Lifting the lid – my life as a midwife PART ONE 

This blog has a few aims and I’d like to set them down before anyone panics about what’s going to be said 

  • To try and encourage other midwives why it’s ok to bend the system – but only if it benefits the woman and her family 
  • To inspire others to be different and think outside the box 📦 
  • I’m telling my journey and not only what led me into midwifery but what keeps me there 
  • I want to show the media that midwives do care about women 
  • There will be no breaches of confidentiality 
  • The blog is of my thoughts and feelings 

My life as a midwife began in 1982. I was a student nurse and on placement on a maternity unit learning about midwifery. I was sent into a room to watch a forceps birth – this was not in an operating theatre where complex forceps births take place nowadays but in a simple birth room – I can’t recall anything apart from the woman screaming and the way the forceps were used – it marked me for life so I don’t know how the woman progressed from it . I put off any thoughts of having my own children because of the way this woman seemed to suffer. Back then I was learning about life in the NHS , how to become a patients advocate , running my dad’s newsagents , continuing with my student nurse course which was run by the nursing school attached to the hospital . I was in shock afterwards and decided then I would never be a midwife . 

Fast forwards to the birth of my beautiful daughter in 1989 . I was admitted at 0.5cm dilatation and refused permission to go home because that’s how it was then – I was given a cervical sweep without being asked or consented for it and felt violated after the event asking the midwife “what did you just do to me ?” . 

“I swept and stretched your cervix , you’ll labour now” was the reply – I didn’t know what to say and I was in pain but I accepted it and just felt lost . 

I did eventually give birth 22 hours after my admission and struggled with the pushing part – the consultant was called in and I recall him shouting at me how to push and threatening me with forceps if I didn’t push harder . I gave birth on my back , semi – recumbent – no-one encouraged or suggested a change of position . I was GIVEN an episiotomy without consent and cannot recall any conversation about why this was DONE to me . More or less straight after my birth I was left alone with my daughter she was in skin to skin contact with me . This wasn’t because I knew about the benefits of skin to skin contact at all , but because I just didn’t want to let Jane  go – my mums death when I was just 18 years old had impacted on me massively and I saw something in my daughter Jane’s face that reminded me of my darling mum , I was so emotional I couldn’t put Jane down – despite being encouraged to . 

After the birth I developed bladder problems so had to be kept in for 5 days . I recall feelings of loneliness , sadness , especially when my partner and visitors left . There were strict visiting times in those days , no rule bending , no partners staying overnight allowed . 

Once home I felt more relaxed but my partner was only given one day off work . I had no one, both my sisters were in high profile jobs and both my parents had died when I was younger . A friend came for a few hours a day and tucked me into bed with Jane , I slept whilst she tidied up , cooked and was there for me , I didn’t know what had hit me . 

My community midwife Jean Duerden was amazing , I felt unwell had terrible perineal pain and couldn’t walk far – I accepted this as normal – I was a medical ward sister – I knew nothing about babies and / or petineums . My speciality was caring for men and women with medical conditions – a world apart . 

My community midwife Jean realised something was wrong and I was quickly fast tracked and diagnosed with a perineal haematoma – my sutures were subcuticular and very difficult to release so I had to persevere with analgesia and antibiotics . 

The visits from Jean my community midwife were the highlight of my days – she would bring a student midwife with her and we would talk about how I was feeling , the importance of rest and nutrition and emotional support . Jean also gave me brilliant Breastfeeding advice . One day I blurted out to Jean about my birth experience and she was amazing . I felt from my moments with Jean that she inspired me to become a midwife . Although my labour experience wasn’t great , my postnatal care was so different . 

Almost three years later I started my midwifery training and I have to say despite the ups and downs , staff shortages , media portrayal of midwives , the difficulties I’ve gone through in my career I love being a midwife . My own experiences have shaped me and taught me to listen , act and trust women . 

When I started my midwifery there were no computers – we wrote everything and risk management was very low key . I recall the Fire Officer teaching my group that the most important thing was to keep corridors clear and know which extinguisher to use in the event of a fire . This has stayed with me through my career and I get very upset when I see corridors with obstacles , I make it my mission to clear them . 

I kept a diary and was so thankful to form a life long friendship on my course with another nurse called April . My tutor Anne Ivill suggested that we would get on and we are still good friends to this day . April went to work on neonatal unit as soon as she qualified and is now a health visitor working with children who have congenital illnesses and special needs . We don’t see each other as much as we should but when we do it’s like we’ve never been apart . 

