Friday, 22 November 2013

Oh to be a Midwife...

So the week isn't over yet, I'm on another day shift tomorrow but today has been a good day and I'm in a blog writing mood!

This week is my second week in placement. My mentor is amazing and I get eased in gently, starting on a community placement. This means I am mostly doing antenatal clinics with my mentor, although we also go out to postnatal home visits and are occasionally on call to cover the birth centre, or on night shifts at the local MLU (Midwife Led Unit) at a nearby hospital.

So far I have taken lots of blood pressures - this seems to be my strong point as this week I have even been doing them through clothing rather than on a bare arm. I have also done basic urinalysis monitoring, have learnt the practicalities of abdominal palpation after learning the theory in Uni, found lots of baby's heartbeats and learnt to do so with my pinard stethoscope (the old style type from Call the Midwife) as well as the more modern Sonicaid.

It's so encouraging to see my improvement with abdominal palpation - on my first day I could find the fundus (top of the uterus) in the abdomen but could not tell which bits of baby were where!! On my second day I got most of my positioning right, and at the end of the week learnt what an OP (Occiput Posterior - also known as back-to-back) baby feels like in utero. I was able to use that learning today and correctly disgnose a back-to-back baby myself prior to my mentor palpating to confirm! :D I am hoping to feel confident enough to take blood soon and master that skill as well.

Earlier this week I was struggling with whether I wanted this enough. Everyone around me was having "amazing!!" days, I was doing ok but didn't have much more enthusiasm than I did for going to the desk job I left to come to Uni. Thinking things through, and doing things today changed that. I realised that the reason I don't feel "amazing" is because I don't feel I've been that useful, I haven't really supported anyone, or been "with" woman.

My mentor is great, makes me feel supported and reassures me that I am on track for what I should be doing at this moment in time.

As for supporting women. I may not have attended a birth as a Student Midwife yet, I may not have stood by anyone's side as they labour through a life changing moment, but today, I saw the tears in a mother's eyes as I found her baby's heartbeat, when at 21 weeks she was concerned that she hadn't felt any movements yet, and learnt as I listened to my mentor's explanation as to why her placenta may be absorbing some of those movement sensations due to it's position. I listened to a woman's many concerns at the beginning of her first pregnancy, anxious to get to 12 weeks to escape that "higher risk" period of miscarriage. I marvelled at the bravery of a woman coming to her first point of contact appointment with the midwife, when she didn't speak a word of english, and admired how the consultation was carried out via a telephone translation service.

I AM supporting women. Each step towards labour needs support, whether that's answering all the questions that they think are silly, whether it's monitoring blood pressure and urine content to make sure everything is well, whether it's doing nothing other than encouraging a woman that she is doing great and discussing her wants and wishes for how she would like her labour to be.

Women are amazing. And I get to spend every day with them!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Honest Truth...

This blog is a diary of my journey, and I'm going to be honest about it.

Nobody goes into a Midwifery degree expecting it to be butterflies and flowers. You go into a Midwifery degree prepared for hard work, shifts, and studying. You go into a Midwifery degree because you are passionate about the outcome.

The past 4 weeks have been INTENSE. The workload is huge. Teething problems with a brand new course structure and University technological changes add unwarranted stress to an already stressful course.

It is challenging trying to fit 5 days worth of new content into your head every week and make it stay there.

It is challenging trying to write an academic essay for the first time in your life.

It is challenging getting into the habit of not making a statement unless you can show that someone else proved it to be so.

It is challenging trying to find a work-life balance; I saw my boyfriend more when we lived 80 miles apart than I do now he is 1 mile down the road, and God love him for putting up with it. It's an adventure.

It's challenging to cope with feeling so overwhelmed, so incapable, questioning if you're doing the right course, if you'll make a good midwife.

It is amazing to have so many new, wonderful, supportive friends.

It is interesting living in a new city, with new people, and new places to see.

It's a privilege to join with everyone in saying the University's affirmation for Nurses and Midwives.

It's exciting to find out your placement trust, and placement areas. To anticipate the day you finally get to be "with women".

It's a proud moment, trying on your uniform and getting it ready for your first shift.

It's a crazy, twisty rollercoaster of a ride...

...and it's only just beginning.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

First Week...

So, I've completed my first official week as a Student Midwife, and what a week!

The first week has been about dotting all the i's and crossing the t's but it's still been information overload :) We've all been together as our entire cohort, gradually learning names and faces over the week, met some of our lecturers, our academic advisors and had a chance to explore the campus.

We've been befuddled by timetabling systems and IT issues, but such is the balance of benefiting from a brand new programme - a few teething problems. We've learnt that we're all expecting rather too much of ourselves, and that our lecturers are more than happy if we are in the right room at the right time!

