International Day of the Midwife 2015

Today, is the 2015 annual International Day of the Midwife. Needless to say, midwives are life savers the world over. Just a few days ago, with the birth of a new princess however, we saw just how underappreciated midwives can be, with media outlets jumping to name the Duchess of Cambridge' obstetrician and gynaecologist, but failing to mention the midwifery team on hand to deliver Princess Charlotte until the following day.
We quite often forget, I think, just how much incredible effort and compassion goes in to this job here in the UK, especially when each of us has the occasional gripe at the NHS, by whom, many midwives are tightly restricted in their practice. Since falling pregnant this time around I've read many heart breaking first hand accounts of midwives leaving a profession that they adore, because they believe that the NHS is failing women, and failing midwives, over and over again. It's just one of many reasons that I've chosen to plan a home birth  - in my home, I call the shots, the midwives are on my turf, not caught up in the hospital environment with it's procedures and it's conduct of best practice and it's risk assessments. At home, the midwives are free, to some degree, to do the job they love, to guide me through labour and ensure that I deliver my child.
What I actually wanted to mention, in this post, however, was my individual community midwives who have been absolutely outstanding so far throughout my pregnancy. I live in an area with alarmingly high rates of poverty, to say that people here are generally poor would be an understatement. Many of the buildings are owned by overseas landlords who let them to the desperate and the homeless in a sickening condition, child poverty is well above the national average, unemployment is high and devastating, and a high concentration of non-British residents bring about their own set of social problems. I'm passionately pro-immigration, I love the fact that within the building I live in, my next door neighbours are African, the guy above is of mixed race with a white British partner, the family below are practicing Muslims, and the family below them are from Pakistan. This is the kind of colourful community that I would actively choose to live in. At the end of my road is what we refer to as "The Polish Shop", but is a vast Eastern European mini-mart selling everything from pickled fish to spicy sausages. I love it here. The long, incredibly eclectic high street reaches down the hill to touch the more upmarket Old Town area of Margate, but on the way you pass award winning restaurants, halal butchers, Afro-Caribbean grocery stores and traditional Italian run coffee shops. At the other end of the high street, you stray in to a very wealthy, UKIP heavy, residential area, with large detached houses and monkey puzzle trees quietly nuzzling up against identical neighbours, this area, known as Palm Bay, is decidedly white British. But here I am in the middle, in Cliftonville, trying to make sense of the snippets of foreign tongue that I hear in the street and buying coconut oil by the jar for a quid.
Cliftonville's pregnant community is cared for by just two midwives, Kelly and Sue, who are responsible for the antenatal care of pregnant women on some of Cliftonville's most run down and socially deprived streets, right up in to the cul-de-sacs of Palm Bay. Women who are feeding themselves and their unborn children from food bank donations, and other's spending £2000 on a pushchair. We're a varied bunch! This, in itself, ought to make these women heroes in their own right; it's a big area, and it's a socially diverse area which creates plenty of opportunity for surprises. I asked Kelly at my 28 week appointment last week if she was busy, but she just smiled to herself and said "it never stops in Cliftonville" - and I can well imagine her to be right!
It's not uncommon for the women that these midwives deal with on a daily basis to require a translator, many haven't been in the UK particularly long, and the already daunting prospect of a pregnancy can be made all the more unfamiliar and frightening on foreign soil. These midwives offer constant support to such women. With a concentration of people from overseas, particularly from countries which lack the same sorts of vaccination programmes as are available here in the UK, there are a number of medical challenges presenting themselves too. Unlike amongst the British population, syphilis isn't so uncommon in the women that they see, and can be life threatening to Mum and Baby in pregnancy and birth, with it, HIV is also higher than might be expected in some other areas.
Unfortunately, alcohol abuse and drug addiction are slightly higher here too, as is often the way in significantly deprived areas, and mental health problems are staggeringly common (the two often go hand in hand). On top of this, there are also occasional incidents of incest. However, these two women, independently responsible for delivering care to all of these families, are two of the most cheerful, helpful, understanding souls you'll come across. I couldn't pass a bad word about either of them.
From Day 1 both Kelly and Sue have fiercely backed my wish to have Baby at home. It has never, ever once been questioned. When I first mentioned it to each of them there was not so much as a raised eyebrow, and you'll find it written by both in my medical notes "Ashleigh wants a home birth". Not once have I been talked out of it, scared off, or coersed in to considering alternatives. I've explained my reasons for wanting to give birth in my own home, and they've both championed my decision - I know that not everybody's experience is the same.
I should also give a bit of a shout out to the other two midwives I've come across in this pregnancy. The first, was the lady who saw us on Good Friday, when I'd experienced reduced fetal movements. I wrote a post about that here. She was so kind, listening to Baby's heartbeat, and taking the time to feel my bump and check on Baby's positioning and movement. I wasn't made to feel in the least bit silly for troubling her, and she took time to speak to Seb too. She provided such reassurance that we were able to go away and thoroughly enjoy our Easter weekend. And also, the midwife that I saw at the hospital on Friday after my growth scan. If you read my 28 week update you'll know that I've been moved to a consultant-lead care arrangement and been asked to test for gestational diabetes, despite believing, whole heartedly, that there is nothing wrong with me or baby. The midwife who was tasked with the referral clearly sensed my frustration and was so understanding, assuring me that I would be moved back to midwife-lead care if everything was OK, it was great to feel like someone recognised that a Mother's intuition is usually to be trusted!
I leave you with this horribly sad article from The Independent, in which a clearly passionate midwife explains what has driven her to leave the NHS after 10 years - this isn't NHS bashing, it's thanks to the NHS that I'm able to vaccinate myself and my unborn baby against whooping cough, or monitor my baby's progress via free ultra sound scans - but it does illustrate how desperately midwives need our support.

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea there was a day for midwives, I would have told my mum as she was a midwife for 15 years x

    Heather | Of Beauty & Nothingness x