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"Making the Practice Leap" With Colleen Wilson

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Megan Walker: Hello, and welcome to Market Savvy Conversations. My name is Megan Walker, and today our very special guest is Colleen Wilson. Hi, Colleen, how are you?

Colleen Wilson: Hello. I'm well, thanks.

Megan Walker: That's good. Colleen, I thought we might start off, best person to introduce you is you. No one knows you better than yourself. Can you tell us and the people listening a bit about you and your background?

Colleen Wilson: Yep. Well, hi everyone. My name's Colleen Wilson and I'm a midwife living on the Gold Coast, and I've been a midwife for about 30 years and a registered nurse for a little bit longer than that. And I left the hospital system about 18 months ago because I wanted to work for myself in providing a postnatal service for pregnant couples, catching them before they have their baby, so I can educate them about what happens after birth. And also providing postnatal support for them once they bring their babies home from hospital.

And also just recently added infant massage to my qualifications as well. So that will be teaching parents how to massage their own baby for various health issues and bonding, and lots and lots of benefits. So that's where I'm at, at the moment.

Megan Walker: How beautiful. And how have you found the ride since you've left the hospital system to working for yourself? How's that experience been for you?

Colleen Wilson: Oh, very, very rocky, much more difficult than I anticipated. I still believe I've done the right thing in leaving the hospital system, but it's been a very rocky ride and a very lonely ride, a lot more angst surrounding the whole thing, more so than I anticipated, but I'm forging ahead.

Megan Walker: Yes. Yeah. It's so tough, isn't it? I know the first two years I was in business for myself after leaving a hospital environment as well would be the hardest two years I think of my whole life. I just couldn't... You can't explain how... I don't know if you felt like this, but I felt naked in Queen Street. Just all the vulnerabilities are there for everyone to see.

Colleen Wilson: Yeah, yeah. It certainly has been very much a learning journey and a self-discovery journey as well, but a lot tougher than I ever anticipated, but the alternative is to go back into the hospital system and I won't do that unless I'm really, really desperate. So I don't want to do that, so I want to make this work.

Megan Walker: Exactly. Yep. I hear you for sure, and it's a good driving force there and it will get easier. I promise you. And so the services that you deliver, tell me more about what you do for couples? And you touched on the infant massage, but yeah, tell us a little bit more about what it is that you offer for people?

Colleen Wilson: Fourth trimester workshops, which is teaching pregnant couples what to expect after the baby's born. And I wanted to do that because I was working predominantly as a home visiting midwife in the hospital system. So I'd go to their homes once they got discharged and do one or two visits with mom and baby, and dads if they are there too, to follow a set tick box of what needed to be checked with them, a postnatal check on mum, baby check, how they were feeding, but it was often not long enough. The biggest struggle they were usually having was breastfeeding and how to navigate that. And also just a lack of awareness of what was normal, what to expect in the fourth trimester.

So we're not preparing our pregnant couples well enough in terms of what to expect after a baby's born, particularly the first ones. And there was a lot of birth trauma so there was a lot of birth debriefing that needed to be done as well. So I stepped away from the system so that I could do my own thing really and not have to tick boxes and spend more time with them if they needed it. So the fourth trimester workshops is a two hour education workshop and I usually do that in their own homes, privately, just the couple and me.

It is offered as Zoom as well and I've only done a few of those because mostly they want the private home touch, which is nice because then you can look at their own home environment and say, "Well, when you bring your baby home, you could put your baby bath over here because it's going to work well for just dragging over the sink and emptying the plug and you won't hurt your back. It needs to be at a working height. That bench is no good over there. This one is." So there's a lot of things I can do with them when they're in their own home.

So teaching them what to expect in the workshops is one aspect of my work, and then the other is giving them support once they do bring the baby home for the first six weeks after bub's home. A lot of that is spent in breastfeeding support or even bottle feeding support if that's what they need, and just what's normal, what to expect with their own body changes, and with baby sleep patterns and feeding patterns. Yeah. A lot of just support and as well as that, which is what you'd normally get from a midwife in a home visit, including more traditional practices like ayurvedic nutrition for them. So cooking meals for them and making sure that they're eating well, and also nurturing massage is the other aspect as well.

