• The Fit Midwife

Loose Women and Looser Lips

Ok so today is apparently FURIOUS FRIDAY…. Let’s discuss it. The Loose Women’s loose lips causing a midwifery scandal.

First of all. There is nothing great about the title of that show is there…. Because of all the things they could have chosen to address a panel of women, they came up with ‘loose’. I can hear Emmeline Pankhurst just rolling in her grave.

So we all know about the leaked Shrewsbury report. There are statistics being thrown around but we haven’t read the full report. Whilst any death, whether maternal or neonatal is one too many I don’t like using statistics out of context. I do not like generalisations. So I guess I will have to wait to see the whole thing before I can correctly comment on it.

As Milli Hill rightly pointed out in her article for The Independent we are in a BIRTH CRISIS. We have had Morcombe Bay, now Shrewsbury. How many more reports need to be written to identify the glaringly obvious fact that the NHS is not failing….. it has been and continues to be failed!!

This is not new news. I have lived it. My friends and colleagues continue to live it. There are so many holes that the staff try to patch up but they have neither the staffing numbers nor the funding. This report prompted a discussion on the state of the NHS’ maternity system. And that is what I am really wanting to discuss.

My main rage here (because I always have one) is the comment made on Loose Women by someone called Brenda Edwards. I’m not sure if this is my ignorance but I literally had no idea who she was…. I had to Google it.

So what did Brenda say that pissed me off?? Brenda said she wasn’t happy with her midwife, saying ‘she looked too young to have had any children’. She compared this to her midwife from her first birth, whom she called ‘mature and experienced’.

So here is Brenda, making a sweeping generalisation that age and experience are in some way correlated. Obviously the longer you are in your job, the more you are exposed to certain situations, especially in healthcare. But you are also more likely to become demotivated, complacent and to be honest…. a bit lazy. A long time in a job does not necessarily an experienced employee make.

The young midwife in question had to undergo the same training as the ‘mature’ one. In fact I know from having students, that the newer midwives coming through are usually the ones who know the most up to date research, the current hot topics and they always brim with hope and enthusiasm. I wonder at what age someone would consider a midwife ‘old enough’? When we get to that age it will be great, we can throw a party because we all become ‘experienced’.

Now we get to my favourite part…… “I found her to be a little bit patronising and I’d already had a baby. She was telling me how to push and she hadn’t pushed herself”.

*Starts slow clapping and simultaneously rolling eyes”

Now I cannot comment on whether someone comes across patronising or not. I wasn’t there. This is rarely someones intention but often a case of not gelling with somebody on a basic level. It happens. It is public healthcare. We are seldom in a position to change that. But as far as I know we all try to practice with kindness.

I can address the pushing comment. Do you know how insulting it is as a midwife to be questioned on our ability to do our job because we haven’t birthed a baby ourselves? Do you know how much work we put in to getting where we are? What we sacrifice? What we give day in and day out?

How dare you link our ability to be with women during this time to our reproductive circumstances. Circumstances you know nothing about. As a single, childless midwife am I somehow less qualified to support women. I mean, it’s not like I have a degree or anything….. right?

As if childless women didn’t already have enough of a battle trying to get people to understand that our worth is not directly linked to what happens in our uterus. We now have to face facts that other women consider us lesser females, less able to empathise and less able to use our hard earned educations in practice. Are we going backwards or does it only feel like that when people make silly mindless comments?

Please can we support all of our midwives? Young, old, newly qualified, long serving, tall, short, mothers, childless, married, single. Working in a country where midwives are considered subordinate to all doctors, where women are violated, ignored and crying out for midwifery care, I would urge women everywhere to support your midwives. And maybe generally not judge any of the women around you. All of our stories are different and we are still in a very real and very tough fight to be seen as equals, How can we expect anyone else to see it if we cannot see it in each other.

Nikki x

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