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The full circle: from student to midwifery mentor

Photo: The full circle: from student to midwifery mentor
Julie Jessen was one of Wintec’s very first midwifery students to enrol in 1996. Since graduating she has helped to deliver 1,400 babies.

Several decades later she has come full circle and now mentors Wintec midwifery students.

“I still remember my first year in practice and thinking…I can’t do this, it is too much responsibility and I still have so much to learn. I wish I had as much experience as my mentor! Now here I am 22 years later mentoring new midwives!” she says.

“I love working with students and graduates, sharing the knowledge I have gained throughout my career and seeing them soak it up like a sponge.”

Becoming a midwife wasn’t a straightforward journey. In the 1980’s to become a midwife, you first had to study nursing, which didn’t appeal to Jessen who instead took another path and decided to become a school dental nurse.
When her second daughter was born in 1992, Jessen was supported by a lead maternity carer (LMC) midwife and her dream of becoming a midwife was reignited.

Fortuitously, Wintec was in the process of starting up a direct entry midwifery course so in 1996, Jessen enrolled in the first intake of Wintec’s Bachelor of Midwifery. She was one of 20 students in the programme.

“Studying at Wintec was fun and empowering especially as I was doing something I had always wanted to do, and all my fellow students felt the same. We were excited to be in this new programme.”

She now belongs to a collective of eight midwives, Maternal Instinct Midwives, who are located at River Ridge East Birth Centre in Hamilton.

“I love working with such a great group of like-minded midwives in our clinic and sharing experiences, reflecting on them and learning from theirs as well as my own experiences.”

Jessen and her midwifery partner operate somewhat differently to many midwives, with each of them working one week on, one week off. Throughout a woman’s pregnancy, they will both see her an equal number of times and whoever is “on duty” on a particular week will help the woman’s birth.

“This works well for us and the women as it gives us both some good down time. It also means we discuss issues that arise and make plans for ongoing care together,” says Julie.

Like most midwives, achieving a good work-life balance has been one of Jessen’s biggest challenges, so working week about allows her to spend time with her two daughters and three grandchildren, and still have time to do the things she loves like sailing around the Hauraki Gulf with her partner or taking up burlesque dancing with her best friend.

Juggling study, being on call and raising two children as a single mother (for most of her career), hasn’t always been easy but she says being a midwife is hugely rewarding.

“It is a pleasure and a privilege to work with women and their families as they embark on their journey through pregnancy, birth and early parenthood. Being with women when they become a mother for the first time or the tenth time, is always precious.”

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