Congratulations to the winner of our 2022 Midwifery Story Competition celebrating friendship, Leanne O’Connor. In this touching tribute Leanne shares how her friendship with fellow midwife Rowena has helped them grow in their profession and helped to carry them through difficult times.
You can also check out the winning story from our Nursing Story Competition, Mel and Hester: Three Decades of Friendship.
Leanne joined us on the Your Health Matters podcast to discuss her winning story and friendship with Rowena. Check it out!
In the beginning...
Let me tell you about my dear friend Rowena. We met early in our careers 24 years ago as RNs on a busy medical ward in a regional hospital in Victoria. I had completed my degree straight from high school, but Row had as a mature age student. It was a heavy workload before ratios and always a hard slog. They were the type of shifts where there were minimal breaks, bladders were bursting and feet throbbing. We went home still thinking about the patients, fell into bed exhausted and wondered why we had chosen this career path. We shared the same life values, working as valuable team members, treating our mostly elderly patients like our own family, making the best of each situation, venting to, and leaning on each other on those tough workdays. We shared the many frustrations of work conditions, a natural friendship easily blossomed and made coming to work with Row something to look forward to. We both had not grown up in the area living away from our families and quickly became like family to each other.
We learned that we both had career aspirations to become midwives. In 1998 Row spent the year completing her Grad Dip in mid. I stayed on working full time nights to save money to complete it the following year. Early days in our midwifery careers saw us working in different states from each other whilst we consolidated our skills neither of us at the hospital where we had met. We were passionate new midwives, for us both it felt like a vocation, we were honoured to be part of such a precious time in a woman’s life. It almost seemed wrong to be getting paid for something that we loved so much.
Despite distance, we kept in touch and often spoke of the joy we had found in our new roles. Midwifery is a profession that is mostly joyful but when there are lows or poor outcomes, they are devasting for women and their families but also for their midwives. We shared these experiences, always reflecting on our practices and leaning on each other from afar.
Moving on in our careers...
2001 found us both back in the place we had met working together briefly before Row welcomed her first of three children. We delighted in her new role as a mother. We went on to work with each other at that hospital for another 12 years. During that time, we welcomed three children each. Rowena was present at my births in 2004, 2008 and 2011. I felt safe and loved in her care and know this was due to her presence and support, she made a difference to my birth outcomes as she has to many women. How blessed I was to be on the end of her care. I was at the birth of her third child in 2005. These experiences bought our friendship to a whole new level.
In early 2005 I was struggling with Breastfeeding my first born. Row, then a mum of two, got me through one of life’s toughest times as I know now to be likely undiagnosed PND. This inspired me to become a Lactation Consultant and I now support new parents with Breastfeeding. For me this is the direction my career is now heading. Lactation Support is another passion we share with each other, Rowena has also recently gained this qualification. I am still working in regional Victoria, Rowena moved to Melbourne 8 years ago where she now works and for me, my workplace has not been the same since she left.
I have personally witnessed the care that Rowena gives to women and families. She shares knowledge and experience and cares with compassion and respect. Row empowers women and their families with reassurance and love like they are part of her own family. Her life values align with the care she gives going above and beyond for her women sometimes at the expense of time with her own loved ones. Who would not want to work with her or be cared for by her?
The physical time we spend together these days is limited and recently COVID has complicated this further, but our friendship remains stronger than ever. We had a trip planned to Bali in 2020 for a Midwives Conference that may happen one day when the post covid world settles.
The last three or four years have presented both personal and workplace challenges I have never experienced before so far in my life. I have been fortunate enough to be well-supported by workplace counselling and have accessed Nurse & Midwife Support on several occasions. I am grateful this service is available to Nurses and Midwives. It has been needed for a long time. As Nurses and Midwives we give so much of ourselves to our profession, we need to be mindful that there are times we need to care for us.
I have recently learnt this the hard way. We can’t pour from an empty cup. There have been times where a career I have loved for so many years has brought with it issues I have never thought I would have to deal with and made me question if I should leave the profession. I am hanging in there for brighter days ahead.
Rowena is my rock, especially in the toughest of times lately. Row has not changed since the day we met. It doesn’t matter if we haven’t spoken for weeks or months, we pick up where we left off. In May 2021, in between lockdowns when I was struggling, my husband surprised me with a visit to Row, just the therapy I needed. There are never any explanations I have to give to her. She sees the raw me, warts and all. Row keeps it real, helps me put things in perspective and always looks at the silver lining. She reminds me of the things to be grateful for and does not sweat the small stuff. I feel incredibly blessed to call her my friend.
I am fortunate to have a few true friends in my life. There is, however, no one quite like Rowena that understands me as both a friend and a midwife. She just gets it. The friends we make in this profession are like no other. We share a passion and an understanding of each other that you simply cannot describe to someone outside of it.
If the two of us chose different careers, we may never have met. Midwifery has brought mostly joy to my life, but the most precious gift it has given me is my friendship with Rowena. They say we become stronger when faced with challenges. Row has reminded me of my strength. Whatever we face in our future lives I know we will always have each other, and one day we will go to Bali, midwifery conference or not!
If you need someone to talk to, Nurse & Midwife Support is here on 1800 667 877 or by email. We’re here 24/7, free and confidential.
Leanne has been a registered nurse for 26 years and a registered midwife for 22 years. Leanne has worked across all areas of midwifery mostly in a regional hospital in South West Victoria.
Although she has enjoyed many years working across all areas of midwifery and thrived on the buzz of working in birth suite, she has always had a passion for educating expectant and new parents working as a Childbirth Educator and in breastfeeding support.
This has seen Leanne become an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and recently change direction in her career to supporting breastfeeding mothers and their families. This is where her passion now lies, working in this role both in a public hospital and her own private practice.
Leanne’s story tells us about her friendship with Rowena of 25 years. She was inspired to put pen to paper when she heard of this competition as she had reached out to Nurse & Midwife Support herself during a recent tough time both personally & professionally. Her story is one of unconditional support she received from a colleague and friend.