I came to midwifery much later in life, beginning study at 30 years of age when my eldest was just 1, and graduating 5 years later when my youngest was just shy of 3. It was a gruelling path and I would not have stuck to it through all the trials, tribulations, sacrifice and anxiety attacks if something in my soul didn’t know it was right. Like when I quit law back in 2000 to focus solely on languages (French, Spanish, German), which I loved and excelled in- particularly French. “So you want to be a teacher?” people asked. “Not at all,” I replied. “I don’t know what I want to do, I just know that if I follow what I love and thrive at it will take me where I need to go- wherever that is.” I didn’t just ‘like’ the French language, I was deeply passionate about everything French- the language, culture, humour, film, music, history, country, wine, cheese, bread- the people… Eventually it did take me where I needed to go- to my incredible husband who had also travelled there from the other side of the world, Algeria, knowing that his destiny did not lie there, but somewhere beyond. “C’est le mektoub,” he said when we met in 2010. It is written. It is fate.
I know this work is my destiny: women’s work, empowering women through their immensely important, transformational experience of childbearing. Receiving wonderful midwifery (and obstetric) care during my own births and beyond changed me for the better, and I realised this was how I too could be of service. I didn’t really know what I was getting into but still, I couldn’t shake that knowing, that somehow, I needed to keep going. I’ve now been qualified as a registered midwife for just over 3 years, practicing for just over 2. I wish I could say I love my job, I want to love my work, but I’m still not there. I still think it’s not too much to aim for in life, to love what we do.
My first year practicing as a “new grad”, I felt well supported, but I was absolutely the proverbial deer in headlights. I was exhausted, physically, mentally, emotionally, trying to integrate the theory I’d learned, the practical experience I’d had as a student over a year earlier, and my own life experience, professional and personal. I was the new grad taking notes at the patient journey board during handover when no one else did. I know I mostly looked calm and collected from the outside, but in reality my mind was frantically racing ahead to all the policies, protocols, skills, risks (that was a big one) I thought I would need to be ‘across’ during my shift. I had a notebook with me at all times, and would regularly spend half an hour or more after each shift writing reminders to myself- what had I learnt, what did I want to remember for next time, what went well, what less so. It was positive in that way, I was very much an active and reflective learner, and still am, but I was Strung Out. Home life suffered. We all suffered. Mum worried. Dad suggested anxiolytics. I had therapy. Chab worked 2 jobs day and night to keep us going and did everything he could to support me.
I regularly fantasised about having an accident en route to work. That seemed like a welcome escape. I had to talk myself down from my anxiety freefall every single shift, especially in birth suite. One of my major helpful coping strategies at the start of every shift (which I still do) was to project my mind forward, like pushing ‘skip’ on a DVD, to the end of my shift, just 8 hours later. I would play out how I would feel then, looking back: “I am grateful for a positive shift, where I was well supported, and had opportunities I needed but nothing I couldn’t manage with the right support around me.” I built these habits around how I wanted my day to play out, and through expecting good, that is mostly what I got. This is very much what the ‘hypnosis’ part of hypnobirthing is about (only one tool in the toolkit!): conditioning our minds through affirmations and reframing our thoughts- although there is much more to it than that. Another affirmation I used was “I trust the universe to support me, my women and my colleagues.” From my understanding, this is simply a form of #manifestation and in that, I’m a big believer. But some days it’s not enough.
One particularly memorable day like this, I came to work with so much dread in my body and heart I could barely look anyone in the eye. When I saw I wasn’t allocated to a labouring woman, the relief was overwhelming. I started to breathe again. A few minutes later a colleague asked me how I was in the tea room as we all had our afternoon tea. Well. That was it. I fought the prickling in my eyes, I fought the lump of angst rising in my throat… and promptly burst into tears. Mortified. Could not stop crying for love or money. I excused myself, and took myself to the change room to pull myself together, but of course there’s not a lot of privacy there either, and people care. Colleagues cared that day. I’m so grateful for those midwives and a few doctors who refrained from judgment and chose love, kindness and compassion instead. My team leader acknowledged my distress, and when a senior midwife suggested I could perhaps benefit from extra supernumerary shifts, my TL disagreed. She said, “Mia, I’ve worked with you. I don’t think you need extra shifts, what you need is to have faith in yourself. You know what to do, just trust yourself a little more.”
Well, she was right, I do know more than I trust myself with, and I did need to have more faith. Over the next year, it did get easier, and I no longer need to take notes at the patient journey board. I no longer dream of ending up in A and E to avoid my shift. I even look forward to some shifts. I no longer debrief for an hour after every shift, but anyone who knows me or my blog even a little, knows reflection is a huge part of my professional (and personal!) life. It’s a good thing. See my blog about “Extreme Self Care” if you don’t believe me! We are all lifelong learners.
Today, though, I need a different kind of faith. I need faith in normal birth. I need faith in women to embrace their childbearing journey and seek empowerment. I need faith in the system to trust healthy women’s bodies to birth well if left undisturbed and supported. I need faith in myself to embrace #positivebirtheducation and run with it. I’ve taken the first step, enrolling in Hypnobirthing Australia practitioner training and would recommend attendance at a Supportive Caregiver’s Course for every single birth worker. Yesterday, I attended one of these courses run by a brilliant, brave midwife, Jess Spackman of Mother Moon Hypnobirthing, and already I feel my practice is forever changed. I was not the only one 3 years out looking for more from our vocation as midwives. I was particularly impressed by one attendee, a very fresh new grad who already feels tired, emotionally and physically drained, and disillusioned by the way our mainstream, highly medicalised maternity models of care approach childbearing with more fear than trust, more paternalism than respect for informed decision making- resulting far too often in trauma, disempowerment and heartache. She’s only a few weeks in and already she’s questioning everything. I applaud her courage and conviction- I only wish I’d had more of that earlier.
But I’m here now.
I’m here now, I’m ready, and I’m being moved to tears on the school run by Dove Cameron’s rendition of “My Once Upon a Time” from Disney’s Descendants- of all things!
“Once upon a time a girl tried harder
Once upon a time she tried again
Once upon a braver choice
She took a risk
She used her voice
And that will be my once upon a time
#positivebirth #itstime #midwifelife #wecandobetter #maternitycareinaustralia #birthtrauma #newgradmidwife #novicemidwife #birthtime #empoweringwomen #trustnormalbirth #reflectioninpractice #womenswork #lifepurpose #lemektoub #trust #findyourpassion #anxietyanddepression #selfcare #selflove #selfawareness #bekind #francophile #destiny