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 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 

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 ….. 

Skin to Skin “Declined” 

  

  • When a woman gives birth and the birth is complicated , skin to skin contact can help her to re-centre on the beautiful relationship with her baby/babies. The way that midwives discuss skin to skin can and does have an impact on a woman’s decision – evidence shows that skin to skin contact at birth by ceasarean section is rising every day and I’d like to argue that it is not an ‘offer’ to be taken up or not – SKIN to SKIN is indeed a human right . 
  • Declining something means that the choice to “not accept” has been fully explained -I.E the effects of NOT having  skin skin contact have been fully explained as much as the effects of HAVING skin to skin contact  
  • Asking a woman if she “wants” skin to skin is not an invite or a request – it is one of the rights of a newborn and a mother  

Recently I met a woman who has post traumatic stress disorder relating to her first birth . She has inspired me to write this blog and I am so glad that I met her . Whilst she was receiving support for her birth trauma she requested to see her notes and was horrified to read “Offered SKIN to SKIN contact with newborn – same declined” this was several years ago and this woman tells me that she still remembers how she felt when she read those words for the first time “like a bad mother” 

So what am I tying to say ? 

  • Be careful how you phrase a question – put your heart and soul and kindness into it
  • Be gentle with women – if you say “if you hold your baby close  I will help you & stay nearby – you will probably adore skin to skin contact and if you don’t dad / second mum could do it instead 
  • Please don’t use the word DECLINED 

Thank you for reading – Jenny ❤️