So I'm a massage therapist as well. So I can help mom with all her aches and pains, and just give her that nurturing that she needs. The focus being, if mom's in a healthy, well, good head space, then she's much better able to look after her baby and in turn the whole family, and in turn the whole community benefits.

Megan Walker: Yeah.

Colleen Wilson: So it's a much broader picture as well. So I'm marrying the two roles of midwife and doula, really. So midwifery skills plus traditional postpartum practices, and belly binding massage and nutrition. So that's in a nutshell, it's a more holistic post postnatal care. And then of course, the infant massage is added onto it just recently.

Megan Walker: Oh, fantastic. And on those tough days, when we started the conversation, you must remind yourself to tap into how important it is, the work that you are doing.

Colleen Wilson: Yes.

Megan Walker: And if you think about it, what's the situation? What's the difference that you feel like you make? If you think about a family that doesn't know anything that you've just talked through then, versus one that then does through your help, what difference does that make to their start, particularly for new parents?

Colleen Wilson: Yeah. Oh, it can mean the difference between sanity and insanity really, because if they know what to expect when they come home from hospital with their baby, then they're in a much better position to realise that, yep, this is normal. The fact that the baby's wanting to feed every two or three hours, that's normal, as opposed to, "What's wrong with my baby? My baby's sick because it wants to feed every two hours and I haven't got enough milk," and it's not that you haven't got enough milk. It's just, you're waiting for your milk to come in.

You still have milk there. It's called colostrum. It's not as great a quantity, but yeah, it can mean the difference in putting them in a much better position for their own mental health as well as all of their things that they need to prepare for physically. And yeah, they're just able to cope much better if they know what's coming otherwise a lot of first time mums especially, they just feel like they've been hit by a truck and, "Why didn't anyone tell me?"

Often I can visit them and they're quite resentful of the fact that, "These things are happening to me. Nobody ever told me that this was going to happen. Why didn't anyone tell me?" So we're not preparing pregnant couples well enough that they know what to expect.

Megan Walker: It's that secret code, isn't it? Like don't tell anyone how tough those first stages can be or no one would bring beautiful babies into the world if they knew how hard that first bit was.

Colleen Wilson: Yeah.

Megan Walker: Oh, that's wonderful that you're making it easier. I wish I'd known you nine years ago. Oh my God, the loneliness now of... we're isolating mums from their families, aren't we?

Colleen Wilson: Yes. And that's another big part of my work is trying to get a change in thinking around village buildings so that they've got support in place once their baby's home, and we are very bad at it in our Australian culture. A lot of other cultures do it much better. For example, the Indians and the Asians, they'll have mom and mom-in-law come stay with them for three months, or if they're already in a cultural community where they've got moms, aunts, sisters, sister-in-laws, friends that just come and look after mom so that her sole job is just to feed the baby, rest, recover, feed the baby.

Everything else is taken care of. The meals come, the laundry, housework's done, other pets, other children, husbands, all taken care of. All they have to do is rest and recuperate.

Megan Walker: Wow. Yeah. Amazing. And so Colleen, you've been involved in a program that I've been running, teaching people about creating an online course. Tell me about that evolution for you? So what are you hoping to deliver to people online and why is that going to be useful to new parents and families?

Colleen Wilson: Well, it's been a journey as well and it's still in progress, but the fourth trimester workshop, which is what I usually deliver in person, I've put it into an online format. So that means nine short videos that I've recorded of myself talking to a Zoom presentation. So a slideshow as well with all the things that the parents can expect would normally happen after the baby's born. So everything that I would normally do in a home visit face to face, I've adapted it into a form that can be put online in short videos.

