We follow midwives and students.

By Amy Towle, Christie Grace-Beck
Mar 2014

For as long as I can remember, I always knew I would be a midwife.  When the time was right, I packed my bags, left my home and headed to Dunedin to start my journey into Midwifery.  There my path was crossed by many amazing women and midwives who taught me that birth is not only a normal physiological process, but a beautiful life changing event.  Early in my days as a midwife I heard the phrase “Wahine Toa” (Te reo Māori for Strong, Warrior Woman). This phrase resonated within me and has become a part of me, becoming my pillar in birthing and also on my own personal journey. The last 8 years of working and travelling around the world has shaped me as a midwife, refined my skills and allowed me to see birth in many cultures.

One of my greatest passions in midwifery is to help women in third world countries and areas of disaster.  After travelling and working in such areas as India, Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Vanuatu, one thing that has been proven to me country after country is that women’s bodies have an innate ability to birth, it’s their mind that is the biggest challenge.  It is the mind that carries the fear, raises the hurdles and lets the doubt creep in.  In a society where birth is portrayed as something traumatic and painful, it is no wonder women are often scared and untrusting of the birthing process. Because of this a woman’s intuition is often abandoned.

Birthing a baby is a holistic experience.  It impacts a woman mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically and permanently.  For this reason, it is so important for women to harness their inner strength and ability to birth. When I first meet women who have chosen me as their midwife, I ensure they leave our visit with one key message, “This is Your Body, Your Birth, Your Choice.  Everything is a choice.”  No matter what country you are in, what religion you are, what ethnicity you are, or what your choice of birth place is, you are a woman who is entitled to have the birth she wants.

Imagine if society changed its portrayal of birth.  Imagine the difference, if pregnancy was viewed as a normal part of life, a wonderful and empowering rite of passage for women to look forward to.  For me, this is true.  This is what I witness time and time again.  Attending births as a midwife, wherever they may be, is a wondrous thing.  Privileged to get a sneak peek of the incredible strength and power within a woman.  Seeing that unbeatable smile on a father’s face when his baby is born, and that realisation- his partner is truly an amazing being.

My final message to any woman reading this is, harness your intuition. Use it, follow it, leave your mind at the door, and allow your body to do what it knows.  If you have had a positive birthing experience, tell the world.  Tell every pregnant woman who crosses your path.  You can change society’s portrayal of birth, one birth at a time.

Amy Towle – Wahine Toa Midwife

 Christie-Grace Beck – Student

Growing up in the Middle East I was exposed to many different cultures and my time there was incredible. At 12 years of age, we moved to Sydney so that my brothers and I could have a ‘normal experience’ after the fast paced lifestyle of Dubai. When we moved to Dunedin, I was 16 years old and spent a year at Otago Girls High School before deciding to leave and do the Certificate in Health at Otago Polytechnic. My goal was to get into a health related career, and this was when midwifery was introduced to me. I fell in love and had a clear vision of what I was going to do with my life. At 17 my parents moved back overseas, and I was left to my own devices, which meant less study, more fun. Subsequently my dream to be a midwife was put on hold and I went to university to ‘grow-up’.  I graduated with a major in Social Work and a Minor in Māori studies. Midwifery still ached in my heart, and I applied for the 2013 intake, the acceptance letter sent me into a burst of tears and unintelligible words along the lines of “I got in, oh my god, I got in.” The concept of working with women throughout their pregnancy, labour and postnatal experience completely meshes with me. The more I learn the stronger my desire is to be the best midwife I can be so that the women I encounter will achieve the pregnancy experience that all women deserve.

The last year has pushed me but driven my longing to be a midwife even further than I thought possible. A year of learning ‘the basics’ required more effort than any of my years at university, however, the intense satisfaction of seeing a baby born into this world and united with its family cannot compare to anything. I am embarking into second year and have the words of past midwifery students ringing in my years, the ‘you know how hard it is, don’t you?’ and the ‘second year will make you want to quit’ comments fill me with anxiety. One week into class starting and I get a call to go to the hospital immediately for a birth, I run back and forth from the front door, forgetting everything. I manage to get myself into the car and halfway to town my face bursts into a smile. This is the moment I realise that I am a second year midwifery student, and it feels so good.  I am recently married so my husband has learnt quickly that the life of a midwifery student is unpredictable and can recognise the symptoms of tiredness and hunger easily, both of which occur on a regular basis. The freezer is full of meals, and I spend Sunday afternoon making muesli bars to sustain me through any late night birthing experience this year decides to throw at me. I can’t wait to be pushed and fill my brain with knowledge, because this journey is 100% worth it.

Christie-Grace Beck -Student at New Zealand College of Midwives