Woman in Progress: Charlene Cole @ Studentmidwife.blog
This is the first in what will hopefully be an ongoing series of guest posts from amazing Women in Progress. Our first Woman in Progress is Charlene Cole, who is currently studying to be midwife whilst being a mother of three boys and generally inspiring friend.
Who Am I? (What’s my name?)”
As Snoop Dogg blasted these words out on the golden oldies radio station I was listening to, I thought, I can answer the name question, but more challenging was “Who am I?”
I used to be a research chemist and studied a law conversion part time in the evenings during my PhD: I was going places. I had a clearly mapped route for my career, with grand ambitions of becoming a patent attorney; great money, sensible hours, and still using my science. I was excited! I fell pregnant towards the end of my PhD and – at 36 weeks pregnant in one of the hottest rooms in the department – I spent 4 very sweaty, hypertensive hours of my viva convincing the examiners I was an expert in my field of polymer chemistry. I passed with minimal corrections and went on to be induced for pre-eclampsia shortly afterwards. All was well, I could foresee no problems: my baby would go into full-time childcare and I would continue at breakneck speed along my chosen career path.
Everything changed when I held my baby
This helpless, beautiful, warm scrag of a human being turned me into a completely different person overnight. So who was I after childbirth? This was harder to answer. I was my son’s mum. What else? I couldn’t imagine going back to the hectic career path I had set myself upon years before. I decided to become a stay-at-home mum, become an earth mother and just enjoy being at home with my baby. But I found this so hard! I didn’t want to leave my baby in childcare every waking minute, but equally I felt lost not having a career goal, so I began working part-time at our family business with my long suffering husband.
Secretly I had plans to bring more children into the world. In fact I wanted 6, I didn’t tell my husband this of course, it was something that would just happen. So baby number 2 and shortly afterwards baby number 3 arrived, I was mum to three fabulous boys: noisy, exuberant, mostly covered in food / mud / snot / grass stains – and I loved them. My family felt complete, and I realised that, for me, 6 kids was bonkers.
During my three pregnancies and births a niggle stirred inside me – I wanted to be part of this wonderful profession of midwifery. I wanted to be the one giving women and their families support through their antenatal period, labour and afterwards when they arrive home. What a rewarding way to spend your life welcoming babies into the world. So I began working as a support worker at a local maternity unit and prepared my application to be a student midwife. At the age of 36 I would be a student again!
Back to school
I am ancient compared to the gorgeous 18 year olds on the course, but we all get on so well, they laugh at me when I tell them I’ve never heard of contouring makeup, or that I’ve never used curling tongs on my hair (I live in a permanent bad hair day!). But we are all working to the same end; we are learning how best to educate women about their own bodies, give them the knowledge about pregnancy and labour in order that they can look after themselves. Everyday, we are helping women learn how to successfully breastfeed, something that I never did manage to get the hang of (see my post on breastfeeding). Midwifery is a wonderful profession, babies are an obvious part of it, but the main person you spend your time with is the woman – building a special bond with her, gaining her trust and helping her to have the best experience possible is why this job is the best in the world. You have to love babies, but most importantly you have to love women.
So, who am I?
I am a mother and wife, a chemist, and now, a (mature!) student midwife. It’s never too late to change career, and it’s OK for you to change too.
You can read more about Charlene's inspiring career in her blog.