Everyone I have met is so lovely, and I think the fact that we have high expectations of ourselves will give us a good footing for the years to come. I am equally excited and nervous for the week to come - starting to get to grips with the "real" content of the course. I am prepared to accept any challenge and work hard to get back into the academic frame of mind.

I'm a student again. Eeeeek!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Becoming a Midwife...

Wow. What a journey I have been on over the past year! Developing as a Doula, supporting my first client, connecting with some amazing, truly soulful ladies who have helped support me in my journey.

Now I am about to start another one. I became a Doula because I am passionate about being there for women, supporting them when they need it most, helping them see the power they hold inside them, listening to them, truly seeing them as women, the amazing instinctual beings that they are. Something in me pushed me further. I want to have the opportunity to change things from the inside :) I want to be a midwife. I want to be able to reach out to the majority of women. Publicise Doulas. I have an urge to learn more. 

So in 7 days I will be starting my journey to becoming a Midwife. I couldn't be more excited! I'm nervous too. I feel called to this, but still struggle with feeling good enough. I have virtually *met* a lot of the girls on my course online and can't wait to meet them in person. I can't wait to start my first day in placement, I can't wait to see what my mentor is like. 

So, if you like, please follow my journey here :) There will be no names or places mentioned. I will not be dicussing my clients, but rather the things I learn, my struggles, my triumphs, and probably some tears (both happy and sad).

I'd love to share this with you, if you'd like to join me.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Freedom For Birth...

Last night, like thousands of others around the world I attended a screening of "Freedom For Birth". I met some wonderful people with beautiful souls. It only saddens me that we met over a film that shows the truth of birth worldwide - and that that truth is that women are being denied the basic right to choose what is done with their body, being denied the right to birth where they feel safe and comfortable. Those that persevere in their desire to have a normal physiological birth are subject to accusations of child abuse or neglect, and the midwives that support them become subject to criminal charges.

Having autonomy over your own body is a basic human right. This right is often violated when it comes to women giving birth. You may think that in the UK we are lucky, we have the NHS, we have choices, that we should be grateful we have such resources and therefore use them. However, pregnancy and birth has become such a medical model that women are not aware of what their bodies are capable of, what their rights are. The freedom of information is not available to enable women to feel empowered in their ability to birth. Thus the medical model is followed and doctors are blindly trusted. Women are denied the right to birth how and where they want to because the medical profession says they "can't".

Do not get me wrong, I am more than aware that there are times when interventions and cesarean sections are life-saving actions. If a woman feels most comfortable and safest birthing in a hospital, I will support that 100%. But it has become such that pregnancy is treated as an 'illness' that must be 'cured'. In modern times we are so scared of litigation that women are being asked to sign waivers relinquishing doctors of responsibility should something happen to mother or baby in order to have the birth that they want. The whole process is led by fear.

"It's not consent if you make me too scared to say NO."

Fear stops birth in it's tracks. When the body is in a state of fear, muscles cannot work properly. The body's hormonal response to stress and fear is the release of cortisol. Cortisol inhibits the release of oxytocin - the hormone that kick starts labour and works in a positive feedback system with the body to keep labour progressing.

Women who do not have that innate confidence in their body's ability to birth, who haven't been provided with the information to understand the true process of birth, women who naively (but understandably) believe that their doctor has their best interests at heart are more easily coerced into agreeing to interventions, submitting themselves to doctors choices over where (hospital, birth centre, home), how (vaginally, surgically, in water, with/without drugs) and when (don't get me started on 'due dates') they should give birth.

There are some fantastic doctors and midwives out there who support women and empower them to make their own choices. Unfortunately, they are working in a system where funding, time management and resources are valued over a woman's right to choose.

The aim of this film is to bring awareness to the fact that women have these CHOICES. Women have these RIGHTS. You can choose what you do and do not consent you. You have the ability to do your own research before consenting to or declining any treatment you are prescribed.

This is not about dismissing the medical model, or medical professionals. As I have said there are some fantastic professionals out there. They have trained for years and have the knowledge that enables them to deliver your baby safely in the event of any complications and have been able to reduce maternal death rates dramatically. It's about understanding that there are always two sides to a story. It's about understanding that pregnancy is not an illness, it's a journey and you have the right to choose the path you take.

A woman's body was designed to give birth. Have faith in that ability and the things you can do to support it.

I am sure there will be times during my Midwifery training when I doubt myself and my ability to work 'with' the system. When I will feel ostricised and even penalised for my belief that we should be empowering women. However, as a very wise man once said:

"Be the change you wish to see in the world" - Mahatma Ghandi

For more information about the film, visit Freedom For Birth
To find out how you can help change maternity services for the better, visit AIMS

Sunday, 16 September 2012

As a Doula...

Last week I received confirmation that I had passed my Anatomy and Physiology Diploma with an A Grade :)

This means my place at Manchester University to study Midwifery has been confirmed - my dreams are coming true.

I've already started looking at one of my other courses - Holistic Pain Management.

