Sunday, 21 September 2014

Book Review// Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin

For months and months, one name has been bubbling at the back of my mind. It's dropped into lectures, tutorials, midwifery blogs and conversations between peers. Ina May Gaskin - the mother of the natural birth movement. 

When you're a midwifery student, birth is on your mind 24/7. Every full moon, I look up at the sky and wonder how many babies are being born at the time. I see pregnant people everywhere, and I'm always itching to ask them about their pregnancy and birth plan. If I see a new mother, I immediately want to know what their baby weighs, how old it is and hear her birth story in excruciating detail. With my first semester as a student midwife drawing to a close, and exams and assessments stressing me out, I found myself wondering why am I doing this to myself? I turned to Clemmie Hooper, the writer of my favourite midwifery blog, Gas and Air, on twitter to ask which Ina May Gaskin book she would recommend to a student midwife, desperate to reignite her passion for caring for women in the midst of stressful physiology and nutrition exam prep. The answer - Spiritual Midwifery.

The book opens with a collection of beautiful, natural birth stories in which Ina May and her gang are finding their way as midwives and the mothers are made to feel empowered and beautiful throughout their birth. For Ina May and the Farm midwives and the women they serve, giving birth really is a spiritual experience. They are without fear and they ride their "surges" like a surfer rides a wave, finding their own unique ways to deal with the intensity of birth and help their bodies open up to bring a baby into the world. I was totally in awe of every single woman in this book! Never have I read such a massive collection of birth stories which are so positive about the experience and so natural in happening! 

The second part of the book talks in detail about midwifery practice, with more demonstrative birth stories along the way. Of course, as with reality, there are not always happy endings, but the statistics at the back of the book show a remarkable disparity between the birth statistics on The Farm, which show an overwhelming majority of natural births and extremely low intervention rate, and the rest of America.

I could not put Spiritual Midwifery down and I know it will be a valuable tool in my career. While reading my copy of the book, I envisioned creating a little "library slip" for the inside cover and lending it out to friends, family and colleagues over the years. Already it has made it's way to Yamba for one of my fellow midwifery students and good friends to read on her holiday. 

This book really opened my eyes to the magic of birth, and the power of the experience. While some bits were sort of hippy-dippy, overall, I absolutely loved it. The pages are interspersed with beautiful black and white photographs of happy families and women in birth, and gorgeous, symbolic illustrations are peppered throughout. It was both informative and entertaining, and I would recommend Spiritual Midwifery as a MUST READ to all expectant mothers, midwives and midwifery students, and as an interesting read to anyone who enjoys a good birth story!

Friday, 12 September 2014


Spring is right around the corner here in Australia, and it’s already starting to warm up, so inspired by Kate from Clear The Way’s Write It Out series, I decided to share this piece of writing I did last year in my creative writing class at University. It’s a little story about “Spring” returning from a holiday and setting about her work once more. It might be a little corny, but it was a fun little exercise to do to get me into a creative mindset. I hope you enjoy it.

Light filtering through the curtains woke me, and birds seemed to call from a distance as I pulled myself out of bed. It was my first day back at work after a long vacation, and the bitter cold of the morning did not sit comfortably on my skin. I dressed in layers, knowing that the day would get warmer as it went on, and set out for work. Eira had been the last person to work my post while I was away, so I was nervous to see what mountain of work was waiting for me as I made my way into town. Traffic was slow, and the coffee I bought on the way not quite warm enough to fight the cold of early morning. Sure enough, when I arrived at work and finally seated myself at my desk, I found myself overwhelmed by the amount of work I had to do. Eira always left me snowed under when he covered for me on my time off.

The morning went quickly, as I buried myself in my work. Lunchtime was just around the bend when I decided it was time to take a break and wended my way through the rabbit warren to the tearoom. Sipping icy cold spring water, I unbuttoned my cardigan and watched as the office birds flew in, eager to hear where I’d been. Conversation carried on politely through my entire lunch hour.
“I hate to rain on your parade, ladies, but I really must get back to work now.” A sunny smile, and off I went back to my desk, still not quite caught up on the work that Eira had left me. As the afternoon came to a close, I stepped out of the office glad to be going home and completely satisfied with what I had achieved for the day.

