Well, as it's the end of the year it seems appropriate to do a little reflecting back and looking forward.
I've had a busy month, some of it work & midwifery related, some of it leisure and family stuff.
I was privileged to support a woman and her partner during the birth of their second baby - she was strong and powerful, he was supportive and loving and I was able to protect the space they needed for everything to proceed naturally. The family rested in the birth centre and enjoyed quiet time with their new baby while I completed all the paperwork and legalities and then I was able to do the neonatal examination before they left for home. What a wonderful day's work.
A couple of days after that lovely birth I got on a plane for the first time in years and went to visit a friend and midwifery colleague in Dubai. To be honest it's not a place I'd have thought about visiting if my dear friend didn't live there but I was really looking forward to catching up with her and enjoying a little winter warmth at the same time.
The city is one of those places you have to see to believe - the buildings and the skyline are amazing but I loved the fact that the desert was within easy reach, and yet so too were quiet beaches. So many contrasts.
My friend was so generous with her time and, despite only having four days there, she took me to so many places: brunch in a café the locals use; a picnic in the desert to watch the sunset (and we saw a wild jird which I loved); browsing in the souks; using the river boats; watching fireworks from The Palm; the Grand Mosque at Abu Dhabi; afternoon tea in a very swanky hotel; the dancing fountains; drinking pomegranate juice in a beachfront café while watching the local crows ride the wind and last but not least a pub quiz in an Irish bar! Other highlights were the gecko in her garage, the butterflies and dragonflies in her garden and the visit we had from a gorgeous iridescent sunbird.
Somewhere in the middle of all that I managed to smash my head into a bathroom door and sported a big lump followed by a colourful bruise for the next couple of weeks - all better now.
And just in case you think it was all a whirl of giddy fun we also listened to a midwifery webinar and discussed the changes in the maternity services since she last worked here.
On my return I had just one shift in the birth centre before I had to pack another bag and board a plane to Glasgow. The snow was starting to fall in Wales as we headed to Bristol but obviously other parts of the country were affected more severely and earlier because the flights were all being delayed and cancelled. As I was booked onto a two day course I was a little anxious but eventually my flight was called and we were in the air.
Unfortunately my plan of finding my hotel, enjoying an evening meal and retiring early with a good book were thwarted. The plane landed in Glasgow (no snow, hooray) very late on a Sunday evening. By the time I'd found a bus and wandered fruitlessly in the wrong part of Glasgow before realising that the satnav wasn't showing me the right place it was close to midnight when I arrived at my (very budget) hotel. The staff were very friendly but food there was none!
Luckily the next morning I found a wonderful little café for breakfast - granola, banana, maple syrup and natural yoghurt with a pot of Earl Grey never tasted so good.
I was in Glasgow to attend 'MAM 3 Step Rewind' training - this is a technique to relieve birth trauma and was taught by Alex Heath one of the founders of the course. It was a very interesting couple of days learning about the neurophysiology of trauma then some very practical techniques to help. The class had a mix of birth workers and therapists and we all got the chance to experience giving and receiving the technique. One of the massive benefits of this technique is that it can work very quickly and the person suffering the effects of the trauma doesn't have to retell the story of their birth if they don't want to. I'll be offering the technique in the future - I need to complete a case study before achieving the full qualification.
And just as my leisure trip encompassed some midwifery, my training trip encompassed a little bit of socialising.... a fantastic curry with Alex and a couple of classmates on the evening between the two days. In fact probably the best vegetable biryani I've tasted in years, very nice!
Now this course took place a couple of days before my birthday and usually my partner and I have a few days away for each of our birthdays - often glamping for his in May and a warmer sort of cottage for mine in December. We usually stick within a reasonable distance of our homes in case of family disasters. This year, what with going self employed and everything, I hadn't booked anything for our December break (and neither had he) until fairly late notice. When I did book it I grabbed a cute little cabin with the right availability from our favourite company.