I’ve always been quirky and don’t like discipline or rules that restrict creativity, I was the same at school and used to get into trouble for standing up for friends who were unable to stand up for themselves . Once at high school a friend asked me to wait for her after a detention as she was scared of walking home on her own . We were barred from doing such things but I had a plan ! One of the teachers saw me on the corridor and asked what I was doing, I explained that I was waiting for Mr Heathcote to give me extra maths (a total lie).  Mr Heathcote was found and my cover was blown – I had to stay late all week and clean all the desks in T6 (one of our classrooms) . I made those desks so clean and using my anger with myself as energy to get the job done – the relief was that I didn’t get extra maths I suppose ! 😂

So how has my life affected who I am as a midwife and a woman ? The most influential part of my life was growing up in a newsagents shop , talking to people from all walks of life and respecting them all as valued customers . I worked in the shop from a very young age because I mithered my parents to let me . At first I was only “allowed” to sell newspapers or one item sales . The best day was DECIMALISATION DAY . I had learnt a lot at school about this and was determined to help in the shop but my parents said no . I was so upset – then around 7.30 my dad called me into the shop they were struggling – I was to be allowed to help ! I recall elderly people asking me “how much is that in old money ?” And I dutifully exchanged prices bank to pounds , shillings and pence to help them understand . I can recall if I was off school that day or not but if I was in school I still went in as for my parents not to send me I would’ve had to be really unwell . 

So I hope you enjoyed part one of my lifting the lid blog – in part two I will be referring to my student diary and how hard it was being the only one on the midwifery cohort with a young child. 

To be continued ….,.. 

Thank you for reading 

Love , as always 
Jenny x ❤️

#LeadToAdd 

LeadToAdd click HERE to learn more is the latest NHS England campaign # is #LeadToAdd. As a Caremaker I will be linking this on Twitter with my work on #skinToskin , #futuremidwives and #couragebutter to inspire others to see themselves as leaders regardless of their role . Patients, women, families and non-clinical staff are also leaders .  
I feel this will inspire/activate different meanings to different people

Here are some of my thoughts around it

What does to lead mean ? 
To take charge , to be at the front , to inspire , to educate, to be diverse 
Leading is about being at the front and CONSTANTLY looking back to bring others with you

Leading is about being the first to begin something but not necessarily holding onto that but looking at how your actions impact on the way others fulfil their role. Leading is being a positive role model, leading is about looking inwards at your own behaviour and also looking outwards at the behaviour of others . 

In the NHS all staff need encouragement to recognise themselves as leaders and also to see that some behaviours do not embody leadership. We are all learning each day, so don’t stay still – question yourself and the way you speak to others . Ask a colleague to listen to you talking to patients and staff and to give you feedback -what could you change ? Integrate telephone conversations into drills training-  talk to your practice development team – think outside the box . 

Someone who leads others into poor practice is a poor leader but a leader non the less so be aware of your own commitment to pass the positive leadership baton . We are human and it’s ok to make mistakes , however we must learn, evolve and change .

The other day I had a car journey with Joan Pons Laplana (@ThebestJoan on twitter) and once again he made me think hard about how the 6Cs are integrated into practice . Joan said to me that as a health care professional all tasks and procedures must embody the 6Cs – even answering a telephone call. 
As a form of reflection I’d like you to read passage one and then passage two
Passage One 
Busy labour ward – phone ringing , midwife answered the phone – we will call the person making the call Tony and his partner who is having a baby is called Dolores. The midwives name will be Darcy . 
Midwife ( confident and cheery) ” hello labour ward , midwife speaking how can I help you?”
Tony (nervous voice) ” oh hi – err my partner thinks she’s in labour , it’s our first baby and we are a bit nervous . Could I ask you some questions , she’s here but having a contraction right now and then she feels sick for a few minutes after its gone. 
Midwife “oh right well I need to talk to her please and decide what’s happening’  
I’m not going to continue this but could the midwife change her approach ? Is this midwife you ? A colleague? This approach has been learnt from a peer
Passage Two 

Busy labour ward – phone ringing , midwife answered the phone – we will call the person making the call Tony and his partner who is having a baby is called Dolores. The midwives name will be Darcy . ….

Midwife ( confident and cheery) ” hello labour ward , my name is Darcy Jones I’m a midwife and how can I help you?”
Tony (nervous voice) ” oh hi Darcy – I’m Tony – err my partner Dolores thinks she’s in labour , it’s our first baby and we are a bit nervous . Could I ask you some questions , she’s here but having a contraction right now and then she feels sick for a few minutes after its gone. 
Midwife “ok well I would like to take some details first whilst Dolores has a contraction . Thank you so much for ringing us . How are you feeling ? This is your first baby ? How exciting for you both!” 
I’m not going to continue this but could the midwife change her approach In either scenario – which is the best one in your opinion ?  ? Is either of these scenarios you ? A colleague? This approach has been learnt from a peer. 
So you see two examples each one leaving the person contacting  the service with different emotions . 
Start your journey as a #LeadToAdd leader today  ❤️
Thank you for reading 
Love , Jenny ❤️