So You Want To Be A Midwife?

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How my life has looked for the past 3 days

And relax.

I’ve just finished a mammoth 3 nights on call and I’m shattered. It was up for every one of them, you could say we’ve been busy in our little team. I don’t think you realise how exhausting this job can be when you’re training to be a midwife, I certainly didn’t. Back then when I was a naive 21 year old, the only person I had to get up and dressed in the morning was myself and that was sometime a chore (especially if we had been out to Vodka Revolutions the night before, Vodka and a mixer for 50p, bargain!) Now I have to co-ordinate my shifts with my husbands work schedule, throw 2 children in the mix and it sounds like a recipe for disaster. But we somehow manage.

I often get asked ‘why did you become a midwife?’ and others ask what the training was really like. Programmes such as ‘Call the Midwife’, ‘One Born Every Minute’ and ‘The Midwives’ have increased the public’s knowledge of what midwives really do and according to The Royal College of Midwives the number of applications for starting a midwifery degree has shot up! This is excellent as there is still a national shortage of midwives.

Kathryn over at The Vintage Midwife shares her views on midwifery training and why she loves her job despite the long hours and hard work.

call the midwife

‘I was recently contacted by someone who wants to be a midwife and I have been wondering what to say to her.  Midwifery training is incredibly popular at the moment, no doubt thanks in part to Call The Midwife and One Born Every Minute.  I have lost count of the number of people who have said to me ‘I would love to do your job…’ with a wistful look in their eye.  At our local university over 1,000 people applied for the 50 spaces available on the next Midwifery course.

But I wonder if there is any other job that is so romanticized and where the harsh reality of life on the shop floor is so different to what we hope for?

I don’t think people always fully appreciate the enormous RESPONSIBILITY that you have as a midwife.  At times it can feel overwhelming.  You are responsible not only for the health and safety of that woman but also for her baby.  You may be responsible for a baby dying or being severely disabled.  Just let that sink in for a moment, it’s quite a big deal huh?

Sometimes, despite the best care babies can be born in an unexpectedly poor condition and I know of several very good midwives that have been involved in these tragic cases. This involves investigations, court cases, a very hard and long process before their name is cleared.

Childbirth is a natural, normal function that is a momentous event for a woman and her family.  But in the litigation fearing, policy following, hugely overworked, overstretched and understaffed NHS then this can often feel lost.

The heartbreaking fact for midwives is that if you have only 15 mins per antenatal appointment, have to do 13 postnatal visits in a morning, look after 10 women and babies on a postnatal ward, catch 3 babies on a night shift then you just simply can not give the care that you know these women and babies deserve. Meanwhile you are answering endless phone calls, buzzers, doorbells, doing reams of paperwork, hunting for missing equipment, mopping blood up, chasing social workers, teaching students…

All of this in a twelve hour shift without time even for a wee and only a handful of Quality Street to eat all day.  Working loads of weekends, night shifts, Christmas Day, New Years Eve.  Still want to do it?  Have I put you off yet?

I decided I wanted to be a midwife when I saw a baby being born whilst training as a student nurse, fresh out of school. I was just 18 and it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.  Like a magic trick, a baby appearing out of a woman’s body.  I have lost count of the number of babies I have seen born since then, it must be several hundred.  And do you know what?  I still find it as exciting as that first time I saw it.  When you see that tiny scrap of hair, that new life emerging, knowing that you are the first person to see this new person, it never loses its thrill.

Yes it’s hard work and nothing like the ‘lovely’ job people often imagine it to be but I still want to be a midwife.’

42 thoughts on “So You Want To Be A Midwife?

  1. Totally agree with your post! I was a MW for 10 years and did on calls too. I am now a HV. Ok I don’t do the unsocial hours anymore. But still shattering and overwhelming! Plus people say ” what a lovely job, weighing babies!”

    • Everything you have said is very true. BUT you must never underestimate the support you give to women in your care. You can not always give them a positive outcome but you can care for them like they are your own family and that in its self can make a huge difference to how they look back on their experience. At the end of the day midwife means ‘with woman’ and if can truly do this then you have succeeded in your very special role.

