*This article includes details of pregnancy loss
I get hundreds of messages and emails asking me about midwifery, how and why I entered the profession, what’s the best educational route, and what life as a student midwife is like. This blog article aims to cover the answer to many of these questions.
“The midwife that cared for me during the first part of my labour was incredible and I have never forgotten about how she helped me and made me feel during a truly awful experience”
My journey to wanting to become a midwife began back on June 17th, 1998. I was 16 years old and had just lost my baby during pregnancy at 22 weeks gestation. The midwife that cared for me during the first part of my labour was incredible; I have never forgotten how she helped and made me feel during a truly awful experience. There was no judgment of my age, I wasn’t infantilised, I was respected and cared for with utmost compassion. I was shown empathy and listened to. She explained the process of inducing the labour to me in fine detail so I was left feeling informed. The midwife actually missed the birth as she was caught up in another room with someone else who had given birth to a healthy baby. When she rushed back to me and realised my baby had been born without her presence, her eyes welled up with tears.
I was forever grateful to her and decided that midwifery was my calling. I wanted to share the same warmth, compassion, and care with others as they carried and gave birth to their babies. I met her many years later coincidently on a training course; I was about 30 years old with 3 more children and a few midwifery experience years in the bag. She didn’t remember me but became emotional again when I told her she was my inspiration.
In the UK the only way currently to become a midwife is to complete an undergraduate degree at one of the many universities around the country. When I trained, you had the option of completing either a bachelor’s degree or a Diploma of Higher Education. Both were taught in the same class, it was just the final module at the end of the 3 years that was different for each group. Many people chose the diploma route as it meant you were eligible for a bursary payment each month as opposed to having to take out a student loan to support themselves. Both qualifications enabled you to start working as a midwife.
After leaving school with 10 GCSEs, I went to college and completed a GNVQ level 3 in Health and social care, giving birth to my son 3 months before the course finished. GNVQs were the equivalent of 3 A-levels and today they are replaced by BTEC’s. After completing college, I had a little bit of a wobble and decided against midwifery, mainly because I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to commit to the shift pattern required of students with such a young baby. I decided on a degree in broadcast media instead.
“Qualifying as a midwife was the most wonderful experience. I felt incredibly proud of myself and all I had achieved, particularly as I had done it whilst having and raising a family”
Immediately after gaining my bachelor’s degree, my heart was pulled back in the midwifery direction and I decided I really wanted to do it. By this time, my son was about 4 years old and I knew I could work out a childcare plan and I had family for support. I also worked part-time at my local hospital as a maternity assistant so had some experience. I initially applied to the University of Surrey and didn’t get in. I was told at my interview that there were over 300 applicants for just 12 places. The rejection didn’t deter me, however. I applied to Thames Valley University (Now the University of West London) and got a place. I was absolutely ecstatic!
The 3-year course turned into 4 due to me giving birth to twins in my 3rd year. After a year of maternity leave, I returned to resume my studies. Life as a student midwife was amazing and tough. Amazing because I was able to fulfil my dream of supporting women and their partners during the most life-changing period of their lives. Tough because the days were long, I hated working nights (3 weeks were compulsory at the time) and juggling babies and assignments was not easy. I vividly remember my worry about ‘catching’ 40 babies which is a requirement of the course. I needn’t have worried because I managed over 50 in the end.
There was a lot to learn; essential skills for use in the event of an emergency, research and evidence-based practice, anatomy and physiology, maternal mental health, practical skills such as taking a blood pressure, suturing a perineal tear and drawing blood from and arm. We learned how to examine a newborn baby, support breastfeeding, effective communication skills, informed choice and so much more. The previous degree I did was nothing in comparison to midwifery, this was intense.
Qualifying as a midwife in 2009 was the most wonderful experience. I felt incredibly proud of myself and all I had achieved, particularly as I had done it whilst having and raising a family.
If you are interested in becoming a midwife, you will usually need either 3 A levels or an equivalent level 3 qualification and GCSEs to support. If you don’t have these qualifications, you may be able to gain entry to university via access to midwifery courses. To find out more about becoming a midwife in the UK, click here
To find out more about becoming a midwife in the United States, click here
To find out more about becoming a midwife in Australia, click here
To find out more about becoming a midwife in Canada, click here