Student Midwife Life: week 1.0

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.

 

Anyway, I’m going to be doing weekly posts about what I’m learning, what my class is getting up to, and what I’m struggling with (because it can’t all be plain sailing). Right now the plan is to post every Friday around lunchtime. Initially I wasn’t sure if I would have enough to write about week to week, but looking over course plans I know I’ll have more than enough. But let’s jump right in!

 

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

 

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Essentials for Midwifery

Well, the majority of offers are out and there are lots of excited future midwives around the country (and around the world). But what do you need as a student midwife? What’s the most important thing to pack in your bag? I’ve put together a list of what I won’t be leaving behind!
  • LOTS of black pens: they’re one of the most valuable things to have on the wards!
  • A5 notebook to go in your pocket on placement: great for taking note of what’s going on during the day, scribbling down words or phrases you don’t quite understand, keeping track of keycodes and staff names
  • Silicone fob watches: don’t buy expensive ones, they’ll get wrecked. Silicone is easy to clean and comes in cheerful colours and patterns
  • Lots of bobbins and hairpins, hair has to be up on shift
  • A diary or planner for keeping track of everything (personally love The Happy Planner Company student midwife diaries, about £25-30)
  • A notebook specifically for reflecting on your experiences while you study and are on placement (reflective practice is really important)
  • A USB
  • A good backpack (shoulder bags and handbags will wreck your back). I’ve been using a black Jansport backpack since 2007 – it’s been through secondary schools, Scout camps from Punchestown to Sweden, and a million other trips
  • Comfortable black shoes for placement that fully cover your feet and ideally are waterproof
  • A good lunchbox (canteen food can be nice but it gets pricey after a while!)
  • The Roar Behind The Silence by Sheena Byrom and Soo Downes: cheap on bookdepository.com and recommended by midwives around the world
  • Flask to keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold: Kleen Kanteen has been recommended
  • Hand cream: washing and sanitising your hands multiple times a day will hurt your skin, a thick hand cream will help save them
  • Colouring pencils or markers for notes, especially if you’re a visual learner like me!
  • Folders for college: I’m using slim plastic folders for each module, although I know Anatomy and Physiology will require a much bigger one!
  • Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. It’s considered a bit woo-y by some but it warms my soul every time I read it and it has such important messages about trusting women

 

I hope that’s of some help! I wouldn’t go buying a lot of books before you get settled. Books for university can be very expensive (and heavy). Advice I have seen over and over again is to wait until you’ve been in the college library a few times, gotten a feel for some of the books and figured out which ones you’ll need the most. Talk to lecturers.

 

If there’s anything you think should be added to the list, let me know in the comments here, or on the facebook page.

10 tips: how I saved €11,200 in a year

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I opened my Member’s First Credit Union savings account a whole year ago today, between getting my Leaving Cert results and (finally) getting my Midwifery offer.

On March 30th I transferred some more money into that account, and I hit a slightly magical number – seven thousand three hundred. Why is this so magical? Because it means I have reached my fees target! I’m actually over it. The fees for Dundalk Institute of Technology are as follows:

  • Student contribution (usually covered by SUSI) €3,000
  • Tuition fee (usually covered by the State) €4,106
  • Facilities fee €125
  • bringing us to the slightly horrifying total of €7,231 for one year of Midwifery in DkIT

But how did I actually manage to save all this up in just a few months?