      • I don’t think she was ever underestimating her role as a midwife. I think Vintage Midwife was just highlighting how it’s sometimes so difficult to give that wonderful care we all so want to give when it’s so busy. I always try to remember what an honour it is to be involved in these women’s lives one way or another. And the smallest things we can do can make the huge difference.

  2. Pingback: I’d love to do your job.. | lovefoodloveme

  3. I start my 3 years training on Monday. I’m 34 with 2 kids, home and partner so like you, I have some juggling to do. But it’s my calling. Thanks for the great blog post!

  4. My mum is always so proud when she talks of my job to people. “What a beautiful job you do!” “Have you delivered lots of babies last night?”
    I try to remember that when I am changing my scrubs for the third time that night after being projectile-vomited on… But yes, I agree, all in all, it is a beautiful and rewarding job.
    However, it is not always appreciated to its full value. I am very young and look younger but I still absolutely HATE it when parents ask me when the doctor is going to come in to deliver the baby… Very frustrating.

  5. I trained in 1969 and midwifery was soooo different then. Of course babies came out the same two ways but all care was literally hands on. No fetal monitors, no IV pumps, no epidurals, no electronic machines for vital signs and all paper charting. I loved it!! Sitting with a patient, timing her contractions and listening to FHT’s you got to know her and it was such a joy to deliver her baby.
    I have retired now, I spent the last 28 years working in a US hospital OB unit. I missed delivering babies but I did catch a few!! Care has come full circle…now women here want more hands on care and less electronics!
    It was a priviledge to witness so many babies coming into the world, every one is a miracle.

  6. Hi clemmie?! Remember me?! Can’t believe it was ten yrs ago since we started our training! I just came across your blog..its brilliant! I still love being a midwife just as much as ever..and wouldn’t change my job for anything! Although,yes,harder to juggle now I also hav two kiddies! Take care xx

      • I’m working in my home town of Hereford at moment..on the ward, after nearly 2 yrs on community which I loved! But we rotate in Hereford so had to do my time in! I’ve got a 4 yr old boy and 16 month old girl…nice to go to work for a break, as I’m sure is same for u! I came across yr blog after someone shared it on Facebook I think! I’m only in touch with Jodie now from our course. Hope yr ok, sounds like yr doing well…don’t know his u find the time to do all this too! X

  7. I’ve been qualified for two years following three years of juggling study & family life. Never easy, frequently fulfilling! Good luck to those about to embark on their studies. If you’re passionate you’ll get through. Midwifery is a way of life, not just a job.

  8. I love reading your blogs! I was a Midwife for 26years having trained in 1979 and there was never a day that I thought ‘I was going to work’. For me it was a true vocation and when I had to give up for medical reasons I was truly gutted. The excitement of watching new life emerge and the privilege of being there for my families will remain with me forever. It was always an honour to be part of that new life yet I was always aware that the outcome was never to be assumed until that baby was safely in their mother’s arms! So much can go wrong as you so rightly say, and those caring for women must be vigilant at all times. For anyone thinking of doing their training remember that its not all smiles and happiness, sadly there are tears too and lots of jobs that the TV programmes don’t show! Reading other blogs everyone agrees that if you have passion for the job then you will be an excellent midwife. Good luck to all those about to embark on their training.

  9. If I could have my time over again I would love to train to be a midwife. No direct entry when I was 18 and having failed my maths O Level I couldn’t get into GOSH so I chose Nursery Nursing. An ok job but a poor substitute.

