My first Labour Ward placement

This was the placement I was most looking forward to and also probably the most panicked about. I got in my own head a fair bit in the few weeks beforehand, thinking about every possible thing that could go wrong. But it was amazing! Potentially my favourite placement. On labour ward no two days are the same. Sometimes the whole atmosphere can change at the turn of the hour! I found the variety of who came through the door and their individual situations amazing, even if sometimes the pace of it left me feeling like I’d never walk again.

 

 

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I saw two cesarean births. I witnessed three normal vaginal births. I am in equal awe and admiration of both ways of birthing. I am now even quicker to correct anyone who says one way is easier than another, because it’s not. It’s individual in terms of why someone goes one route, and the healing from both are very individual as well.

I witnessed lots of women in early labour in the admission room and in the ward, and it really hit home how individual pain management is. I also witnessed lots of birth partners having their hands squeezed and running to get ice, basically doing anything they could think of to be helpful. I did my best every day to remember that it wasn’t just intense and difficult and draining for the person in labour, it’s the same for their birth partners. I found it very difficult to not natter on when I was caring for someone, so I can only imagine how their loved ones felt!

 

I can’t describe what I felt during my first hands on birth. I still can’t describe how it felt to simply witness birth. It’s truly otherworldly. It’s miraculous (which isn’t a word I use often) and beautiful and powerful. Seeing my first instrumental delivery was a fair bit more of a shock reaction than any other time, as was seeing very premature babies. But taking part in that moment, with my hands on a perfectly new and unblemished human half into the world and still half inside its mother. There are no words for that. But it’s probably the closest that I’ve felt to complete peace in years.

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So that’s my first ever labour ward placement! It was the hardest unit I’ve ever worked on in my entire time working in healthcare. But by far the most exciting and rewarding.

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So, why Work the World?

As part of my blog series about my Cambodian elective, I want to talk a little bit about why I chose to go with Work the World.

 

No age requirement: some of the companies I had considered had certain age limits – you had to be under the age of around twenty five, which wasn’t great from my perspective as students come at every age, especially in midwifery. So straight away anywhere with age limits was ruled out, meaning that Work the World was ruled in!

 

The WtW team: I love questions. I love answers even more. And the enquiries team were brilliant at getting back to me quickly and helping me to figure out as many details as I could before I booked. (L, if you’re reading this, thank you!) After I booked, WtW had a student coordinator give me a call to go through all the details of my booking and answer all of my questions.

 

Location, location, location: right back when I started dreaming this whole adventure up, I knew I wanted to go east. I thought about India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, places like that. But for some reason I kept being drawn back to the idea of going to Cambodia. So while I did do a bit of dithering on the website, flicking between different beautiful pictures of all of these WtW locations, I went with my heart and chose Cambodia.

 

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Price: I’d be lying if I said price didn’t play a big part in my choice. Cambodia was one of the lower priced options on the WtW list. Being a student, a realistic price was probably as important as how much I actually wanted to go to a location.

 

Ethics: this was a pretty major factor. I’m very aware of the “white saviour” complex, and “volun-tourism”. I did not want this trip to just be about my learning and my life experience and my dream. I wanted to make sure that my experience wouldn’t be at the expense of other people. The people are the most important. So, I was really relieved to read that Work the World has a strong ethos when working with their partner hospitals. They pay the hospital for every student they take. They donate equipment regularly, liaising with hospitals every few months to see what they need most. They also buy from and employ locals as much as possible so that money flows back into the communities.

 

These reasons all pointed me towards Work the World as the right team to help me on this journey to my dream. Keep an eye on the blog for my next post about this adventure, or go to our facebook page!

 

The current fundraiser is Laura’s SAVE OR SHAVE  

https://www.gofundme.com/shave-or-save-for-work-the-world&rcid=r01-153027137226-3d88d7ed65584217&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

First placement: Postnatal ward

 

It was a fair while ago at this stage but I’m finally writing about my first placement as a student midwife! It’s times like these that I’m grateful I scribbled everything down in my reflective journal at the end of (almost) every day.

 

For confidentiality reasons I obviously can’t and won’t go into detail about individual people or families.

