My alarm is sounding, but I am already awake, I jump up and my heart is pounding. The day is here, my first day of placement, in a real hospital, on a real maternity ward – I have been anticipating this day, not just since being at University, but from beginning my path to becoming a midwife (my dream job). I get dressed in my uniform and bolt out the door. Did I forget anything? I spent days preparing for my very first shift on birth suite – I was ready, EXCITED and a little nervous about the 10 hours to come!
I arrive at the hospital; there are not many familiar faces. One midwife grunts at me “are you here for a shift or continuity,” I reply excitedly “Hi, My name is Nikki, I am a first year and today is my first day on birth suite,” she replies again “check the board, there’s nothing happening.” “Rats” I think to myself and wander off to look at the board. I set about trying to navigate myself around a little better, and see a familiar second year student, who helps me to feel safe and not so alien. Fifteen minutes pass by and a woman has entered the ward at 36 weeks with an antepartum haemorrhage, I get to meet her and learn about her family, I am asked to get her a heat pack and happily oblige. Next minute as I am walking out the door I am told to forget about the heat pack and fit the woman for theatre stockings. I do as I am asked, and in what seem like minutes I am rushing down the hallway to the operating theatre for a category two caesarean. Talk about being thrown in the deep end! I am excited for the experience, but my heart is heavy for the woman whose partner has decided he would prefer not to come to theatre. I quickly change into my scrubs, wash my hands in the bay set aside for scrubbing in and walk into a whole new world. The lights are bright, the mood is dull and someone is shouting at me “what is your name,” I stumble my name out pathetically and retreat to a wall, the midwife I am on with enquires if I have ever been to a caesarean before – “just my own” I reply. Where I should stand, what I do, am I allowed to talk to the woman? I trust my instincts and walk to the head of the bed to speak with the woman. I hold her hand and tell her that I am here if she needs me. I am torn, I want to see what is happening, but midwifery is all about ‘being with’ woman. I quickly slip out of her grasp while she sleeps at the table (the first and only woman that I have seen sleep through a caesarean), I stand at the wall and watch the obstetricians pull and snip away at the layers of this woman’s abdomen. I am struck by the way the staff communicate with each other and in no time they are opening the uterus and trying to deliver the baby. They pull and push vigorously; it takes my breath away, and still no baby. The baby is in a breech position, his body is delivered, and his head is stuck. My heart starts racing as I watch the clock, “come on buddy” I thought I had thought to myself, but obviously I said this out loud….inappropriately it seems! “You need to remember the patient can hear you” a nurse says to me. Oh god – I said that out loud??? More time passes, it feels like hours – the obstetrician makes more cuts to the uterus and finally the baby is born and he SCREAMS. Oh my God, he made it (every part of me and the other staff in the room had started to numb to the feeling that this baby was going to have a battle to live). The woman is awake now and I sit with her and hold her hand while we wait for the baby to be brought to her. I feel as if I am in a dream, two hours ago I was driving to my first shift on birth suite and now I am sitting in, on an emergency caesarean. The rest of the surgery is completed and I am sent to the ward. I need to have a coffee, a tea, something. I sit by myself and reflect on what I had just experienced. How privileged I feel to be able to witness a baby being born today.
“Excuse me, are you Nikki?” I am abruptly pulled from my daydream, “yes,” I splatter like a first grader. “There is a woman in labour and I’ve been told you are on birth suite.” “Yep, I am, where do I go?” I am flustered, I trip and knock a trolley and make a large bang in the hallway – people come to check what the noise is. I flush red and admit that I am clumsy, whilst retreating in the opposite direction. “Get yourself together” I tell myself (this time it wasn’t out loud). I feel like a clown, almost similar to my first driving lesson, no matter what I did I could not stop the car from bunny hopping. I needed to get myself calm. There are people who need me, and the midwives are watching me. I feel very conspicuous.
I take a deep breath and walk into a birth suite and am greeted by a woman labouring and her uncomfortable partner. Here we go; all this role playing, the theory writing, the reflecting, it all comes in to play now – this is really real, this is happening, I am here! I introduce myself and spend hours watching this amazing woman labour. I don’t know what I should be doing, so I offer ice, wet washers, showers, music, lemonade and encouragement. I pat the father on the back and tell him it’s OK; I massage the woman’s back and hold her hand through contractions. After a few hours I am asked to take a break, I am reluctant to leave – but I acknowledge my hunger (I ran out the door so excitedly, I forgot to pack food or eat breakfast), I take a quick break and call one of my very best University friends, we squeal and giggle like 5 year olds and next minute I am crying – wait! Where did that come from? I realise that I haven’t really acknowledged my morning, my exhaustion and I am forgetting where and who I am. I take a bit more time and recover from my emotional reaction and return to the woman and her partner. The contractions are heating up and it looks like birth is looming close. We talk about delayed cord clamping and she decides that she will give it a go. The woman is giving up now. I’m confused – I know that this is what they say will happened, but she really didn’t seem the type (I later find out that EVERY woman goes through a stage of wanting to give up….this is called “ transition”). Many more hours pass as I sit alone with the woman and her partner and really get to know them. They ask me questions about my life and I answer. We understand each other, we have bonded. A baby girl is born vaginally with the mother on hands and knees. I am speechless, my heart is full of a singing and blissful joy – I manage to mutter “Welcome to earthside, Princess, Happy Birthday” to the baby and “congratulations, you are amazing” to the woman.
I look at my watch and realise I have already stayed an hour past my finishing time. Is this it? Do I just say goodbye and leave? I just watched a woman push a baby through her vagina, and goodbye just doesn’t seem to cut it. I walk back into the room and see the woman holding her baby, so much love in her eyes, so much contentment. I tell her that I have to go because I have stayed past my shift and I could be in trouble. She turns to me with tears in her eyes and thanks me. She tells me I am amazing, that she couldn’t have done it without me. I am in shock… what? Me? “You were so amazing, and I am so grateful that I got to be here with you guys, thank you so much”, I mutter. We exchange a small hug and I walk out of that room, never to see the couple again.
I’m driving home; I’m crying and craving the hugs of my family and friends. I can barely see through the tears. I feel exhausted and unclean, but, my heart is still singing from what I experienced today. Today feels like I really got somewhere, I certainly cemented my love for birth, women and babies. My heart is overflowing and replaying the events of cuddly babies, empowered women, loving families and strength. I feel complete and invigorated and ready to do this for the rest of my life. Who knew that just one day, the first day on placement, could answer so many questions, bring up so many emotions and fulfil me in a way I could never explain. For the first time in my life, I feel safe, I feel at home – I am complete!
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I adore this post. Its very similar to my first day of placement and I still feel the same everytime I walk into the hospital. So awesome of you to share, I have goosebumps
Wow Nikki what an inspirational story, you made me feel apart of your journey I thank you so much for that. My name is Dawn and I am a 1st year student Midwife at Wintec Hamilton. Two months to go and I will be there exactly where you were on your first day, Very nervous and very afraid of making many mistakes. However WOW your story has so inspired me to embrace what is to come. Thank you so much again for sharing your first day experience Nikki.