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.

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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.

 

(edit) I initially planned to post weekly reflections and let you all know what I was getting up to. But I have to prioritise course work, seeing my favourite people, and self care. I’ll post at the start and end of every semester about what I’ve learned and loved and limped through instead so keep your eyes peeled!

 

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

 

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! ❀

2013: why I failed and why it’s okay

Apologies for the long gap between this post and my last post! I have no excuse other than laziness and procrastination. And so today I’ll be touching on that same laziness and procrastination.

As I’ve said before, I sat my Leaving Cert twice. Once in 2016, and once in 2013. Obviously I was a lot more successful on the second try! But I’ve been thinking about what went wrong the first time.

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I have never been particularly studious. I know I’m intelligent and more than capable when I put my mind to it. But I had always done the bare minimum amount of work. I was pretty sure I was going to get the points that year, and get my place, and go off to college alongside my friends. I would be qualifying as a midwife this September instead of starting the course. It’s a strange thought.

But clearly, that didn’t happen. About this time four years ago, I was offered a place in the Pre-Nursing course. I remember it so well, I picked up the post on my way to a study session in the school (it was the easter break) and the letter was there. I bounced into the library and was congratulated. I wonder did I get even more  laid back from there? Was I doing any work at all before that point? Or did I, as my mother predicted, sit back and relax with the security of having somewhere to go that autumn?

 

I remember getting my Leaving Cert results that first year, and feeling sick. I threw myself into helping my friends add up their points, congratulating every single girl near me, avoiding the teachers who would ask how I did. I went home and got back into bed. I had a really, really long cry. I went out and got a hundred kinds of drunk over the next eight days (not a suitable coping mechanism). I avoided checking my email when college offers came a week later.

I felt like the biggest failure. I struggled to be excited about starting the one year course. After about ten days, I just had an intense feeling of relief. At least I had somewhere to go, something productive to do for the next nine months. It would at the very least get me a job (which it did), and the best that could happen would be it got me into midwifery (which it didn’t).

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I think the point of this post is to not let one failure feel like the end. I have more failures to ramble on about, 2013 is the first of many. But as I see offers and rejections in the UK rolling out, I do sometimes get pulled back to that feeling. I can only speak for myself, but I am quite glad that I didn’t get what I wanted in 2013. I believe that everything happens for a reason. Now, at twenty two, I am so much more experienced than that eighteen year old girl. I am stronger. I am smarter. I have finally started to grow some kind of backbone, and stand up for myself in professional settings. I don’t take things so personally. I’m happier too, and I think that’s so important. If you get rejected from one or more university, if you don’t get your first choice (or any of your choices, like me), it is absolutely fine to fall apart for a little while. The key part is getting yourself back in one piece.

If you find yourself facing rejection, I have a few tips to offer:

  • Let yourself feel sad. It’s okay. You can wallow for a while, this is tough stuff.
  • Do something to make yourself feel good. Do your hair or your nails, get up and dance, go to the ocean or the mountains.
  • Do not lock yourself away.
  • Do not give up. Look at this as extra time in the journey – what experience can you get between now and the next try? What can you do for yourself?

So, accept failure! It is definitely a learning experience. If you have stories to share about failure in your college applications, job applications, anything at all, leave it in the comments (you never know who it could help). If you want to chat about anything I’ve brought up, please let me know!  ❀