Warm sunlight mingled with a slight breeze on my cheek, and loose strands of hair danced around my face as I walked to the car. A feeling of contentment spread through my body, and I closed my eyes to enjoy the moment. I’m back, I thought. I’m back at work; doing what I love and I could already see the sparkle in the eye of those around me that came with spring. The sun glowed pink on the horizon as I pulled back into my driveway, and cicadas greeted me like old friends as I made my way to the front door. “Goodnight, sun!” I called out into the evening, as it disappeared over the horizon. “We’ve got a lot of work to do tomorrow.” It’s a tough job awakening the world after winter, and on the first day of Spring, I knew the both of us would need all the rest we could get.

Monday, 8 September 2014

On wearing glasses and body image

Lately I've been thinking a lot about my looks. I know that sounds narcissistic at first glance, but please let me explain:

We all know there is a lot of pressure in society for females in particular to look a certain way. We've all had to deal with stereotypes based on our looks, with judgement and criticism, and I'm sure that most of us, at some point, have been ashamed of our bodies, or at least certain aspects of them. I have been ashamed of aspects of my own body, and struggle with body image on a daily basis. I was bullied in school, first for having freckles and wearing glasses, and later for being "too thin". I was called anorexic, I was called "horse face" (my head is kinda long) and was ashamed of the body and face I was born with. When I was in year 8, the bullying (not just about my body, but about other stuff too) got so bad that I developed severe depression and was having thoughts I'm not proud of. It all culminated in me getting a ball to the face (deliberately), which pushed my glasses back into my eye sockets and bruised my face, with me snapping and hitting the main antagonist back (open palm, but to this day the only thing I regret about the situation is not doing it sooner, and not doing it with a clenched fist), and a change of schools which made me infinitely happier, and ended the bullying (for the most part. Teenage girls can be mean!).

The incessant bullying, the comments on my body, they stuck with me. I won't pretend that "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger", because that is bullshit. The comments these people made to me, the confrontations, the name-calling and the insults have all stuck with me. They're branded in my mind and soul and I have to battle those demons every day. The things that have stuck most are the comments about my glasses. I know the word "nerd" is seen as endearing and "in" right now, but believe you me that when you're a preteen struggling to come to terms with being female, with society's ideas of what is "pretty", being called a nerd is not cool.

For years I struggled to accept the fact I need to wear glasses. I've had them since I was seven years old and so spent all of my teen and preteen life feeling ashamed of my freckly face and the metal frames that were perched on it. Despite needing to wear glasses pretty much all day every day, you will be lucky to find a photo of me wearing them in my teenage years. Every time someone whipped a camera out, my glasses came off. To my silly little brain, glasses were ugly, and wearing them made me an ugly nerd. 

I'm happy to report that somewhere along the line, once I left school I had a change of heart. Thanks to the sudden attention of boys, my confidence built. I'm totally ashamed to say that it took a male's approval to shake me out of my silly, unconfident, glasses-hating ways, but it's true. A guy told me I was beautiful while I had glasses on, and kissed me and I remember excitedly telling my mum when I got home "He thinks I'm beautiful with my glasses on!" as if it was a total miracle. I started wearing eye make up to accentuate my eyes behind the lenses, I bought a pair of attractive designer frames and I began to own those glasses! I began to accept them as a part of me! I wear them as if they're a banner saying "I'm an attractive, well-educated, intelligent and classy woman, dammit! And my glasses frame my face and draw attention to my sparkly green-brown eyes!"

