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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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!  ❀

 

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 ❀

 

 

the big Offer

I can’t quite believe that my offer was six months ago today – and that I almost forgot about it!

Here is a little entry I made about that day back at the end of August, when I originally planned on starting this blog.

Monday August 22nd offers day. Since 2013, offers day has been painful and difficult for me, either not getting what I wanted or getting nothing at all (I don’t know which was worse). I had knots in my stomach about it from the minute I finished the exams in June. I had spent the weekend keeping myself as busy as possible, trying not to think about what I would do if I didn’t get Midwifery again. But Monday morning came, and I woke up at 06:08am beside my partner, who was fast asleep. I very quietly checked my emails on my phone, and felt my heart sink – no email. Hoping very hard, and trying to breathe normally, I logged into the CAO. And there it was, DK877 Midwifery, you have been offered a place. I went downstairs, texted my mother, emailed admissions to tell them I would be coming in September 2017 and to please defer my place thank you thank you thank you very much. I got back into bed just after 7am. Himself woke up, and I told him I had done it, and it was then that I felt a big rush of feelings and started getting weepy. He dozed off, and I checked out the course modules. I texted my dad, my friends. Throughout the day and the next few weeks I got messages of congratulations and support from people who I might not have spoken to in a few years, and I was really truly touched. I am unashamedly so proud of myself, because I worked hard to get here.

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So that’s it! A quick slightly emotional paragraph. I’m still proud, and sometimes a bit disbelieving that it has finally happened for me. I have saved up €5,470 of the €13,000 I will need for first year (there will be a post about how I managed that coming up!) so I’m halfway there.

Let me know in the comments what your offer was like and how you reacted. I believe that looking back on those memories can make long weeks filled with assignments and 13 hour shifts seem a bit better ✿