Born for Life

A Midwife's Story

Non-Fiction - Memoir
295 Pages
Reviewed on 02/08/2016
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Author Biography

Julie grew up in a small rural town in New Zealand. On leaving school she worked at the local maternity annexe as a nurse aide, which gave her a love for caring for mothers and babies. Life could not have been happier, married to the man she loved until the death of her second baby at birth. This trauma led to depression, loneliness and despair. Julie’s book 'Born for Life: A Midwife's Story' follows her journey in overcoming and becoming the midwife that she was born to be. Julie hopes her story will inspire others to follow their dreams and not give up hope.
Midwifery continues to be her passion and she continues to work and write. Julie’s other love is travelling and she has worked as a midwife in many countries around the world.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Born for Life: A Midwife’s Story is a non-fiction memoir written by Julie Watson. The author knew by the time she was ten years old that she wanted to be a nurse. There were other career options that she had considered and dismissed as she was growing up, but that one dream remained alive. When she was seventeen, she had the opportunity to become a nurse’s aide at Pahiatua Hospital. While it was not quite the same as training for and becoming a nurse, it was close enough and the pay was sufficiently attractive for her to give up her current job and go to work at the hospital. She was nervous when she entered the hospital building, had her uniform fitting, and spoke with the matron, Mrs. Brunton, but her enthusiasm won out over any fears, especially when Mrs. Brunton told her that she was being assigned to the maternity ward. That first assignment led to her lifelong dedication to helping women as a midwife.

Julie Watson’s non-fiction memoir, Born for Life: A Midwife’s Story, is well-written and compelling reading. It left me with a profound respect for midwives and the level of care they give and commitment they have for the women in their charge. I enjoyed seeing how she was able to get on-the-job training as a nurse’s aide, and empathized with her initial qualms as she learned how to care for and prep women who were ready to give birth. Watson also tells her own story in this heartwarming memoir, including her life with her husband, Barry, the births of her own children, and the steps she took to become first a registered nurse and then a midwife. Along the way, I learned a lot about New Zealand as it was in the later part of the twentieth century, and I appreciated the natural beauty and coastal experiences she shares with her reader. Born for Life: A Midwife’s Story is highly recommended.

New Zealand Booklovers

This true story tells of Palmerston North woman Julie Watson’s struggle to triumph over adversity and follows her journey to fulfill her dream and become the midwife she was born to be. A nurse aide position in the local maternity annexe as a teenager gave Watson a love for being with women during labour and birth and caring for mothers and their babies.
At the age of 17 she married then, at 20, tragedy stuck when her baby died within an hour of birth. The story then turns to her battle with depression and suicidal thoughts. She went on to have two more children, both born with albinism. Watson is determined, however, and in 1991, at the age of 37, she was accepted into nursing school.
Born For Life is more than just a personal story however. It is a historical journey through the development of antenatal and postnatal care in New Zealand. As a mother of two babies, it was fascinating to read about how it used to be done in the day – from the use of sugar and water as a formula to a mother’s first toilet trip post birth. It was also heartbreaking to read about those times when birth doesn’t go to plan. Watson’s own experience with a baby’s death made me grateful that New Zealand’s attitude to maternal care has changed significantly.
Watson writes succinctly and without fanfare that makes you feel as though she is talking to you one on one. Her recounts of births she has attended are very matter of fact, to the point where I would recommend women who haven’t given birth yet but want children steer clear of the book until their bundles arrive. However, for mums or those interested in a career in nursing or maternity, it is a fascinating read.
Following the story written in Born For Life Watson has travelled extensively and worked in several countries caring for women of different cultures, nationalities and backgrounds. As well as England, she has worked in rural Australia, and volunteered in Africa and Northern Vanuatu as a midwife. These experiences would make for an interesting sequel and I hope Watson puts pen to paper once more.
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Born For Life: A Midwife’s Story, by Julie Watson, is published by Cherry Hinton Limited. RRP is $34.99, available now.



Julie Watson

Am thrilled to be named a Gold Award winner in this year's awards. Born for Life: A Midwife's story was a Gold winner in the Non-Fiction- Women's category. Thank you, everyone.

