Aim and objectives. The study explored the experiences of newly qualified midwives and described the factors that facilitated or constrained their development during the transition from student to registered midwife. Background. Knowledge of the transition to midwifery practice remains limited. Design and Method. A qualitative descriptive approach was used. Sixteen graduates from one Australian University participated in a tape-recorded interview. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data set. Results. The metaphor of 'The Pond', an environment that consists of layers of life and can be both clear and peaceful or murky and infested, was used to describe new midwives perceptions of the context and culture of hospital-based maternity care. For some, 'The Pond' was a harsh environment that often became toxic. The 'Life-raft' metaphor was used to describe the importance of midwife-to-midwife relationships. The theme of 'Swimming' captured the consequence of positive interactions with colleagues and a supportive environment, whilst 'Sinking' described the consequence of poor relationships with midwives and a difficult working environment. Conclusion. The study highlights the importance of positive midwife-to-midwife relationships on the transition from student to registered midwife. There was also evidence that continuity with women and midwifery colleagues enhanced confidence and restored faith in normal birth. At the same time, it was clear that the midwifery culture of some institutions remains highly contested with midwives struggling to provide woman-centred care and often challenged by the risk-averse nature of maternity care. Relevance to Clinical Practice. Whilst further work is required, the findings provide a deeper understanding of individual midwives' transition period. The importance of forming longitudinal relationships not only with women but with midwifery colleagues is highlighted. Developing continuity models that adequately support graduates and student's needs are likely to assist in addressing practices issues in both the academic and clinical setting. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.