Anyone who is or ever has been a student midwife will know that the journey is an extraordinary mixture of challenge and privilege. The combination of assignments, exams, shift work and emotional learning is, quite frankly, exhausting. Yet sharing in women’s lives and being privy to some of a family’s most intimate moments seem to make the tiredness somehow fall away.
Just prior to commencing the first year of my training, I became involved in setting up a charity called Mummy’s Star, to support pregnant and postnatal women with cancer. I knew then that I would be busy, but I little realised quite the trajectory of the emotional rollercoaster I was about to board. Mummy’s Star is now a rapidly growing national charity, about to host our very first conference, and I am approaching my third year of midwifery training. At times hanging on by my fingernails, but still loving every day!
As a student midwife and the Chair of Mummy’s Star, I have gained a rather unique perspective. I have come to know myself afresh, and changed in ways that I would not have thought possible in my forties. Having been afforded so many precious opportunities to share in the experiences of women and their families, both joyful and devastating, my own life has been thrown into sharp relief.
At Mummy’s Star we work in four ways: providing advice and links to support services; advocating for changes to make things easier for affected women and families; giving small emergency grants; facilitating both individual support and peer support via administrated internet forums.
On our charity forum I support and facilitate a wide variety of pregnant and post-natal women. Some have received a terminal diagnosis, some are in recovery, some are enduring painful treatments whilst caring for a newborn and some are undergoing chemotherapy/surgery whilst pregnant. This requires sensitivity, empathy and compassion, and not a little resilience. It is through reflecting upon these experiences and seeking support when I need it, that I am able to bring these skills into my practice, making me a stronger and more responsive student midwife.
As we approach our 2nd Anniversary as a charity, there is much to reflect upon. We started up because, having been in this unusual position ourselves, we knew that there was little support available. As we grow and learn more through the experiences of the families we help, we can better shape the future for the women who will be diagnosed next week, next month, next year. The support we have received has been astounding and we are currently working with over one hundred families.
During our second Cancer and Pregnancy awareness week in June, we will be hosting a conference for medical professionals. We hope to raise the profile of cancer in pregnancy, and to increase the number of women countrywide who receive consistent, accurate advice regarding cancer treatment options in pregnancy.
From a midwifery perspective, we are working to improve midwifery service provision through education, information and support to midwives and student midwives. We aim to facilitate practitioners to promote normality, signpost and provide good quality, well-informed midwifery care to women in this complicated, frightening situation.
If you would like to know more, why not come along to our conference at Salford University? It is free, but you’ll need to reserve your place.