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Who you might meet - The student midwife

Updated: Feb 1

During the past few years as Hailey and I have been running our antenatal classes, we have met expectant families from all over the world. Edinburgh is such a multi-cultural city and some of our class participants have come from Mexico, America, India and beyond. Maternity care is very different in different parts of the world and there is sometimes uncertainty about the different roles of healthcare professionals and what each person does. In this series we are going to be interviewing some of these people, explaining what they do, when you might meet them and how they might be involved in your care. In this blog post we meet the lovely Laura who is a registered nurse and student midwife. Student midwives work alongside registered midwives to gain the skills and experience needed before qualifying. You might meet them during any point in your pregnancy, at the birth of your baby and during the postnatal period too.

Hello! Tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

Hello Grow+Gather! I’m Laura, I’m 31 and married to my best friend Rachel. We have the world's best dog and 2 cats, no children yet but hopefully one day. I’m a huge feminist and LGBTQ+ advocate. I love fantasy and sci-fi with Jurassic park being my favourite movie. I’m a hypnobirthing teacher, A&E nurse and now student midwife. I prefer cold days to warm ones and feel chocolate is the best invention on the planet.

Why did you decide to train a midwife?

I actually get asked this question a lot! The truth isn’t that, “I always knew I wanted to be a midwife” although sometimes I wish it was. I kind of fell into it, weird I know but hear me out... As a teenager I thought I’d like to be a midwife but then I saw my first birth video in a child development GCSE class and swiftly moved on from that idea 😳. I carried on to sixth form and really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I chose A-Level subjects I enjoyed (biology, psychology & sociology) and applied to universities to continue my studies in psychology because we were told we had to do something at university. But when sixth form ended and the time came to go to university it just didn’t feel right , and it felt pointless to spend all that money on a degree that I’d have no idea what to do with at the end. So I didn’t go. I pursued a job in a GP surgery as a receptionist when I left school (I was one of the nice ones 😅😉) I was there for about 12 months before I realised I wanted to be more hands on with patients/ people. I saw an advert for a job as a midwifery assistant and applied for it. I was so thrilled that I had gotten the job and I worked there for 4 years before getting seconded by my trust to do my nurse training. When I was offered my secondment to do my nurse or midwifery training I chose adult nursing because I felt I didn’t have the life experience for the sad and traumatic parts of midwifery and doubted myself that I would be able to manage the emotional baggage that came with the job. So adult nursing it was and it turns out I really loved that too. I got a first class hons degree and worked my socks off to do so! I met my now wife at university, volunteered in Uganda 🇺🇬 maternity services (where I met Hannah) for a month and went on to work in my local A&E as a Staff Nurse and then Junior Sister. I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had and learned so much about nursing and life in general. Then one day a pregnant and labouring lady came in to A&E already pushing. I helped looked after her as she quickly birthed her beautiful baby girl in the department👶🏻 (Don’t worry there was a qualified midwife attending from our labour ward too) and suddenly out of nowhere this need to go back to midwifery was there. I had to do this! So here I am. A 30 year old student midwife once again working my socks off. I want to keep up to date with my registration because I do really enjoy being a nurse but now my calling is for empowering mothers and caring for families and babies.

What are you finding the best thing about your training?

It’s so hard but I’m loving learning more and more about normal physiological birth. Empowering women, birthing people and families with this information is my favourite thing. Getting back to normality after years of complex medical care is just wonderful.

And what about the most difficult thing?

There’s probably two things I find most difficult, but for different reasons. Mostly I find it hard to keep a good work life balance. There is so much to juggle: placement, lectures, assignments, exams, practicals, work for extra money and then time for me and my wife, friends, family. Secondly, bereavement care, it is difficult because it can be emotionally taxing, but it’s so important and I really enjoy/ pride myself in giving the best care possible to these special families.

How do women and their birth partners feel about having a student looking after them? Can you opt out of having a student midwife present?

You can always opt to not have a student and we will never force our presence on you 😂. All the families I have looked after have really loved having a student care for them. Whilst the midwife has to concern herself with what’s going on outside the room, covering breaks, managing the unit etc etc student midwives are supernumerary and we are not needed elsewhere. So we are your dedicated personal cheerleader, coach, friend. Whatever you need!

What are some of the requirements that you need to fulfill before you qualify as a midwife?

There’s actually loads! The main ones are facilitating 40 spontaneous vaginal births, which is harder than it sounds. If the birthing person has an instrumental or operative birth (c-section) or needs a manual removal of their placenta then we can’t count that. We also have to achieve things like 100 postnatal checks, 100 antenatal checks, suturing, episiotomies. The list feels endless. At the time of writing I’ve currently facilitated 18 births!

Any advice for others who might be thinking about training?

Try and get some exposure (that’s not one born every minute) like volunteer on the wards or at breastfeeding groups, even try doing hypnobirthing training (you don’t have to be a midwife to do that) to figure out if it’s for you because it’s hard graft but it is so worth it - seeing a family being born or growing is just the most special thing. But if you know what you want, just DO IT. Don’t hold back. You’ll wake up one day and regret not going for it. Don’t do it because you love babies (they’re only there for such a small part of it) do it because you love women/birthing people and families. But most of all protect yourself. Give as much as you can but hold on to what you need for you. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

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