Walking alongside women a privilege for this Māori midwife and educator

Midwife Tamara Karu balances childbirth education with delivering babies

Waikato midwife Tamara Karu has a passion for Māori health equity and delivers this as an educator and a midwife.

Finding balance as a midwife was a challenge for Wintec midwifery graduate Tamara Karu but she’s found the perfect mix, delivering childbirth education and working with whānau to deliver their babies.

As Maternity Team Lead for Te Puna Oranga, the Waikato District Health Board Māori Health Unit, Karu facilitates Hapū Wānanga ki Tainui, an interactive kaupapa Māori pregnancy, birth and parenting programme,  and education for midwives. She also oversees lactation and SUDI (Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy) Māori intervention programmes and works with whānau through wānanga (tertiary organisations).

On top of that she still works as a Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) midwife, choosing to keep a small caseload of just three women so she can be on call to deliver their babies and provide prenatal and postnatal care.

“I love being an advocate for women and protecting women’s birthing choices. It is an honour sharing the intimate time and space with whānau and connecting wahine with our birthing traditions,” says the 40-year-old.

Of Ngāti Tamaterā and Ngāti Tara descent, Karu was born and raised in the Waikato and attended Hemi Tapu Kōhanga reo, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Ara Rima and Ngāruawāhia High School.

A mother of two boys herself, she was working as Kaiāwhina at Plunket where she was offered the chance to study childbirth education as part of her professional development. Having always been interested in women’s health, she leapt at the chance and completed her Diploma in Childbirth Education through Aoraki Polytechnic. Karu then worked as a contractor for Plunket, Huntly Birth Care and Waterford Birth Centre, teaching childbirth education.

“I enjoyed my job but I felt like a fraud. I was teaching childbirth, but I wasn’t a practitioner. I wanted to walk alongside women throughout the scope. In 2012, I began studying Wintec’s Bachelor of Midwifery.”

Karu lost no time after completing the three-year midwifery degree to become a hands-on midwife, and spent the next six years at Waikato District Health Board working as a lead maternity carer and then as a core midwife for the last two years.

She completed a health leadership course called Ngā Manukura o Āpōpō and was inspired to enrol in postgraduate studies when she was offered the role as maternity team lead.

“My current role combines my passion for Māori health equity and experience as a midwife. I love working with whānau and have so much fun making whānau feel at ease about the parenting journey. My philosophy is to inform, inspire and empower.”

She says studying and working as a midwife has given her a new perspective.

 “I now have an intimate understanding of a woman’s maternity journey. I can deliver information as an authority, knowing first-hand the journey women are on because I have had the privilege to walk alongside so many.”

Find out more about studying midwifery at Wintec.

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.

Read more:
It really is the best job in the world says midwife and teacher
A passion for Māori health sees study mates become workmates
Midwife says New Zealand has the best training in the world

Year of the Nurse and the Midwife 2020