Midwife says New Zealand has the best training in the world
Claire Eccleston is so passionate about home birthing that she moved her family from a small town in Australia to study as a midwife at Wintec in Hamilton, New Zealand.
“New Zealand has one of the best maternity systems in the world in terms of respecting women’s sovereignty and choice,” she explains.
As a second-generation midwife (her mother was a midwife and breastfeeding councillor), she knew she always wanted to work with women.
With midwifery study not an option in Australia in 1999, she studied nursing and began assisting with home births in 2001. Following this she worked as a doula providing non-clinical support for women birthing at home and in the birth centre.
“I chose to specialise in home births after seeing the gentleness and whānau-orientated beauty that happens when women birth at home.”
“When I support a woman and her whānau to birth at home, the woman is in an environment where her body is comfortable which helps her birthing and relaxation hormones work. Birthing at home keeps the power and responsibility of the experience in the hands of the birthing person and whānau.”
After moving to New Zealand, Eccleston studied a Bachelor of Midwifery at Wintec and says she absolutely loved it.
“I am so passionate about midwifery that I was hungry for any knowledge and any experience I could get. I really liked the relaxed and kind atmosphere, as well as the small classes at Wintec. I had tried to study nursing to be a midwife in Australia but it was at a big university with hundreds of people in lecture halls and I didn’t learn anything.”
“The course was mostly practical and I enjoyed the emphasis given to supporting physiological birth. Now, when I teach around New Zealand I still notice the respect and understanding of physiological birth that Wintec graduates have compared to other midwifery schools.”
Based in Auckland, she specialises in home births and travels from one side of the city to the other to assist with home births and provide antenatal and postnatal care at her clients’ homes.
“I feel so honoured to be invited to share such a sacred space with women, babies and whānau. I love birth in all its messy beauty. I love seeing women’s power as their babies move though their bodies into the world. I love witnessing when a baby is born into their papa’s hands and then placed onto mum’s chest. It’s an honour to be invited so deeply into people’s lives.”
Eccleston is also a Spinning Babies® practitioner and trainer which sees her travelling nationally and internationally delivering workshops on gentle bodywork techniques that aim to increase comfort in pregnancy and ease in birth.
From home she offers biodynamic craniosacral therapy sessions – a hands-on therapy similar to osteopathy which is particularly useful for pregnant women and mums and babies after birth.
Eccleston manages all of this on top of all the paperwork and computer work associated with being a practising midwife, is an educator with the New Zealand College of Midwives, presents internationally at conferences and is currently developing an online course for midwives.
And most importantly, she has three beautiful children which keep her busy making school lunches and dinners, helping with homework and playing Uno.
How does she fit it all in?
“The same as all working parents I guess! I do emails everywhere and anywhere. I think a lot and plan and dance with crazy rhythms to the best of my ability. I try to be super-efficient with time. I stop after dinner every night to help my youngest settle and go to sleep. I try to do a little bit of lots of things and remember to be centred and grounded.”
This year, 2020 is the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. This story is part of a series where nurses and midwives who have graduated from or worked with Wintec tell their stories.