Exclusive Extract: Starting Out by J E Rowney, a fascinating look at life as a midwife

Starting Out is a new medical-themed standalone novel from J E Rowney, that follows Violet, the main character from the bestselling Lessons of a Student Midwife series as she becomes a qualified midwife.

You don’t need to have read the series to enjoy this book – but I’m sure you’ll want to go back and pick it up when you’ve read Starting Out as the entire series is a fascinating and compelling look at what it’s really like to be a midwife, from the pressures of training through to doing the job, as a newly qualified Midwife as we see Violet do in Starting Out. It’s a book that really makes you appreciate the passion, love and dedication midwives have to their jobs.

J.E. Rowney spent several years in the cold Yorkshire hills but now lives on the south coast of England. She spent ten years working as a midwife before turning in her gloves to become an author, so Starting out and the entire series are a topic she knows very well.

“Charcoal”, her first novel, was published in 2012 to wide critical acclaim and was a bestselling novel on Amazon within days of release.

Violet thought midwifery training was tough, but now she has to step out onto the ward as a newly qualified midwife. She’s standing on the edge of her new life, but taking the leap is harder than she ever expected.

Living on her own for the first time, while best friend Zoe starts to build a future with soon-to-be-husband Luke, everything is changing for Violet. Can Violet adapt and adjust, or will anxiety get the better of her?

Here’s an extract from Starting Out, focusing on Violet’s first day on the ward:

After accompanying Becky on the drugs round, I pop in to see Kiera, one of the younger mums on the ward.

She’s reading a magazine as I pull back the corner of the curtains and pop my head in.

“Is it a good time, or shall I come back?” I ask.

She smiles. “Teddy is awake, but he’s quiet at the moment,” she says. “It hasn’t happened often so far.”

She’s pale, and tired looking, but her blood test results have all been fine. No anaemia.

“Did you want to try to take a nap while he’s settled?” I ask. “There won’t be any visitors on the ward for a few hours yet.”

“I’m not sleepy,” she says. “Tired, but not sleepy. You know what I mean?”

I step into the curtained-off area, and pull the gap closed behind me.

“Welcome to motherhood,” I smile.

“I know you said that you can’t do midwife-things yet, because you haven’t got your registration or whatever,” she says. “Can you do something for me though? If you’re allowed. Would you show me how to bath him?”

“Has he fed recently?” I ask. I don’t want to bath him too soon after he’s had a feed.

“About an hour ago. I snuggled him for a while, and then settled him down in there.” She points towards the clear Perspex cot where he is lying, wide-awake, looking peaceful.

“Okay then,” I say. “Sure, we can bath him. I’ll go down to the nursery room and get everything ready, and then come back for the two of you.”

“What do I need to bring?” she asks.

“I’m pretty sure we have everything here,” I say. “Although I’ve been away from the ward for a little while, so I’ll go and check.”

Keira nods and thanks me.

Midwifery isn’t always about delivering babies, writing copious reams of paperwork, giving drugs, or carrying out check-ups. Sometimes it’s about the little things that mean a lot more than you ever thought they could. The last few weeks of my training were spent in a blur of getting boxes checked, making sure I had carried out enough examinations of women and babies, and carrying out enough deliveries to get me through the course. Now that’s behind me. I really feel like I can get back to learning how to be a midwife. I remind myself the meaning behind the word: midwife – “with woman”. That was why I wanted to follow this career path. I wanted to support women, to care for them, be with them, and empower them during this, one of the most important, intimate times of their life.

I toss these thoughts over in my head as I part-fill a baby bath with warm water, and lay two soft white towels on top of the radiator. The nursery room is peaceful, an oasis of calm in an otherwise busy ward. I have rarely had the opportunity to spend time bathing babies with mothers. Much as I would love to do this regularly, it’s a task often passed on to healthcare assistants, as midwives get stuck into ward rounds and paperwork. I feel privileged to be able to do this today.

 I trail my fingers through the water, feeling its calming warmth against my skin, and then gently dip my elbow in to check the temperature. It’s perfect.

When I get back to Keira to fetch her to the nursery she is standing eagerly by the cot, with a dressing gown over her soft grey pyjamas.

“I’ve got spare clothes for him, and a nappy.” She points beneath the cot into the trolley area below.

“Super,” I say. “Everything’s ready if you two are.”

“Yep. Let’s go.”

You can get a copy of Starting Out, here!

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