I was quite sad to read an article published in the Guardian today about the state of Maternity Care in the UK. A survey conducted by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) and childbirth charity the NCT, resulted in comments of women being “treated like cattle” and feeling like they were “on a conveyer belt”.
Fifty percent of women surveyed also highlighted so called “red flag” events during labour, for example waiting more than 30 minutes for pain relief, or more than an hour to receive the stitches they need.
My personal views on this may be different to some, but I feel compelled to share my experience. Having been in hospital for almost 4 weeks following the birth of my second child, I got a real insight into the work of a midwife, and feel some of the findings of this survey do them a complete injustice. We all know that we have a shortage of midwives, and we all know that something needs to be done, but I feel that to question the care given as a result is unfair.
In my experience, here are just a few of the things I have to say thank you for – both to the midwives and midwife support workers – be warned it is a long long list!
- Thank you to the community midwife who involved my three year old in every stage of my pregnancy, allowing her to help you with the Doppler and blood pressure machines at every single visit. These little acts of kindness helped my daughter adjust to the idea of becoming a big sister, and feel included in every part of my pregnancy.
- Thank you to the midwife who managed to rush through my first scan date, despite me not advising you of my pregnancy until gone 10 weeks (due to not wanting to tempt fate following my miscarriage).
- Thank you to the midwife who listened to my fears, and providing a steady supply of tissues when I learned that I would need a C-section due to Neve being breach.
- Thank you to the midwife who made lots of calls to investigate alternative options for me in terms of medication, and talked through my emetophobia (sick phobia) with me prior to my planned section.
- Thank you to the midwife who calmed me down when I arrived at hospital at 3 in the morning experiencing what I had failed to realise was the onset of labour prior to my planned section date.
- Thank you to the midwife who held my hand whilst I rang my other half to get him up to the hospital, only for him not to answer the phone (he’d fallen asleep!). Thank you to the midwife who smiled sympathetically at my F worded rant that followed! 🙂
- Thank you to the midwife who found our baby some knitted clothes to wear when my partner forgot the hospital bag (despite it having been at the bottom of our bed for a month… it was all a bit of a rush so I will let him off!!!)
- Thank you to the midwife who held my hand whilst I squeezed it with every ounce of my being during the spinal. I was having contractions at the time, and trying desperately to stay still. At that point in time I missed my Mum more than ever, and your gentle touch meant more to me than you will ever know.
- Thank you to the midwife who kept me calm and talked me through what was happening at every stage of my section. Thank you for distracting me by singing along (terribly I might add!) to the song on the radio – it really made me smile.
- Thank you to the midwife who ensured I saw and held my baby as soon as possible after she was born.
- Thank you to the midwife who helped me feed Neve within minutes of being in the recovery room – this support and assistance meant we established breast feeding quickly and easily.
- Thank you to the midwives who humoured my other half by getting involved with a birth announcement selfie. You were coming towards the end of a long and very busy shift, but you were as enthusiastic and bright as if it was the start.
- Thank you to the midwife for boosting my confidence on feeding, saying how impressed she was that Neve had latched on straight away. It was a simple thing, but it made me feel proud and content with a new baby in my arms.
- Thank you to the midwife who dealt with my “semi meltdown” on day 2, when my painkillers started to wear off. After a dose of tramadol, I think I may have called you my guardian angel, but that is truly what it felt like. You became an agony aunt, a friend and a confidant all in a matter of hours. Oh and no matter what your husband may think – your new haircut is fabulous.
- Thank you to the midwife who helped me on the 2nd night when my daughter wouldn’t settle. She could see I was exhausted, and took Neve to the nursery for an hour so I could get some sleep. Knowing she was safe and looked after meant I got a few precious moments of shut eye.
- Thank you to the midwife who worked through her breaks endlessly trying to ensure all the ladies on the ward got to go home to their families. You had been at work since 7am, and we left at 4, but you knew how desperate I was to be home as a family of four.
