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 ❤️

r – Evolution in the NHS is happening right now 

Let’s go right back to 1980 the year I joined the NHS . I was a student nurse . My first ward was E1 a male surgical ward which was run like a tight ship. The captain was the sister and she ruled the seas – quite literally especially when I flooded the ward because I’d left the metal bed pan steriliser running during a ward round !!! 💦💦The consultant was paddling in his leather shoes, his trousers suspended at half mast like sails  – he never spoke to me but I was told off , humiliated and belittled. I wonder if that’s when I first saw the value of humour at work ?  Because suddenly the patients adored me ! Fast forwards 33 years to 2013 , you’d think I’d have learnt my lesson ! A busy shift and I was working on the beloved birth centre , women were spilling  into it because the delivery suite (a term I do not like – birth ward would be better) was full . A midwife friend asked me to keep an eye on the birth pool she was filling and I forgot as the woman I was with was overflowing with oxytocin and gave birth . So the best thing I hear is someone shouting ‘flood!’ Oops a daisy – run outside the woman’s room (not the room or my room – take note!) to find Mr Amu our lovely consultant standing in water laughing at me and saying “how do we sort this ?” My friend Carol the cleaner in hysterics with me as we rallied water suction machines , towels , sheets ANYTHING to stop the water moving further . Do you see the difference between 1980 and 2013 ? Now those of you who know me well know I’m a joker as I regularly shout to lovely Carol the cleaner “quick I’ve had another water incident !” Of course I’m joking and of course we laugh out loud and Carol tells me off – giggling . 

The evolution is happening because  as the years have passed social media has been accepted as a form of communications and is effective connecting more staff and service users than emails and/or phone calls. However much more than that NHS staff can find out what’s happening (or not as the case maybe) either within their own trusts or in other trusts they may never ever visit or work at . By sharing evidence, good practice  , learning from others and communicating openly we are slowly stamping out poor practice and improving quality . Patients talk to staff within an open forum , staff read more articles and are constantly trying to improve the patient experience . 

For me I think the lightbulb moment has been that I can make a difference , I can challenge practice and I allow myself to keep learning, growing and connecting . I’ll take you back to 1980 – all I knew was where I worked – now I see so much more-  and the wonderful people I’ve met on social media ? Well we would have never met ! So thank you social media from the staff and families of the NHS.

Let’s keep on evolving 
Thank you for reading 

With love  , 

Jenny ❤️

 The role of L❤️VE in healthcare 

I recently rewatched    THIS FILM   of Dr Donald Berwick giving the keynote speech in London 2013 to The International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare. This presentation struck a chord with me . 

In the NHS there are many systems and processes which promote working within the confines of guidance and staffing  . However, time and time again there seems to be omissions about how guidance can encompass love . When people love their job and they feel valued within their particular role the result is better health care . It can’t be a coincidence that this is because if you love your job then in effect you love the people you care for .  

When we talk about “love” it’s sometimes misunderstood – actually being human is about loving others .

 I was once in an orthopaedic ward as a patient following an accident and had to have major surgery on my lower leg – a pin and plate and internal fixation , tendon repairs . This operation left me non-weight bearing for 12 weeks . My mobility was severely compromised . In the bed next to me was an elderly woman let’s call her “Sophie”. Each day I’d watch some staff forget to put Sophie’s drink within her reach and this troubled me greatly . I’d ask staff to move her drink closer and I was usually given ‘the look’ i.e “what business is it of yours?” In fact it was totally my business as a human to care about another human . So I made a decision that I’d make Sophie’s hydration my job and also the job of my visitors . Sophie had no visitors , she was confused and didn’t really talk much . I asked my family to bring her a few bottles of sugar free cordial and set about my mission . On a daily basis I hopped to her bed and made her several drinks over the course of the day – usually out of sight of the staff . I began to recognise when she wanted the toilet as she’d shout out , then I’d alert the staff . This went on over about 6 days and with my visitors helping Sophie was soon rehydrated and talking – in fact she was well enough to go back to the nursing home she had been admitted from . 

So what made me do this ? I didn’t know Sophie and I could’ve just focused on my own recovery. In fact Sophie helped me to find the courage to use my crutches (something I was petrified of using) and she took my mind off my own pain and frustration . Much more than this however I saw myself as Sophie in years to come – ‘sat out’ in a chair unable to move or communicate , hoping for the staff to be kind , for the kindness of strangers to aid my recovery or to ease my loneliness in some way . 

