Learning to be a midwife

02 January 2020
Volume 28 · Issue 1


As a newly qualified midwife, Rosie Ladkin explains how it is the women she has cared for who have inspired and taught her the most

I am in the midst of my eighth week working as a newly qualified midwife. I'm not going to lie to you and say that it has been easy, but it also hasn't been quite as difficult as I thought it would be—particularly with moving to a new trust post-qualifying.

Naturally, the first few weeks were overwhelming and daunting; they brought with them a bit of a crisis of confidence, an element of imposter syndrome and I became the analogy of the swan on the water: calm on the surface but paddling like crazy underneath just to stay afloat.

That said, a few weeks went by and I started to feel like I could do the job quite well. I began feeling comfortable with what I was doing and contributing to the team. I realise that this mainly comes down to an incredibly supportive team at my new trust who have helped orientate me into the world of the qualified midwife, and I would like to thank them for that.

But, I also credit it to the experiences I have had over the last three years as a student midwife. Whenever I have queried my skills or knowledge since qualifying (as every newly qualified midwife does regularly), I have found support and answers from looking back at the women I cared for as a student.

I will never forget the overwhelming sense of gratitude I felt when I witnessed my first birth. I was on a community placement – my second day out of university and my uniform still brand new and smelling like the plastic packaging it came in – and a call came in for a home birth in our area. I remember the surge of excitement flooding through my veins as I realised I would be going along.

The next few hours flew by, with the woman in a birthing pool in her living room, me as the brand new student midwife with absolutely no idea how to help, holding her hand and quietly reassuring her that, ‘You can do it’ and ‘You are amazing’ until finally, her baby was crowning.

After her baby was safely born and snuggled into her chest, in that perfect, quiet moment, she looked up at me and asked, ‘So Rosie, how was that for you then?’. Needless to say, I burst into tears. Not only from the remarkable experience of witnessing her birth, but also from the complete generosity and selflessness of the woman in that moment, to bring me into such a special time, arms open wide, allowing me to learn and observe something which is so inherently private and personal.

From then on, I remember feeling that gratitude for every woman that I came into contact with. When you think about the completely selfless action of letting a student into the room at such an important time; even if it isn't specifically for birth, the act of allowing me in helped me and countless other student midwives learn their craft. It is important to remember that none of these women had to have us there. All women are given the choice, and so the number of women who accept us and let us into the room for us to learn from their special moments is astounding.

‘I remember feeling that gratitude for every woman that I came into contact with’

As a student, I helped care for countless women antenatally and postnatally, checked over hundreds of newborn babies, and attended several caesarean sections and instrumental deliveries. I ‘caught’ 42 babies and case loaded eight women from booking through postnatal discharge. I witnessed and assisted in many emergencies, seeing how quickly the midwives reacted and learning how to act in each case.

These are the experiences that I have found are helping me now. Above and beyond anything I've read in a book or learnt at university (although they definitely help too), each of these experiences, and therefore each of these women and their families, has truly taught me what I need to know to become the midwife I want to be.

In moments of doubt, I draw from each of these women, remembering what happened and what I need to do. Without them, I wouldn't be a midwife; I simply wouldn't have qualified. I wouldn't be able to do the job I do, and love, today. I simply wouldn't be the me I am now and I'm extremely grateful for that.