- Thank you to the midwife who greeted me on my unfortunate return to hospital 4 days after discharge. You stayed with me in the high dependency ward, chatting to me about “normal stuff”. At this point, I was terrified I was going to die, so your chat about your three boys and what you were doing at the weekend was more appreciated than you realise.
- Thank you to the midwife who let me have my daughter stay with me on the ward as “a lodger”. On being readmitted to hospital, my only concern second to staying alive, was that I didn’t want to stop feeding my daughter. Thank you for letting that happen. She is four months old now, and without this support, I would not be still feeding her today.
- Thank you to the midwife who got me a private room back on the same ward I had been on previously. I really wanted to see a familiar face, and it was so nice to be with the midwives I had met first time around. The private room meant that I could sleep between baby feeds and observations, and when feeling so poorly, those extra hours of kip really meant the world.
- Thank you to the student midwife who listened to me cry. You were wiser than your years and will be a fantastic midwife. You were so empathetic and despite not being a mother yourself, you completely understood that I was missing my eldest daughter so much, and sometimes came in just to listen to me talk.
- Thank you to the midwife support worker who came with me for my MRI scan. You had a moment of shock yourself when the lady opposite us looked just like your mother who had recently passed away. You held my hand and we shared a moment together thinking of our Mothers.
- Thank you to the midwife who helped me retain my dignity when I realised that I couldn’t move out of the bed. The MRI had caused my muscles to completely seize up. I did some things that no female ever wants to have to do, but I was NEVER made to feel unsanitary or exposed.
- Thank you to the midwife who identified my symptoms were getting worse, and got the physio involved as early as possible. You refused to settle until I was being seen to, and treated me as you would your own daughter.
- Thank you to the midwife who stood up to the slightly arsy consultant who treated me without the respect I deserved. Thank you for telling him so.
- Thank you to the midwife who helped me to and from the toilet like a little old lady, holding me tight and supporting me as I shook with agonising spasms. Thank you for ignoring the swearing.
- Thank you to the midwife support worker who helped me take a much needed shower. Thank you for coming in to help me get dressed, and making various trips to and from my room to collect pants and pads to make me comfortable. Thank you for seeing the funny side and not rolling your eyes when you pulled out the size 10 control pants that my partner had packed by mistake.
- Thank you to the midwife who talked through my feelings and concerns about PND. Having you listen may well have prevented my mood from deteriorating.
- Thank you to the midwife who moved me to a bigger room with an en-suite as soon as it became available. Being able to shuffle to the toilet in my pants and a vest without sympathetic looks from strangers was more appreciated than you know.
- Thank you to all the midwives who celebrated my little successes with me. The first moments out of the wheelchair, the first shuffles with the zimmer, the first steps with the crutches and the first time I did a mini lap of the corridor. I felt a little like Charlie’s Grandad in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, but your supportive and smiling faces gave me the psychological boost I needed.
- Thank you to the midwives who continued to care for me when my sepsis recovery became more musculoskeletal than maternal. Your friendly faces, anecdotes and laughter helped prevent cabin fever from setting in. I felt like I’d made some true friends.
- Thank you to each and every one of you for going above and beyond with a non routine case. I was at all times treated with dignity and respect, and at no point did I feel like cattle or like I was on a conveyer.
You will notice I have missed out the routine – the bed changes, the drug administration, the observations and the meals. The passing me my baby when I couldn’t move and the constant responses to my buzzer.
All of the support I received was on a ward that was at full capacity at all times. Each lady in that ward was experiencing their own postpartum journey – some more routine than others.
I watched the midwives every day, rushed off their feet, barely sitting down, and often being shown far less respect than they deserved. I watched them battle conflicting priorities, be pulled in a million different directions and responding quickly to the unexpected. I formed a new found respect for the midwife, being exposed to the challenges of a midwife that the majority of patients probably don’t get to see.
Quite frankly, I will NEVER forget the ladies who looked after me on the Aspen Ward at Heartlands last September. I think about them often and I cannot put into words how thankful I am to them for helping me through the most challenging moments of my life. Next time you hear someone moan that Midwives don’t work hard or pass judgement without facts, feel free to tell them my story, I would be happy to prove them wrong! x