those people with a fire inside. I first met her at a midwifery protest and despite the fact I was knackered from organising a conference, and she’d not long ago had a nasty car crash, she had me cracking up.
She’s a mother to two boys and qualified in 2016.
The interview is below and if you’re looking for a role model to help you always come back to optimism, Natalie is your woman!
What book do you most often recommend to midwives and students?
A fiction book I love is Anita Diamant's 'The Red Tent'.
My must-have reads will always be Catching Babies (by Sheena Byrom) and The Baby Catcher (Peggy Vincent).
In terms of being a woman - my favourite book ever is Caitlin Moran's 'How To Be a Woman'. Her take on birth is hilarious and so true.
What’s the best money you’ve ever spent on an item or experience that relates either to midwifery practice or your self-care as a midwife?
I always buy a good pen as I like to write notes, reflections and my journal with a nice one. I think it was instilled in me by my dad as he always wrote in fountain pen (even on post-its).
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?
I wrote a blog a few years ago that upset some people. I regretted it and apologised but the hurt was done. I suppose as I wrote in a rash emotional way I forgot that my words were public and that they were words that could be misconstrued and cause hurt. It was a tough time that lead to much anxiety on my part and ultimately I think my car accident a few months later. I found my way back by being honest and the support of my friends both real and virtual through Twitter. It was a hard sad lesson but it taught me so much. I also found that I had true friends.
If you could put a sign up on every labour ward or work place for midwives worldwide, with a big message for every member of staff, what would it say?
'Smiles are contagious, spread yours!'
Smiles make a difference to me. An encouraging smile, a kind smile, a welcoming smile and a grateful smile just to list a few. They make me happy to give and to receive. When it's busy and overwhelming I find a smile can just give you that momentum to keep going. It's a thankyou without words and I love that.
What is something unusual you do as a midwife – is there something a bit odd you do or love which really helps in practice?
I don't think it is unusual or odd but it is what I love to do. I give out plenty of hugs! I hug women, their families and my colleagues. Of course, I do recognise when they are appropriate and I do respect personal space. Yet, I find a hug can be great for both hugger and hugee!
How do you cope with the stress of being a midwife?
I take time out. I watch guilty pleasure TV and become a couch potato.
I go on walks with my dog or I just give him a cuddle.
I write blogs and letters to myself. I can be very self-deprecating so I boost myself with little mantras too.
In the last five years, what is one realisation about midwifery that has improved your practice or life as a midwife?
Midwifery is ever evolving and I will always need to keep moving forward. I have made mistakes and will probably make more. I learnt from them so much. I will always want to be better and do better for the women in my care.
What advice would you give to a passionate, intelligent newly qualified midwife just starting their career?
You can be the best midwife you can be. Listen to the women in your care. They will show you the midwife they need. Be kind always but also be kind to yourself. You are not a robot and you will make mistakes from human error BUT that's ok !!!!!
Caffeine or not caffeine for shiftwork?
That's tricky! I'm a yes and a no. I tend to judge it on a shift. No energy drinks though! A can of pop at 4 am is usual for me and gives me that boost to keep going. I don't drink coffee though as it makes me wired!
Can you tell us about your favourite midwifery moment you’ve had (keeping things confidential for clients involved)?
It's strange I know but I don't have a favourite as I find joy in so many little moments in my work. However, recently I received a bouquet of socks from a happy woman. It was more than 2 months since the birth of her baby. Yet, as I read the note attached I could picture the couple and their baby . I had not looked after them long when their baby came earthside so to get a card and gift overwhelmed me . It reminded me that the moments I love and the joy of my profession are the most incredible life-changing events for the women in my care. #humbled.
What is poor advice you hear being given to student or newly qualified midwives?
'Suck it up buttercup'... not quite those words but close.
I think reminding people that they chose this job and need to toughen up is hard to hear too. Yet, I do hear wonderful supportive mentors that really nurture students and are the greatest shoulders to newly qualified midwives.
What do you do when you have lost your midwifery mojo, feel unfocussed or stressed by it all?
Tweet to my Twitter buddies and DM my support network. I step back and go back to the midwifery books that I fell in love with. I read through some of my thank you cards and remember the women.
Thanks so much Natalie and thanks everyone who reads Midwife Diaries! Natalie blogs here and can be found moderating in The Secret Community For Midwives In The Making.
I know some people say that smiling isn’t going to fix anything in the NHS and it’s just too hard to be sunny when you’re disillusioned. But Natalie and midwives like her have been to some of the darkest places imaginable and they still think it’s the little bits of light that make all the difference.
You know people who manage this have got the right idea!
Could you do us a small favour?
Could you leave Natalie and I a comment letting us know the most important point from her interview?
Evidence suggests we often get the best learning points from comments on social media, so you could be helping someone through a really rough patch.
And of course, if you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share it with them!