This is a post that started as an email to my list. It's from a series of reflections I wrote as coronavirus ramped up. If you enjoy it, perhaps subscribe here.
When I was a staff midwife in New Zealand, the small coastal town I worked in would be hit by 'weather bombs'. These swept in off the sea, whipping tree ferns and scaring the sheep. I was never one to accept a lift home; being beaten up by this new country was perfect immersion for 24 year old outdoorsy me.
On one wild afternoon, I cycled home from the hospital, battling headwinds, then pushed by tailwinds. I had something to do.
I was soaked to the bone, but I didn't even shower, just towelled off and changed my clothes.
I wanted to do something. I read through my first midwifery blog post for the tenth time, pulled my guts together and hit publish.
It sounds like I'm making it up but there was a shift. My brain gave me an auditory metaphor, the raindrops on the roof as individual readers finding my writing.
I knew it wasn't that great and I had a long way to go, but I also knew this was going to work.
However, it's never that simple.
I loved writing about being a midwife because I loved being a midwife. Especially in my early twenties, it was the core and beating heart of my life.
But night shift has never been easy and it was pushing me towards despair. Grey waves of depression were breaking out of the night roster and following me onto day shift. Flashbacks and dreams about buzzers in the dark were becoming standard, even on runs of days. My behaviour was desperate.
Night-shifts are an essential part of midwifery, so I continued. Women tend to.
A year and a half later, scared by the zombified, jumpy, too thin person I had become, the only more terrifying thing than leaving midwifery was staying, the only thing worse than staying was leaving.
So I took a writing break 'just to see what happens'.
I moved back to the UK to stay with my partner's family and instead of practising, I poured everything into my blog and business, Midwife Diaries.
You can imagine the issues. I had no role models, no guarantee of anything coming of my business and no plan B.
My family was very scared about what I was doing. My Dad took me to one side and said 'this should be the strongest part of your career. You can't get it back'.
By this point, it was 2014, and the Royal College of Midwives were reporting the UK was 4,800 midwives down. I blogged and Facebooked about the shortage a lot, the irony not lost on me.
And then my partner and I broke up, and I was adrift with just writing.
It was a paradoxical feeling: I was alive in a way I couldn't be when working nights, but unsure about every other aspect of my life.
It's now 8 years after that first blog post. I have a published novel and a new book contract.
The midwifery community I run, The Secret Community For Midwives In The Making has 26,000 members. Questions are answered in seconds and our volunteer moderator team includes midwifery lecturers and ex-research fellows.
In Sept 2020 I'll be returning to practice without nights. I finally found the right words to describe what happened—and went for medical help—so people started to get it. Taking several years off has helped them to see that I'm serious too.
I don't know what the coming weeks and months have to bring, and we're all scared. But I can tell you that I won't abandon myself again. I will offer everything I can, but not more than that. Because in the long run, this is best for everyone. (If I'd have been able to ask for help convincingly in 2014, I'd be a band 6 still. Take this stuff seriously, folks).
The other truth I've had to learn the hard way is that out of disaster comes the human capacity to rebuild, and perhaps come up with something even finer. I'm focused on the days ahead. I want to spend them connected and helping. Midwifery is the place to be.
I'll see you out there,