Over the past year in the UK students in Universities (AEI) have been affected by the experience of COVID-19 lockdown. In the Maternity and Midwifery forum we have recorded a number of talks on the Midwifery Hour or at Festivals discussing the difficulties that student midwives, and educators, have been facing in maintaining the programmes. In this piece, Hauwa Hamza, now second year student in Northampton, describes how she has changed during the experience of starting the course as a midwife, at the same time of caring for her family.
As I sat on my sofa earlier today at the end of a long day on placement, drowning my mental to-do list in my hour-old cold cup of tea, subconsciously, a phrase stood out from whatever my son was watching in the background, “It doesn’t matter where you came from, what matters is who you choose to be.” This sent me down a rabbit hole, mulling over the last 18 months, forcing me to metaphorically question how far I have come over this period, and who I have chosen to be.
I remember sitting at my desk to write a similar reflection in March of this year, on a date which not only marked the anniversary of the start of my midwifery training, but, coincidentally, also the anniversary of the first lock down in the United Kingdom, exploring my thoughts and feelings of how the Global Pandemic had affected me, the stresses and strains it put on my midwifery training and how I emerged a more competent, and resilient student midwife. This reflection has since been published in the September issue of the MIDIRS Midwifery Digest (MIDIRS 31 (3) 297-299).
Directly and indirectly, I made 3 key points in that reflective piece which cannot go unmentioned:
- Minority Ethnicities have been disproportionately affected by Covid 19.
- Families with children of school age have been disproportionately affected by Covid 19.
- Students have been disproportionately affected by Covid 19.
- Those in Health Care have been disproportionately affected by Covid 19.
I think from the points above, one can adequately deduce that my feelings about the virus at the time were far from positive, as I had been disproportionately affected by Covid 19. Not only am I from a minority ethnicity, but I also have children of school age and I am a student myself, training to be a midwife.
Yet, 18 months later, when exploring whether every point has been adequately addressed and mitigated, am I able to answer yes, honestly and categorically? Truthfully, the answer is no. Ethnic minorities, students and in my opinion, particularly health care students like myself, are still being disproportionately affected. Although, our children are now back in classrooms, and we are no longer feigning classrooms in our front rooms, the world is still very far from what we know as normal. Minority Ethnicities are still being disproportionately affected by Covid 19. And as student midwives, we are still attempting to build trusting relationships with women so we may provide good and compassionate care to them with visors as extra barriers, while we stare blankly back into masked faces, wondering whether the looks in these women’s eyes are of comprehension or confusion, while still trying to fill the void in our knowledge and skillsets.
In my account of my experiences of being a midwifery student during these challenging times, I highlighted my biggest lessons from the pandemic – the requisite to pay attention to self care, my mental health, and fully surround myself with a good network of supportive people on a personal as well as professional level.
Whilst I was never the first to put my hand up in a classroom environment, unsure whether my response to the teacher’s question would be right or wrong, on my journey of self-discovery through the pandemic, a new woman has emerged, one who willingly seizes opportunities for personal and professional development. I have enthusiastically put myself forward for roles and taken on responsibilities. I have chosen to be not so consumed by the prospect of failing, but instead, be driven by the possibility of excelling.
This brings me back to the “It doesn’t matter where you came from, what matters is who you choose to be” quote from my son’s TV show. Instead of allowing myself to crumble, I have chosen to rise through the ashes that Covid 19 has left behind. One thing is certain, instead of COVID crippling my ambitions and accomplishments, it has propelled me at a phenomenal rate, on a remarkable trajectory.