The pictures were very lovely but of course they were taken in the summer... and the observant will notice that it was snowing in Wales as I left for the airport.
The flight back from Glasgow was running on time and I was thrilled to see my partner and my little dog, Beans, waiting for me as I came out of arrivals (he wasn't wearing this outfit at the airport but it's such a cute pic of him!).
The plan was to drive directly to the cabin. We would arrive close to midnight but the owners had offered to light a fire for us to make it cozy and that way we'd make the most of the couple of days we had. So off we set.
The owners had contacted us on Sunday to discuss the snow & access but had agreed that by Tuesday the roads should be passable. As we neared the cabin and came off the main roads there was more and more evidence of heavy snowfall in the recent past. The lanes got narrower and it was dark so seeing landmarks wasn't very easy.... I think you can see where this is going.
Somehow we managed to take a wrong turn and then we got to a slope and a bend that were very frozen. We just couldn't get the car up the slope, nor was reversing far much of an option because of the winding lanes and deep snow banks either side. After lots of attempts we decided we needed to put the car off the road and either find the cabin on foot or seek help. During this time we also realised that 1) my phone battery was exhausted, 2) the charging socket in the car hadn't been working throughout the drive and 3) my partner's phone had no signal. We set off on foot in the direction we'd been travelling and eventually at the top of a rise we got a signal - yay! This was enough for my partner to work out we were on a road running almost parallel to the one we wanted but we could get there with a little more walking.
So, finally, at two in the morning we made it to the cabin. The owners had cleared a path and the fire had warmed it nicely. There were even mince pies waiting for us.
(Pic taken the following morning, in daylight)
My long suffering partner then made his way back to the car to collect dog food and essentials (Beans has a very fast metabolism and we'd had to feed him lots of food to keep him warm during the walk) but as he knew the route this time the round trip only took an hour. When we fell into bed in the middle of the night we slept very quickly and soundly.
The next day we managed to retrieve the car after the ice thawed a little and a local woman lent me a shovel to clear the worst bits of road. Now we could unpack and relax.
We had a lovely quiet couple of days - lots of reading (some novels, some neurophysiology & hormones), simple meals, the warm fire and napping - my favourite sort of holiday! The owners popped by to check we were ok having heard the story of our arrival from the local woman but other than that we saw nobody except the birds, a cheeky squirrel and a beautiful Siamese cat who came to the door much to Beans' annoyance.
Since our return it's been a whirl of catching up with chores, laundry and Christmas preparations. We did manage to fit in an ultra quick trip to have dinner with friends in Oxfordshire though.
In the middle of the whirl I was aware that many of my classmates from Deborah Robertson's Breastfeeding Specialist course had received the results of the IBCLC exam we took in October... but I was in IKEA buying chairs for the KG Hypnobirthing course at Firefly Yoga in January - yikes! I was very relieved to see the envelope on my doormat when I got home... and on opening it I was overjoyed to see I'd passed with a good mark and could now call myself an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Deborah's course takes a year and provides enough education hours but you can only take this exam if you also meet criteria regarding practice hours and the exam is only available twice a year so passing it is the culmination of much work. I am wearing my new badge with pride.
So, we're just about at Christmas and not only am I reflecting on a busy month but also on the whole of 2017 which has seen me complete a lot of courses and develop my midwifery skills in new directions while maintaining the core of my practice which is a passion for women centred, holistic, relationship based care.
I love walking beside families as they journey into parenthood for the first, or subsequent, time. I'm hoping that 2018 allows me to do that in lots of different ways whether it's with KG Hypnobirthing, more general midwifery support, using the MAM 3 step technique or providing specialist infant feeding support. I've also been invited to give some training to students and birthworkers which is exciting too and I'm currently doing a coaching course which will at the very least inform many of my other services. 2018 is looking very exciting already.
This is the first year for many that I won't be working on Christmas Day - many of my colleagues will be of course - I hope they all get the opportunity for some rest, recuperation and fun over the holidays.
Merry Christmas and a very happy 2018 everybody.