Another addition to the Marvellous Midwives series! Meet Rochelle, a midwife living in the Middle East who shares lots of information on Instagram about pregnancy, birth & beyond.
Tell me about you, where you are from and how long you have been a midwife
Hello, My name is Rochelle. I have been a midwife for over 6 years and am still learning, evolving and developing as a midwife each and every day. I love my job and the profession whole heartedly and to me its much more than just a job.
Why did you decide you wanted to become a midwife?
I always knew growing up I wanted to be in a ‘caring profession’. I spent quite some time once the opportunity arose to apply for university positions, researching the role of a Nurse and the role of a Midwife. I realised that a Midwife is exactly who I wanted to be. I wanted to be able to impart knowledge, to advocate and support women and their families at potentially one of the most vulnerable points in their life. So far, I feel like I am achieving this gradually and using my small voice to continue to educate women and other professionals.
How did you find the training?
Although I was only 1 of only 2 black student midwives on my midwifery course at the time, I thoroughly enjoyed my training. It really challenged me, I was quite a shy teenager at the start of my training in 2011. I initially found it very difficult having conversations with some women who were much older than myself, it felt a bit daunting at first. Having to ask personal questions regarding their sexual health, domestic violence and even teaching women how to breastfeed feed felt foreign to me. I would often be asked how old I am, and if I had any children? I often doubted myself, as to whether I was good enough or could do the job because I was the minority black midwife, I was young and I didn’t yet have children of my own. As time went on my confidence grew, my understanding of midwifery and its depths also grew. I soon realised that this was my passion, I was in a position of power within my own right and this was what I had been destined to do. So my race, age and whether or not I had children, had nothing to do with my ability to be a fantastic midwife.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I think the highlight of my career so far, has been being able to work as a midwife abroad. It has enabled me to learn about new and different cultures and I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people, from all over the world and form lifelong friendships.
What have you not liked so much?
I somehow didn’t initially anticipate how difficult it would be to work in such a female populated field. It is difficult at times working with so many females with different attitudes, personas and moods for example. Not only that, but I have found that especially when I was newly qualified I expected and hoped to have more support from my older colleagues, however I found that they were not as supportive as anticipated. I often felt judged because of my age and had to prove myself and my clinical ability. We are not always as welcoming and supportive of each other in the profession, as we really should be.
Tell me 3 qualities that make an excellent midwife
A fantastic listener- You may know all the answers and have seen it all before but it is not about you, its about that person in front of you and what they are really saying.
A passionate and dedicated advocate- Some one who is really willing to speak up for your needs and wishes, someone who is willing to go that extra mile to ensure your voice is heard both in your presence and even when your not there. This includes patients but also for your colleagues too.
Empathy- That doesn’t mean you must have gone through it yourself to understand it, it does however mean you need to be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand how they are feeling and where they are coming from. Being non-judgemental goes alongside being empathetic, whether you agree with how they feel or not that also doesn’t matter. Everyone is entitled to have feelings and feel the way they feel, being open and welcoming is paramount.
There has been a lot of awareness raised in recent months and years about the plight of black and brown women having babies. What do you think we can do as midwives to help reduce the “5 x more” and “ 2 x more” stats?
The statistic is very disappointing in my opinion however I am glad that there has been necessary light shed on the statistic this year, in the hope that changes will be made for the better. I think a lot needs to be done around education and when I say education I don’t just mean what childbirth looks like and different conditions. That is of course just as important, women need to be aware of pregnancy complications and how to access help if required. But women also need to know their rights, they need to either be able to advocate for themselves or have an advocate with them. I think there are a lot of women who come in contact with healthcare services during maternity or at other times and are not aware that they can say NO! They have to give their consent for every single procedure and every time their bodies need to be touched for any reason and if consent is not given this is physical assault. You can ask to see another healthcare professional if you don’t feel safe or confident with the one your are presented with and that includes your midwife.
I think as healthcare professionals and human beings in general we all have innate biases and prejudices, we all need to check ourselves from time to time and ensure that this is not impacting on the care we provide for our patients. We also need more black senior midwives in strategic positions of power to bring about positive change (e.g: Matron and director of midwife positions and upwards). Women coming into contact with healthcare services need to see that there are other fellow women who look like them and are in a position to help them if necessary. If we want to see real changes, we need a work force that is representative of the population we are serving. If we look around ourselves in the UK, there are few very senior black women in positions of high authority and that is the same across many other sectors. Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent has recently been appointed Chief Midwifery Officer at NHS England only in 2019, which is very refreshing to see and I can only hope more positions like these will be created and available to women of colour who do have the right credentials and want to bring about positive change. Finally, I think the healthcare system in itself needs to be reformed and adapted in a way that centralizes all women but in particular black women, who have been failed by this system for many, many years now.
What is a typical day like at work for you?
A typical day at work consists of me arriving at either 0700 for a long day shift or 1900 for a night shift. Currently I work across our triage assessment unit and brith center. We have handover at 0700/ 1900 to find out about the patients currently on the ward and potentials who may be coming in. I am then usually assigned a patient, or initially room/equipment checks before any patient arrives. Working across triage and birth center enables me to meet and care for a vast variety of patients on a daily basis. I will often try to have a morning/ early evening ‘tea break’ or if it is busy I just eat on the go, whenever and wherever I can really. The fast pace nature of both triaging patients and delivering patients on birth center, keeps me busy and on my toes for the majority of the day. My shift usually ends at 1930 or 0730 the next morning (if I get to finish my documentation and everything else on time), and I hand over to the next midwife on the following shift. I then rush home to shower, eat and sleep, to repeat the same again the following day.
Do you have any interesting birth stories that stand out?
In the recent past I have had the honour of being asked to provide maternity care for VVIP patients. These are usually Very Very Important People or Royals. Partaking in the care and birthing experiences of these calibre of patients, has opened my eyes to a different world of ‘maternity care’ completely. The behind the scenes work, operations management and coordination of human resources, that are required for such individuals are HUGE. There is often not a stone let unturned, everything has to be in place and perfect for their arrival. The arrangements of their rooms/suites and the entire floor is immaculate and like nothing that I have ever seen before. Security is extremely tight! Various multi-disciplinary teams come together from around the world in coordination, to ensure everything is seamless for the big day of the new arrival of the VVIP/Royal baby. Despite all of this there is still a human being and a new mother at the center of the care we are providing.
Give me a few random facts about yourself!
I currently live and work in the Middle-East and have done so for the past 3 years now.
I am a Sagittarius star sign
I am currently studying a postgraduate Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree
What tips do you have for any prospective student midwives?
Be authentically and unapologetically you, none of us are the same as midwives or as human beings. So don’t be shy or timid in regards to who you are, your previous experiences and all the magic you could bring the world of midwifery.
Don’t give up! We need you! There are not enough midwives within healthcare right now, especially black midwives. As I was the minority when I was training to become a midwife, I believe this may still be the case today. Irrespective we need you all !
Work hard and stay focused, create a study schedule, flow diagrams, stick post-it notes and pictures up all around your room and home as revision and mental reminders. I thought I would never be ‘smart enough’ to even go to university but I did and I qualified with a first class BSc honors degree! Anything is possible, its yours for the taking, you are our midwives, managers, leaders, lecturers and so forth of the future.