Starting with a small cliche but today really is the first day of the rest of my life. This isn’t really the direction I ever envisioned this blog going, but as of today, I’m no longer a student midwife. This both saddens me to the depths of my battered soul and brings great relief in equal measure. I have spent the best part of three and a half years on this journey but wished for it for so much longer and quite frankly, I have no idea what to do now. I feel lost and incredibly tired, so I guess I may spend some time sleeping, taking the dog for long walks, giving my house a much needed spring clean, and possibly flying off to somewhere sunny and welcoming!
At present, I have simply “stepped off” the course and am free to return to pick it up in a year, or two. But in reality, I cannot imagine that will happen simply because I don’t feel time alone will make any difference to the issues which have resulted in my withdrawal.
Whenever I hear myself talking about my situation, all I can hear is a whining voice offering up excuses for my own poor performance and inadequate personality so, dear reader I fully appreciate if that is what you hear too, however I feel that by using this platform to write it all down, I am indulging in a little piece of self-counselling which may, or may not help me move forward, albeit at the expense of exposure of my own vulnerabilities.
So, where to actually start? I have to admit, if I think back to my 2012 self when I began this ” journey”, if I was to ever consider that I would not go on to finish my degree, it would most likely have been because I thought I wasn’t clever enough to manage the workload. If there’s any redeeming feature in this whole issue, it’s that I have learnt that I’m actually not all that bad academically, and whats more, I really have enjoyed learning and have so far this year managed an 88% aggregate, which is a “First” classification. Go me!!!
I have also thoroughly enjoyed looking after women during one of the most important experiences of their lives. Even when I’ve spent an entire 12 and a half hour shift on one hastily snatched biscuit, a cold cup of tea and fit to burst bladder, it’s all felt worth it when I’ve finally said goodbye and the woman has thanked me profusely for helping her through it all. It’s also been incredibly fulfilling to spend an hour with a tearful and exhausted new mum and see a transformation before my very eyes when I’ve helped her to finally manage to breastfeed her baby painlessly and gain the confidence in her ability to nurture her baby exactly how she planned.
So where did it all go wrong? Well this is where I am most likely the master of my own downfall! For those who are familiar with Myers Briggs Personality Types ( MBTI) without exposing myself totally (figuratively speaking) I will admit that my personality is that of someone who prefers to live by clearly defined rights and wrongs. I prefer straight forward talking, which is welcomed by some, but which I am very aware can also appear abrasive to others so is something I do try to keep under control. However, this can also often make me seem like I’m trying to backtrack on my own “rudeness” with lengthy diatribe which just makes the situation even worse! Surprisingly, these days, people seem to see this trait as an indication of autism, which has been somewhat of a revelation to me as it is something that has been proffered as a “reason” for my inability to fit into the midwifery sorority. For reasons I shan’t go into here, I find this highly unlikely though!
Additionally, I realise I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my own conduct and work hard to ensure I do not often get things wrong and set myself high expectations of self control which can make me appear rigid and I tend not to show my true emotions. I definitely do not wear my heart on my sleeve, unless I feel comfortable with my surroundings and company. At work, I rarely discuss my personal life and certainly do not carry pictures of my loved ones in my purse or placed on my desk. This seems to confuse most people who like to share their families adventures, exploits and mishaps and they seem to conclude I am some kind of emotionless weirdo! I have no problem listening to their tales but in truth, yes, I am guarded, but once you have gained my trust, I am a faithful, loyal, caring, sharing and might I be so bold to say, quite humorous friend! Well I think so anyway!
Extremely stressful conditions such as awkward or ambiguous situations, being closely monitored, or being made to look foolish in front of others affect me quite badly and I have a tendency to close down, become even more distant and get even more things wrong. This exacerbates others which in turn creates more stress for me and I tend to replay the situation over and over in my mind until I’m tired of hearing my own “excuses”!
So that’s me in a nutshell!
So, choosing to be a student midwife where your skills are constantly scrutinised, where body language and words spoken both in public and private are analysed and critiqued, alongside the continual “threat” of being required to answer challenging questions put to you by your mentor in front of the very women you are asking to trust you to be a competent practitioner was, on reflection, probably not the wisest of career moves for me!
I have never failed at anything. Until now. I have always believed in my own ability to succeed, and I usually do…eventually. It usually only takes a bit of extra hard work. And I’ve never shied away from that. I cannot quite put my finger on why this approach has just not been enough this time around but it hasn’t. On a personal level, I have felt exposed and vulnerable from the start. Maybe this was because I was the oldest student in my group, I really don’t know. It has meant I have stood out as different from the start, when really I just wanted to blend in. Aside from the occasional non-mentor that I worked alongside and who have all provided glowing reports, I never had the vibe that I had a friend or ally in any of my mentors, which, rightly or wrongly, made me feel unsupported and as if they were out to trip me up. I’ve felt like I’m constantly under exam conditions. I watched other students who seemed to have very comfortable relationships with their mentors, almost as if they were being nurtured, even mothered perhaps?
Out of the 4 mentors I have had: one who was a similar age to me appeared to feel threatened by me and admitted to feeling I was being dishonest about never having studied midwifery before as nothing seemed to faze me, which bothered her immensely and eventually asked for me to be reassigned to another mentor! Another admitted that as I was a “mature woman with such worldly experience” and nearer in age to her mother, she found it difficult to mentor me and resorted instead to reporting all my “misdemeanours” en-mass at official progress reviews where they invoked “measures” and “action plans” rather than simply saying ” did you realise you did that wrong?” or even better” this is how I would prefer you to do that”. I believe I got along ok with my other 2 mentors but could see they were a little perplexed at what seemed to be a different perception of me by my other mentors Consequently progress reviews seemed rather strange with one mentor reporting she had ” concerns” whilst a second did not. And unfortunately for me, professional camaraderie is the top trump card! None of us seemed to consider that it may be the way the mentors interacted with me which affected my performance and it is only recently when I have been doing a considerable amount of reflection, that I have realised how my behaviours changes when I am under stress. So, for instance, something I was absolutely competent at doing during a shift with one mentor, would totally evade me with another! Discussions which were encouraged and regarded as “lively debate” by one mentor would be viewed as “challenging” or even ” cheeky” by another ( yes, I have become a 10 year old!).
I came to dread ” progress reviews” as I never knew what hidden “treasures” would be revealed. Sadly, the old management ethos that there should never be any nasty surprises at a progress review appears to have bypassed the midwifery profession completely. Consequently, I feel like I have lived the past 9 months in a gradually increasing pressure cooker to such an extent that I no longer recognise myself, and more importantly, I don’t think my husband does either.
It’s for this reason that I have decided to leave. I’m sorry to all who had faith in me. My family have reassured me I haven’t failed or disappointed them, but I feel I have. It pains me greatly to admit defeat.