Thursday, July 3, 2014

Catching Babies: The Orphaned Student

This month I thought I’d try something a bit different. Once upon a time when I was a shiny new midwife I started an online journal about my ‘day job’. It was a way for me to decompress from a job I wasn’t quite prepared for and take my mind off of the fact that I was living away from my friends and family for the first time. It’s now been ten years and working for the NHS is still as surprising, funny, sad and maddening as it was when I was just out of the box. So I thought I’d once again share some of the craziness and give you a glimpse into life as a midwife in the UK. Names will be changed to protect the innocent. My plan at the moment is to try to do this at least once a month but we’ll see how it goes. Please feel free to share your thoughts below and I hope you enjoy.

As we barrel our way through the hazy, crazy days of summer in the UK all I can think is that most of the UK must have spent the last days of autumn and the first days of winter last year under their duvets. Together. Because now, nine months later there seems to be plenty of evidence of a job well done. To make matters worse I seem to have picked up a student, Eve, left orphaned and alone when her mentor called in sick, indefinitely. Another casualty of the high stress, long hours and workload that is the reality of our job. I like working with students but she is in the first year of her training, which translates to explaining and doing everything at least twice. It’s a lot of work. Teach me to give in to the pressure that was the combination of my own memory of being a student and gentle persuasion from the University.

Poor Eve has the luck, or misfortune to land in one of the busiest moths of the year so far. Talk about throwing her in at the deep end. Our student midwives in the UK have to deliver forty babies in their three years of training. Within our first three shifts we already had four. One of which was a lady who was pregnant with her fifth baby. She came to labour ward courtesy of a bed and two admissions midwives running her into labour ward fully dilated and pushing. Luckily Eve took me at my word when I answered the call and said to her, “Put your gloves on and open up the delivery pack.” In the corridor outside the delivery room the lady’s waters broke. As we wheeled her into the room she gave a push and the baby appeared as a wriggling, crying, sheet covered shape while the student stood beside her, eyes wide with astonishment. Eve looked at me and said, “I don’t think I can count that. I never even touched her.”
“Well,” I replied, “You were standing beside her and someone’s name has to go in the paperwork. It might as well be yours.” Everyone in the room laughed as relief broke the tension and we finished the job. The baby was dried and placed in her elated mother’s arms and Eve delivered the afterbirth with my guidance. I suppose we can all be grateful those admissions ladies had their running shoes on that day.

And so it continued; seven shifts, eight normal deliveries, three caesarean sections and one ventouse delivery later Eve and I are well acquainted and she hasn’t thrown the towel in yet. I see the beginnings of a midwife in her and it’s kind of awesome to know I had a part in that. I must confess, I do enjoy those first year students, even with all the hard work it entails. We try to ease them in gently, stick to low risk patients (or ‘clients’ as the Uni would have it, they do love their buzz words) try show the students the normality before the reality. I love to give them the exhilaration of being the person to bring life in all its noisy, messy joy into the world. So as the weather heats up along with the labour ward Eve and I drag our tired asses into July. Tired, but not beaten, and ready for the next catch.