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 ❤️

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The future midwife and the midwife 

A few weeks ago I was working with Emily Leeder a student midwife who has since completed her training and has now finished her time at my trust . I really like Emily she totally gets me and my sense of humour and she has picked up some of my traits – which is strange but lovely to see – I feel that when I do retire I will leave a little bit of me within Emily’s practice .  Emily also inspired this blog CLICK HERE TO READ about the importance of appropriate touch in midwifery . 

We both saw the positive effect of a small glass of a well known energy drink (NOT Redbull!) made flat by stirring profusely and how women who hadn’t eaten in labour felt better after it . We christened it our ‘chemistry set recipe’ for an energy boost in labour .

When we worked together we automatically shared roles and I think that neither of us felt controlled or ruled by the other – we were there for the women and supported them but we were in harmony as future midwife and midwife . Emily taught me the true meaning of mentorship as she messaged me for support and also wrote me lovely feedback for my revalidation.  I gelled with her and never felt judged by her or unable to ask if she knew something I didn’t . 

A few weeks ago we were with a woman who was at the start of her journey to becoming a mother . With this wonderful woman was her partner and her mum . We were having a discussion about skin to skin and delayed cord clamping and I asked the woman’s mum if she had experienced skin to skin contact at birth  with her children. The mum said “not really , my baby was born then weighed , measured and checked by another midwife , whilst the birth midwife was helping me to birth my placenta and check if I needed stitches – which I didn’t – so then I was told to have a shower . Within half an hour I was transferred to the postnatal ward ” 

My reply was off the cuff and I didn’t realise how funny it was until Emily had to leave the room crying in laugher . 

I said “a shower ? You gave up skin to skin contact because someone told you to have a shower ?! We are mammals – imagine other mammals giving birth and being forced to wash within an hour of birth . In fact right here right now let’s just imagine an elephant giving birth to a baby elephant cub and one of the female elephants shouting out ‘Get into that river now & wash !’ It just wouldn’t happen would it – no one would argue with a newly birthed elephant mum would they ? ” 

It really doesn’t seem as funny now but it’s left a great memory for me , Emily and the family – and the woman gave birth and did NOT get pushed into the shower at all . In fact she chose to have a wash a bout three hours later , after LOTS of skin to skin with her newborn ❤️
Thank you Emily for helping me with my journey as a mentor – I’m always learning and I wish you well at your new NHS trust – keep in touch 

This is my first ever scheduled blog and it’s for three reasons 

1. Today will be the third anniversary of the day I started presenting to raise awareness of skin to skin contact – you can read the storify of the day HERE or just search #MAMMevent on Twitter 

2. I will be presenting at Coventry midwifery Society today the # will be #CovBF17 

3. To thank Sheena Byrom OBE for believing in me as a public speaker and also for friendship and kindness when life was tough for me . 

I am proud to be a midwife 
Love from Jenny xx 😘 

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The operating theatre tea party – read on to find out more 

This week I was lucky enough to be in the multi-disciplinary team involved in the care of women pre peri and post – Caesarean section . 

Lucky you say ? Aren’t midwives supposed to only be focused on PHYSIOLOGICAL  birth ? well yes that’s one of our roles but we also care for women in the antenatal period – we run triage clinics with the fab support of a skilled maternity support worker – running tests on women then contacting the Dr for advice with the results – pure team work . We also care for women in labour who have complex medical needs , complex mental health issues and we work WITH the obstetric team to find the best plan of care – we do this together with the woman’s input . I am proud of everyone I work with – they give me hope . We also work on birth centres and attend pool births . We are community midwives we attend home births , we support women who have safeguarding issues , women who live under the threat of Domestic violence and women who have disabilities. We manage wards , units , we are heads of midwifery , we are ward midwives , labour ward midwives , specialist midwives  and we are mothers , fathers ,single women/men  , gay women/men  , straight women/men  , married men/women , we are spinsters / bachelors but most of all we are HUMAN BEINGS .  

Each birth I see means a lot to me as a woman, a midwife and a human . I don’t judge a woman because she has a more complex or simple birth than the births I had – I’m in MIDWIFERY because I want women to feel positive about their birth experience and EVEN after this weeks news I am still determined to try my best to promote physiology in all birth settings . 

Anyway back to the operating theatre . 