“We are all one another” 

I never told anyone about this before except my family who were also directly responsible for Sophie’s recovery . You see the truth is we didn’t do it for recognition – we de it because we are human 

Thank you for reading 

With love , Jenny ❤️

The fable of the napkin folder 

There was once a factory in a far away land . The factory owner Fred  took immense pride in his factory .

This was no normal place to work , the employees had to fold napkins at the same time as caring for an elderly person . This care involved mainly talking to the elderly person and making the person happy through conversation – this was an intrinsic  part of their work – but I’d like you remember that  the employee also had to fold napkins .

Suki was an employee at the factory , she was an amazing napkin folder and the top napkin folder at the factory . The factory owner raved on and on about how good Suki was at her job – he promoted her and used her as a role model of efficiency whenever he went to other napkin folding factories . Suki felt very proud and kept working hard .

One day Suki’s chair broke – so she had to move to another area whilst it was fixed . Suki sat next to Giles who was also a napkin folder – Giles wasn’t very productive but he did attain adequate levels of napkin folding  to keep himself in employment . Suki noticed amazing things about Giles he was working but also chatting away to his allocated elderly person quite a lot , the elderly person was called Gertrude . Suki noticed that Gertrude looked very happy and Suki suddenly realised that all the years at the napkin folding factory her own allocated elderly person had never laughed like Gertrude . 

The next day Suki went to see Fred the factory manager and told him about Giles & Gertrude . “I think we should watch Giles” Suki said . Fred the factory owner went to see Giles and immediately noticed how joyful he was in his work – Suki was happy but Giles had that extra ‘je ne sais quoi’ . The factory owner also checked all the records of all the elderly people that Giles had sat with whilst he folded napkins . A wonderful thing had come to light not only had no one complained but there were letters of thanks from families of the elderly people stating how kind Giles had been and recommendations for his promotion .

The next day Fred the factory owner made an announcement to all the people at the factory  

“All of us within this factory should give a higher priority to making each elderly person happy  over and above folding napkins. In this wonderful life  we are simply spreading kindness , compassion and the human spirit . Look at Giles and Getrude and the happiness they emit and share . ”

Over the next few months the factory workers tried their best each day to give their priority to each of their allocated elderly people. A remarkable thing started to happen – productivity increased and surprise,y more napkins were folded than ever before  but also the workers felt more valued  and much happier about being at work – plus much more than that the physical and mental health of the elderly people involved took a significant improvement – because in the end we are on earth to be human .

I hope you enjoy my fable . 
Thank you for reading 
❤️Jenny❤️

✨My chosen charity – Barnardos✨

This year I have been sorting through things that I no longer need, things that could be useful to others and donating them to my local Barnardos shop . A couple of weeks ago I was in the shop and I had a look around  realising that as well as donating I should be actually buying something to support this worthwhile charity . I spent £4.57 on two CDS , a candle , a model of a fisherman, (as I have a thing for the sea ) and a butter dish which I have decorated here is my tweet CLICK HERE to see the tweet. 

  

When I arrived home I started  thinking about the gifts we buy others and thought of the way the media portrays wealth and indeed how some see the need to show their wealth by displaying their possessions to the world . Some obscene purchases of the wealthy really irritate me when I see how many people live in poverty not just in underdeveloped countries but also in developed countries like right here in the good old UK .  One example that recently made me question the true value of wealth was the story of Kim Kardashians nappy bag – A bag worth over  £10k . Imagine living in poverty & seeing this kind of story splashed over the news most days , and the effect on a humans resilience to keep going . Wealth means more than actually having enough to live on – wealth is about learning , kindness, humanity , giving to others , realising there is only so much you can  own and also sharing with others . I feel rich every day because of the family & friends that I have . They give me gifts that are not tangible but yet make me feel like a rich woman . 

I enjoy some quiz shows and relish learning. Whilst I watching the Charity donation segments on some “celebrity versions” of well known quiz show,  I was struck by a thought

 “if celebrities can have a chosen charity then why can’t normal people like me?” 

 I then researched some charities and chose Barnardos because it is so much more than a charity it has actions and outcomes and this year is celebrating its 150th year . Click HERE to read more about the history of Barnardos, listen to children’s voices and experience the impact that the work of Barnatdos is having on so many lives .  

