Some of this post was written by me and some bits are contributions from members of The Secret Community For Midwives In The Making.
We put it together because many are starting their student midwife courses this month. Or students are returning as second or third years, which can be just as scary!
I wrote my own part of this post in my diary as a student midwife starting my third year, in the middle of that whirlwind. As I re-read it, I feel so proud of this young woman who kept showing up even though she felt like giving up many times. It’s important to try and capture some of these moments, to be awed by how far you’ve come.
It helps us to remember. When you’re in the middle of the furnace, you’ll look back on when you’ve had courage and resilience to carry on despite the nerves. It also helps to know you're not alone.
Here are some thoughts from student midwives starting or restarting their courses this month:
‘I just don't know how I feel in all honesty. Lucky, excited, nervous, terrified about the responsibility. Wondering how I am going to manage for the next 3 years, practically and financially. Buzzing about that first birth experience as a student midwife, and wearing the uniform for the first time. ALL the emotions!'
‘I've moved from Brighton to Nottingham with the absolute support of my wonderful other half and we are starting from scratch. Staying with friends at the moment but hoping to find a house asap! I can only describe my emotions as a bowl of jelly...I feel as if I am starting off as a fresh, hot, watery bowl of jelly and as I progress into each year I (hope) will become more settled and confident. A bizarre way to think about it I know, but I'm a visual person and it’s the first image that came to my head.’
‘I absolutely LOVE to meet new people and in turn form relationships with them. People from all over the world and from all different backgrounds. Being able to gain that trust from a woman will be the most important thing to me, as trust isn’t as easily gained in some cases. I know to remember that KINDNESS ALWAYS WINS so with that in mind I feel as if I am embarking upon the right path and this is 100% what I want to be doing. ‘
‘I start two weeks tomorrow and I am bouncing back and forth between utter excitement and pure nerves. I've moved my family (partner, 5-year-old and 6-week-old) 215 miles away from where we called home so I can do this and feel so blessed to have their absolute support.’
‘I think most of can relate to the fear of making a mistake. I also think it’s healthy to feel like that too - means we'll be alert to the possibility I think.’
‘Maybe it’s: 'Finding your feet' first year, 'Securing your knowledge' second year and 'Totally terrific midwife' third year!’
‘I start in exactly 3 weeks today! This time last year it felt like I dream I probably wouldn't make a reality! After starting my journey to become a midwife 10 years ago with life and confidence getting in the way and I have worked as a Midwifery Support Worker, taken 2 access courses and retook GCSE maths and English. It's been a long time coming! I am ridiculously excited and eager to get started and so looking forward to the next chapter in mine and my family’s life!‘
‘I'm on an emotional rollercoaster right now, speeding through a range of emotions every hour. Worry is a big one - how will I cope financially? How hard are the exams? Will I make friends? Will my mentor be nice? How will my family cope? Am I good enough? How will I cope with baby loss? Will I stay calm in emergency situations? What if I drop a baby!?’
‘To be chosen on my first application for a university that only takes 25 students out of hundreds of applicants is definitely something I am proud of. I feel strong/weak in equal measures! One minute I feel like dancing and celebrating and the next I feel like crying wondering how I will manage. I'm going to learn how to support women during this magical time in their lives, what a great privilege that will be.’
‘I feel like I did when I started secondary school a loooong time ago: a bundle of mixed emotions. Now I know myself better the only thing I can guarantee is that l'll over compensate tomorrow by talking too much and probably making inappropriate jokes.’
‘I’m so excited but also nervous about stepping well outside of my comfort zone on placement. I'm expecting a big mirror to be held up to my face and to not always like what I see; to have to work on myself and my attitude; to learn how to walk in someone else's shoes; to discover I harbor prejudices I never knew about and to overcome them. I'm afraid of passing out in theatre, of forgetting things, of annoying my fellow students or mentors, of ruining my kids' lives (one has confirmed this to be the case already), of failure, of this dream not being the dream I thought it would be.
But, wow, the excitement. All this learning, this new knowledge, new language, feminism and compassion in action. The possibility of being the difference, of helping a woman empower herself and believe in her body, help her breastfeed, help her come to terms with her transformation into Mother. Mental health, abuse, bereavement, FGM, it's all going to feature and I hope I can learn to be that midwife that a woman will remember forever and mentally thank as I do the midwives and health visitors that have supported me.’
And here are my own thoughts from my third year:
This morning feels like a new start. That September feeling so many of us identify with the first day of school. New notepads, stationery and a new bit of midwifery equipment (rainbow coloured tourniquet, anyone!).
As a third year student midwife, the feelings are more intense. We are tired but we still sit at the lecture room tables and worry about the same September things, who we might sit with at lunch. How we’re going to write that essay and complete that placement.
Do you remember how excited you were at the beginning of the course?
Physiology, sociology and informed choice thrilled you. You felt at home with others who loved supporting women through their birth choices. You still feel that way but you are very tired now. You’ve been fighting. Is this the life for you?
I talk about this wavering feeling with a friend of mine who’s a medical student. She doesn’t share these feelings, she’s still as passionate as ever. She says ‘nothing could be more fullfulling than helping people.’ Yes, that’s true.
Two days later she phones me and tells me she is exhausted and having trouble sleeping. It seems it’s totally normal to go through these questions, struggles and thrills. Even for the most dedicated of professionals.
Let’s celebrate those ups and downs.
Midwifery in all its forms is difficult. Not because we’re getting it wrong, but because it’s inherently hard. But I know that each time it’s hard it’s an opportunity, an invitation. I’m thinking today. I’m growing. Hard things are happening. It’s going to be ok. Not because we’ll do things perfectly but because we’re strong and we’ll figure it out.
I'd love to hear about your journey. If you're a student midwife starting this month, if you're a second or third year re-starting your course, or you're a midwife who remembers that September newness, leave me a comment telling me all about it.
It's great for all these new student midwives to have solidarity and it's fantastic to celebrate the challenges and excitement that comes with the role!