  1. I set the goal. I got in touch with admissions really early and found out exactly what it would cost. I drew a jar, I drew some lines on it, and every time I put money in a coloured in the jar a little more. It was really satisfying and encouraging to watch my savings grow.
  2. I got organised. Every time I got a payslip, I sat down and wrote out what I needed to spend that fortnight. Things like phone credit, topping up my travel card, birthdays that were coming up. And whatever was left over, I put into the credit union straight away.
  3. I didn’t deny myself things. I knew that if I cut myself off from nice stuff – like Stellar magazine and Starbucks muffins – I would get kind of down. I’d end up in therapy (which is pretty expensive). So I treated myself. I even managed to get away for not one, not two, but THREE small holidays while I was saving.
  4. I kept records. I kept track of my income, and how much of that went into the savings. This let me look at everything really quickly, and either pat myself on the back or ask myself “if you got paid €700, and you only put in €250, where the hell did the rest of it go?!” It’s one of the rare times that self criticism has worked in my favour.
  5. I stopped impulse buying. Every time I picked something up in a shop, I’d look at it and think about whether I really needed it, would I really use it often enough, would it be worth the money it cost me.
  6. I said no, a lot. Over the last few years while I’ve been working to get into college, I had to learn how to say no, and I’ve had to keep it up. I’ve said no to girly nights out and holidays, I’ve said no to staying late in my boyfriend’s house and getting a taxi home, I’ve even said no (after much thinking) to taking my driving test because I can’t afford to maintain a car. You don’t save €1,000 a month without sacrificing some things.
  7. This one won’t be helpful to some of you, but I didn’t pay bills. I still live at home, with my parents. Neither of them have asked me to pay bills or pay for food, because they know that I’m saving. It has probably been the most helpful aspect.
  8. I searched for bargains. For example, when you’re on the pill you have to get your prescription renewed every six months. This requires a trip to the doctor, costing about €55. There are, thankfully, online options now! I was ordering from Llyods Online Pharmacy for €25, and then discovered Dr Ed for €20. It’s all about going for what’s the cheapest, if it’s something you don’t need to worry about the quality of. After that, it was a case of buying all six packs of my pill at once rather than one a month. I discovered (embarrassingly after quite a few years on the pill) that buying all six at the same time gives you major savings!
  9. I convinced myself all the time that I only had €100 in my account. For whatever reason, I don’t go near my bank account if at all possible if there is less than that in there. I don’t spend, I don’t go out if I can help it, and I find ways to save money. Even if there was €400, I would act like it was just €100.
  10. I wavered, a lot. There were times when I didn’t put money in until the end of the month, or put it none at all because I was too lazy to plan. But I never let that be the end of things. I picked up again in the next payslip, I got back on track.

 

So, that’s it! A year from €0 to €11,200. As this post goes live, I’ll be paying the final amount on my college fees! This isn’t the end of my saving, I’m a reformed woman on that front. No more impulse shopping, no more wastefulness.

Day of the Midwife 2017

Screenshot 2017-05-05 at 07.11.10Happy International Day of the Midwife to all of you! Whether you’ve just discovered your passion, you’re applying for a place, you’re a current student, a qualified midwife or a retired one. Today is a day to celebrate the magic we are a part of.

I’ve been thinking about what midwifery means to me. Firstly, it means hard work. Three years of applying, and four years of working my butt off to get the grades, and now to get the money together. It has been a long journey just to get to the starting line, but I am just four months away from my first day as a student midwife!

4415-8_midwifery_serviceMidwifery is a science, requiring a lot of academic commitment and hours spent with your head in a book or a journal. Midwifery is an art, a beautiful privilege for those who practice it. Each family needs to be looked like a separate but equally important piece of art. They require detail, individual attention, and time.

 

Midwifery is a struggle. It is physically difficult, bent down to observe the person in whatever position contractions have put them in. It is emotionally draining, because everyone has problems and we are there to help.

But most of all, midwifery is a gift. We are a part of people’s proudest and most important moments. We are the person they call when baby does something to worry them. We are the trusted heart and hands.

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I can’t lie, I got very emotional watching Sheena Byrom’s video this morning, which includes messages from midwives all over the world. It really got me thinking: we’re one of the oldest professions in the world. We are a part of every culture across the globe, in one form or another. We’re a strong community of people that are there 24/7 every day of the year. We are so vital.

 

So here’s to us! The midwives of the world, with woman no matter the outcomes. How are you celebrating today? ❀

 

One Born thoughts: S10E1

One Born Every Minute is back! I know that there are a lot of mixed opinions about OBEM, but at its core I believe it’s a good show with good intentions. It’s just badly or awkwardly edited, and doesn’t get backed up with much education. I think especially for student and qualified midwives it can be frustrating because we don’t know the history of these women, so we say “why is she on her back in bed instead of mobilising” or “she didn’t need a section.” And there’s a general consensus that OBEM is a bit on the scaremongering side for pregnant women. I personally don’t like the opening sequence of screaming and shouting.

