Ask the Midwife - Q&A with Helen Nightingale
In the series of Ask the Midwife, Helen Nightingale, Mum, Midwife and Researcher, shares her journey into Midwifery, her maternity bag must-haves and postpartum care tips.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO YOUR PROFESSION OF MIDWIFERY AND WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCES?
I knew in high school I’d like to be in a health role. A family friend had a baby during this time and I was both fascinated and privileged to watch this new baby grow and develop. That’s how I began considering midwifery and after finishing high school I completed a four-year double degree in nursing and midwifery.
I am very grateful to have worked with some amazing midwives and obstetricians over the years, and I would regard these people as influential. But I also can’t forget that little baby who first sparked the flame when I was in high school – she is now a registered nurse and considering midwifery herself!
WHAT'S THE BEST PART ABOUT YOUR JOB?
Undoubtedly, working with women, people, families at an incredible time of their lives. Working hard to make a difference in their journey (no matter how straightforward or hard it might be) and knowing that you do.
YOU HAVE AN INSTAGRAM PAGE, @REALLIFEMIDWIFE, FOCUSSING ON BIRTH TRAUMA. WHAT MADE YOU CREATE THIS FORUM?
I started my account after I had my first baby in 2018. That was a very traumatic pregnancy and postpartum because we had a lot of complications. Thankfully, we had a good outcome, however my brain was awfully affected by the trauma and so a lot of work was required to help me mentally, and that’s when my eyes began to open to just how prevalent perinatal trauma is. Every time I would post content relating to birth or perinatal trauma, the response would be overwhelming. So from that my account became 100% focussed on perinatal trauma.
CAN YOU SHARE YOUR TOP TIPS FOR POSTPARTUM AND PERINEAL CARE?
Most of us spend around 40 weeks’ pregnant and growing a baby, but there is a societal pressure to ‘bounce back’ after the baby is born. I feel like we owe ourselves at least a 40 week postpartum period where our priority is ourselves and our babies – reflecting inwards to consider what we need, rather than what we feel we should be doing.
For perineal care after birth – lots of rest! Horizontal rest! I like to recommend the principles for physical injury healing – rest, ice, compression, elevate. The Noonie pads are unique in the sense they allow a hygienic pad for postpartum blood loss, and also the cooling element. As a midwife and a mum, this is a much more preferable to the old school alternatives we used to use (ripping open a pad to pop in an ice pack/condom filled with water and frozen (yes, you read correctly)/bag filled with ice and wrapped in a facewasher/icy poles – like a Zooper Dooper).
WHAT DID YOU PACK IN YOUR HOSPITAL BAG? HOW BEING A MIDWIFE IMPACTED THE WAY YOU PACKED YOUR BAG?
I am a little unique in this sense – I’ve had two babies, both were premature births, and both very complicated pregnancies. I had to pack a bag around 22 weeks each time, so it was really done in a state of panic and fear, sadly.
I am grateful to be pregnant for a third time, and I am hoping to have a calmer and more considered approach to my hospital bag this time. On my mental list would be:
- Comfortable clothes and pyjamas, with some that allow skin to skin with baby
- High waisted black undies
- My creature comforts – things that calm and settle me (such as nice smelling toiletries, soft clothes, socks, slippers)
- Some snack options
- Noonie cooling pads and perineal spray to facilitate healing. Even if a caesarean is required, I can use the pads against the caesarean wound for recovery.
ANY WISE WORDS OF ADVICE FOR OUR EXPECTING MAMAS?
There is that saying ‘it takes a Village to raise a child’ and while I think it does ring true, the Village doesn’t necessarily eventuate automatically! I would recommend considering and building your Village before baby is born. Think about who will be in your inner circle of support. Where/who can you turn to for advice or troubleshooting any problems (for example, lactation consultant, physiotherapist, sleep) – look out the professional supports too.
MOST EXCITING OR MEMORABLE (OR HILARIOUS) BIRTH/PARENTING MOMENT?
I think just every milestone that is reached feels miraculous. It has been a true privilege to watch my daughter grow and develop.
2023 IS WELL AND TRULY UNDERWAY, WHAT LIES AHEAD FOR YOU? (GOALS, INTERESTS, PLANS?)
Hopefully we will welcome another family member, and hopefully everyone remains healthy. Aside from this, I am progressing with my PhD and also my work in the birth trauma space.
You can follow Helen's journey and advice on her insta page @reallifemidwife