Dear Parents………

This is not a standard blog because it is deliberately intended for a few people, but bear with me. First and foremost….. congratulations! Your job has a parent is to ‘fledge’ your child and yes, we know it is hard but you have done a really good job! You have managed to bring him or her up so well that s/he has got a place at university. I suspect some of you are wondering how when you remember desperately encouraging revision, getting them out of bed or some of the scrapes that they got into. But you did it! Well done.

I suspect you are right now planning the last meal before they go to university, you are probably looking at their packing and adding things (just in case) and you have possibly had a few episodes of anxiety. Calm down – they will be OK. This is not the last ever meal you will have with them and to be honest they will probably enjoy it so much more after the novelty of eating pot noodles every night for 2 weeks has waned. Similarly, we know that you pack for every eventuality (‘I have just put some anti-venom in your bags in case you are bitten by a snake’), but I suspect they know where to get supplies. So, some advice from someone who has gone through this:

Prepare for the first night away. Secret some treats in their bag with a note encouraging them to share with their new flatmates. You have no idea how much a bottle of wine or homemade cake can help people get to know each other. Don’t forget yourself here – plan something special at home so you are not brooding on their absence.

Agree communication. Stalking them on social media will only worry you (remember you do not know the context of why they are dressing up in a toga and seem to be really good friends with a psychopath). They will be enjoying their new independence, so asking them to call you daily is likely to cause you worry when they don’t because they have forgotten.

Have realistic expectations. Yes, we know that you have seen horrendous initiation ceremonies in the films and fear that your child will take up all sorts of nasty habits. The reality is that they will probably have a really good time initially and then will have no choice but to study. Certainly within the health programmes, students quickly learn that they cannot party too hard and be able to learn their profession. You might not have these fears, your child is perfect and you are confident that they will spend every day tidying their flat and reading, reading, reading. I speak from experience here – I spent 12 hours cleaning my daughters flat when she graduated and am sure there was a cure for any type of disease in their fridge! However, my daughter survived and yours will too.

Be prepared for their intellectual growth. You have been the most influential person in your child’s life and now they are entering an institution where they will be expected to be critical, evaluative and independent thinkers. They might develop different political leanings to you and have different perspectives, but enjoy it. You are now entering a stage in your relationship where you can explore these views together and you will develop a more grown up friendship with them.

Let them be adults. When I dropped my daughters off for the first time, it took all my self-will to resist finding anyone in authority and beseeching them to watch out for them. Yes, your child might find parts of the course tough, but this will develop them. Remember, there are support services in the university and although I am biased, I genuinely think this is where Staffordshire University comes into its own. If they fail something, don’t contact us but please encourage your child to. Our contract is with the student (not you) and we are bound by confidentiality. The way to look at it is that they are entering a very responsible profession, so they need to be autonomous and resilient.

Think about money. I am not saying that you need to bankrupt the Bank of Mum and Dad but if you are in a fortunate position to be able to subsidise, try thinking of ways that you can protect how they spend the money. Some supermarkets do student cards which means that you can top up the cards so they can at least buy food with it. There are some really good websites which give good advice, try A useful thing to do is to stock up on cheap tinned foods, so at least you are not imagining your child languishing hungry and miserable in their room (they make good fall back staple foods). It is useful to be aware that the rooms are often small, so it might be worthwhile investing in an underbed storage case (it will also give them somewhere to store items that they do not want ‘liberating’.

Give them memories. In reality, your child will miss you. Do not underestimate how comforting a photo of the family or a treasured cuddly toy can be.

Finally, this is the next stage of your lives. Things won’t be the same again, but it does not need to mean that it won’t be good again – it will be different (and possibly better). So, you need to enjoy it too.

Traci Hudson, Lead Midwife for Education/Course Leader,

Butterfly births

One of our lovely 2nd year students recently gave the midwifery team a present.  It was a physical birth register – the idea is that every time a student delivers a baby, they post a token into the slot at the top so it gives them a visual and tangible reminder of their progress in achieving the 40 births they have to manage in order to qualify as a midwife.  Stacey explained that she regards our role as educators as being similar to that of a clinical midwife in that we help midwives to be born (sometimes kicking and screening).

