Emma Willis tells us all about Series 2

We caught up with Emma ahead of the new series of Delivering Babies.

Emma Willis and the team

How did it feel going back to the Princess Alexandra Hospital?

It was amazing! I think the first series was extremely overwhelming and emotional. It was very brave of people to allow us into that scenario. For series two, I suppose I wondered a lot about whether it would just all be the norm now, or whether I'd still get emotional. I wondered whether that side of it wears off over time the more you see it and get used to it. A bit like everything really. But it didn't, and I'm glad it still knocks me and makes me emotional because it's the most incredible thing to witness. So, it definitely ticked all those boxes for me.

Did they chuck you straight back into the deep end?

They threw me back in the deep end with regards to it being my first day back on the ward and I was straight back onto Chamberlin, but I was with somebody for the first week or so as it had been nine months away so they wouldn't have just let me go solo straight away. I spent a couple of weeks with an MCA brushing up and remembering things, going over things again and they made sure that I was up to speed before they let me go.

Did you remember all your training from the first time around?

No! I mean obviously you do, because I spent such an intense period of time there last year that you learn a lot and take on board a lot and go away from it remembering lots. But then, when it comes to things like taking blood again, I'm like 'I can't just stab somebody!' or 'what if I do it wrong or don't clean it properly?'. You know all those little things that are really simple when you do it day in day out, and it becomes a rhythm and automatic. When you haven't done it for nine months you suddenly panic that you're going to do it wrong.

When you went back to your other telly work after the first series, did you find that your attitude had changed after the experiences you had?

I don't think it had changed, but I think it had just reaffirmed what my attitude already was. I grew up in that life with my parents doing it, so I was around it, but I obviously didn't know it. It was a job that I always wanted to do and thought I'd do, and then ended up in something very very different. So, I think it's a good reality check for me, even though I'm very in check with reality anyway. It just puts everything into perspective and it also makes me feel even more lucky and privileged to do what I do because, in comparison, I don't really have any stress in my job. When you think about what they do day to day and the stress they have and what is in their hands, like life and death. It's pretty serious!

What did you find the most challenging part of the training this time?

This time what I found most challenging was spending time in the Neo-Natal part of the hospital, which I haven't done before. Neo-natal is the intensive care section, then you have special care, which is what they go down to before they go back to the mum on the ward. So, it's kind of that halfway house. I wasn't working with the really tiny poorly babies though, because we were in special care and they were in the process of going home.

I did my training for inserting an NG tube, so I can now tube feed babies. The training team said you just shove the tube up its nose, and it'll go into its tummy and I was like WHAT! It can't be that simple. Their nostrils are so tiny. You think you're going to hurt them, and I think my biggest fear was when they said what you don't want to do is put it into the lung, which sounds horrible! They said it's very rare that it happens, but it can and in all the years they've been training they've never seen anyone do it. So, I was terrified I was going to be the first one!

I think that was such a big challenge for me because my daughter had had it a few days after birth and watching someone do it to her was terrifying. I was so scared that it was hurting her, so for me to have to do it to another child just felt all sorts of wrong. But then you realise that it's actually very quick, and the ones that I did never cried, so I figured that surely it can't hurt that much, and they need it to feed. The only thing you're doing is what's necessary to help them get better, so that made it more justifiable.

Were there any births this series that stuck with you? Whether that's for good or bad reasons?

Thankfully, I wasn't in any majorly problematic or stressful births this time, as I wasn't in or there when that kind of thing happened.

Last series I was desperate to see a water birth, because it was kind of the only box I hadn't ticked, and literally I'd been there for two weeks and the first birth I got into was a water birth. I was just like; this is going to go swimmingly! Because the first time we went we maybe had a handful of people that had come to us to say that they'd be involved. This time we went back, and we had just shy of one hundred people who had said yes, but again people say yes and then change their mind which is fine. Then sometimes they'll come in on the weekend, and if we're not there then we miss it. We had a larger pool of people this time though, which was great.

We actually did quite a few sections because we were lucky enough to be part of the day cases for the elective sections. So, I got to do lots more theatre running which is something I feel like I didn't do enough of last time. They asked me for a tick list of things that I'd like to get really good at, and they were running in theatre, taking blood and not fainting at the sight of repairs...

Did you have any babies named after you?

No, but maybe that's a goal if I go back. I need to try a bit harder on that. I didn't really notice there being a lot of babies named after midwives, to be honest. I think we have such a broad spectrum of names now, with old ones, modern ones and unusual ones. I didn't really come across much of 'I'm going to name it after so and so'. It was more like; she wants traditional and he wants modern. It's normally that little conflict going on.