This year until the end of 2016 I am making Barnardos my chosen charity and I pledge to do the following 

  • Donate anything I no longer need to Barnardos 
  • Purchase all future birthday presents and Christmas presents until the end of the year from my local Barnardos shop as far as possible . If this is not possible I will go to the nearest Barnardos shop after this one 
  • If I need to buy anything for myself or my home I will always first look for it in my local Barnatdos shop before going to a mainstream retailer. 
  • I will tweet my purchases to prove to others that I am staying true to my pledge 

I challenge you all to find a chosen charity of your own to support for the rest of the year and to help you feel like you are making a difference . 

As Ghandhi said  “Be the change you wish to see in the world ” 

Thank you Barnardos from me for all the children in the UK whose lives you have touched and changed 

Thank you for reading 

❤️Jenny❤️

Processes within the NHS 

There is a phrase “going around” that takes the impact of what it’s like to be an elderly person without support and this derogatory term totally dehumanises a very human situation. Talking about humans as processes instead of shouting out loud that caring does not start and begin in a hospital is like saying that once a person reaches 70 nobody really cares about them. The roots of care, compassion and indeed humanity itself  are intertwined into community , family life and neighbourhoods. Love and care begin at birth when the impact of instinctual kindness and love from one’s own mother is portrayed immediately at the moment of arrival by her display of emotions, indescribable craving and total need to hold her newborn child. It is my quest that every midwife, obstetrician and in fact anyone who is privileged to be there when a child is born knows this and thinks about it every second before birth occurs and is instrumental I helping to facilitate it or shout out when it doesn’t seem to be . 

NOW I’d like you to imagine that you are a senior NHS manager questioning your clinical leaders about how to address the problem of  “bed blockers” you are driven and you don’t tolerate excuses . Suddenly fast forward your own life – you are 79 years old and living alone . Your family live just far enough away from you to prevent a daily visit . You are isolated and feel depressed so gradually without any realisation of it , you stop looking after yourself . Your home becomes as uncared for as you are and then you fall . The reason for your fall is that you didn’t like the new slippers your granddaughter bought you for Christmas they were too much like shoes. You therefore continue to wear your old worn ones and on this particular day as you descend your steep unsafe-for-a-79-year-old stairs, your slippers “tread free” soles slip on the edge of a stair – suddenly you’re in flight mode. Your hip dislocates and your femur breaks – time to realise after your operation and recovery in a rehabilitation centre that you can’t get home. Mainly due to the fact that your family are away for a few days in France and social services have deemed your house as unfit for you to move back into . One particular day you are “sat out” in a chair behind some curtains and you overhear a Dr and an occupational therapist talking – your name is used and that familiar term “bed blocker” Is mentioned. The words ring in your ears from when you used to say them about others and now you are one. 

Did you know  when ambulance crews take patients to accident and emergency that they have to wait and cannot leave their charge until the care is taken over by the hospital team. I know this because last year  I worked with an ambulance team for a day . We were transferring a woman to another hospital & I was the escort midwife – once in another zone the ambulance was recognised on the radar and unable to leave each time a 999 call was made . It was like being in another galaxy unable to return to our own a sort of NHS antithesis to Brigadoon. So if SEVEN ambulance crews arrive at a particular Accident and Emergency department all waiting to handover the care of their patients -SEVEN ambulances are simultaneously  off the road-what’s to be done about this?

A few months ago I realised I was digressing from my ” #skinToSkin” work and asked a friend what I should do . Political issues were starting to interest me more , I felt more aware of care for people living with dementia . I had started reading about how mental  health issues are addressed and pigeon holed. Nick Chinn taught me about silos and I realised that the NHS works in silos. My friends reply was “keep going Jenny – as a NHS Midwife you have a duty to be political so that you can tell others about the day you spent with the ambulance  crew, why skin to skin matters to society and is a public health issue . To be frank I’d be more worried if you said you felt apolitical” 

So my friends let’s keep going and let’s keep championing good care , outing systems that don’t put the patient and/or family at the heart of what we do – one day that “bed blocker” might just be you . 

Thank you for reading please feel free to leave comments – your input helps me to reflect and develop as a midwife , mother and human . 

❤️Jenny ❤️