N.Z College of Midwives

Born for Life:
A Midwife's Story
Author: Julie Watson
Publisher: Cherry Hinton Limited
ISBN: 978-0-473-29963-7
Reviewer: Penny Singlehurst, NZCOM staff member.
This book shows a fascinating insight into the changing times of midwifery within New Zealand. From the '70s when the Doctor had to be there for the delivery,
to which one sister remarked ‘One of the skills of midwifery was getting the timing right. Call them too early and you would be wasting the doctor's time, ring too late and he would miss the birth, which between the two was the better option’, to the '90s when midwives were finally able to work autonomously.
Telling her personal story, Julie starts when she begins her journey into the world of healthcare at the age of 16. After leaving school Julie takes a job as a nurse aide at the local maternity annexe. With no formal training, Julie is thrown in at the deep end, with a bombardment of new information of how to care for the women and babies of Pahiatua. The young Julie, wide eyed and full of enthusiasm, takes this all in her stride. Her excitement and love for the job are reflected in the first few chapters. The words come tumbling out of the pages, describing every detail possible to allow you to fully see what Julie saw
as she took her first steps into this new environment that, over the years, kept pulling her back. Qualifying as a midwife in 1995, she set up her own LMC practice in the front room of her home. Julie went on to care for women in the surrounding area for a number of years, only to give it all up when a chance to start a new life in the UK arose.
With a mixture of personal stories
and midwifery anecdotes, the book bounds through Julie’s life. Her highly detailed narrative recounts the setbacks; heartbreak, sacrifice and dedication Julie needed to blossom from an excited teen to a knowledgeable, confident midwife.

Australian College of Midwives

Born for Life: A Midwife’s Story by Julie Watson
Book Review by Tarah McLachlan
Born for Life, a non-fiction memoir is by Julie Watson who lives in Palmerston North, New Zealand where the novel is set. On the cover, a striking image of a mother and baby’s embrace, skin to skin as nature intended. The image sets the tone of the novel, being natural, maternal, and instinctual.
Each chapter’s title describes pivotal life events, from the age of ten years when Julie’s dream to become a nurse began to the present day. The story begins on a humorous note, with Julie also having a dream to become a circus performer. Luckily she followed her true calling to become a Midwife.
The reader journeys with 16-year-old Julie gaining employment as a nurse’s aide in 1970, timid and nervous, having never held a baby before. Julie invites the reader to see things through her eyes, learn alongside her, and hear the thoughts in her head. When attending her first birth, she writes, “all I could say was... it will be ok, and then I thought, I hope it will be ok and that she doesn’t die”.
One of the most intriguing features of this book is the contrast between nursing and midwifery in the 1970’s to today. The author describes the uniform, soap enemas, anal examinations, husbands’ limited role in birth, cotton nappies and pins, pubic hair shaving, nipple baths, Pinard auscultation, smoking on hospital grounds, abdominal and breast binding, the ‘dog box’ for noisy babies in the nursery, and perineal swabs, just to name a few.
There was no formal training to become a nurse’s aide in 1970, duties were learned on the job. Julie illustrates moments where she practiced beyond the modern day scope of practice, “come and get me when she wants to push”. This lack of supervision by the nursing sisters is startling. Nursing aide duties involved more of the hands on work, including assisting women to initiate breastfeeding. Many obstetric topics are covered in the novel, including eclampsia, undiagnosed twins, breech birth, adoption, and traumatic instrumental birth. The author talks directly to the reader, who feels involved in every birth and empathises with the situation.
At 20, Julie shares the tragic moment she loses her second baby, Shelley, during childbirth. Julie’s personal story offers valuable insight into perinatal loss from a mother’s point of view and is very powerful. Julie never saw or held her baby, and was not allowed to attend the funeral. She describes, the lack of family support, and this leaves Julie contemplating suicide. This event is pivotal and underpins the underlying purpose of the book, “Shelley’s birth made it even more important to me... what I had experienced in life had meaning... everything I had been through could be used for good”.