 

I was incredibly nervous the first day, as anyone would be. But every person we met was so welcoming, especially our placement co-ordinators. We were orientated to the hospital for most of the morning. I had my first HSE scone and have been addicted ever since!

We started on the wards in the early afternoon. Having been out of healthcare for a while it was more of a shock to my system than I was expecting it to be but the staff on the ward were obviously well used to dazed and confused first year students and looked after me until I found my feet.

I didn’t keep count of how many women and babies I interacted with or looked after which I am now of course kicking myself for! I was mainly looking after families that had had cesarean sections from the first or second hour after the surgery to up to three days after. I was lucky to not run into any particularly difficult or painful situations and I find myself thinking about different people at different moments. It’s funny how once you’ve been a part of such a special intimate time in someone’s life the kind of things that remind you of them. There’s one family who comes to mind when I see lollipops! I guess that’s just midwife life. And I’m quite happy with it.

 

Some of the skills I got to observe and practice were baby bathing (terrifying but so manageable!), changing wound dressings, helping newborns to feed from the breast and the bottle, the process of checking and giving medications, and changing many many many many nappies. I’m overwhelmingly proud to say that not one wee baby managed to christen me in pee to date! The big important skills of course were the daily newborn and woman postnatal checks. I still rely on my checklist when I do them but the theory of it all made much more sense on the last day of placement than it did the first time.

 

One of the things I feel most privileged about is that I was able to follow a family through from her pre-op preparation to her postnatal care, which meant I got to watch the cesarean and see my first birth! I had already been blown away by the strength and power of the women who had had this major abdominal surgery but to see what was involved in the actual procedure gave me a whole new perception of the power that women possess.

 

Of course it wasn’t all perfect. I struggled with feeling like a spare part, especially in the first week when I couldn’t remember where anything was kept. I found it hard to match my expectations of myself with what I was actually supposed to be doing – I found myself falling back into the healthcare assistant role a few times and had to catch myself. We were very lucky to be given a session on infant death by the hospitals bereavement midwife. It’s invaluable and essential knowledge but it was very hard on my heart.

 

So that’s my first placement! Done and dusted and passed and forever in my memory. Keep an eye out for my postnatal placement essentials list.

I’m going on an adventure!

If you follow my facebook page or my instagram you’ll know that after years and years of dreaming, I have booked to go on an elective midwifery placement in Cambodia for six weeks in the summer of 2019.

 

I’ve been dreaming about this for as long as I’ve been dreaming about midwifery. I’ve looked at multiple companies and locations. Ultimately I decided to go with Work the World. They have no age limits, a good ethical history, and were so helpful with all my questions (of which there were many) before I actually dived in and booked.

So in March, just before my second placement block, I went ahead and booked my dream. I don’t think the reality of booking it really hit me until a few days later, then I started crying and literally hopping around the place with excitement! I think my parents still don’t really believe that I’m going but there is absolutely no stopping me now! Especially as one of my loveliest classmates has booked to come along with me on this amazing journey.

 

I feel incredibly lucky to be in a position to start this adventure off. Booking alone cost €350 and with extra costs like vaccinations and flights I can easily see this tipping into €4000 by the time it’s all added up. So I’ll be doing a lot of fundraisers over the next year to earn as much as I can. I’ve already done the 2018 Women’s Mini Marathon, splitting what I raised between my fund for this trip and the Rape Crisis North East centre. I’ve set up a GoFundMe (link here) where anyone and everyone can vote on whether I should shave my flame hair or save it. And I’m hoping to make use of my self care hobby – cross stitch!

Cross stitch was something I detested in Junior Cert Home Ec, but I’ve learned to love it. It’s methodical, it’s routine, it’s hard to make a mistake. And it’s not an expensive or messy hobby, which is a bonus. A few girls in my class have asked me to make similar pieces for them so the little bit of extra money I make from them goes straight into my adventure savings!

 

I’ll keep updating as things develop but for the short and sweet versions make sure to follow our facebook page here

To those who feel like failures

 

I’ve had my share of failures. The consistency of this blog might be considered one of them. But every failure is a chance to learn and improve. I’ve always believed that. I’m a perfectionist, I’m hard on myself frequently, but what keeps me from crumbling under that pressure is the knowledge that failure is progress.

