At the beginning of January 2018, I thought about all the inspirational birth world people I’m in contact with.
2017 was a difficult year for many midwives and students I work with and I wanted to put together something to help with the uncertainty.
I wanted to have a pool of encouraging, motivational interviews 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.
This week I’d like to introduce Nina. She's a second-year student midwife at the University of Nottingham and a moderator on the Secret Community. She has 2 passions in life; midwifery and family. She has a three-year-old son and lives with him and her husband in rural Lincolnshire. This interview is a great little pick me up - take it away Nina!
Can you tell us about a favourite midwifery moment you’ve had (keeping things confidential for clients involved)?
This is a difficult one, there are so many! The one that sticks in my mind is very close to my heart. One woman I looked after had an extremely fast footling breech birth. As I hadn't actually done a labour ward placement yet (my mentor and I ended up on labour ward as we had been called to help from another ward), there wasn’t much I could do. Or so I thought. During the labour I remained next to the woman, giving words of encouragement and I was told later by the woman that this act, which I perceived as small, was what helped her get through.
This lady went on to have a beautiful birth on all fours with no pain relief and just amazed me with her strength. However, though the baby was born at 40 weeks, he needed phototherapy and this meant an extended stay in the hospital. This affected her entire experience and caused a small amount of emotional distress.
This was the first time I had experienced true continuity of care and I then helped to support her emotionally in the postnatal period too. This was the moment I realised that, in midwifery, the emotional support we can offer is as important as the physical support and encouragement. A couple of months later I received a card from this lovely lady and I can say, hand on heart, I will never forget her!
I suppose this was also a favourite moment as it was the moment I realised I was more than 'just' a student and that I do actually have the strength and ability to get through this degree!
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?
This one wasn’t a “favourite” at first. It was bloody hard. Towards the end of my first placement, I had a bad experience with a staff member that resulted in me being sent home early for unprofessional behaviour. This was heart-breaking – I thought I’d lost everything.
In my heart of hearts, I knew I wasn’t unprofessional and I hated anyone thinking of me as such. I felt like I’d let everyone down; my mentor, my family and, worst of all, myself. It truly shook my confidence and, even after reflecting on it and apologising to the Head of Midwifery at my placement, I was worried about returning, to the point that I (a 27-year-old woman at this point) was on the phone to my dad in tears on the day I was heading back to placement.*
I had a complete breakdown and felt I couldn’t do it anymore. But my Dad knew exactly what to say to motivate me and I returned. The part I remember fondly was the first nightshift back.
As soon as I walked into the unit my amazing mentor showed me that she still believed in me and was EXTREMELY supportive, helping me to rebuild my confidence and self-belief. That first night back, I realised I hadn’t let her or myself down and I resolved not to let this bad experience ruin my career. It taught me how strong I can be and taught me so much about resilience. If I can get through that, I can get through anything and it’s now made me realise that I should definitely 'engage brain before mouth'.
*Addition from Ellie: I remember Nina going through this and I thought at the time she handled things with a lot of grace. This is the kind of experience that helps you empathise with students when you come to mentoring later in your career.
What advice would you give to a passionate, intelligent, student midwife just starting their training?
You are not JUST a student; always remember you are important and you can and will make a positive impact on women's experiences of care as a student. We all learn new things every day and midwifery is an ever developing profession so make sure you keep your eyes and mind open - absorb it all like a sponge and you will go far!
I think there's a lesson to be learnt from Nina about how bad fear can make you feel. We can often believe in a dark moment that it's all over and nothing will be the same again. But those moments can often contain the seeds of resilience or new learning. See here for a video on how I try and handle these moments - it's on coping with interviews but I've made it so the link will take you to the right bit of the video for coping with fear in general, it's only a couple of minutes and I hope it helps.
Big thanks to Nina for sharing her experiences, it's brave of her.
I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did. Could you leave Nina 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.
*Please note, Nina is very aware of the need for confidentiality and has changed/not revealed any identifying features concerning these learning experiences