CDU alumni Talea Cotte completed a Bachelor of Midwifery online from her home in Perth, while raising three young children and working part time. Upon finishing high school, Talea trained as a hairdresser, but realised soon after the birth of her first baby that she wanted to become a midwife. Having not finished year 12, Talea sat the Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT) and began the degree in her late 20s. She’s now working as a full time midwife at a busy hospital in Perth. This is her story.
Left: Talea at a Simulation Block intensive at CDU Right: With newborn Liam Phizack. Talea followed his mother Jess Phizack throughout her pregnancy and labour, as part of her degree requirements.
What led you to apply for CDU’s Bachelor of Midwifery?
The CDU Bachelor of Midwifery offered amazing flexibility. All the other courses I looked at in WA required me to commit to full time, on campus study – which as a mother to a toddler and soon-to-be newborn, just wasn’t an option for me . I knew that if I was going to succeed in the degree, then I needed be able to study online, and at my own pace. Throughout my four years studying with CDU, I gave birth to two babies, and the College of Nursing and Midwifery were amazingly supportive. They helped me rearrange my placements, and when I was on campus for a Simulation Block, they didn’t bat an eyelid when I needed to breastfeed my baby every three hours.
The CDU Bachelor of Midwifery offered amazing flexibility. I knew that if I was going to succeed in the degree, then I needed be able to study online, and at my own pace.
People often find that the first year of uni can be the hardest. How did you find your first year?
The first year was quite full on, especially as I had my second child four weeks into Semester 1 – but the lecturers were great about it. I started slowly, just doing four units over the entire year, including Summer Semester. By the time second year came around, I was ready to take a full time course load.
You had three small children, a husband and a part time hairdressing job – in addition to lectures, tutorials and placements… how did you manage to juggle everything?
I couldn’t have done this course without my family, especially my husband and my Mum. I remember towards the end of my degree, I was 36 weeks pregnant with our third child, and was on call for a birth (midwifery students are required to follow 10 women throughout their pregnancies and labours) – and the call came through at 11pm, saying she‘d gone into labour. I had to drive 2 hours to the hospital and arrived at 1am just in time for the birth. My husband goes to work at 5am, so I called my Mum in the middle of the night, and she got to our house before my husband left for work, so she could be there when the kids woke up. I got home around 8am, and the kids were dressed, fed and ready for the day. Additionally, each year my husband would save up all his rostered days off (RDOs) and annual leave, and take chunks of time off when I had my placements.
Talea and her Mum, Cheryl Wilkinson
How did you go with studying Midwifery online?
I was initially really worried about studying online. I just thought, “How am I going to manage this?” Fortunately, I’m a very organised person by nature, which really helped. I had a strict study plan and would plan out my entire semester. I also got my kids into a really good routine; they were in bed, asleep by 6PM every night. On Monday to Thursday, I’d study as soon as they were in bed, through to about 11pm. For difficult subjects, I’d set my alarm and study from 5 – 7am. I made sure everything was done by Thursday night, and then Friday to Sunday was family time, and I could focus on that.
Talea's children, Axton (left) and Evanna (right), helping Mum study.
On Monday to Thursday, I’d study after putting the kids to bed at 6pm, through to about 11pm. For more difficult subjects, I’d set my alarm and study from 5 – 7am.
You’re now working as full time midwife. Do you feel like your degree prepared you well for your current job?
The first couple of weeks in the job were certainly quite overwhelming! When I finished my degree, I felt really independent and confident I could go out and work as a midwife, but of course, as a student you’re supported and overseen the whole way. My first weeks working as a qualified midwife were a bit daunting – I was on my own now! But I have surprised myself with how capable I am. After a couple of weeks, I really felt like, “I can do this..I'm good at this.” I also work with an amazing team, and I’m really well supported, which of course helps.
I have surprised myself with how capable I am. After a couple of weeks working as a midwife, I realised, “I can do this...I'm good at this.”
And lastly, what advice would you give to someone who might be thinking of studying Midwifery?
If this is something you want to do, then bite the bullet. There’s no right or perfect time. The first time I delivered a baby by myself, the second my hands touched that baby, it was almost like an electric shock – it was the most incredible feeling.
It’s a hard degree, but it’s worth it. And CDU are very supportive of all the other commitments you’ve got in your life. I’d honestly encourage you not to wait… jump right in with both feet.
If this is something you want to do, then bite the bullet. There’s no right or perfect time.