  10. I’m a student midwife in Australia (and a new mum of 1) and I love what I do! Those wh are truely passionate about it are the ones who succeed in this field. I remember seeing my first birth and crying at the absolute magic that it was, and I cant see me leaving this career. Its rewarding, taxing, sad (at times) but I’ll never trade it for the world 🙂

  11. Wow how amazing to read this, im 24 and i have 3 children, after the care i received from my midwives and hearing them say how rewarding the job is, i have had a huge interest in the profession, ive heard and read about deliveries gone wrong and missdiagnoses etc, that makes the job harder but i just want it more and more to get stuck in it will b amazing 3 yrs and counting

  12. I’m a continuity of care midwife, which means I am just about on call all the time. I look after the same woman throughout her pregnancy, birth and up to 6 weeks after birth. It is much more taxing than shift work as you never really “clock off” but sooo much more rewarding. It’s not hard to get out of bed after minimal sleep to help bring a baby into the world when you know the family 🙂 good luck future midwives! If you are looking for a 9to5 job and school holidays with the kids then this job probably isn’t for you, but if you feel this is your calling, you will never look back!

  13. I AM A THIRD YEAR STUDENT MIDWIFE JUST STARTING BACK ON PLACEMENT AND EVEN THOUGH I HAVE DELIVERED BABIES, CARED FOR WOMEN AND THIER BABIES PROVIDED ANTENATAL CARE I AM STILL PETRIFIED YET EXCITED TO BE GOING BACK JUST A BIT ANXIOUS I CAN REMEMBER ALL I HAVE LEARNT OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS!!!

  14. I’m half way through my midwifery training and I crazily uprooted 3 kids aged 4-8yrs from Northern Ireland as a single parent to train in London!! Haha yes I am bloody crazy…London hospitals are crazy!! It’s been the toughest, most stressful year and a half of my life…your post is extremely accurate but you forgot about the bitchiness of this women-led career, that’s an eye opener on its own…but despite all the tears and overwhelming feelings it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I love this vocation, I’m completely passionate about and love the characters I meet everyday that I feel I make a genuine difference to. Don’t go into this career naively, if the passion is there you will enjoy it, otherwise it’ll be hanging up your scubs before you even get into your graduation gown xx

  15. I start my degree in midwifery and I’m glad to read that blog. I have no illusions that this is going to be anywhere near easy but at 42 with 4 children, I’ve had plenty of time to ignore the pull. I’m grateful that you’ve shared and even after all that, you still want to be a midwife. Inspiring. Thank you.

  16. Half way through reading this i thought “i she trying to put me off?” And then i reallised nothing could as everything you have described here is exactly what i want from a job. Thank you so much. I only hope to be a greta midwife like yourself x x

  17. Oh pleeeeease. It’s a big girls job stop romantascizing it. It’s stressful because there are never enough staff, we can’t give the care we should and are continually critised by management, NICE and the NMC. It is not the job I signed up to in1981

  18. Whenever I tell people about me wanting to be a midwife, they say, ‘that would be so rewarding.’ Yes they’re right, but I’ve thought about all the really long hours, endless work and tired mornings, and I think “what have I let myself in for?!” But then a little voice goes “but you know you don’t want to do anything else and wouldn’t be happy in another job- Midwifery it is!” 😀

  19. Thank you for your insights into the world of midwifery. I am currently considering a career in midwifery, it’s always been “what I want to be when I grow up”, however on leaving school, I chickened out and I’m now just finishing an honors degree in music. I’m now 23 and have decided that midwifery is still what I see myself doing in the future. I’m just reading various blogs to make sure I’m not kidding myself of the not reality of it all. I’ve not been deterred yet, though the only thing I am worried about it having time to have my own wee babas 🙂 How do you all fit in family life and do you feel as if you have time away from it all, as well as having a full on job?

  20. Hi there, I’m hoping to start my training as a nurse (basic knowledge/training first) for 12 months in November this year. After hopefully succeeding this, I will be moved up to other levels (for 18 months) to complete my health and social care training that is required of me. Due to me wanting to become a midwife for some time now, I came across your blog which funnily enough helped me an awful lot!. I felt like at first that it would put me off from this ‘dream job’ I have been wanting to succeed in, but in actual fact it just gave me a boost to want this job even more 🙂 . I know it’s not all smiles and happiness…there will be bad times and the downers such as miscarry, still birth, disabilities of the baby and also the risks of the mother etc…but I know and have been told that this is a really rewarding job even after all the long hours that you may be required to do. But thank you so much for this, it really helped 🙂

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