• The Fit Midwife

Marry a midwife!

So this poem is doing the rounds on Facebook. I shared it. I like it. I’m just going to pop it here, it produced a lot of feelings for me. Reading this. Props to the original author, he/she clearly knows the inner workings of midwives lives.

Don’t marry a midwife. They sleep all day while you work and work all night while you sleep. Or, their 0500 alarm disturbs your sleep and then they come home too tired to cook dinner. Don’t marry a midwife. They walk in the door mentally exhausted and sometimes forget to even say hello. Don’t marry a midwife. They run out of patience and snap at the slightest question or demand. Don’t marry a midwife. They constantly complain about germs or assess people in public. It can be embarrassing. Don’t marry a midwife. Their stories are not dinner-at-your-moms appropriate. Don’t marry a midwife. Your complaints of a sore throat will hardly be heard. Don’t marry a midwife. They spend so much of their energy on their patients that they have nothing left to give to you when their shift ends. Don’t marry a midwife. They don’t make you a priority when they agree to work on their off days. Don’t marry a midwife. They’re so emotionally unstable that sometimes they come home and just cry for no reason. Don’t marry a midwife. They are constantly in crisis about where their life is going. Don’t marry a midwife.

Well if this isn’t spot on, I don’t know what is. You know, it set me off thinking. Looking retrospectively at certain relationships I have had, romantic, familial, friendships. And I realised just how much I have given to this job. When we sat in the lecture theatre on our first day at uni, they told us that 25% of us in relationships/married, will end up separating due to the demands of the course. They were absolutely right. But some of us also survived the odds. We maintained relationships, family ties, solid friendships. Thinking it would become easier when we qualified. Man were we wrong. We had more demands, more accountability, more responsibility, just with an average wage now.

We do sleep all the time, we need to. We are knackered. We’ve been tired since our first placement as a student and we’ve never really recovered. I’ve finished a shift, to get home with all the plans to get ready for dinner, nights out, travelling back to the family home; and I have found myself collapsing on the sofa and sacking my plans right off. It comes across as flakey, as rude. But know this, it really isn’t. We can’t predict a shift. So when we make plans we do so with the best of intentions but sometimes when it is so busy you haven't had a wee in 12 hours we just can't adult anymore, we’ve given all we have.

I think part of my problem (and I have others who say they have experienced the same) is that despite me giving everything to my job. I haven’t had anything left to give, but I have still tried to give even more to people or situations. I have been pouring from an empty glass for far too long. We keep doing it to ourselves. Caring is in our nature. We want the people in our life to feel safe, supported, happy. But we are left feeling the opposite. And you cannot always rely on people to notice. People will take and take from you to fill gaps in their life without giving a second thought to the gaping hole that is being left in yours. Why do different relationships struggle in these professions…. without a doubt, this is a major contributor.

I for one, definitely run out of patience and can snap at the smallest thing. Even more so when i’m tired. We all do this. I remember once after 8 nightshifts, the guy I was seeing at the time, used the last Yorkshire teabag, in his own apartment, and I irrationally just burst in to tears because I couldn’t have a brew when I was about to go to bed. I often chat about this with my uni ladies. About the small things. The things that drive us to that scary place. Dropping a spoon, having no milk in, your partner breathing too heavily...... Truth is, most people take it personally, most people can’t handle it. If you do love us.... fair play to you.

We are emotionally unstable sometimes. Who isn't. Do you want to know why we are? Because we spend all shift keeping our emotions in check. We put our personal problems, feelings, to one side, we act impenetrable to the problems that arise, the devastating losses, the abuse from patients and relatives, the bullying from other staff. When we want to go in the stockroom and cry, because our shift sucks and our partners don’t understand our mood swings, you can’t fit in another extra shift but you need to pay the bills, or you won’t get to see your child/friend/loved one today, but we just carry on. So yeah…. when we get home, when we get time off to reflect, sometimes, we appear emotionally unstable. It's not about you. It is about us. How we reconcile what goes on in our day and how it affects our mental state. But we need your support. Always.

I can totally relate to being in crisis about where my life is going. Midwifery, it’s a vocation. You choose it because you have a passion for it. Because despite the fact you will earn pennies and your personal life will take a massive hit, you want to make that difference. It’s a privileged position to be in. But Midwifery is struggling. Now, you have to pay a small fortune to go to university, the NHS is in turmoil (nothing new there), we have promises made by the powers that be, no matter where you are in the world, that are never, ever followed through with. We constantly worry what will become of our profession, we look for ways to help women without suffering through understaffed and underpaid shifts.

I hope this helps explain these traits that we so commonly have. I hope it makes you be a bit more kind and loving to the medical professionals that are a big part of your life. Because really, it isn’t just about midwives. All healthcare professionals have this life. But now on to the good parts. The parts that make us shiny and special and unique.

Marry a midwife. They are brave enough to take on any challenge. Marry a midwife. They get up every day to put others first. Marry a midwife. They have the best gut instincts to know when something is wrong. Marry a midwife. They have felt with depths of their hearts unknown to most people. Marry a midwife. They’re always ready to help someone in need. Marry a midwife. They see things that others don’t. Marry a midwife. They give their all and utilize every talent they have. Marry a midwife. They know what it means to sacrifice. Marry a midwife. They were brave enough to embrace a duty that never sleeps. Marry a midwife. They have learned to adjust without complaining. Marry a midwife. They are strong enough to hold back tears until they are alone. Marry a midwife. They never settle for less than they are capable of. Marry a midwife. They succeed in times of unknown. Marry a midwife. They know the value of life. Marry a midwife. They are the best comforters. Marry a midwife. They know time is precious. Marry a midwife. Those quiet moments truly are sacred. Marry a midwife. Because if you have the chance to marry a midwife that means they are trusting you to help them carry a beautiful burden that you will never understand. Marry a midwife.

I love the part about gut instinct here. Mine is always spot on. Despite people telling me otherwise, my gut is rarely wrong. It is one of my best assets. And I can use it in every situation. This career choice, it has given me such self confidence and self belief and for that I am beyond grateful.

We do know sacrifice. We will sacrifice a lot. And do so willingly. We work Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays because we get to celebrate another birthday! We know it is a privilege to be there when women given birth, when they realise their strength, when they make that family complete! We will sacrifice a lot for you too. We're pretty awesome that way.

Midwifery has given me the best friends I could ask for. They comfort me in ways no others are able to. They are my peers, I learn a lot from them on a daily basis. They are sometimes the only ones who can understand what I am going through and they are often the only ones whose advice I will trust with certain matters. They know when I am discussing something personal, it is in the same context as them. They get it. These women and men are incredible.

Midwives do take on any challenge. I think having to be strong makes you strong. It is visualisation, thinking in to existence. A lot of times we think about what has happened to us, what we have been through and we see it as a stepping stone to bigger things. The women I am friends with have taken on physical challenges, marathons, climbed mountains, cycled the country. They have taken on academic challenges, Masters, Phd’s, teaching others. They have suffered great personal loss, parents, children, friends, lovers and have created something incredible from the pain. It is humbling. No challenge is too small. You want people like that in your life. People who raise the bar. People who help you do more than you ever thought you could.

So to sum up, I guess I just wanted to validate this poem. I wanted the context there. I wanted to share the awesome attributes of my colleagues. To let people know we are trained to care for people. But sometimes we need to remember to care for each other. To care for ourselves. Carers need care too!

Nikki xx

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