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A midwife on the coast

Corrina Parata is currently the sole midwife for the East Coast, and after 18 years, says she still gets goosebumps when she recollects all the precious moments. Corrina believes that people who work on the wild and remote Coast build a specific set of skills that are different from urban health professionals. Corrina was inspired to be a midwife when she attended the birth of her niece. After a bad experience with the care at a large hospital, her sister decided to home birth despite complications. With the support of a midwife the baby was delivered safely. “The empowerment and healing for my sister to be able to take back control was so important for her. This experience and feeling the energy in the room that day made me want to become a midwife” Corrina said. Corrina decided to train though the Tihei Mauri Ora program under Becky Fox at Wintec. There weren’t many registered Māori midwives at that time, and Corrina remembers this kaupapa Māori based training being really powerful. 

During her training she reflected on her own experiences having a child as a young Māori woman, and realised the lack of cultural safety practiced in the health system back then. She wanted to change this. It makes sense that Corrina then came to work for Ngāti Porou Hauora where Ngāti Poroutanga (the local culture) is recognised as a core value and vital for health and wellbeing. She says that Ngāti Porou Hauora supports her to run a midwifery service that works within her own culture. “When women give birth here they usually do so knowing that whānau who have gone before them were also born here. Through the practice of midwifery, you become a kaitiaki. Not just through supporting each child being born on their tūrangawaewae (cultural homeland), but in advocating to make sure we maintain a maternity service here on the Coast.” It isn’t just the midwifery service that works this way, it is across the whole service. “If there is family needing karakia or waiata. 

All the staff drop tools and get in there to support. I feel like my wairua (spirit) is intact working this way.” Corrina believes that people who work on the Coast build a specific set of skills that are different from urban health professionals. Because it is wild and remote, it is even more vital to provide quality care and so the team have sharp and diverse skills. It can be consuming and overwhelming especially with the challenges of winter – no power, flooding, trees down over the roads, the water pump isn’t going. This is the reality of rural practice. You just need to carry on. It’s not for the faint hearted. Working this way over the years has made Corrina reflect on the bigger view of public health. She says that she never used to be political, but this work has developed her as a person. She is now a staunch feminist and advocate for social justice. “Why should Coast whānau not have access to quality care? Just because we choose to live rurally that shouldn’t be denied of us. It is this that gives me the burning flame to stick it out when so many say “oh I’d never work there”. Despite currently being the only midwife on the Coast, Corrina has regular contact with practitioners all over the country. 

She remotely mentors five rural midwives in other areas of New Zealand, and meets regularly with a group of other rural midwives. This group shares ideas to improve their service and often have robust debates where they challenge each other on their practice and decisions. This online community of practitioners supporting each other is huge for preventing burn out – something we are seeing in the media as a concerning issue for midwives. Corrina also finds healing in the natural environment of the Coast. She loves fishing and the ocean. “I knew the local community had accepted me when they told me where the best fishing spots were” Corrina laughs. Twenty years and more than 500 babies later, Corrina says she still gets goosebumps when she recollects all the precious moments. “It is the highest calling and greatest honor to care for women and their families through the birth of a child. Women can feel quite vulnerable and frightened so you have to look after their wairua as well as the medical side. Being a midwife means whānau (families) place their trust in me and that trust means everything.” Looking forward, Corrina strongly believed that Ngāti Porou Hauora should continue to look at how we grow our own midwives, and is excited about the opportunities the learning institute will offer in moving forward with this goal.

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