I’ve been through the labour and delivery ward three times. Every time, I was blessed with a team of amazing midwives. During my third labour, I was lucky enough to have midwife, Alvin, who I saw every appointment from 13 weeks to the D-Day.
I knew him. He knew me. And he didn’t even flinch when I screamed, “ALVIN,” 8 gazillion times, followed by,”GET ME THE AN-ESTH-AN-A-STET, THE EPIDURAL DUDE!”
Alvin was awesome, but ever wonder what our lovely midwives do in between telling us to push and tracking down the epidural dude?
We went to Philips Avent Midwife and Birth Beat Founder Edwina Sharrock to find out. She’s been in the midwifery industry for over 14 years and shared just what working on the birth ward is really like:
What do midwives do???
First and foremost, mum duties
6:00 AM: My 6-year-old son wakes me up, prying open my eyes to see whether I’m awake. Well, now I am! Fortunately, he follows this up by popping on the kettle for me.
8:00 AM: Once lunches are packed, breakfast is wolfed down and uniforms are on, it’s time to send my kids off. I live in regional Australia so the kids hop on the bus straight from our front gate, making my day a whole lot easier.
Next stop, Birth Beat business
10:00 AM: A midwife’s shift begins at either 7:00AM, 1:30PM or 9:30PM. Fortunately for me today, I am on the afternoon shift so I have the whole morning to catch up on admin.
I spend my morning doing things around the house, getting through emails and answering questions from my Birth Beat (my online midwife program) clients who attend my online childbirth classes.
11:00 AM: On this particular morning, I have a Zoom call with a new mum who is having challenges breastfeeding. It’s a topic that comes up frequently and I encourage all parents to not be afraid to ask for help.
When struggling to breastfeed there are a range of products that can assist in providing the best nutrients from the breast. For me, the Philips Avent Electric breast pump does just the job. It has technology that actually mimics a baby’s natural feeding process so the whole experience for mum is far more simple, fast and also incredibly gentle.
While all this is going on, my husband walks past my office and looks at me laughing as I demonstrate the breast pump and hold it up to my shirt. I love how technology lets me help clients from afar without having to travel.
12:30 PM: I make myself a big healthy lunch that will keep me going through my shift and head over to the hospital.
Midwife duties begin
1:30 PM: The beauty but also challenge of being a midwife is that you never know how many women are going to give birth on any given day. Today I’m in the birthing suite, and already it’s been a very busy day.
There is a mum in labour so I jump straight into action so my colleagues can go on break.
2:00 PM: It is the first time I’m meeting a new couple so I spend some time getting to know them to build a relationship to the point where they feel relaxed and comfortable.
It’s important to also understand what sort of birth they want and how much they may already know about the birthing process. For me, education is key to ensuring my clients are well-prepared beforehand.
On assessment, it was clear she was in established labour. This is her third baby though so it might not take long.
At this stage, I try to offer support to both parents so that they know how they can help one another. Often this can be teaching the partner how to massage. Or it may be encouraging mum to find ways to be more comfortable, whether this is moving into the bath or finding new positions.
It can get pretty intense in the birthing suite so sometimes we end up playing the role of a peacemaker and a mediator, too!
As this couple have two children, they’ve been through this before. Dad knows not to put on the telly or go out for a Maccas break at this stage! Mum is handling the labour like a trooper.
Time to push!
5:00 PM: Mum’s labour is progressing well and it’s time for her to meet the baby!
I firstly assess mum to make sure she is fully dilated and then help her to understand when to push. Thankfully, this mum is well educated, so we don’t wait too long.
5:30 PM: He’s here! The first son for this family after two daughters, so there is excitement all around, especially from dad. I still cry every time I see new life enter the world. This job never gets old.
6:00 PM: My priority now is to help mum and baby learn to breastfeed together, and educate both parents on how to swaddle and hold their baby.
We also encourage the partner to cut the umbilical cord, although, I can’t say all of them are up to that challenge. Some people feel a bit faint or don’t like the idea of blood while a lot of partners think they are going to hurt their baby. Often we have to coach them through it or we simply do it instead.
7:00 PM: This time is called the golden hour – the special time when we leave the parents to bond with their new baby and spend their first moments together as a family.
During this time, I prepare mum Vegemite toast and a cup of tea, which she tells me is the best tea and toast of her life. I highly doubt that, but after 6-8 hours of labour, anything would taste amazing!
9:30 PM: At this point, it’s time for me to head home. I book a check-in with the new parents for the next day to make sure everything is going well.
Once I have briefed the evening staff on the excitement of the day, I head straight home to my own cup of tea, a shower and sleep – only to do it all over again tomorrow.
May 5th was International Midwives Day. We want to send a massive THANK YOU to all the midwives who helped us with our pregnancy, labour and postpartum journeys. I will be the first to admit I never could have done it without the support of my midwives, especially Alvin.
Oh, and of course, the epidural dude too. He deserves his own day too.