Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Study in heartbreak and hardship

Midwife's challenges included caring for dying mother and two small children as she studied.

Puti Crawford has impressed her tutors with her ability to conduct herself with dignity at all times. Photo / Richard Robinson
Puti Crawford has impressed her tutors with her ability to conduct herself with dignity at all times. Photo / Richard Robinson

Puti Crawford is one of 1100 students graduating from Hamilton's Wintec tomorrow, but none of the others had to overcome such exceptional personal circumstances to complete their study.

The Auckland mother of two graduates with a bachelor of midwifery but said she almost gave up when her mother died of cancer during the programme.

Not only that, Ms Crawford began the three-year degree in 2009 with a 5-month-old baby, became pregnant within the first few months on the course and gave birth at the end of the first year, cared for her unwell mother, went through a temporary break-up with her partner and moved house twice, all while commuting every day between Manurewa and Hamilton.

Ms Crawford's tutors said that despite her hectic schedule and emotionally challenging personal life, the 27-year-old impressed them with her ability to conduct herself with dignity at all times a good skill to have in her chosen career.

Ms Crawford's mother, also named Puti, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and given three weeks to live. She proved doctors wrong but in 2010 suffered a "bad turn" which forced Ms Crawford to consider putting her studies on hold.

"But Mum said no, I couldn't. My family was trying to get me to stop for a bit but with midwifery you have to complete it within four years."

At one stage Ms Crawford was working 12-hour shifts at Waikato Hospital as part of her clinical placement before driving back to Auckland to pick up her children from daycare, and visit her mother in hospital before going home.

"I could have stayed down there but it was just'cause my kids were so young I decided to travel because I was still breastfeeding my baby. It worked out not easier but better for them."

Her baby son was only a month old when she went back to polytech for the second year and classmates agreed Lyrin could attend the class with his mother.

At two months he joined his older sister, Lylah, then 16 months, at daycare in Auckland so Ms Crawford could continue studying. "It was the whole juggling act that was the hard bit."

Mrs Crawford, 59, died in mid-2011, during the third year of the degree.

At the end of that year Ms Crawford failed her final 500-hour clinical placement with a midwife which upset her because of the time she had sacrificed with her dying mother to meet the placement demands.

She repeated it last year and said in hindsight that was good because of the extra experience and knowledge gained.

The pressure of her mother's ill-health resulted in Ms Crawford and her partner Stewart Baker taking a break from their relationship for six weeks.

But now the pair are engaged and planning a wedding at the end of the year.

And Mr Baker has been inspired by his fiancee, taking up studying social work.

Ms Crawford, now a midwife on rotation at Middlemore Hospital, believes her mother would be proud.

- NZ Herald

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