At the end of last year, Pampers launched a campaign called #ThankYouMidwife to show appreciation to midwives working hard over the year, as 1 in 3 midwives feel undervalued.
With everyone saying Thank You, Sheffield Hallam Midwife students Richard Bean and Kate Lansley spoke about their experiences in what it is like training to be a midwife.
26-year-old Australian, Kate, volunteered for a charity called Nightline, a service similar to the Samaritans but for students, whilst studying for a degree in Psychology at the University of Leeds.
“I joined midwifery a little late,” she says, “my degree and volunteering gave me a love and an appreciation for caring for people and after trying a few different jobs I felt something was missing. I started to develop a passion for feminism and women’s rights and I got the idea in my head that I’d love to be a midwife”
“The year I applied for midwifery was the last year they were offering a bursary – so it was now or never.”
In 2016, she started the BSc Midwifery degree and is now in her Second year of studies, which started a lot different to other degrees.
She said: “We started our Second year in mid-September and break for summer at the end of August, which is different compared to a lot of other degrees. It can be quite a full-on workload, so organisation is important. This year I have five modules with two deadlines each.”
“We have to complete a certain number of hours at University and placement in order to meet the requirements. If you miss anything, if you’re ill or can’t make it – you have to make up for it. Depending on what placement you’re on, we do 30-38 hours a week. That’s the equivalent of working a full-time job, but with studying on top of that.”
One fact that took Kate by surprise while studying was that 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.
“You learn a lot of emotional things,” she says, “it wouldn’t put me off having kids as I’ve spoken to midwives who have given birth and they said it’s easier than you think to switch off.”
Final year midwife student Richard, (44), previously worked in management for the NHS but always enjoyed working with patients directly and also enjoyed caring for people.
He said: “I wanted a job where I could go home and say ‘today I did this for someone’ and know I’d make a difference. Midwifery is a role where you can provide tailored care for a woman and help her achieve what she wants, such as having a water birth or natural birth, rather than what we want to do for her.”
Richard lives in Portsmouth but is completing training for his degree in Sheffield and is the only male midwife on his course.
“I’ve been the only male on the course for a long time,” he says, “there are other male students around and I have worked with a man who is a senior midwife, but we are a rare breed.”
“Some women choose not to have care with me, but I also have just as many request me. It’s about making a connection – showing care and compassion.”
He said: “a lot of dads find it easier to connect with me. I remember early on in my training I had been providing breastfeeding support to a new mother and as I was going home, her huge rugby player husband asked me for a word somewhere quiet.”
“Not knowing what to expect, he asked if I had been the one to help his wife breastfeed. I said yes nervously and he threw his arms around me, thanking me for helping his wife feed his newborn daughter.”
“If I was a lot younger,” he says, “I wouldn’t have personally felt ready to be a midwife. But what women go through to give birth is inspiring.”
Richard and Kate are both assessed by the midwives they work alongside while on placement at hospitals and have to record new things they have learnt from taking blood pressure to conducting membrane sweeps.
Student midwives often work the same hours as paid midwives.
The work of both midwives and those training to be midwives isn’t thanked as much as it should be.
So thank you to the students and midwives, for being dedicated, wonderful and hardworking – without you giving birth would be a whole lot harder.