 

It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things whether it takes you one attempt or ten to achieve your goals. It took me four tries (you can read about that here) and that twisting path might be why I have this approach to failure.

 

So I’ve failed – now what do I do…?

Reflect: if we’re ever to reach our full potential we have to be honest with ourselves. Reflection is a vital life skill, but especially vital in midwifery in order to evaluate ourselves and do better. So stop, breathe, and look back on the journey so far. Look at the bumps in the road, the easiest parts, even look back at the scenery. Every part of it has played some part in getting you to where are you are now. Acknowledge the good and the not so good. Figure out what needs to be brought further on the journey and what needs to be left behind.

Learn: do as much as you can. Learn about anything that makes your heart sing. In 2014 when I was waiting for my Pre Nursing offer to come out, I did a makeup course. The following year I learned about beekeeping. There are no bad choices when it comes to knowledge. Everything you learn, however you learn it, shapes you and how you move forward through the world. A full time FETAC course, a part time class in your local community centre, an online course. It all adds up to a more developed mind, new perspectives on the world, and great experience.

Find a good group: good people are good for your health. I really can’t stress that enough. Be it a book club, a running group, a facebook page, your instagram followers, it doesn’t matter! Having people around you that respect your journey or better yet understand it is invaluable. Collect these people, be lovely to each other, be supportive, and remember to have fun.

Self care: self care is incredibly important. And it’s not all very nicely laid out baths and pretty smoothie bowls. For me, most days, it’s a fifteen minute shower and a mocha. Figure out what you need to do to look after every aspect of your health and do it often.

 

 

I hope this has been helpful. It can be so hard to know what the next step is when you thought it would be in a different direction. But I promise the scenic route to your goals can be just as rewarding as the straight and narrow.

 

 

 

Why I’m Marching #ARCMarch17

It’s that wonderful time of year again. The leaves are turning all kinds of beautiful colours. The nights are getting longer and cosier. AW colour schemes are in the shops, alongside my favourite holiday decorations – halloween! And then there’s the delicious atmosphere of solidarity and revolution in the air. It’s time for the annual March for Choice. I have only been to one, to my shame. Last year, Rise and Repeal, was my maiden march. That’s me there, with my sign. My sign that was made with water based paint and therefore melted in the rain.

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This year is quite a big one. It’s the sixth year it’s run. It’s grown from a crowd on O’Connell street to a network of caring, sound, funny, intelligent people (I know I’m biased because they’ve been like an online family to me since I started researching and campaigning) all across the world. There are solidarity marches from Canada to Australia. There are countless groups who march under countless banners – students, politicians, midwives, lawyers, mothers, artists. There’s always a bit of contention about numbers, but it’s a really big crowd. Even in the rain, with a bus strike going on, there were thousands out for bodily autonomy.

 

 

 

Now, the point. What is a student midwife doing at a march for abortions? Big issue number one: this is not just about abortion. Over the last few months it’s become increasingly upsetting to me that the experience of so many pregnant women is swept away because people understandably get caught up in the very emotional issue that is abortion. There are a whole heap of issues, that I’m still learning about, around maternal consent. We’ve had so many cases in Ireland that have broken my heart: Savita Halappanavar. Mrs B vs the State. A. B. C. X. Y. Women’s experiences reduced down to a single letter. Those are the big stories, the public ones. I’m in a lot of facebook groups – maternity consumer groups, regular mammy groups, various “for choice” groups, where I’ve read lots of personal stories. I’ve cried at many of them.

The reasons that I’m marching are actually quite difficult to condense down into a single blog post, now that I’ve sat down to write. I’m marching for myself. I would someday like a family, but I am too terrified of being pregnant under the 8th Amendment and all it’s strings. If the 8th remains, I would leave the country. So it impedes my personal plans. I fully believe it impedes my ability to be the kind of midwife I want to be. I am marching for the families that will grow under my care. Birth trauma should be reducing. Consent should be a given, not a question mark. Informed consent  should be the norm. I haven’t been out in practice, but what I’ve heard from parents, what it should be is not what it is. And it’s not right.

