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International Day of the Midwife

It’s International Day of the Midwife and to celebrate we’ve profiled two of our own international midwives who work at Waikato DHB’s Women’s Health service Helen Selliman and Hannah Liu.

Helen Selliman

How long have you been a midwife?

I was one of two girls trained as a nurse and midwife from our tribe in Malaysia. We completed our training of four years in 1970.

Two years after the training, I was transferred to a 20-bed District Hospital as the nurse in charge. We had one doctor, two registered nurses and four assistant nurses, and two male nurses, their roles complimented the doctor’s.

I retired from nursing/midwifery in Malaysia then came to Hamilton in 1997 with my family where I’ve been a core midwife/nurse at Waikato Hospital’s Women’s Health since 2001.

Why did you choose to become a midwife?

Midwifery has always been my passion.

When I was eight years old, a woman died with her unborn baby, of what I now believe was an obstructed labour. Back in the village then, there was no midwife, other than what was known as ‘kampong midwife’ (village midwife).

Ten years later this incident was still fresh in my memory.  What could somebody have done to prevent this death?

It caused me to think about being a nurse because in my country, at that time, it was compulsory to be trained as a nurse first then midwifery.

Can you tell us about some of your experiences as a midwife?

In Malaysia

A pregnant woman who had six previous children presented to the hospital, was bleeding quite heavily. She had no antenatal care and was about eight months pregnant. She looked malnourished and gaunt. Her tummy was smaller than eight months gestation.

I organised for her to be transferred to a bigger hospital for a possible caesarean section because we did not have any facilities for it.

It took several hours to finally get her ready for transfer. Mode of transport was either by air or sea. Unfortunately there was no flight that day, so I had to organise a boat (canoe) that was prepared with a simple improvised roof to give the woman and myself shade.

We had to transfuse the woman with a pint of blood while transferring her. We did not have a blood bank or a way to properly screen blood except for cross matching.The woman’s husband was asked to look for a donor, this was common practice, or we would ask the local police to go into town to ask for willing donors. We eventually managed to find compatible blood for transfusion.

The day was raining when we started our boat journey with the blood transfusion dangling under the roof and swaying.

Five hours later we finally reached the hospital. The theatre was all ready for us and we miraculously managed to save the mother and babies lives.

When I returned the next day to my hospital, this time by air, the boat driver told me we were actually lost at sea, that’s why it took five hours instead of three to get to the hospital.

In New Zealand

Delivering babies just outside the delivery suite entrance at Elizabeth Rothwell Building. One was during a wet, windy winter at 0300. The car door kept banging my head while I was crouching on the floor delivering the baby with the woman in the front passenger seat.

What would you say is special about New Zealand midwifery?

Compared to where I am from, the model of New Zealand Midwifery is one of the best in the world. Women are privileged to choose their lead maternity carer and choice of where to have their babies.

I am very fortunate to have been given the chance to practise midwifery and nursing in New Zealand.

From day one of my employment in Waikato Hospital, I have had great support from all my awesome colleagues, the agency manager, the midwives, the LMC support staff and cores, the managers, and medical team.

There have been many changes in midwifery over the years that vary from country to country.

Midwifery is about the woman and her baby and of course her family. A midwife aspires to provide the optimal care for the woman from antenatal right through to six weeks postnatal in New Zealand.

Comparing midwifery  in the 70’s to now is vastly different due to much research done over the years on women’s life style, core, morbidity, their values, and environment and there are better facilities to cope and manage obstetric complexities today.

Crazy as it may sound, I still enjoy midwifery because of my passion for it and most of all, the support of my colleagues.

Hannah Liu

How long have you been a midwife?

I am a new graduate midwife (from Wintec) and started to work at Waikato DHB in February 2017.

Why did you choose to become a midwife?

I came to New Zealand four years ago. When I was studying English at Wintec one of my friends told me that midwifery in New Zealand is the best in the world. I was very interested and found out more about maternity care in New Zealand I worked hard during my midwifery study and my dream became true after three years. I am a midwife now.

What are the best things about being a midwife?

Being with women during their pregnancy, birth and postnatal care. Shared understanding of pregnancy and birth, encouraging women’s self-determination, and facilitating them to control their normal body process.

What is the environment you work in and what role do you play?

I am working as a core midwife at Waikato DHB. This is my first year of practice. The transition from a student to an autonomous midwife is exciting and sometimes challenging.  I really appreciate the opportunity to join the Midwifery First Year of Practice Programme (MFYP) which helps me to apply my knowledge gained as a student into day by day practice. I believe I will become more and more confident to work in partnership with women and my colleagues.

The theme of the international day this year is “Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life!” Can you give us some comments about this from your own experience as a midwife? 

Midwives work in partnership with women and families on a one-to-one basis, guarding natural birth and supporting women to give birth with power and dignity.

What would you say is special about New Zealand midwifery?

Midwives work in partnership with women and provide continuity of midwifery care. They can practice in any setting, including home, the community, hospitals, or other maternity service. In all settings, midwives remain responsible for the care they provide.

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