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Life Changing Transition

midwifery-susan rossThis is my first blog and I’m excited to join the team. I want to tell you how I came to be in this birthing business, because it was accidental, but life changing.

Desperate to become a nurse, I applied at Dubbo Base Hospital many years ago and was ecstatic to be accepted.

Living in the nurse’s home was mandatory for the 4 years of training. 8 of us started and 8 of us graduated. Experiencing our first death, first car accident, first night duty stint etc. cemented an indescribable bond. We lived, worked and socialised together for 4 long years. At the end of this it was deemed essential to do midwifery. I was advised it would be the only way I would get a decent job, if I had 2 qualifications. Reluctantly I did midwifery at RPA. I hated every minute and, whilst I wasn’t quite sure why I hated it so much, there was this underlying feeling that grew throughout my training, that this was an appalling way to treat women.

As soon as I graduated from midwifery, I moved back to a very small country hospital in western NSW. It was a 40 bed hospital and the ‘matron’ accepted my application with great enthusiasm. I was looking forward to getting back into general nursing, especially the adrenalin pumping area of A&E! After about 6 weeks of working there, and loving it, I was on night duty, and about 2 am… in came a labouring woman. I assumed that I would not have to deal with this and told the enrolled nurse working with me, that I would ring the one and only GP in town – this is what I would do at RPA! She dutifully informed me that he was an alcoholic, was not to be disturbed at night, and that’s why I had been employed, because I was the only midwife in the district! This had not been mentioned at the interview!

So in an absolute state of shock I spent the next couple of years looking after many labouring women. My coping mechanism was to have a labouring woman in one room and my midwifery text book in the other – running from one to the other. This was most distressing as I could never make a connection between what the labouring woman was doing, and what was in my text book, despite frantic searching. The enrolled nurses watched with some amusement, as I ran from one room to the next, feeling inadequate and clueless about what I should be doing, realising that my training had ill-prepared me for practising any sort of midwifery. I was also terrified.

susan ross midwifery image

One night an older and very wise enrolled nurse who had 7 children of her own, suggested that I just ‘be’ with the woman. She told me that the baby would come out no matter what I did or did not do and that all the woman wanted was to feel reassured from the presence of another woman whom she trusted. She kept telling me I don’t have to ‘do’ anything, just ‘be’.  As a young, newly graduated midwife, this seemed like an odd thing to say, given that all of my training had involved ‘doing’, i.e. doing something to a woman. During my training, I would have been severely reprimanded had I just sat with a woman and provided emotional support. That type of behaviour from a student midwife was unheard of and there most certainly would have been consequences. It took a long time for me to get this message that it was O.K. not to interfere with a woman in labour, but to trust birth.

Women asked me to just ‘be’ with them. I learned from these amazing women and after baby was born, they would be overwhelming with their thank-yous for my support. I eventually understood the extraordinary power of woman supporting woman, with quiet understanding and belief in their innate birthing power.

I fell in love with midwifery, I ‘got’ it, and feel very grateful for the experience. My true midwifery training happened in this small country hospital, but my qualification is from a major city hospital. Over the years, midwifery has changed – a lot, and what I now love most is training doulas and working as a doula, because it is practising what true midwifery means, i.e. being ‘with’ woman, representing her needs, putting her and her baby first, and empowering her to trust birth.

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