In 2003, I applied for a work visa through the BUNAC (if you’re a student – check it out! http://www.bunac.org/usa). Essentially, I walked around Cambridge, England with a resume until someone hired me. Lucky for me that I dropped off a resume at the Pickerel Inn (across from Magdalene College, Pepys Scholars!) and John Dearn hired me. So I spent that summer at The Pick, and loved every minute of it. Rebecca Smith was the mother hen of our ragtag group of bar maids. Rebecca was the perfect person to spend a summer with – she smoothed all the rough edges and made the adventure feel like home. Rebecca grew up in Swansea, Wales and returned there in the years that have passed since that summer in Cambridge.
Since 2003, Rebecca completed midwifery training at Swansea University and is now a practicing midwife. If I have more babies, Rebecca will be flying to the States to deliver them. Midwifery is such a necessary and wonderful part of life and women like Rebecca are a godsend during pregnancy and labor. Rebecca and her husband are expecting their third baby girl in a few months! Congratulations, Rebecca, and thanks for being truly incredible!
Q: When we worked together at The Pickerel Inn in Cambridge, I always saw you as a mother hen. You looked after us and cared and kept us in line. It’s no surprise that you found your calling in midwifery. Can you tell me about your journey to this profession? What is most challenging and rewarding about it?
RS: My journey into midwifery was long; I had thought of the job as an option through my early teens but never felt ready to take on that role of responsibility. When I choose my path in education I choose based on my lack of confidence in myself rather than what I was striving for. When I met you (in 2003) I had given up university as a bit pointless, I was studying art but knew my heart wasn’t committed to it and I felt sure I would never achieve enough to have a viable future. In the back of my mind I still wanted midwifery and made inquiries but was turned away for being under qualified to even attempt the course. So I hid the idea away again, focusing on my current life and climbed the management within the pub trade. In the midst of this I married my husband. We moved to Bath, England following my career but a month later we found to our surprise I was expecting our first child – it changed everything!
We moved to Swansea at the end of the pregnancy to be near my family for support. I struggled to defend my right for the birth I had wanted. I wanted to deliver in my home in water, but eight years ago this was very new. I was also over weight and for these reasons my health board would not consent to my choice in birthing at home. I had a wonderful midwife who remained strong and told me to keep trying. I had read masses of evidence and books and felt sure I was making the right choice. I had my home birth we were both safe and this was a turning point in my life – the birth of my daughter and my ability to give birth my way empowered me and depicted my inner strength in a way I had never understood before. I now knew I could do anything.
We had a second daughter also born at home, in water this time. As my daughters grew, I felt I really wanted to start a career again and there was only one choice for me; it was midwifery; I wanted other women to know the strength that birth can bring and I wanted to help those women to birth their way.
I went to careers advice and was told I was under qualified and there was practically no chance of me becoming a midwife, I reminded them that this wasn’t the information I had asked for. I had wanted to know what I needed to do to become a midwife, I enrolled in a college and went back to school when my daughters were 3 and almost 2. Since they were very small it was very difficult to leave but I was building a future for our family and I wanted them to know that if you want something then you make it happen.
During my college course, I was constantly told they never take midwives on and that I should do nursing; but I remained true and when asked what I was going to do, “be a midwife” was my only response. I was called for interview at the university, which was my first confidence boost since starting my journey in college. I prepared for my interview and looked to all aspects of the job not just the baby! My interview came and I sat amongst post-graduates and a training doctor feeling out classed. We started our mathematics and literacy tests, which were followed by a face to face interview. I was interviewed by a midwife and a midwife tutor; during the interview, I discussed neonatal and uterine death (the worst part of the role of the midwife). I talked of the opportunity to make even this awful and tragic event as positive as possible, that the opportunity to meet your baby even if they have passed is highly important and part of the grieving process. I was very passionate (and still am and I think this shone through. I waited two months and was offered a place!! I couldn’t have been more pleased sharing this with my family made the struggle seem worth it; then began my degree in midwifery.
Three years of highs and lows, guilt for following my dream while missing moments in my babies lives, finally seemed worth it when I got my first class honours degree. The girls were proud of me I secured a permanent job and started work in a hospital ten minutes drive from home within two weeks of graduation.
I guess the highs are achieving the best result for the women I care for, helping them succeed, but best bit is when they meet their child for the first time. It’s a magic time, both beautiful and strange, and I get to blend into the background and see that. The worst times I think is when you feel like you let someone down, some how you could have done more, but that is being human.
Q: What brings you peace?
RS: Peace for me is my children, those moments when you’re holding tight, eyes shut and you breathe them in, there is nothing better. We are a strong little unit with deep bonds, which we have needed, but they make all struggles easier.
Q: What should everyone know?
RS: Believe. I have this tattooed on my foot as a reminder to believe in myself because I can and have achieved but also to believe in the strength of others; women in particular, the miracle birth is and how fabulous that we get to produce life!
Just to believe.