Midwife of the week #10

So I thought I would have a crack at answering the questions I’m making everyone else answer. You may know a lot of what I say already, but I hope you can learn even just one new thing about me!

1. What is your name, age and favorite colour?

Naomi Helm, 26 (for 2 and a half more days) and red.

2. When did you know you wanted to become a midwife?

I’ve always loved mums and babies, since I was a baby myself. Though I didn’t really realise you could make a career of it. My mum had an obstetrician for her births so I had never really heard much about midwives, besides being told that they help the doctor. When I was in year 12, I knew i wanted to go to uni but had no idea what to do. Mum said “You’re a people person Naomi, so you should be a teacher or a nurse, but everyone in our family is a teacher so why don’t you try nursing?”. Interesting. I listened, and as I was exploring the university courses I came across midwifery and was so excited I almost burst. I wanted to do direct entry midwifery, but at that time the only way to become a midwife in NSW was to do nursing first and then a graduate diploma or masters in midwifery later.

3. Where did you do your midwifery training? Why did you choose that particular uni/hospital?

I studied at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and did concurrent work as a midwifery student at Sutherland and St George hospitals. I chose UTS because it has a very good reputation for nursing and midwifery. I had also done my Bachelor of Nursing there so I felt comfortable. The other option was Wollongong University, which offered a Masters of Science (Midwifery), but the course was slightly longer and I felt I might like to do a Masters separately in the future.

4. How long have you been a midwife? And what area of midwifery do you work in?

I did my midwifery training in 2006 and graduated in 2007. I worked full time for 2 years, mostly in the birthing unit, but also did rotations through the maternity ward, young mum’s group, midwifery support program (home visits) and antenatal clinic. I absolutely loved the continuity aspect of working in the clinic then occasionally catching my clinic women’s babies when I was working in labour ward, and sometimes even seeing them the next day on the ward or at home. My goal for the future is to work in a complete continuity of care model, instead of just caring for “my” women the whole way through by happy coincidence. I then had a baby in May 2009, went back to work for 6 months part time in May 2010 before having another baby in January this year. So I am on maternity leave again now, but have technically been a midwife for 4 years.

5. Are you a mum? Whether you answered yes or no, do you think that has any affect on your practice as a midwife?

Yes I’m a mum, to two gorgeous boys. Being a mum has definitely changed my practice. Before I was a mum, I was sure having kids would not make a difference to the way I practice. I was right in some aspects, but there are subtle changes that (to me) feel huge. I was a bit of an epidural enemy prior to having kids. Of course if women truly wanted one they would get it, but I would do my best to coax them to try everything else first, even if they stated from the start that they want it. Now, knowing how it feels to reach that point where you think you just can not take one more second of pain, I listen to women better. If they look me in the eye and ask genuinely for an epidural, I get it for them without trying to persuade them otherwise. I still do try every other non medical pain relief option, such as heat packs, water, changing positions, massage, but only with the women who are wanting a natural birth and are coping really well. I will never offer medical pain relief, but only give it if a woman asks – this has not changed.

I experienced two very different births with my two children and I think each one has shaped and changed me as a person and as a midwife. Both for the better, but I was a good and competent midwife prior to having kids also. Being a mum has just enriched my practice and helped give me more empathy, instead of just sympathy. you can read my birth stories here and here.

I do however, know some brilliant midwives who have never had children. So please do not judge a midwife by whether she has had children or not.

6. What is your favorite birthing memory?

When I was a student, I had a woman whom I followed through her whole pregnancy. I was so in tune with her. We just clicked. I saw her one day in the clinic and her baby was so far engaged she could barely walk. As she left the appointment I said “See you tonight” and we both just knew it was going to happen. I even told my husband that I was expecting a call that night and would have to go into hospital, but not to worry as it was just my follow through woman. I was right! She had the most peaceful, serene water birth. She was very tall and felt most comfortable on her hands and knees in the water. I remember so vividly, the water ripples her breath made as she lowered her head and breathed through each contraction, with her lips millimeters from the water. I think it might have been the first water birth I caught myself. I remember thinking, “I want to birth like this”.

But my all time favourite birth so far is my second son’s birth. It was absolutely the most powerful, amazing, fulfilling birth I have ever been a part of. So special, sacred.

7. Can you recall a time when you were most scared as a midwife?

A woman came in when she was 34 weeks pregnant after having not felt her baby kick for 24 hours. We put the monitor on her and there was a heart beat but it had absolutely no variability. Flat on 134 beats per minute – not normal. She was rushed to theatre for a caesarean and the baby had to be resuscitated for over an hour and I was the scribe (it was the first full blown resus I had been involved in). The baby was transferred to a tertiary hospital but died 3 days later from hydrops. We later found out the hydrops had been caused by toxoplasmosis. Very very scary and sad.

8. What’s your birthing or midwifery philosophy?

Birth is natural. It is what the awe-inspiring female body is designed to do. Yes, there are times when intervention is required to help save mum or baby, but for the most part, women can birth babies beautifully by themselves. Medication interferes with natural physiological processes and can cause birth to become unnatural. Fear is also a massive factor in a woman’s perception of herself and her ability to birth her baby naturally. With the right knowledge, support and encouragement, women can be empowered to birth their babies in the way they choose.

9. Do you think you’ll still be a midwife in 20 years?

I would like to think so. Midwifery is full on. It is very hard work and very tiring, but also extremely rewarding. There are things about midwifery that I don’t like, such as, shift work, bitchiness and life threatening situations. I am constantly on a mission to find new ways to use my midwifery training – like this blog. I have a dream to open a shop that sells birth/baby related things and also has a teaching and learning space out the back where antenatal classes, yoga, baby massage classes etc. can be taught. I also wouldn’t mind doing an early childhood course and courses in baby massage and accupressure for midwives.

10. What’s one thing you want every expectant mother to know?

You are an amazing creation. Your body has inherent skill and knowledge of how to birth your baby safely. TRUST your body. Fear = Tension = Pain. By reducing your fear, you will reduce your tension and reduce your experience of pain in labour. Go with the flow and take it as it comes. You will never forget this time in your life – feel every moment. Babies are a blessing and they will bring you delight, pain, joy, tears and many many memories. Treasure it all.

P.s. If you’re a midwife and have not already been featured in the “Midwife of the Week”, I’d love to interview you – email me at naomihelm@gmail.com.

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