Recently, I have begun considering getting laser surgery on my eyes to fix my short sightedness. It's something the teenaged me wanted for years, but 20 year old me is in two minds about it. Over the past three years, as I have come to accept and even love my freckly, glasses-wearing face, I've begun to feel like my glasses are a part of me. Contrary to my teenage years, these days you're lucky to find a photo of me not wearing my glasses! I feel as if my face looks naked without them, and as much as I'd love to not have to constantly wipe my glasses in the rain or wear safety goggles over my glasses like a fool in my lab classes so I can see my experiments, I think I would kind of miss them if I didn't have to wear them anymore.

It's been a long road to acceptance of my body and face and self-love for me, but I know I'm not alone in my experiences. Is it really so crazy to think that I may miss my glasses, which gave me such hell growing up, if I were to have my vision fixed? Won't I still be the attractive, well-educated, intelligent and classy woman without them? I'll just have to find something else to draw attention to my eyes and frame my face. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

My mini ecosystem!

I've been obsessed with the idea of terrariums for a while now. A little group of plants I don't have to water in a cute glass jar? Yes please! I'm a serial plant neglecter. The strawberries I planted when I first moved in to my house barely lasted a month, and it's a miracle the two palms in my living room are alive, considering how often I give them water (maybe twice in 4 months?). I thought about making a terrarium myself, but considering my history with plants, even after much browsing of tutorials on pinterest, I was reluctant to try it. That's when a friend of mine posted a couple of pictures of terrariums he had made on Facebook, asking if anyone would be interested in buying one. Ooh, yes please! I thought. Soon after, he started up a Facebook page for his terrariums called Brisbane Terrarium Co. and tempted me with picture upon picture of little mini ecosystems that pretty much look after themselves! It was really tough trying to decide on which one to get, but eventually I settled on this little one, mostly because of the cute jar if I'm honest! I was pleased as punch when I went to pick it up from his mum's house, and think it's a really cute conversational piece to have in my house. 

Since buying this terrarium, many more beautiful ones have been uploaded to the Facebook page, making me seriously consider buying another. I think two or three displayed together would look absolutely great, but since I'm in the middle of moving house, I will have to be content with one for now. If you're local to Brisbane/the Gold Coast/ the Northern Rivers area and would like a terrarium of your own, head over and like Matt's Facebook page to see which terrariums he currently has on offer. All the terrariums are very reasonably priced, and he offers pick up from Brisbane, or irregular delivery to the Gold Coast and Northern Rivers areas. 

Monday, 1 September 2014

From Student to Midwife: Part 1

What's in my bag: Student Midwife Edition

Considering the overwhelming amount of support I received from the blogging community when I decided to switch university degrees, I thought it might be fun to keep you all updated on how my midwifery studies progress. It's week 11 of my first semester right now, and I must say, I was quick to learn this degree would not be a walk in the park!

To become a midwife, as well as learning actual midwifery skills such as birthing techniques, how to check blood pressure, how babies develop etc. you also need a lot of foundation knowledge, which is what I am tackling in this semester and over summer semester. This semester I am taking Health and Indigenous Australian Peoples, which is a subject about cultural awareness in health care, Food and Nutrition in Health, and Human Physiology, and boy are those last two hard! Human Physiology covers such a ginormous amount of content that I am kind of struggling to keep up, and Food and Nutrition in Health is a lot more complex than I thought it would be.

As a part of Food and Nutrition in Health, we are keeping short food diaries and creating basic individual diet plans for ourselves to see if we are meeting our individual dietary needs. As someone who struggles with their appetite and has various food restrictions due to health problems, I've found it interesting and challenging so far! The food intake study is my main assessment for this class, so it will be interesting to see how I go with the theoretical stuff that goes along with it!

As for Human Physiology, well so far I have only had an online test which I passed (thank god!). I was supposed to do a closed book exam in week 8, but I was ill and so sat it last week instead. I'm incredible nervous over it, because by all accounts, it was terribly difficult!  As much as I love learning about the human body, I am looking forward to being finished with my foundation subjects and moving onto midwifery practice subjects next year!