I read an article recently, actually I’ve seen it several times, popping up on my social media feed as friends and colleagues have shared it with their followers etc.
The article is by a midwife with 8 years of experience who has been forced to resign because of what she feels is a culture of stress and bullying and has begun a new career in risk management.
I wish her well but I’d like to share a few thoughts with you now, on why I choose to stay in this profession.
I qualified in 2000 having been a haematology nurse before that. I hadn’t had children when I started my midwifery career, believe me becoming a mother changes your perspective on pregnancy, childbirth and (especially) breastfeeding. I felt so safe as a student midwife in Norwich. Part of a team, surrounded by wonderful midwives who’s practice I wanted to emulate and who really wanted to teach me how to become an expert in normal birth. I’ve stayed in touch with many of them over the years and hope they feel that I’ve lived up to their high standards and professionalism as well as compassion and caring.
The role is not always easy, shifts can be horrendously busy, there are times when it seems like there will never be enough staff. It’s tiring, challenging, emotionally draining and very demanding but here’s the thing.
I work with an INCREDIBLE group of women.
Wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, all here for a common goal. To support women, mostly strangers before they encounter them on this journey, as they embark on motherhood.
They care, boy do they care.
They want that woman to achieve the birth she hopes for, they will fight anyone who enters the room in order to protect the birth environment if they need to and they will watch over her whilst she drifts in and out of sleep in between contractions thinking of their own experiences of childbirth in the spirit of sisterhood.
These women supported me as I gave birth to my own three children, they watched me transition into motherhood in front of their eyes and I would still trust each and every one of them with my life and that of my children. I love the fact that I have the pleasure of seeing the women who brought my children into the world every day and they see my children growing up.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some dreadful shifts. Times when all we want to do is just put our coats on and go home because our shift has ended and so what if it’s short staffed?? But we don’t, we stay and make sure everyone is safe because that’s what you do when you care.
I’ve seen midwives break down and cry after delivering the “born asleep” baby of the woman who they stayed after their shift to care for because they’d made a connection. I can tell you that we still hold our breath, in the faint hope that there may be some mistake, that this beautiful, precious child will take a breath and cry at birth because if wishing could make it happen it surely would.
I’ve watched the expressions on the faces of my colleagues as we’ve heard women in the second stage of labour, the sounds turning to that first cry of a newborn baby, smiling to themselves in secret relief that another baby has safely made their way into the world but always ready to rush to the side of the midwife who has requested help. Calmly co-ordinating themselves without the need for instruction to ensure everything and everyone that is needed is on hand.
And the women, and partners, who I truly feel honoured to be able to support during the most life changing event they will ever encounter. The wonderful conversations we have during the course of our meeting. Some of the women I meet have overcome the most horrendous personal circumstances to get where they are, some have been gifted with the most amazing lives but each of them have a story and they fascinate me. There can surely be few people on earth who are lucky enough to witness a couple become a family in front of their eyes. That beautiful moment when a mother first sets eyes on the child that has emerged from her body and the look that is exchanged between her and her partner. Those who have seen it will know exactly what I mean.
I’m not trying to paint the picture that everything is perfect. There are many reasons why midwives are leaving the profession in droves, but, for me, there are many more reasons to stay.