Is this experience one that makes you feel broody?

I think initially it does, because you're back and I remember the first time just thinking about the smells and how cute the babies were. And you do kind of think, because we've said three is enough, I'm never going to do this again and I look at the bubble the new parents are in, which is amazing. Then a few weeks later you realise that the bubble lasts forever, but that immediate new born baby thing that happens is bloody hard work. We are very lucky to have three good'uns and why rock the boat? Let's just stick with what we've got!

Do you watch Delivering Babies when it's on?

Yes, but not with the kids, as they're a bit young. But yeah, I watch it with Matt and my mum. The first series we were really quite blind, because we'd never done it before. We went in, we worked it and then I obviously had a vision of what I wanted it to be, but you leave it in the hands of the production team and I was so happy that it was a true reflection of what we did.

Your mum was an auxiliary nurse for a long time. What did she think of the series and did she give you lots of feedback?

She loved it! I would come home and say I put an NG tube in today and she'd be like WHAT! Because the role has changed so much. There are things that they used to do that MCA's don't do anymore and there's things that we do now that she never did then because it was 30 or 40 years ago that she did it. So, we have a good chat and I come home sometimes talking about stuff and she's like yeah, I know I did do the job for nearly 20 years Emma! But she's great, she is really supportive of it.

What sort of challenges/barriers are there that are stopping people becoming a midwife?

I haven't got a clue if I'm honest. I would imagine very long hours and not enough credit for what they do is kind of my view on it. I didn't really get into the political side of the NHS, I got into the practical side of it. All I know is that they do an absolutely fantastic job and it takes a very specific type of person to do it though I think. You kind of have to really give a shit about people and want to help people to work within the NHS. I think it takes a very certain type of person to be a midwife and be able to take a woman through that whole experience.

Do you hope to inspire other people to take up the role as a career?

Yes, I hope so! I mean, I love it! It's bloody hard work and a lot of it is cleaning beds, making beds and answering buzzers, but I kind of enjoy that. I think having been a pregnant woman or having just given birth, you are just so thankful for any help you can get immediately before and after. So, I'd do anything you want, literally. If you puked, I'd clean it, it's fine!

I remember I'd just got onto shift one morning and the buzzer went off and I went to answer it. I spotted that it was a girl I hadn't met before, as she'd come in during the night. When I said hi, she was a bit like 'oh, hi' and I think sometimes people think we are just filming rather than actually working. I think her partner then muttered something about her feeling sick, so I said I could go and get someone for them and then I just saw this big bowl of vomit and I was like 'oh you've been sick! Give it to me'. She was pretty shocked when I said I'd get rid of it for her. Then I went to the loo and there was someone in there, then I went somewhere else and it was blocked...and I was like 'I just have a bowl of vomit and I just need to get rid of it!'

I suppose sometimes, when they're not expecting you to answer a buzzer because they think it's just a pretend telly show but you are actually doing the job, people are quite surprised. And even when you're mopping a floor. I did have a couple of women say, 'oh you're actually doing it!' I was like yeah, I'm actually mopping.

If one of your friends was going into labour, do you think you'd be able to assist?

Assist yeah, deliver no! I mean I'd know how to pick up a phone and dial 999 for sure. It's a weird one isn't it because you don't know until you're in that moment. I always say to my friends that are pregnant, I'll be there don't you worry, everything's going to be ok, if you're with me you'll be fine. But I might just go into a blind panic. If I was stuck with somebody delivering a baby, I just don't know...I don't know. I'd like to think I'd be cool as a cucumber, but I might just lose my shit.

Overall, did you feel a lot more comfortable and confident this time?

Yeah because you have a basic knowledge of it, but I'm the kind of person that if I suddenly go yeah, I've got this, I'll do something wrong. So, I always air on the side of caution. But I got very good at taking blood. My record now is more hits than misses, which is great.

And finally, you are now fully qualified! Does this mean you can work in any hospital?

Yes! I've got the recognised care certificate, which everyone has to achieve to be able to get a job in a hospital. So, I've got a backup plan now! I don't have much time at the minute, but I think in the future, when all the telly stuff ends, I can't imagine I'm just going to want to do nothing. I love the environment, especially in that hospital. We were really lucky with the people that we had because they were all just bloody lovely and welcomed us in with open arms. It would have been very easy for them to go 'what the hell are you jokers doing here?', but they embraced it and loved it and they wanted to show what they do. They were also very natural on camera. So yeah, maybe a bit of volunteering work, why not? I feel like I can do it!