 

It was actually in an emotional text to a friend that I found my reasons. I am on this earth to be a midwife. I am here to be with women, at their side, wherever they need me, to help them do the most badass thing they can do. No midwife or expectant mother wants to be faced with a rupture of membranes that wasn’t consented to. I’ll be faced with pregnant women who, for whatever reason, do not want to be pregnant but are unable to make that happen. I can’t imagine how I can make that better. And when you go into the caring profession, that’s what you’re aiming for, you are there to help people and make things better. I can’t see how after a procedure, explaining to a woman that her lack of consent wasn’t listened to because it wasn’t legally required.

The role of the midwife is, to my understanding, wrapped up in trusting women. We give people the information to make a decision, and they decided what they want to do. That’s what informed consent is, in a nutshell. Knowing benefits and risks, and deciding what’s best for your situation. In my heart, I believe that we should be trusting women through the entire pregnancy continuum. From conception to termination if that’s what someone needs. Or from the first kick to the first kiss.

 

I hope that makes sense to someone. This post probably can’t be called measured, or objective. But I think it’s an accurate representation of how the campaign is now deeply rooted in my day to day. The 8th has become a state of being for me. It’s a constant fear and frustration. My organs feel like they’re shaking when I speak publicly on it. I feel physically ill at some of the hurtful comments that are thrown in online discussions. If I could have a wish for this campaign, it would be that it is carried out with kindness on each side. That’s incredibly sappy. But kindness goes such a long way in such a loud debate. This is not a college essay, more a train of thought. But maybe seeing into the thoughts on either side of the 8th is what will help.

 

If you’re marching, feel free to come up and talk to me. I’ll be carrying the same sign as I did last year, pictured above. I managed to salvage it with an entire roll of sellotape. If you’re posting about the march, please remember to use the hashtag #ARCMarch17.

Student Midwife Life: Orientation week

Hello, dear readers! It’s been a crazy few weeks between registering for college, meeting classmates, and shopping, packing and moving to Dundalk . But things are starting to settle down now, which is brilliant, because in all honesty I am completely exhausted. I know, I know, if I’m exhausted now what will I be like at the end of the semester? I’ve missed solid routine though, and it’s close now.

 

 

I actually missed the first day. I was coming back from a wedding, and toddled up to Dundalk in the evening. I was honestly sick with nerves and excitement. I was fidgeting all over my room, packing and unpacking and rearranging my bag. I almost forgot to set my alarm, it was a near disaster!

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But all went off without a hitch. I got up nice and early, relaxed with my morning mocha, did my makeup, and headed off. I have to say, if it hadn’t been for getting to know a few other mature students before I went in I would have been a wreck. It was such a relief to walk into my building and be greeted with smiles and familiar faces. Even walking in with my friend was so much easier than walking in alone. If you can get to know people beforehand, DO IT!

 

We had lots of talks (in the whole 130 person first year group) and icebreakers (in the group of 20 midwives). We had a scavenger hunt across the campus, lunches together, visits from union reps, and lots of talks from occupational health, the placement office, and student services. We went through booklists, how to access Moodle, some college policies, and what to expect in the course. There’s always an overwhelming amount of information to take in on orientation week, but it always makes me glad that DkIT is a small campus, it’s impossible to get lost for very long. Already it feels like home again, and I don’t think I could be happier!

 

Now, on Thursday, I had to miss another day. This was a big day. While the rest of my midwifery group were getting fitted for their uniforms and finishing the next step in their Garda Vetting (which I’ll be catching up on as this post goes live), I was getting my McDonald’s Scholarship. €1000 for an essay on improving service for customers – I wrote about breastfeeding families and families with additional needs (despite never needing them, I’m always sad when I see disabled bathrooms with no proper facility for people above the age of two). It was a great morning, up in the Celtic Suite of Croke Park with my franchise owners, my family, my partner, and the other winners. We had a lovely lunch, lots of pictures taken, and I managed to not fall out of the stands. I’ve had fantastic support from my store and my franchise since day one, so it was nice to celebrate with them and talk about what’s up next. I was hoping to be sent pictures by this morning but I’ll post them as soon as I have them!

 

That’s pretty much it for my first week as a student midwife. Starting as I mean to go on, as busy as possible! Have you just started a new course, or gone back? Let me know how you’re getting on in the comments