The team in the operating theatre where I work are so together with the families they meet . They all know the importance of #SkinToSkin contact and how utterly important it is for the woman involved to hold her newborn asap . So the ODP makes sure that the woman tucks one sleeve of her theatre gown under her arm , places the ECG electrodes on the woman’s back and adds a mini – extension to the top of the theatre table so as to give the woman a greater sense of space to hold her newborn . The scrub nurse prepares a sterile space on the cot for the obstetrician to place the baby onto AFTER delayed cord clamping has taken place . The baby is dried on the theatre table and then placed on a sterile sheet on a cot with wheels – the Midwife assesses the baby’s condition at the side of the parents – so they feel involved and the baby is not weighed – we aim for skin to skin contact prior to 5 minutes of age – unless there are concerns with the baby’s health – both parents see the baby immediately and one of them cuts the cord . The other parent is then helped with placing the newborn on the mothers upper chest safely in a prone position and the midwife STAYS next to the woman and her newborn supporting them so that skin to skin can continue for as long as possible , I have piloted this and women who are supported hold their babies for longer – so I leave my records until we go into recovery area . Photographs are encouraged (as many as the family want to take) and also music . This week we asked a woman which music she’d like – we don’t yet have a Bluetooth speaker in  theatre just yet (watch this space)  so I put my phone on as Coldplay was requested . The consultant anaesthetist (Dr Richard Cross ) left the senior registrar in anaesthetics in charge whilst he was away for two minutes . When he returned he was holding a metal NHS supply teapot – we all looked puzzled 😕 . Then he carefully placed my phone into the empty teapot – this acted like a mini speaker and it was just the right volume for the family – but not too loud to disturb the surgeons and the safety in the theatre . 

What I’m trying to say is that this kind gesture was all for the family – especially the woman – we were making memories for her – she’ll always remember that she held her newborn , whilst listening to Coldplay from a teapot – what could be better than that 

Once safely in recovery (transfer to recovery area takes place with skin to skin ongoing ) we encourage birthcrawl by the newborn and praise the infants behaviour as this helps with the maternal connection . The woman is offered water quite soon after (unless she has had a general anaesthetic- in which case we wait until she is safe to tolerate water ) and then a cup of tea ( two half cups so none has the potential to spill onto the newborn ) and some toast which helps with enhanced recovery – we try to take our time with being in recovery as the woman needs more time to bond with her child due to restrictions on movement due to theatre drapes & position . 

Thank you Richard Cross and all the team in theatre for your kindness , laughter , compassion and care 
I hope you enjoyed reading this latest blog 

P.S what I didn’t mention was that there was a language barrier , but kindness , compassion and communication still took place – and the music connected us all ❤️

Happy Saturday -with love  Jenny xx 

Loss of control – a reason for fear of birth ? 

When any of us are admitted to hospital we lose control . We are unable to get a hot drink when we want one , eat what we want when we want to ,take simple pain relief , go to the toilet , sleep as well as we would at home , get up in the night or stay in bed longer . We are also unable to control what we hear , what we see . We lose our safe place of home and being surrounded by friends and family – it feels lonely and alien to us . This doesn’t mean that we are not able to adapt to new situations it’s just that more than a few things change and this throws a curveball towards us .  The fear we feel is because we feel we are handing ourselves and our bodies , our routines and home comforts over to others, they are dismissed  – this has quite a destabilising effect on our psyche . 

A key part of NICE CG190 guidelines for care in labour encourages midwives to set the scene for women. The section I am going to focus on is COMMUNICATION – which is part of 1.2 Care throughout labour (click on the following numbers to be taken to the site)  CG190 

I have copied and pasted the exact words and written the key words in CAPITALS below to help highlight their impact – does it make you think about them differently ? 

COMMUNICATION 

1.2.1 Treat ALL women in labour with RESPECT . Ensure that the woman is in CONTROL of and involved in what is happening to her, and recognise that the way in which care is given is key to this. To FACILITATE this, ESTABLISH a RAPPORT with the woman, ASK her about her WANTS  and EXPECTATIONS for labour, and be AWARE of the importance of TONE and DEMEANOUR , and of the ACTUAL WORDS used. Use this information to SUPPORT and GUIDE her through her labour.

1.2.2 To ESTABLISH communication with the woman:

GREET
the woman with a SMILE and a personal WELCOME, establish her LANGUAGE NEEDS , INTRODUCE yourself   “#HelloMyNameIs”

explain your ROLE in her CARE .
Maintain a CALM and CONFIDENT approach so that your demeanour REASSURES the woman that all is going well.

