Welcoming a new life as a midwife

|     Hajah A     |

THIS is a story about my life as a midwife. I am telling this story neither to offend anyone nor to demean the profession that I have been proudly practising for the past 20 years.

Before I begin my story, I would like to first and foremost congratulate and express my deepest gratitude to all midwives who have just entered the working world upon passing their examinations. Your job as a midwife is among the most challenging and exhausting. You have become the next generation of midwives and with all of you around, Insya Allah, our children and grandchildren will be in good hands.

Being a midwife requires the utmost focus, as caring for both mother and baby is extremely exhausting. It is worth the effort, though – we’re talking about saving two lives at once! But if you are simply seeking a great challenge, then this job could be that, though it pales in comparison to, say, conquering Mount Kinabalu.

In my family, I am a very mindful person who would always take care of anyone in pain. In fact, my childhood is filled with stories about care, which upon looking back, seems surreal to me.

Here is how it all started, my life as a midwife. Over 20 years ago, I was offered to study a course (midwifery). I did other courses then, but this time it was different; this midwifery course would change my life forever and propel me to establish myself as a qualified midwife.

Twenty years is a long time and back then, I was single and my first assignment at the time was simply to study and observe.

After several months in the classroom listening to theories of midwifery, we were placed at clinics where I got to see first-hand the birthing process as well as proper care.

We were paired up with the senior midwives and were not allowed to handle any instruments in the maternity ward unless we were told to. Having physical contact with the mothers and the newborn babies is also not permitted without permission. Only after the permission is granted will we be able to tend to them according to the procedures we learnt in class.

One of the most awesome experiences was getting to see the birthing process, which can be very lengthy! During the eight- to nine-hour labour process, the midwife on duty has to do all sorts of things for the mother: she has to check on the mother’s ‘duration of contraction’ and ‘strength of contractions’, along with the progress the mother is making through a unique method. All those things were recorded in a special document.

All I can say is that it takes an expert midwife to be skilled in measuring and knowing how far the progress a mother has made going into labour. Such a midwife can be described as one who has worked in the labour room for over a year; though she may be around 25 years old, she has already done steady work and her performance is almost on par with a senior midwife. Reaching that level would take months, and I was at that time confused, doubtful and stressed out (granted, it was my first day).

Imagine how easy it was for the midwife to determine when a mother would deliver her baby. I could tell from the midwife’s facial expression. A ‘positive’ expression would mean a shorter delivery process and a ‘negative’ one would mean a longer one. Surely an expectant mother would always hope for a quick delivery and not prolonging to the next shift.

One of the signs when an expectant mother is ready to give birth is when she says she needs to go to the toilet. The midwife would quickly check on the mother and guess if she’s right. I was confused – why would a mother say she needs to go to the toilet when she is about to give birth at the same time?

Well, to explain it briefly from an anatomical sense, the location of the large intestinal tract that discharges waste matter is really close to the opening where the baby will come out. Therefore, the baby will come out of that designated channel; gravity and frequency of contractions will push the baby out. The mother would experience great stomach pains when this happens until the baby finally comes out.

My stomach churned and twisted watching the delivery process first-hand; even the breakfast I ate felt like spinning in my stomach. My mentor standing next to me was the complete opposite. She was fully calmed and composed, unaffected at all. In fact, she steadily and clearly explained to me in detail what a midwife needs to do once the baby comes out. She could only smile and shake her head at the sight of me being nervous and terrified – the information from her did not go into my brain at all!

I almost passed out when I saw the baby came out; the newborn baby crying very loudly, his or her small body covered in blood and watery fluids spilling over the bed out of nowhere. I was getting confused and overwhelmed.

To add to my bewilderment, I could see that the baby was with a full head of hair. Not just hair, it was like thick wool! I had never seen a baby with hair, not even my siblings when they were born. With blood everywhere, I started to feel weak and had to find a seat and calm down.

Another remarkable thing that I noticed was the fact that the mother stopped quivering – almost immediately after the baby came out of her womb. She no longer screamed and cried in pain. Instead, she smiled and was joyful upon receiving her baby from the midwife. In my mind, she should have been trembling in excruciating pain but I was completely wrong. Allah the Almighty’s creation is absolutely amazing!

Presently, I am completely happy with my life. I am still working as a midwife and I have never forgotten that very first day I witnessed the birth of a child. That child must be 18 or 19 years old now, perhaps studying in a university.

The sense of calm and serenity when helping a mother gives birth to a child is what sustains me throughout the years.

To all the midwives who have just started working, may you all endure and succeed in the profession. Train the next generation of midwives properly. So that our minds and hearts can be put at ease knowing that our children and grandchildren will be in good hands upon birth.