It’s a strange feeling being new, brand new, in your mid 30’s. It’s kind of the time where most people have got things in their lives sorted and figured out, or so your led to believe.
Starting university, with a rucksack on your back, and a lunch box (to save money on food) feels almost a step back at first. If you’ve been used to working, bringing money into the house, its’ really weird to think you are now a student again.
Now imagine your first day on placement…….. eeeeek! Really scary stuff!
My first day ever on placement was on the Delivery Suite and the trust I am placed at has a pretty busy unit with approx. 5000 births a year. I remember I got there ridiculously early, 40 mins early in fact, and sat on a windowsill on the ground floor level of the hospital waiting for the time to pass.
I wanted to go up early to find my bearings, but not 40 mins early! Ha ha!
The delivery suite, midwifery led unit, antenatal and postnatal wards are all on level 4, so I began my slow walk up the stairs 20 mins before my shift started. I remember being shown where to hang my coat and put my bag, then I just stood there at the co-ordinator’s desk where hand over happens in front of the board with all the rooms listed.
I felt so awkward!
Slowly the midwives all gathered and waited for everyone to be there before the unit handover began. At this point I understood what gravida and parity meant (how many times a lady has been pregnant/how many children she has) but if I’m honest I was so nervous not much else went in. I just felt a bit stupid in all honesty.
I was 34 years old at the time and there were midwives stood there who looked fresh out of school, whilst I looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights. It was at that moment I wondered how I was going to feel seeing a birth?! I had watched lots of uncensored births online, but this was the real deal! ‘Please don’t let me be squeamish’ were the thoughts running through my head.
My mentor was amazing! In fact, I’ve been so super lucky and had the best ever mentors at every placement I’ve been to. She gave me a quick run-down before we entered the room, knocked loudly on the door, announced who was coming in and IN WE WENT! Arrrrrrrgh! I knew now, no matter how I felt, I needed to come across as calm and confident (but never cocky). It’s the perfect time to use the swan analogy; serene for everyone to see, flapping under the water like there’s no tomorrow!
I walked into the room, my mentor made our introductions and the woman was standing, swaying with her husband behind her, deep in the throes of labour. It was at this moment I realised that the labouring woman was one of my old school pals! What are the chances?!
We had had a discussion beforehand when she knew she was going to be due as I was on delivery suite, but I never thought it would happen that I would be with her labouring, let alone her be my first ever witness.
My mentor took a detailed handover from the midwife who had been caring for her previously in the form of an SBAR and popped this in the notes. From the information we knew, I was definitely going to be seeing a baby born on this shift and it wasn’t going to be too long to wait. I couldn’t believe my luck.
The birth was amazing! Honestly amazing! I was so in awe of what I had seen, I didn’t even shed a tear which I thought was going to be a dead cert for me. Beautiful baby Mabel was born and it was at that moment that my friend realised it was me in the room. She thought she had heard my name/voice, but the pethidine was too good for her to fully realise. Fortunately, she was still ok with me being there as otherwise that could’ve been a little awkward! We just couldn’t believe the chances of that happening and it really was a special moment for me that I will never forget.
On my first shift it was more a case of just seeing exactly what happens in the life of a midwife. Nothing much is expected other than being present, appearing eager to learn and following your mentor around like a lost puppy. By the end of the shift I was taking observations (blood pressure, pulse, temperature, respirations), but your mentor really is aware that it’s your first ever day on placement.
If I can give any advice about being on placement it is, always have a small notepad in your pocket and ask questions…. so many questions. No question is too stupid. Also, if you are offered the chance to do something, do it. There is honestly no better way to learn.
Make the most of every second on placement, because if you are like me, it is never long enough before you are heading back into university again.
If you would like to find out more or ask me any questions, you can find me on Instagram @thelifeofastudentmidwife
*Birth story used with permission.