KNOCK
and WAIT before entering the WOMAN’S ROOM , respecting it as her PERSONAL SPACE , and ask others to do the same.

ASK
how the woman is FEELING and whether there is anything in particular she is WORRIED about.
If the woman has a written BIRTH PLAN , READ  and DISCUSS it with her.

ASSESS
the woman’s KNOWLEDGE of strategies for coping with pain –PROVIDE  BALANCED INFORMATION to find out which available approaches are ACCEPTABLE to her.

ENCOURAGE the woman to ADAPT to the environment to meet her INDIVIDUAL needs.
Ask her PERMISSION before all PROCEDURES and OBSERVATIONS, FOCUSING  on the WOMAN  rather than the TECHNOLOGY or the DOCUMENTATION .

SHOW the woman and her birth companion(s) how to summon HELP and REASSURE her that she may do so WHENEVER  and as OFTEN  as SHE NEEDS to. When LEAVING  the ROOM, LET her know when you WILL return.

INVOLVE
the woman in any HANDOVER OF CARE  to another professional, EITHER when ADDITIONAL EXPERTISE has been brought in or at THE END OF THE SHIFT. 

Every person who cares for (no matter how short a time ) a woman in labour should follow this guidance and I feel there should be posters up on maternity units in all languages which emphasise that this will happen . 

There are many barriers to communication and one that most midwives, student midwives , maternity health care assistants , obstetricians and anaesthetists agree on is that time, pressure and NHS systems restricts our practice. I want to have laminated cards that go with the analgesia cards to explain why kindness and compassion will also help ease women’s pain . Fear is a huge factor in the perception of pain and if we try to reduce fear we might help reduce not only  pain but also anxiety and then by this we will gain trust and build on positive care. 

As the  midwifery workforce we must start to say to ourselves “how would I feel ? ” another question which is used on the Nye Bevan leadership module is this …. 

Lets keep sharing our ideas and thoughts and if you have any more relating to CG190 – tweet using #CG190 or why not write a blog or design a poster ? 
Thank you for reading and please leave comments , I always value them and they help me to reflect and grow . 


Yours in midwifery love 

Jenny ❤️

The Caesarean experience 

How good is the approach to women who have a caesarean to birth their babies ? Do all NHS trusts routinely give the same care to each woman and newborn or is it tailored to each individual ? 

I am passionate that the caesarean procedure is also a positive uplifting experience for the woman her partner and their newborn . 

I get upset when I hear stories from different midwives at various NHS Trusts that skin to skin contact at Caesarean section isn’t routine or perhaps not discussed antenatally . From today I’m championing that skin to skin contact should be a priority for ALL WOMEN AND BABIES in the operating theatre and I’m doing this for several groups of women including those who

1. Were totally unaware that  skin to skin contact at caesarean was possible . 

2. Hear stories of women who held their baby skin to skin perioperatively when own their babies are older and they missed out on it which leaves them feeling robbed and upset. 

3. See photographs of babies in skin to skin contact during caesarean and they didn’t know they could take photographs 

4. Realised that skin to skin is possible but they weren’t given the choice 

5. Feel sad that the baby’s other parent wasn’t encouraged to hold their baby skin to skin during the caesarean operation . 

And this blog post is also for any woman who has an assisted birth in an operating theatre – I’m going to help you challenge NHS systems and change the birth discrimination between normal birth and birth in theatre . 

Why am I calling this BIRTH DISCRIMINATION

In my opinion every woman who gives birth should have the chance to hold her newborn in skin to skin contact even if only for a few minutes perhaps because the newborn requires transfer to neonatal unit or the woman feels unwell peri-operatively . 

Women who have a normal vaginal birth are more likely to hold their newborn for longer and separation from their newborns during the ‘golden skin to skin  hour’ will be less likely to happen. However, if a child is born in the operating theatre separation will occur within half an hour because of risk assessments meaning that the baby is moved as well as that within some NHS Trusts phones or cameras are not allowed in theatre and here are my thoughts on this matter which is close to my heart . 
We can no longer ignore the birth discrimination that exists between normal birth – where the woman has prolonged uninterrupted skin to skin contact – and assisted birth . It’s the role of everyone who is involved with birth in the operating theatre to work together to reduce and / or eliminate this birth discrimination.  I’m talking about midwives , anaesthetists , paediatricians , obstetricians , neonatal nurses , ODPs , maternity support workers coming together to form multi-disciplinary teams to plan how skin to skin contact length and opportunity can me maximised and separation minimised . 