And then while they're still pregnant, they can view the online presentation and just pick a video at a time. They're all short. They go from five to 12 minutes, I think. So they're all quite short and bite sized. They can just go through the lot, all in one go, if they want to, or they can just pick bits here and there. And then there's a summary sheet that goes with it. They can keep going back to other parts that are tricking them up. They can sit and watch it with their partner so that the partner knows what to expect as well because it's just as important that he's in on the picture as well and knows what's coming. And then he knows how he can best support his partner and how he can be the best dad that he can for his new baby.

Yeah. So it's that fourth trimester workshop being put into an online form and it means that I'm not restricted by geographical boundaries. It can be bought by anyone in the state or in Australia. It could go global. But I think some of the hospital practices may be different overseas than what we do in Australia, but potentially it could be adapted.

Megan Walker: How exciting. Wow. And so tell me about, what have you learned through that online course creation process, particularly things that you've learned that you might not have been aware of in a way that would help others? What were you not sort of expecting, I suppose I'm asking?

Colleen Wilson: Yeah, the whole entrepreneurship. I wasn't expecting it to be so hard, but specifically for the online course, anything in business really. The same as what I tell mothers, "Don't try and do it alone." I'm hammering into them always, motherhood is not meant to be a sole journey. You need help.

Megan Walker: A coach. Yeah.

Colleen Wilson: And it's exactly the same in the business world. It's just so hard to try and do it on your own. There's so many skills that've had to try and learn. I'm a midwife and that's my specialty, that's what I'm good at. And then when you step away from a hospital environment and you have to learn business skills, marketing skills, how to navigate IT. It's just a whole new world that I just felt so inadequate at, but because I've got such a dogged determination, I would sit for days trying to master a skill that somebody who was in that, working in that sphere would conquer in 20 minutes, half an hour.

So get help, find the right people and get help. You're not meant to do it alone. The same as motherhood, you're not meant to do it alone.

Megan Walker: Well said.

Colleen Wilson: Get people to help you.

Megan Walker: Absolutely, but I love your determination. I always say, you've probably heard me say this, it's like a series of gates and there's so many gates when you're first starting out. And then when you go to repeat some of this next year, you won't have as many gates because you've done so much of the setup, but you can easily get to one and go, "Oh, what do I do with... How do I keep moving through all of these, what feels like blockages in some way?" But keep going, dig into that determination. "I'm going to do this. I'm going to keep going."

Colleen Wilson: Yes. Yes. And we've often said throughout the course we've been doing together, just keep taking one step forward. What small step can you do today to keep moving forward?

Megan Walker: Yeah.

Colleen Wilson: So yeah, that's been very helpful.

Megan Walker: Yeah. And that OT process of make a list. What's the next best thing?

Colleen Wilson: Yeah.

Megan Walker: Just do that, even if it's that one thing today, like trimming your baby's fingernails. Might take you three days to get to it, but you're going to get the clippers and do it. Ask Colleen how to do it. And then, "Okay. Thursday, I'm going to cut the baby's finger nails. I'm going to brush my teeth before 10:00 AM. I'm going to do it."

Colleen Wilson: Yeah.

Megan Walker: Oh, wonderful. And is there any other pearls of wisdom that you'd like to share with other would-be course creators who are thinking of embarking on going digital?

Colleen Wilson: Yeah. Just keep persevering. And one of my things that used to trip me up a bit too, was knowing who to ask and who to trust because to be honest, I have wasted money in this journey with people who said they could help me, would help me and they didn't really, didn't progress me forward. So just trying to nut out and I don't think there's an easy answer for this, but who to trust to get you that next step forward can involve a bit of research and sometimes just taking a leap of faith and doing it. And if it's not working, well, you get out and you try something else and somebody else to help you through. But yeah, don't do it alone. And if it's something that you are not managing, then find someone who can help you with it.

And don't be afraid to pay money to get somebody to help you do it because in the long run, it will be better. Otherwise I know in cases I have spent days and days and days doing something that I've just been so frustrated and angry with, that if I had had the right person, I would've said, "Oh, I don't care what you charged me. I'll pay you whatever. Just do the job for me."

