What is your role?
Sarah: “As a midwife it is my responsibility to support a woman to be ready to give birth to a new baby. We work through all the stages of the process: pregnancy, labour and birth. I work in the labour ward and am always based here so only see women coming into hospital but there are midwives who work in many different places, out in the community, visiting patients in their homes and so on.
“I think a lot of being a good midwife is about your presence. If you can walk into the middle of a room and make somebody feel that they are at the centre of your attention then I think you will be able to do a great job. If people are going through any kind of trauma with their pregnancy and they need a doctor, they won’t be looking at the doctor when he is in the room, they’ll be looking at you. That trust is at the heart of the job.
“You’ve done a good job if you’ve made the patient feel they have done this themselves. You give them the choices all the way through. All women have the ability to give birth, it’s natural. It’s your job to empower them to believe that.
“You have to weigh people up. A well-educated woman will be a very different challenge to a 15-year-old with no preconceptions. You might get a former midwife or someone who has taught themselves things on the internet. Or you might have someone who can’t speak a word of English.”
Janine: “I’m a student midwife, coming to the end of a three-year course. I should be qualified by October. I started by reducing my hours at work and going to college two days a week to get an A-level equivalent through an access course and then I got into university to start the midwifery course. I have been receiving a means-tested bursary from the NHS and steadily working towards qualification.
“Over the last three years I have covered more and more areas of midwifery. The training is very target-based – one of those being delivering 40 babies – and I have been working with my mentor, Sarah, throughout. I should, by October, qualify and then I’ll be looking for full-time midwife positions.”
Why did you want to do this job?
Sarah: “Before training as a midwife I actually worked in a lab, testing for Marks and Spencer’s textiles. But again, like Janine, it was when I had my child I saw how satisfying and enriching being a midwife could be, how much you could help people in a job and I knew I had to do it. It has completely lived up to my expectations in that way. There is such great job satisfaction in it, helping people on their journey.”
Janine: “I never really knew what I wanted to do. I was in customer service before this and then I had two children. And it was the whole experience I had when having my children which made me realise how much I wanted to be a midwife. I got to see the whole process of pregnancy and birth and how that was catered by the different roles throughout the community. I realised that I could use my customer service skills in a different way.”
What do you like about working at Derby Teaching Hospitals in particular?
Sarah: “For me it’s the people. I have been to other hospitals and we are very lucky in Derby; we have an excellent labour ward, the birth centre is a beautiful place, a really relaxing atmosphere in which to give birth.”
Janine: “I guess it can be difficult for busy midwives to take a student on board and look out for them but in Derby, they do make time. Sarah and I have just clicked and it’s been a really fun experience. But so many of the other staff members are the same; we just get on and that’s what makes or breaks a job.”
Why did you decide to take part in the programme?
Sarah: “I really wasn’t interested to begin with; I just thought I was so boring, they wouldn’t want to bother. But one day the production team were down in the labour ward and they saw me with Janine and they asked if they could film us both, as a team. I think so much has been done with midwives on TV that they were wondering how to do something new. I think maybe when they saw the mentor and student aspect, they liked that.
“I think there’s a perception that, as midwives, we are sat around drinking tea and eating cake a lot of the time. But we don’t; we work hard and make sure each mum-to-be who comes in has the best experience they can. And it’s not all babies; people are always saying ‘oh, you must love all the little babies, they’re so cute’. Maybe when I started, yes, but that does pass. For me it is about the mums and the dads. It is about seeing people become parents and watching their lives change and playing a part in that. I hope the programme can capture all that.”
Janine: “I think they asked me because they wanted to get my 40th birth. As a student there are a lot of practical targets to hit and one of those is to deliver 40 babies. At the time the crew asked I was on about 34 so they spotted the opportunity to see the story through. As it turned out they missed the 40th but by then another story had developed.
“I thought it would highlight how challenging midwifery is and perhaps be helpful for other people thinking of training as a midwife to see something of the process.”
How was it working with the cast and crew?
Sarah: “Honestly, I didn’t really notice the camera crews around when I was working. I had thought they were more focused on Janine, really and I do tend to become more absorbed.
“I think the production crew struggled to get filming consent. It’s difficult because a lot of the women who come in, they are on the brink of giving birth and perhaps don’t react too well to the idea of suddenly having a big camera on them, capturing this intimate moment.”
Janine: “They were good fun to work with. It helped that the whole crew was really excitable. They were really interested in what was happening, you could tell that. And they took a ‘no’ really well. Like Sarah says, consent was tricky but they were fine with people saying no, and they knew that when it was needed, they had to fall back and stop filming so we could do our jobs.”
How do you think viewers will react to the programme – especially the parts you appear in?
Sarah: “I think they will see how we work as a team and how we trust each other. You have to have trust, especially if you are working with a student. The student has to do what the mentor says and the mentor has to trust the student. You have to be adaptable because every midwife and every patient is different.
“People will be drawn in by the story of Alan and Alison and their expectation. It’s difficult not to take on board somebody else’s emotional experiences in this job and some people you just make a really good connection with. Dealing with bereavement is always difficult but it can be really satisfying helping them through this and when stories end well it is just an amazing feeling.”