Midwife Kate Flower-Emblen says she has wanted to be a midwife since her early teens and feels blessed to do it in Armidale - the town she grew up in and in the area she loves.
"I was born in Armidale Hospital, where I currently work - my joke is I tell people I don't remember which room it was," Ms Flower-Emblen said.
"I grew up here on a small property in the bush."
Ms Flower-Emblen studied from home at the University of New England for a bachelor degree in nursing and said her intention was always to try and work in Armidale.
"After three years, I moved into town when I started working at the Armidale Hospital in general surgical nursing and community nursing," she said.
"I want to stay close by to my niece, siblings, and mother.
"I have been on trips to the big city, and it never appealed to me to stay; I always felt such joy seeing the paddocks and livestock and Dumaresq Hill coming back into Armidale.
"It's very fortunate that there is a good hospital here."
As Armidale Hospital is a rural referral centre with a wide catchment area of patients, it has the right balance of challenge and intimacy according to Ms Flower-Emblen. She says she has learned more on the job than from any assignment she ever wrote.
"It is big enough that I get different experiences in complex care, yet small enough that it doesn't lose one on one compassion for the purely clinical side of things," she said.
I honestly believe Armidale Hospital is a great place to do your training as a midwife.
"Because of its size, you get to work in the antenatal clinic, antenatal and postnatal ward, special care nursery, and birth suite, on any given day. They are all in the same department.
"The staff are wonderful; they always helped me. I personally learn by watching and doing. That's the great advantage of the practicum component of the course.
"I was employed and paid a Registered Nurse's wage, and I kept my Registered Nurse scope of practice, but as a student midwife, I got so much opportunity and so many experiences."
Ms Flower-Emblen has wanted children since she was a child herself, and time and experience has not appeared to change that conviction.
"I remember when both my younger siblings were born and when they came home," she said.
"I did not know much about what a midwife was, let alone what she did, but I was intensely fascinated.
"I read my father's old nursing textbooks, and I watched programs like the BBC's Midwives, Call the Midwife and One Born Every Minute.
"I just loved the biology and physiology behind pregnancy, human development and birth. I completely adored anything to do with the babies in my family, and I always knew I was the type who could very easily nurse and care and give compassion - such as a nurse or a midwife could.
"One day, I made up my mind, and I never looked back. Never regretted it either. Nine years and two degrees later, I am finally here, and I have not lost any of my excitement."
While she admits it might sound surprising, after more than 12 months in the role, the unpredictable nature of the job is what Ms Flower-Emblen enjoys most about being a midwife.
" I know to some that actually sounds terrible and stressful," she said.
"A lot of nurses - outside of the emergency department anyway - are used to a routine and prescribed care plan pathways. I certainly was, as a surgical nurse.
"However, if you enjoy a challenge and accomplishing goals during your eight-hour shift, feeling like you made a big difference, you may know what I mean.
"I work so that I get to see whomever I am looking after smile. I love midwifery because it's very easy to do that.
No labour and no woman is the same as the last.
"I get every opportunity to change up care plans, try different approaches, and no labour and no woman is the same as the last.
"You pick up tips and tricks along the way, but each time you're going in fresh with your critical thinking and common sense at the ready.
"The experiences and memories you make stay with you forever.
"The confidence you build within yourself suddenly spreads across every other aspect of your life.
"Once you birth and resuscitate a blue baby or save a haemorrhaging woman's life, you feel ready for anything."
The job is also quite confronting, according to Ms Flower-Emblen - particularly for new midwives or students.
"Midwives see the full gambit of life and death, well and ill, fortunate and tragic," she said.
"You have to face up to each and every one of those with a calm presence, compassion to offer, giving reassurance without false hope, and endless patience.
"I have seen so much in just my one year of training, more than I saw as a nurse.
"I cried once by myself and promised never to do that again, or I may develop a habit.
I considered quitting once and thought long and hard and pushed through.
"I would advise any student or new midwife to have someone you can talk with, particularly another midwife who would understand what you're going through. It is normal.
"On top of that, the workload is huge, and you can find yourself falling asleep anywhere as soon as you sit down."
Midwife students, in particular, have a tough year ahead Ms Flower Emblen says; being on call at any time, spending hours and extra hours on the ward for experiences.
"My life outside of midwifery study disappeared between birth suite and assignments," she said.
"I spent 19 hours once at the hospital; an 8-hour shift, 8 hours in the library writing an essay, and back for an extra three-hour birth.
"That's all behind me now, and my work-life balance it back to normal.
"I also highly recommend the postgraduate course; be a nurse first, get that general background and skillset under your belt. You will use it ten times every day."
Her advice to those considering midwifery studies is the same advice she gives to first-time mums when they come into labour Ms Flower-Emblen says.
"Do not assume you can plan it perfectly or know how exactly it will unfold," she said.
"Just keep calm, expect anything, and trust it is all okay.
"You see a hundred times more good and miraculous things than you do sad and heartbreaking.
"Midwifery is wonderful; you work with well women during a normal biological process.
"You are there help when something does become complicated, and you will have all the training you need to do so.
I see confronting things, such as miscarriage, domestic violence, difficult births, but it does not turn me away.
"If anything, it makes me push myself to give the best care I can for these women, and at the end of the day, that is enough for me.
"Being the first person to hold a baby as they are born; being right there at the start of their life is one of the best experiences you can have as a midwife."
Ms Flower-Emblen was one of 10 student midwives in Hunter New England Health's New England North West region who celebrated the conclusion of their studies with a graduation celebration at Armidale Hospital last month.
The 2020 cohort of graduates has been placed in Tamworth, Moree, Narrabri and Armidale.
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