As I turned on for my first shift on delivery shift, the standard excitable naive first year student, I was under the illusion that what we speak about in community to women would be what I was going in to tacky. Little did I know that ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ birth doesn’t really exist?
Within 30 minutes of my new shinny shoes walking through the door I was faced with the reality of it. How quickly a textbook labour can all go astray. Within minutes the complete atmosphere of the room had changed and the Reg was in there seconds later the women’s legs in poles, espis done, vontoues done, baby delivered, pead working on the baby and then me… stood in the corner and all I could think was “oh…my…god!”
Walking out of that room I felt incredibly queasy but I grit my teeth pushed through the shift. The queasiness however, was not a one off occasion. Each witnessed birth making me increasingly worse and now an added factor of feeling faint in the mix. I started to panic! Even the sight of a blood glucose level being done got me! I can’t exactly be a midwife if I’m going to be on the floor each time I see a bit of blood, I don’t think I’d be very successful somehow.
I’d started my walk down garden path and was tripping on every gnome there was, and maybe the weeds too.
After the next few nights crying my eyes out, I was beginning to think the dream of midwifery would soon have to be over. I felt lost, weak and useless. Any little confidence that had previous been build up was now destroyed. All I could say aloud to the other half as I cuddled up to him feeling sorry for myself was “But I’ve never had an issue with blood before…” He being truly male didn’t have anything much to say. I just wanted to make it up the garden path to the shed and open the door. The worse, however, was yet to come.
I went in to face my late shift with complete dread and to my surprise I managing to complete most of my shift feeling fine so when we got given a water birth I was over the moon. After all what could get me in there right? A beautiful, calm and serene water birth, I’d be fine.
A few hours ticked on by and then the moment was upon us, our woman was getting her urge to push but at that moment we noticed her blood loss was a lot heavier than we wanted. The yellow button was push but baby was on its way and horar a beautiful baby girl was born. Within that moment I could feel the room getting hotter and hotter. I placed my wrists against the cold mental handles of the pool determined to hang on in there shouting at myself in my head to focus onto something else, anything just get a grip. My sense of smell became oh so heightened and I could feel the colour draining from me like a cartoon. My plan of action: get out of there quick.
I quick marched myself into the staff room; heart pounding, shacking all over. Clear to see adrenaline was surging through me. I sat on the sofa fighting back the tears and feeling the failure all over again. At that moment a year 3 student walked in on me. Her friendly voice asking me if I was ok, that was it the tears rolled down my cheeks. She came and sat next to me and as I explained in my way that I was just rubbish, she started trying to explain that this was normal and happens to a lot of people. I quickly interrupted with “oh my god I feel sick. What if I’m sick? I think I need to be.” I then swiftly turned to her and ask her “can I be sick?” most likely the strangest question she would have be asked to date. To my joy her reply was “yes, go its fine.” and with her permission I made an exit.
I ran and A lined to the toilet. How much lower could I fall? So there I was head down the toilet emptying the contents my stomach, more tears running down my face when there was a knock at the door. The voice from a midwife that had taken me under her wing previously. We sat there, the two of us in this tiny cubical every thought and anxiety I had been feeling for the past two weeks poured out of me. I told her how I didn’t think I could do this and how I’m clearly not cut out of it, comparing myself to everyone else. She said something to me that seemed to help me massively. One sentence that ring so loud in my head “you’re too much of a baby midwife to even be thinking that.” Finally it felt like I had permission to let the 3rd stage of labour affect me without it having to mean the end of everything. All of a sudden it was ok for me to have my head down a toilet and to not have to panic. She then carried on, “you wait one day after you’re qualified you’re be sat in a toilet with a student tell her the same thing. It’s like a rite of passage.” To which I just smiled.
As we headed back to the staff room I was inundated with stories to try and make me feel better. Stories about past students with needle phobias who overcame them and my favourite of all: a tale of a surgeon who, on a night shift, nearly fainted whilst in the middle of an operation so had to walk out and glug some cola before walking back into theatre to carrying on. To which the story teller added at the end “see, happens to the best of us.”
I started to feel my head start to go fuzzy , just in time a lovely band 7 walked in, took one look at me as I sat there and ordered me to lie down on the sofa with my legs on her shoulders. Somehow I don’t think she was betting on becoming a foot stool when she came into work that day. I had to giggle to myself, me a first year student; the bottom of the food chain with my legs on a well-respected band 7.
I eventually got home, after having to call the other halve and my dad to come and get me. I felt just as I use to when I would have to go home from school sick and it was clear to see that I had reverted back to that childlike state. I stumbled to my bed and quickly fell asleep, convinced that I would feel better in the morning.
As I got up for work the next day, my anxiety levels were at an all-time high. I told myself that if I didn’t face it straight away I would properly end up not going back at all, using the thesis of falling of a horse as my evidence base. Walking into the unit felt like a death sentence. I joined my mentor, who had revelled in tales of her dippy student to our women previous to my arrival. To my joy though she was a nurse herself and when left alone with this women she turned to me and said “it’s ok I know how u feel so don’t feel bad if u feel funny at this delivery.” I smiled and just said thanks, thinking in my head how glad I was that the pressure was off. Unfortunately our women ended up with a section so no birth for me to witness.
The days passed and the first time I witnessing the whole of the 3rd stage and examined the placenta and still remained upright was a huge breakthrough so much so I found myself bounding up to the band 7 and rejoicing with her in my achievement. The weeks passed and the panic and focus on the dreaded 3rd stage started to subside. My confidence was being pieced back together a postage stamp size bit at a time.
Before I knew it I was starting to do the deliveries. My mind racing with what needs to be done when. A check list that appeared in my head ensuring nothing is missed, also trying to be one step ahead. It didn’t cross my mind anymore and the instant panic had gone, that’s when I realised I had made it down the garden path without the gnomes or weeding getting in my way.