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My experience as a student midwife in Bali

This article appears in: Learning abroad, Nursing and Midwifery
Veronica Merton CDU Midwifery trip to Bali

Veronica Merton is a second year CDU Bachelor of Midwifery student. She traveled to Bali along with other students from her course, to participate in a study abroad program where the student midwives watched and learned from Balinese midwifery practices. Here, Veronica reflects on her trip. 

Having spent the semester learning about midwifery’s powerful role in reducing maternal mortality and investigating the barriers faced by under-resourced nations, it was an exciting prospect for me and 10 other students to see midwives working on the front line with these challenges in Bali, Indonesia. A scholarship was provided by the Australian Government’s New Columbo Plan and was available to students studying Midwifery in Global Perspective at Charles Darwin University (CDU).

Veronica and student midwives in Bali
Pictured: Ashlee Guerin, Shannon Minnett, Kylie Miller, Mariclair Edwards, Jodi Cavin, Karen Scrivens, Krys Richardson, Sandra Perry, Denise Keeler, Krystina Katterall and teachers Bec Evans and Mpho Dube. 

Mpho Dube, our lecturer at CDU had planned these two weeks down to the last detail, and says “midwives should be advocates for women and drivers for maternal and neonatal health in the communities that they work in. Taking midwifery students outside the Australian context particularly to a resource constrained country enhances the student’s understanding of how sociocultural, economic, political and cultural factors influence maternal and neonatal outcomes.

Experiencing midwifery practice in a diverse country challenges the students’ perspective on  the concepts around choice, control, woman centred care and cultural safety”.

Having grown up as a girl and worked as a midwife in Zimbabwe, Mpho brings great insight to the difficulties faced by women and midwives working in poorly resourced conditions. As students listening to Mpho’s messages and reflections, we saw the powerful force for good one woman with a chance can be.

Veronica & friends - Bali CDU midwifery trip
Pictured left to right: Ashlee Guerin, Veronica Merton and Karen Scrivens.

Bumi Sehat provided plenty of reasons to believe this. A not for profit facility that provides free or by-donation maternity and birth care, this picturesque facility is staffed by women dedicated to improving the situation for poor families who may have no access to midwives. With vehicles and drivers, the barrier of distance is removed and although their only donation may be a basket of food, they are welcomed with love and receive care that honours the natural and spiritually significant act of birth.

We also spent time visiting various primary health centres called Puskesmas and were welcomed by fellow Balinese midwifery students, with whom we formed instant bonds as we discussed similarities and differences between our chosen profession. While these interactions enhanced my appreciation of our woman centred aspirations, I couldn’t help but envy the wholistic nature of their roles.

Yoga and meditation are provided by midwives and are available to all pregnant women through the Puskesmas’ community outreach programs. Their scope includes family planning, vaccinations and early childhood health.

Women never attended appointments alone; fathers were present at health checks for their children, and at every meeting with us, the students shared their culture through music, dance and food.

During the second week we visited the homes of privately practicing midwives who not only opened their clinic doors to us, but treated us to wonderful hospitality, housing and seats at their dining room tables. We were treated to traditional Balinese meals and encouraged with teasing smiles as we daringly tried unfamiliar culinary delights. I was truly inspired by my host, a midwife for decades she is firmly embedded in the community. Operating with autonomy in this full scope for generations of women, she is valued and respected as an essential part of the family fabric of her district. The tears, hugs and laughter when we all parted ways expressed more than our limited language could. This connection represents more than our individual experiences.

Bali midwifery trip abroad
CDU student Jodi Cavin and teacher Mpho Dube with midwives from Bumi Sehat. 

Angela Bull, the Midwifery course coordinator describes how CDU was approached in 2014, by Kebidanan Kartini and the Polytechnic of Health, two universities located in Denpasar. Their aim was to establish opportunities to share research, professional development and improve midwifery training and skills in Bali. This exchange in turn satisfies the Australian Government’s endeavour to improve knowledge of the Indo-Pacific. Witnessing the keen interest shown in the neonatal resuscitation demonstration hosted by Angela Bull, I was struck by how important this exchange is. All of a sudden, I was no longer in a room full of observers and new friends. I was in a room full of quietly powerful women, helping each other, working together and committing their hearts, passions, knowledge and skills to improving lives in this small and majestic part of the world; a part of the world that has presented me with so much I wish I could bring home.

This story originally appeared in Australian Midwifery News (Vol. 18, No. 3, Spring 2018, pg. 52). The publisher (The Australian College of Midwives) has kindly given CDU permission to republish the story here. 

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