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! ❀

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.” ❀

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!  ❀

 

Talk about it: “What’s holding Irish women back from getting our boobs out to feed our babies?”

First of all, I should explain what this “talk about it” thing is. We all know it’s important to keep up with the newest information and evidence out there. It’s important to discuss things, exchange ideas, and listen to each other.  So I have decided to dedicate some time every week to discussing what’s new, what’s old, what’s working and what isn’t. I’d love it if you got involved, got a bit passionate about things (while being respectful of course!) and maybe inspired a few people.

 

What I’m talking about this week is an article from the Sunday Independent Life Magazine (read it here) about breastfeeding in Irish society. It was a really interesting read, a really thorough look at how we see breastfeeding and react to it. Siobhan O’Connor speaks about her own breastfeeding experiences, and talks to other mothers. Unsurprisingly they all come to the same conclusion: breastfeeding can be very difficult, requires confidence and there is not enough appropriate support available for people who choose breastfeeding.

The initial thing that really struck me about this article (apart from the beautiful photos accompanying it) was the first stand out words on the front page and on the by-line: “battle” “guilt””struggle” and “desperation.” I just felt sad that these are the words being associated with breastfeeding for so many women in Ireland, that this is how people describe their experience. It’s not fair on women, on babies, or on wider families. Or on healthcare providers, now that I think of it.

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Siobhan O’Connor puts it perfectly “On paper, it sounds so natural. It sounds like the only option any woman would choose, but that’s not always how it happens. It’s every mother’s right to feed her baby the way she chooses, be it breast, formula or pumping. And while, of course, we should be supported if we choose to breastfeed, we should not be chastised or breast-shamed if we choose not to.”

 

This is my big issue – the shaming. You get shamed for not breastfeeding. You might get shamed for pumping instead of having baby attached to you for every feed (some people actually still enjoy personal space after having kids). You are pretty likely to get shamed for breastfeeding in public (although there are laws protecting breastfeeding in public, read about them here). I hate shaming of any kind. It’s not nice, and I don’t think anyone has the right to judge another person.

However shame seems to be really ingrained in Irish culture. I was shocked to learn from the article that the HSE officially recommends discretion while breastfeeding, as in throwing a scarf around yourself and your hungry bub. But why? Why should the natural function of the breasts be covered up? Why should anyone cover their head or have to hide in a separate room to eat? If that’s what a person wants to do, that is absolutely fine, but it shouldn’t be expected.

An interviewee says “in old Catholic Ireland, we’re made to feel ashamed,” and there might be something to that. The BMJ Global Health journal is mentioned earlier in the article having stated that breastfeeding rates are higher in areas where the proportion of Roman Catholics are lower. Might there be a link between Christian views of sexuality and pleasure, and the sexualisation of women’s breasts, be what’s making people feel so awkward around breastfeeding.

 

I always knew that the rate of breastfeeding here was shockingly low here, but I never realised that 70% of babies are put straight onto formula. I respect that everyone has the right to feed however they like, but 70% just seems so high. Is every person in that 70% completely educated on breastmilk vs formula milk? If they are, that’s fine, because it means an informed decision has been made. But I’m more than a little bit dubious that our system works that well, that every single person understands the differences. We all know that the HSE is overrun with service users and dangerously understaffed, so how can every pregnant person be getting the full information and the full extent of support in that system?

The article states that in Holles Street, the National Maternity Hospital, there are one and a half lactation consultants for the 9,000 births a year when the recommendation is one full time LC per 3,000 births. To me that doesn’t sound manageable, or efficient, or even really safe. A high workload means high stress, which means mistakes are more likely. And I’m sure the NMH isn’t the only maternity hospital with those kinds of numbers.

 

So it looks like it isn’t just the exposed feeling, or the odd or rude comments from strangers that is putting new mothers off of breastfeeding. The system that is supposed to help them may be an obstacle instead. The system that is supposed to teach them, build up their confidence, and be there when help is required, doesn’t seem to do that. We all know that breastmilk is liquid gold, but do we know where to get help when there’s trouble producing it?

I am a bit worried that this comes off a bit rambling, and maybe even uninformed. If you think so, let me know! If you have an idea, or an argument, or a story to share, please do in the comments  ❀

 

*image via Getty*

My Path to Midwifery

I was always fascinated by pregnancy. I just didn’t realise that there was a job to go with this passion, until shows like One Born Every Minute and Call the Midwife came on tv. While they obviously aren’t all that realistic, they showed me that there was something in the world for me to do with passion.

It was a little bit like a stereotypical “calling.” It was as if all the pieces of myself – the fascination with everything from conception to toddlerhood, the empathy I was able to feel for people, and the giant lump of feminisim –  came together to form this picture of me, the midwife.

So I took up biology for my Leaving Cert (Irish version of GCSE, A level, SAT type exams I think) and in 2013, I didn’t get the marks that I needed to get a place. I was devastated.

But I was very lucky and had a place in level 5 Pre-Nursing which was one year long. I ended up with ten Distinctions (80% or more).

From that course, I was able to start working in elderly care in March 2014. I’ve worked in care at home and nursing home care.

I got an offer for Intellectual Disability Nursing that year and in a slight panic about ending up with no job and doubts that I would never get my dream, I accepted the place. I completed the first year but my heart just wasn’t in it, so I left.

I went back to repeat my Leaving Cert. I was in regular classes five days a week, grinds on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. It was hard. But in August I got my results, great results that I am so proud of and that were worth dragging myself around the place for a year. I was 100 points up from my original exams and I was offered my first choice, Midwifery in Dundalk Institute of Technology. I’ll be starting there in September 2017, and working and saving up money until then.

So this post is in part, an introduction, and in part just to show that it is achievable. It may take time, and you may have to go the whole way around the system (like I did) to get there. But if you can keep going, do. You will arrive at your dream with so much experience and even more passion than you thought possible.

 

Please feel free to share your stories and your journeys in the comments! Whether you’re just starting out on your application, you’re on your fourth cycle, or you’re about to qualify (or retire) I would love to hear about it ❀