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How and ever, I usually really enjoy the show and last night was no different! Stephen and Jodie were a really fun, entertaining pair. The friends with benefits plus the new girlfriend dynamic was really interesting, I love seeing non-traditional families on tv. I was really sad to hear (via this facebook post) that while Stephen was a great birth partner, he hasn’t seen his girl since Christmas. But it was lovely to see Jodie defending her family and being so mature further in the comments.

Maria and Derroll were in for the planned section of their rainbow baby. Their story was so sweet and lovely, and you could see from the way they looked at each other that they really and truly are besotted with each other. The way they told the story of meeting, and blending their families, and their miscarriage, it was just very open and honest. And again, being a blended family (with children from previous relationships) it was a bit non-traditional.

I started crying when Harley was born, because of the look on Jodie’s face. It was just that look of pure amazement, and happiness, and knowing she had done it, she had brought her beautiful girl into the world. I don’t think there’s a better moment in the world than the moment someone becomes a parent.

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Now, since last night I’ve seen some complaining about the show. Not about the editing, or the fact they were both sections (which is fine with me, it’s not my birth and they aren’t my patients). It was about there being no birth for fifty minutes, and the amount of focus on the midwives. I was initially confused about it. I’m still kind of confused to be honest. Birth isn’t a quick process people! Labour can be hours and hours long. And the time slot is an hour, I’m not sure what else they could show once the babies are born. As for the stick about the midwives, I think the conversation was in keeping with the theme of the couples: finding love. I think it’s nice to get to know the midwives as well as the couples.

So, did you watch the new episode? What was your favourite moment? Do you have issues with One Born that I haven’t highlighted? Let me know in the comments! ❀

Talk about it: Primodos

You may have seen the documentary on Sky News last week on Primodos, a drug given in the 1960s and 1970s as a pregnancy test and the cover up of its adverse affects (you can read the full Sky article here or watch it here). I thought it would be an appropriate topic for Talk About It.

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image via Sky News

The doc was presented by Jason Farrell, and from the start you could tell that this case has stuck to him. He’s invested. He and his team have been working for six years investigating Primodos, and have met with the affected families. It would be hard to not be invested.

So what is Primodos? It’s two tablets, containing the synthetic hormones norethisterone acetate and ethinyloestradiol. It was given as a pregnancy test in the UK between 1953 and 1975 – you took one tablet the first day, and another the second day. If a vaginal bleed occurred, you were not pregnant. If there was no bleed, it was considered to confirm the pregnancy.

Norethisterone  is used in lower doses to treat abnormal bleeding from the uterus, endometriosis, and amenorrhea. It is also used in the contraceptive pill and the emergency contraceptive. There is speculation that it was also used as an abortive in other parts of the world – the documentary cites it being used in South Korea by prostitutes.

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image via the Daily Mail

Primodos is reported to be 40 times the strength of the contraceptive pill. Families have been campaigning since the late 1970s, claiming that Primodos caused birth defects such as limb loss, heart defects, miscarriage, still birth and infant death. It was heart wrenching to hear the parents speak of the guilt they felt. One mother said that she blamed herself until she was given another answer, when other parents started reaching out. Campaigning seems to have begun with Dr Isabel Gal, a London paediatrician who raised alarm bells in 1967 with a study suggesting a link between the Primodos test and birth defects. There were corroborating studies, and there were also opposing studies. IFLScience states in an article that the “effect of synthetic hormones on embryonic development is not well studied and their effects can depend on timing and exposure.”

So there’s conflicting scientific information (as there pretty much always is). But after Dr Gal’s claim, a lot started to happen with the drug. In 1970, its licence as a pregnancy test was removed. In 1975, a warning was placed on the packet (above). And in 1978 it was voluntarily removed from the market, given the advent of the pregnancy test we all know and love – the pee stick. At about the same time that this was going on, an internal review was being carried out. Dr William Inman, who at the time was the principal medical officer for the UK government, conducted a study over five years. He reportedly made a finding  that women who took a hormone pregnancy test like Primodos “had a five-to-one risk of giving birth to a child with malformations”.

