Dear midwives, I need to tell you something

Posted by: on Mar 25, 2019 | No Comments

I’m so sorry.

In the years I had to campaign and fight for all women to have the same rights to homebirth, I heard from so many mothers across the country who were tired, hurting and broken by their birth experiences. Angry at the injustices inflicted by the very same system that is pushing you to your limits.

I’m ashamed to say that because of my anger I haven’t always thought too kindly of you. I’ve blamed you for births that maybe didn’t need to go the way they did, and for all the casual cruelties inflicted on mothers and their babies, that were really, most likely, not your fault, but a result of there just not being enough staff to do the million and one things you have to do to care for several women at a time.

I can see more clearly these days just how your long your shift must feel some days or nights, how little support you get from your bosses sometimes in supporting truly physiological births, and what the stress and trauma of working in this system can be like for you. I hear the stories from broken midwives who don’t want to leave but are so ill from stress that they feel they have no other options. I see your good heart. I see your hard-earned skills. I see your frustration. I see the lack of breaks.

The management systems you are having to work within are not your fault. They probably not even the managements fault either. They’re being squeezed too, no doubt. I see the bullying you suffer for being that one midwife who wants to spend longer ‘with woman’, who wants so much to offer true continuity, and the ridicule and resistance you face for trying to do what is common sense and evidence based, only to be sneered at, or labelled a ‘trouble-maker’ behind your back (or maybe to your face).

I see from midwife friends around the country just how little true support there is for you when you grieve for women who experience very difficult or traumatic births, and then have to carry on as if you hadn’t seen it, keeping a practical head and not disintergrating into a flood of tears until you can get home and maybe not even then if you have children to care for or other more pressing things you need to do. It seems impossible that you can’t be just a little heartbroken… even those of you putting a brave face on it all for years on end.

After all that training, only to find that the ideals you learnt in your early days are just so fucking hard to keep up, day after day and year on year, I can only imagine how heartbreaking it must feel to not always be able to practise how you would wish to. I share your tears behind closed doors for the cracks in the increasingly pressurised maternity system. At it’s best, the NHS can be utterly magnificent, life saving and wonderful, but I see and hear from some of you how it can also push you to breaking point and leave some women shaken and traumatised. Even if we are bloody good at soldiering on and putting a stiff British upper lip on it, that stress has to find some way out or we store it up inside us. And I’m sure you guys are experts at supporting each other and laughing off some of the horrors you must see. Privately I know some of you have weeks or months when you are haunted by things that likely were not your fault at all, but the failings of the system and it’s limitations that you are working in, by policies and funding gaps and staff recruiting inconsistencies and fuck ups up the chain.

So I just want to say, on World Doula Week, that I see you, and I am incredibly grateful and in awe of all you do for women. The miracles you pull out of almost thin air every day. The silk purses you make from the sow’s ear you are handed. Holding it together day after day. I hope you can keep finding ways to look after yourselves when you feel like the wind is in your face.

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Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I see you. I really do.