Megan Walker: Do it. Yeah.

Colleen Wilson: Do it so it's done. And then I can focus on what I'm good at, which is the educating and supporting postnatal and pregnant women. So yeah, if you have to pay the money, do it, but do your best to find the right person and invest in them, and that'll move you forward with a lot less headbutting. And just feeling overwhelmed, being overwhelmed has been a very common feeling for me since I left work and doing all this entrepreneurial work, but the end result is it's what I want to do.

So whatever it takes, I'm going to get to a point where I can feel like I've got a business up and running, successful. And once that's in place, then I want to turn around and say to other midwives, look at what I've done. I can help you get to here because I know you are not real happy in the hospital system either. I'll show you how there's another way.

Megan Walker: Yeah, absolutely. A second business idea there. That's a good one.

Colleen Wilson: Yeah. That's a long-term goal because even as I was leaving and now that I have left, it's a very common request from other midwives. "How are you doing it? Can I do the same? I'm not happy where I am. What else can I do?"

Megan Walker: "Take me by the hand." Oh, wow.

Colleen Wilson: "Take me by the hand and show me because I want to have a life that's not as it is at the moment." So yeah, that's a long-term goal for me, is to be able to offer another alternative to other midwives that if you're not happy in the current job you're in, there's alternatives. This is what I did. It took a lot of heartache, but I'm at a place now where I'm happy and I'll show you how I did it.

Megan Walker: Good on you. And they could even be part of your network too, of people going out and doing home visits as well, couldn't they? So with that in mind, how can people get in touch with you if they'd like to partner, share your work of your paid programs, how can people get in touch with you?

Colleen Wilson: Well, my business name is Nurtured Mums. So website's I'm on Facebook and Instagram with the same handle of Nurtured Mums, and my phone number's plastered on all over it. So I'm happy for people to text me or DM, whatever they like, but I'm a texter. I like texting.

Megan Walker: You're a texting person. We've all got our flavor, don't we? And I love your business name too. That's such a good name.

Colleen Wilson: Yeah. Nurtured Mums so she can nurture the baby and then everyone benefits.

Megan Walker: Brilliant. Yeah. Love it. Colleen, thanks so much for talking with us today. I know that you'll be an inspiration to others listening going, "Oh, I'm on the fence. I need to take the dive and do it my way on my term." So yeah, there's a real inspirational story in there and keep going. Just imagine, future pace, think a year from now, how many more gates you will have been through and how much further ahead you'll be again in a year, and then a year after that? And one day you're going to wake up and it'll just be easy and it will happen.

Colleen Wilson: Yeah. Yes, yes. And I need to just every so often stop and pat myself on the back and think, from where you've come, you've come a long way and done a good job, rather than beating myself up thinking, "I'm not where I want to be yet. Why aren't I where I want to be yet? It's already been X amount of time and I should be at this point and I'm not." But yeah, just stop and say, "Well, look at how far you have come from absolutely two years ago or 12 months ago, or whatever." And-

Megan Walker: Absolutely. And we've got to graduate through levels as well. So sometimes I think it's easy to go, "I should be here," and you go, "Well, look at all the levels of where you've gone before. You've already done an undergraduate now in entrepreneurship," but we sort of expect we'll go straight up.

Colleen Wilson: Yeah.

Megan Walker: Wow. You, you really-

Colleen Wilson: And it's not a linear line. It's a-

Megan Walker: Yeah. And we're all guilty as employees going, "Well, that looks easy. So when I do it, it should take me about a year." It's not. If it was that easy, everyone would do it. There'd be no more places left.

Colleen Wilson: Yeah.

Megan Walker: Oh, fantastic. Thanks so much, Colleen. Really appreciate your time and sharing your wisdom, and encourage everyone to follow you and check out what it is that you're doing. And just so beautiful and helping so many lovely families with your work. So thanks.

Colleen Wilson: Thank you. 

Links and further information

Colleen Wilson Nurtured Mum on Facebook.

Nurtured Mum's website

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