Farrell’s documentary reveals that, bizarrely, Inman tipped off Schering (manufacturer of Primodos) and seemed to want to avoid them facing any medico-legal challenges from families. This is a part that I can’t get my head around at all. Inman is in a position where it is his function to review medications, appraise their safety and effectiveness, and recommend action to UK regulators or the government. He had pt i place earl warning systems to detect drugs exactly like Primodos, that had adverse effects. But he doesn’t do that. He destroys evidence of his study “to prevent claims.” It’s just not weird, it’s totally unethical. He went on to write to Schering, discussing Dr Gal and her study. According to Sky News, he states that “we’re defenceless” against legal action because of the delay in possible associations being reported, and the drug being withdrawn. A Schering lawyer wrote that the company was like to be found guilty in a court case due to a “breach of duty.”

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But don’t they test drugs before they give them to people? Companies are absolutely supposed to, legally and ethically it falls under their duty of care (and of conscience, I would imagine). But it appears that Schering failed to carry out any kind of toxicology testing before Primodos was released in the UK and Germany. So Primodos seems to be have released to the market, and prescribed by doctors to pregnant women, with no evidence of it’s safety. After the thalidomide scandal (1961), teratogenic testing was common. So what was the reason for it not being carried out with Primodos?

 

To me, it’s just unbelievable. I know I’m speculating based only on what I’ve seen on the Sky documentary, and the articles I’ve since read trying to understand the situation. But there is just so much wrong with this. It’s in a way worse than the thalidomide scandal. Before thalidomide, there was no inkling that anything like this could happen. Babies were safe in wombs, regardless of the medication given by your trusted GP (who in turn trusted the charming pharmaceutical reps). But after thalidomide, there was new awareness. There was testing. There should be accountability. Let me know what you think about Primodos and about Inman’s disappearing report. I’ll leave links to the articles I used for this post below. You can read stories from the families here, on their website. ❀

 

SOURCES: IFLScience, the GuardianMedicines in Pregnancy

PINKOUT: I stand with Planned Parenthood

Today, March 29, is a Planned Parenthood day of action called #PinkOut. I actually only realised slightly late in the day (I’m researching and writing in a bit of a panic!) but it’s a great opportunity to talk about some of the reasons that Planned Parenthood is so important for women and men alike.

So let’s start with that. I think there’s an idea out there that Planned Parenthood serves women (primarily women accessing abortion services). Wrong! While 1 in 5 women visit during their lifetime (there was no similar statistic on men), PP offers a huge variety of health services to women and men – 2.5 million per year across the US according to their website.

But what are the services? It’s mainly prevention of unintended pregnancies – hormonal control like the pill or IUDs, condoms, and vasectomies. PP services prevent about 579,000 pregnancies per year. Not to mention all the STI testing and treatment they provide – 4.2 million per year. HIV tests alone account for 650,000 of that number.

And then there’s the health screenings. Planned Parenthood carries out 270,000 Pap tests a year, and 360,000 breast exams. Planned Parenthood does a lot of the work in catching cancer early. As well as this, PP carries out a lot of general health work including cholesterol tests, diabetes screening, administering flu vaccines, helping people to quit smoking, and basic physical exams.

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But what about the abortions?

Abortions come to about 3% of Planned Parenthood’s work. That little 3% might be because they do so much for education in sexual and reproductive health, reaching 1.5 million kids and adults every year. That number in particular makes me giddy with happiness. Sexual and reproductive education is SO important, and it’s something I’m passionate about. Once the eighth has been repealed here in Ireland, my activist mode does not turn off. It switches straight to clear, factual, and broad (as in not hetero-normative) education.

So what is this whole #PinkOut craic? Basically, they want the internet pinked out to show the US government that people stand with Planned Parenthood, people need Planned Parenthood, and people are better for Planned Parenthood being in the world (they actually do a lot of global good by being a member of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation, like our own lovely IFPA).

There has been a lot of talk about “defunding” PP over the years, and it’s been a real fear since Trump was elected. However an attempt to do so was blocked quite recently. But the threat to Planned Parenthood remains. Planned Parenthood want Congress to realise that defunding will never happen (75% of Americans oppose defunding), and to hear the big pink message “do not block access to care at Planned Parenthood. Not now. Not ever.” ❀