The tokens with the register are shaped like butterflies and the symbolism is not lost on us.  The first stage of the butterfly life cycle is the egg, with some butterflies if you look close enough you can see the caterpillar inside.  This signifies the potential that we see in our new student midwives: their care, compassion and ability to evaluate and problem solve.  The larva forms the 2nd stage, this is a short period of time where all they do is eat.  This is like the first year of midwifery education: the students vociferously digest new knowledge and skills in order to be prepared for the increasing autonomy that the subsequent years bring.  As the students enter the 2nd and 3rd year, they slowly metamorphosis and become recognisable as the midwife they will become (the pupa stage).  Finally, they emerge with all the skills and knowledge needed to be registered midwives and similar to butterflies, they are expected to take on the role of adulthood straight away.

The midwifery journey to becoming an ‘adult butterfly’ is not an easy one.  Our most senior cohort is flying away right now and their reflections are both painful and joyous in equal measure.  They have all cried, laughed and despaired – birth is one of the most intense, emotional and life-changing moments in anyone’s life and it is therefore unsurprising that the students do get affected by the experience.  During their time, they will have sat with a family quietly, letting them talk about what their stillborn baby could have been.  They will have witnessed miracle births which medics told the family would never happen. They will have had sleepless nights over child protection issues and families living in extreme poverty.   They have participated in emergencies where every instinct would have been to run screaming from the room – but they didn’t, they swallowed their fear and did the best they could do to help.  They will have grappled with complex physics, chemistry and biology trying to equate the science with the art of midwifery.  Most of all, however they will have really cared, this will have changed some of their political viewpoints and in doing so, made them question humanity.  Our students did not know whether they helped with the birth of the next Adolph Hitler or the next Mother Theresa but they didn’t care.  I know that each time they worked with families, they did so with warmth, professionalism and a real commitment to doing their best.

As I raise a toast to the newly metamorphosed adult butterflies, I hope that the eggs that are about to enter the larva stage this month become as bright and wonderful as the ones leaving us now.

Traci Hudson, Lead Midwife for Education/Course Leader,

Global women’s rights to control their reproductive health

You might wonder why a midwifery educationalist has chosen to blog about a subject that at face value appears to contradict the very purpose of midwifery – to help bring life into the world. My blog is about the control (or lack of it) American women have on their reproductive system. A university is the very place where we should be arguing and exploring philosophical viewpoints or as Newman (1852) eloquently describes it as a place in which ‘the intellect may safely range and speculate, sure to find its equal in some antagonistic activity, and its judge in the tribunal of truth’ .

In January, a seemingly innocuous picture went viral – it depicted a group of men witnessing President Trump sign a ban on funding for international groups on abortion (without one woman being present). Although this action does not directly affect women in USA, it could be argued that it represents a subtle misogyny which is starting to pervade the country.

In Oklahoma, women (or ‘hosts’ as described by the Committee) wishing to have a termination, will have to name the father and have his written consent if a bill is approved later this year.   More recently, the Texas Senate passed a law which ostensibly is designed to protect doctors from litigation if they fail to tell women about a fetal deformity – critics have argued that it gives pro-life doctors an opportunity to avoid providing the information if they feel that the woman might terminate the pregnancy.

So, why is this a problem? First and foremost, procreation affects women a lot more than men – their role (from a biological perspective) is completed within minutes, whereas the impact is a lot longer for women. In the USA, women are entitled to 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave (however, there are a number of limitations which means that a lot cannot even take advantage of this). American women are already poorer than their male counterparts: the gender pay gap currently stands at 20% (it is worse for certain ethnic groups and in some states), this means that women are further economically disadvantaged. One in ten Americans lack adequate health insurance, although this is a reduction since Obama’s Affordable Care Act (which is likely to be repealed under Trump) and there are very few options for pregnant women without health care insurance. Interestingly, it depends on the State whether the father is required to contribute to maternity fees. Unlike the rest of the world, the maternal mortality rate is rising (28 per 100,000 maternities) and this will be worse if women try to procure illicit abortions. The risks to women are not just death, pregnancy takes its toll on the body and a woman who is forced to ‘host’ a pregnancy that she does not want, could also have to contend with significant morbidity without access to health services. And as for the child? What are the implications for an unwanted baby born into a family in poverty?

This very brief foray into global health does affect midwives: the name means ‘with woman’ and part of this is understanding the impact of male dominated policies on female health. It is not a blog about pro-life or pro-choice but one about the ethics of self-determination. As an academic, I have a duty to challenge, to speculate and to antagonise and it is essential that all health students recognise political determinants of health to ensure that the UK does not fail women in the same way.

Traci Hudson, Senior Lecturer and Lead Midwife for Education