We are all aware that skin to skin contact is beneficial in numerous evidence based ways (just go onto google scholar and search “skin to skin contact at birth”  to both mother and baby. It is NOW time to take action and assess each woman and baby individually instead of adhering to a ‘one size fits all’ approach . Of course there are women who may have to have a general anaesthetic – so consider this from the baby’s point of view – and work out a way that the other parent might be able to provide skin to skin for the newborn . 

We are in 2017 and now is the time to make change happen – talk about this to your MSLCs , the labour ward forum meetings , MDT meetings and be pro-active – together we can all make a difference 

Thank you for reading – jenny ❤️

To be continued ….. 

An update -Skin to Skin in the Operating Theatre 

On Thursday I was working and looking at statistics for skin to skin contact – I check these at the end or towards the end of every month 

My dream is 100% skin to skin but reality bites and that’s not always possible – however I see the positive in the fact that women and families are more aware of skin to skin and that every day all health care professionals across the NHS are making a difference one woman and one newborn at a time . Their care and love spread the effect and importance of skin to skin on a global level.

Onto Dr Nils Bergman the man who almost 10  years ago taught me the word “Paradigm” -so as Nils would probably say ” instead of celebrating the high percentage of skin to skin lets flip the paradigm and ‘question  , dig , investigate’ the babies and mothers that didn’t get skin to skin contact”   – what happened ? “Maternal choice” “Theatre too cold ” or were there undocumented reasons like “pressure of work” “staff unaware” “mother not sure of benefits” “wants to bottle feed”  “paperwork too important” 

Skin to skin contact for women who have a caesarean is easy to implement yet difficult to monitor. It’s all a bit “retrospective” when what’s needed is a pro-active approach – women should be well – informed about all the new benefits that skin to skin brings such as “an increased ability to parent ” “acidosis correction ”  “reduction of pph” “reduced pain of mother & newborn” 

Theatre staff should be debriefed on the immeasurable ‘stuff’ like the woman’s heart overflowing with love , the tenderness that is shown , the noise in theatre turning into silence for the mother and child as they provide a two way comfort for each other . These things  slip away unnoticed by some  staff and it’s so sad that some are impervious to what’s actually happening . A life is beginning -a relationship is starting –  a caesarean birth is not a ‘procedure’ but an amazing event bringing a child into this world to be protected valued and rejoiced. 

So I’ll say this – let us all  talk about love and birth as a partnership – let’s know why skin to skin must happen and promote it more , let’s be ready for it ,prepare women for skin to skin , stand by them , give women the ability to believe in what skin to skin does by enabling women and newborns to experience skin to skin at birth by caesarean. 

My key pointers to start skin to skin at a birth by caesarean are 

1.The baby belongs with its own mother – & cannot be owned by the staff that are present – the newborn is not a hindrance to our work in the operating theatre we are there because of it – we work for the newborn 

2. Prepare the woman by keeping one of her arms out of her theatre gown and tucking it under her arm – an off the shoulder look which has a special purpose = gives space to the newborn . Place the stickers for the ECG connectors on the woman’s back – ask the anaesthetist for support and explain why. 

3. Explain to the woman and her partner that their baby must be prone to maximise full skin to skin contact which will maintain their child’s blood sugar,  prevent the mobilisation of brown fat and assist thermoregulation  

4. Explain thoroughly that skin to skin at Caesarean section is not always fabulously comfortable , that the woman might not be able to see her newborn but that YOU and the rest of the TEAM are there to support her and that her child is gaining so much from the contact that she will look back on it and be happy that it did take place 

5. Skin to skin in the operating theatre is everyone’s role – if it’s not happening and you are standing idly by then you are as responsible as the other staff on theatre . Women and their partners do not want to cause a fuss and 80% will not ask for  skin to skin contact , so as health professional we must mention skin to skin contact 

💡Your role is to teach others and help others to teach others – women , staff , families💡 

Start by looking at reasons why skin to skin did not take place – then move forwards – we can all improve what we do every day by our own approach and also by collaboration and communication within the TEAM and by including the WOMAN and her PARTNER and / or FAMILY MEMBER – #KeepGoing