I thirst for knowledge, and I want to help people, help women, help mothers. The Anatomy and Physiology course secured my Midwifery place and Holistic Pain Management will allow me to help mothers through their labour who desire alternatives to conventional drugs. It will help me as a Doula when that's the only optional available to me. Doulas do not provide medical advice or drugs. We provide emotional, physical and practical support. My knowledge of alternative pain relief will help me do that.

If I manage to complete this course before University, I also hope to start my Stress Management course. Modern day life has become so intense. People do not realise the effect of our body's hormone response - the "fight or flight" response of cortisol when there's no real threat. In Paleo times our body responded to the need to flee from a saber-tooth tiger - stimulating the release of glucose into your blood to fuel your muscles for running. Now, although your boss may be scary, it's unlikely you need to physically run from him/her, but your body still has the same response, and the cascade of hormone responses to long-term stress can be harmful. Especially to a mother-to-be.

I have a thirst to learn, and I'm hoping this extra knowledge will enable me to stand out to clients and potential employers. But this isn't just about me. I want to be able to provide women with the care they deserve. Pregnancy is an amazing journey of growing, loving, learning and whilst I believe it is a woman's responsibility to learn about her body, but I also think that information should be easily accessible, and unbiased.

There's no need for women to be pushed to have pain relief just because it's 'normal'. There's no need to scare a woman into having a hospital birth just because the home birth she desires is a minority decision. There's no need to tell a woman she must be induced at 41 weeks because you believe she's overdue when you haven't paid attention to her as an individual, HER body, HER cycles, what's normal and right for HER. Lift your head from the books and look at the woman standing in front of you.

Equally, I will never push a woman to go through labour with no pain relief when it all gets too much for her. I will never encourage her to give birth in a place that doesn't feel safe and comfortable to her, and I will NEVER try and tell HER body when it's time for her to give birth...

"I am a Doula because I want to empower women to believe in themselves and their innate strength as women and as mothers. NOT so I can advocate natural childbirth. But believe me, if that's what she wants, I WILL be there for her."

My job as a Doula is to be there, for YOU. Support you, encourage you, help you find the information you need to enable you to make decisions about YOUR care and YOUR body.

It's my job, and it's my passion.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Birth I Want...

Today's post is a guest post by Vicky Taylor, who is part of a UK Non-Profit Organisation called The Birth I Want. Their aim is to build a picture of current midwifery care across the UK, and make our voices heard about the birth that we want.

Has birth ever been so far from women-centered? How has it come to be that the mother and the baby she is carrying have so little influence over the policy that decides the type of care she receives in pregnancy and birth?

It’s not that the "powers that be" don’t realise that care needs to be more woman-centred – or at least that women want it to be. Successive governments have pledged to make it so. Yet here we are in 2012, nearly 20 years on from the seminal report Changing Childbirth which first made that promise, and what do we find? Pressures on NHS midwives creating ever more impossible situations where mothers-to-be are having to fight for the birth they want; with independent midwifery under threat because of over prescriptive legislation and fear of litigation; with a rigid and inflexible approach to implementation of policy; and with too many targets, too many protocols and funding locked into the medicalisation of childbirth. Every one of these driving women into the very outcomes they say they don’t want and driving up costs to the NHS. How can this be good for mothers, their babies and their families?

There is no one size fits all solution to birth, we are all different, every birth is different, yet policy makers all too often try to squeeze it quietly and conveniently into rigid boxes that can be managed efficiently and safely and in a uniform way. Often with the best of intentions (‘safety’) it creates an institutionalised bureaucracy of birth, an inflexible machine, with built in bureaucratic disrespect for the specific needs or wants of the mother even when the individual midwives, nurses and doctors might do it differently if they could. Increasingly this way of working as ‘cogs in a machine’ is wringing the life out of traditional midwifery. Yet it’s traditional, mum-centered midwifery that mothers are shouting out for.

Time and again surveys, studies, articles and reports have flagged up the wants and needs of women; more one to one care, a trusting relationship with their midwives, access to information, access to real choice over where they have their baby, for flexibility in approach. The evidence is clear this drives better outcomes too, at lower cost. It is even being heard (endless governments have told us it’s what they plan to do), it’s just that on the whole it’s left hanging there in space - the road to medicalised bureaucratic birth is paved with good intentions.

But change is in the air, it’s almost tangible. The debate around midwifery and birth is raging and it’s time for mums to bring together their collective voices and to stand up for the birth we want. We are the ones having the babies - we are starting to demand to be part of shaping our care.

The Birth I Want is a new campaign with its sole purpose being to bring mums bang smack into the middle of the midwifery and birth debate. Its backbone is the bountiful experience and knowledge that mums have of midwifery care and birth, capturing it and using it so that decision makers are left in no doubt as to the birth we want. Please help us reclaim birth – The Birth I Want