May 5 is the internationally recognised day for highlighting the work of midwives. The theme for IDM 2017 is “Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life!”. Midwives everywhere understand that by working in partnership with women and their families they can support them to make better decisions about what they need to have a safe and fulfilling birth.
It seems like every time you check your social media there is some awareness event or other: World Arthritis Day, International Sunglasses Day, National Doughnut Week…the list goes on. In most cases, these events pass with little thought as I carry about my daily business, but there are one or two which deserve a special mention. Like today.
I doubt that any woman who has given birth would have nothing to say about the care she received from her midwifery team. From that tentative first appointment, to those first few weeks of parenthood, midwives are by your side; providing care, sharing information, alleviating anxieties and instilling confidence that you can – and will – survive the birth.
Often they are the first person a woman tells about her pregnancy, and throughout those weeks and months they work alongside women and their families, supporting them, empowering them to make informed choices and safeguarding their physical and mental health.
In Norfolk, expectant mothers are allocated to a community team to provide antenatal and postnatal care, whilst the delivery (unless you opt for a home birth) is attended by the midwives working in the hospital, either on labour ward or the midwifery-led unit. Despite being cared for by a team, during both my pregnancies I was fortunate enough to see the same midwife Leanne for almost all of my antenatal appointments, which made me feel like we were developing a good relationship – something which I knew would help me in the final weeks of pregnancy when discussing preparing for the birth, and for postnatal care too.
My best friend is a midwife, so I had gleaned some understanding of the role from her stories, and during my pregnancy with Findlay I knew that having confidence in, and feeling reassured by, the midwives who cared for us would be key to having a positive birth experience. But I could never have predicted just how important that would be when faced with the devastation of delivering my stillborn son and the fear of pregnancy after loss.
At a time filled with media reports of an NHS ‘in crisis’ and politicians who appear more focused on cutting costs and efficiency than the actual work undertaken by healthcare professionals, it is easy to overlook the monumental impact that midwives have on women and their families, and all that they do to empower and support them through their journey to parenthood.
It is hard for me to put into words just how vital midwives are (and no doubt others have done so far more eloquently than I can) so instead, I just want to say a huge, heartfelt thank you to the midwives who I have had the pleasure of meeting.
To Julie, the fetal medicine midwife who supported us in the fraught days between Findlay’s diagnosis and his death. Who returned my calls within moments; who guided us through the paperwork relating to the induction and postmortem procedures; who walked us down to delivery suite so we knew where to go. You held our hand as we navigated the impossible.
To Dionne, the midwife who delivered Findlay. You coached me through the birthing process, something I was wholly unprepared for. You gave me the strength to keep going, even when I felt I couldn’t. You found a tiny, blue knitted hat to keep Findlay’s head warm. You cared for him as if he was any other baby; one born breathing, into a room filled with joy and noise.
To the midwife who came off her break (as she was apparently the best with the camera) and took the only photographs which will ever exist of Findlay, Tom and I as a family. Who carefully, and delicately positioned his hands and feet; who adjusted the exposure to get the pictures ‘just right’; who unwrapped Findlay from his blanket and took photographs of his whole, perfectly formed body, Those pictures are my most cherished possessions; they are proof that he was here, he was real.
To the midwives who came in to our room to gush over our boy; commenting on his little nose, and his long legs, telling us how beautiful he is, how lovely his name. For the briefest moment we felt like any other new parents, proudly showing off our baby.
To Leanne, the midwife who supported me through both pregnancies. Despite the tine-limits of antenatal appointments, you always took the time to ask about Findlay. You acknowledged me as a mother of two; you listen to my fears that I would never get to take home a living baby; you gave me hope that we would.
To Jo, the midwife who saw me on many of the anxiety-ridden trips to triage following episodes of reduced movement. You made me feel like I wasn’t wasting anyone’s time; you validated my concerns whilst providing reassurance; you acted as my advocate and champion to ensure that Leo was brought safely into the world.
To the midwife on postnatal ward who stroked me hair, and listened as I sobbed at 3am because I was so exhausted; and Leo couldn’t feed; and the relief that he was here, and the grief that Findlay wasn’t, all mixed with those day 3 hormones made me feel utterly overwhelmed. You helped me feel like I wasn’t a complete failure, just a new mum.
Finally, to my wonderful best friend Emma. Whilst you have never cared for me in a professional sense, you are an amazing friend and a fantastic midwife. Throughout both my pregnancies and beyond, you’re unfailing love and support has given me strength and I know that the women you have cared for would be hugely grateful for everything that you do. Your dedication, empathy, compassion and kindness make you the health professional that you are and I am so proud of you.
To all these incredible women (yes, they were all female) thank you so much for all that you do and all that you are.
I will never forget the part you have each played in my journey: in giving me the strength to survive; providing hope and light in the darkness; and helping me become a mother.
Happy International Day of the Midwife to you all!
More information about International Day of the Midwife can be found here: http://internationalmidwives.org