Always going to be a midwife: Helen’s Story

helen's story

At Nurse & Midwife Support we are in the business of supporting nurses and midwives and a big part of providing support is listening to your story. We also love to share stories and celebrate the AMAZING work you do. For this year’s International Day of the Midwife, we asked one of the amazing midwives at Nurse & Midwife Support to share her story.

Like many of you, she has had a career with all sorts of twists and turns. From early beginnings in a Melbourne hospital to supporting other midwives and chasing green frogs out of a maternity ward in the Northern territory, Helen has pretty much done it all. Helen regularly inspires our team and we hope that her story will inspire you too.

Mark Aitken
Consultant and Stakeholder Engagement Manager


I was always going to be a midwife. That was never in doubt. When I started my career we trained as nurses first. I spent fifteen years working in the areas of oncology, infectious diseases and chronic health. I loved the order, the routines and I understood my place in the hierarchy.

helen when she was youngAfter having my own children, I felt the need for a change. I’d done some clinical teaching in the past few years and was tossing up between a teaching degree and midwifery. I remembered my own midwife and her quiet, comforting presence. She didn’t need to say anything but she held a space for me to labour, silently, in my own way. She acknowledged that I needed to feel in control and let me do my own thing. So midwifery it was to be

I had a staggered start to my new career. My daughter was under one year old and showing some developmental delays, so I started midwifery and pulled out of the course in the first year — it simply wasn’t the right time to be studying. Another year passed, and I decided to try again, this time at Deakin University whilst being employed at Monash Medical Centre in Victoria. The biggest challenge for me was going from a Clinical Nurse Specialist in my previous working life to a nervous beginner.

After graduation, I stayed on at Monash Medical Centre and worked across all areas of care from ante natal clinics to extended post-natal care. My favourite place to work was in the Alcohol, Drugs and Pregnancy Team. We cared for women who needed a little extra due to their social situations. It was a special needs team, and the women and families in our care had complex issues such as homelessness, drug addiction, mental health issues and sex work. The pregnant women worked with the midwives, social workers, obstetricians and other departments in the hospital for a better outcome for themselves, and their babies. It was a challenging role and all of the midwives supported each other. As we said: I have your back. I instinctively knew the importance of looking after myself. Not something I had ever been taught.

I maintained my self-care practices of meal planning, good sleep and long walks. I’ve also loved to create things with my hands. When life is tough, I can always be found with wool, knitting needles or a crochet hook in hand. It calms my mind and keeps me feeling creative. It’s so important to put self-care first, especially when work can be a little stressful.

Some of the great joys of midwifery are the skills you develop and the opportunities you have to transition into other roles and to take on new challenges. Always up for a new challenge II began to think out of the box to find a new role that combined my love of marginalised populations and midwifery. Although I didn’t feel 100 per cent qualified, I applied for a position as a family health nurse with an Aboriginal Health Team in the outer east of Melbourne.

This was a challenging role as this position hadn’t been filled for a couple months and the local Aboriginal Mums had lost their midwifery contact and were struggling to attend appointments in the mainstream ante-natal clinics. The role was varied, with no two days the same. One day I sourced and delivered a Ute load of wood to keep a house (with a premature baby) warm, and on other days I escorted women to appointments or followed up pap smears. It was a great job and I loved being with that team for 4 years.

Again, I considered another career transition. One day an email was sent to me, stating “this job is for you”. The job advertised was with Nurse & Midwife Support — it was a new venture seeking nurses and midwives from varied backgrounds with a passion for supporting the profession.

I’ve had the privilege of being with Nurse & Midwife Support since it commenced in March 2017 and I truly feel like I’ve found my home. It’s such an honour to work with nurses, midwives and students helping them find an outcome to conflict, to debrief with them and to listen to their stories.

All the Nurse & Midwife Support Telephone and Online Clinicians have a passion for supporting the profession, kindness and a sincere desire to make a difference. We firmly believe in self care, good health, and taking the time to look after each other.

helen at arnheim hwyTwo years ago I had no idea what I would turn my hand to. I’ve been on calls holding the silence while the caller found the courage to continue to share their story. I’ve been to conferences, stood behind trade tables and talked myself hoarse because I believe in what Nurse & Midwife Support do.

Due to personal circumstances I recently spent three months in the Northern Territory visiting some very remote places and spread the word about Nurse & Midwife Support. I returned to clinical midwifery and helped bring some little Territorians into the world. I even chased green tree frogs out of the post-natal ward.

It was exciting to go back into the clinical space and I was a little nervous. With the support and encouragement of the regular staff of midwives and nurses, I found that, although technology had changed, the art of birth remained unchanged. New parents, families and little babies still need love, education, encouragement and so much support in the early days. I was truly grateful to the Darwin Private Hospital for renewing my love of clinical work, for taking me on a short term contract and reminding me of the intense privilege that midwives have, bearing witness to new life.

Whilst in the Northern Territory, I met nurses and midwives working in some very remote areas, and was introduced to the services provided to remote communities. I watched with interest the Birthing on Country Project, which works to improve birth outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and children by improving access to culturally safe health services in rural and remote locations.

green tree frogsI also came face-to-jaws with the crocodiles in the East Alligator River, both incredibly scary and impressive, and made friends with my mortal enemy: the gecko. I bonded over my night shift breaks with the local green tree frogs. I also became reacquainted with the joy of wearing scrubs home after being “showered” by newborns.

Wherever I went, I shouted the message of self-care and support for all out midwives and nurses, especially our grads. I’m now back at Nurse & Midwife Support and can’t believe we have been supporting midwives and nurses for over two years.

What an AMAZING ride!

If you need to talk, remember we are here to support you just call 1800 667 877 anytime.