As you may know if you’ve been following me for a while I had a traumatic birth in 2017. This impacted me massively on a personal level but what a lot of people don’t know is how it impacted me on a professional level too.
I had been a qualified midwife for 3 years and had fully prepared for birth and motherhood (or so I thought) but what I had not prepared for was my return to work. I went back part time when Harrison was 10 months old. I returned to the community role I was doing before, so it was familiar and that was nice. What was not nice were the reminders of my experience almost EVERY DAY.
I imagine it’s similar to being a chef for a living…the last thing you want to do is cook when you get home in the evening. I had given birth at the hospital trust I worked for and I was caring for pregnant and new mums who were vulnerable and struggling with similar issues to me. I told myself it was normal and that the sleep depravation probably wasn’t helping. My instinct was to avoid all reminders of what happened to me but I couldn’t. I remember actually having a panic attack in the toilet on the labour ward the first time I had to go back there to collect something. I also remember visiting a new mum and listening to her talk about her birth experience and in that moment just wanting to sit and sob with her. I don’t know how I kept it together.
These expectant and new mums were looking to me to care for them and their baby, give them information and share my knowledge and ultimately reassure them that everything was going to be ok. Outwardly I was talking the talk and walking the walk (my background in performing arts served me well here!) but inwardly I was anxious and could not get away from the things which were triggering me the most. I felt like a fraud.
The reason I share this with you is because it highlights just how hard it can be to do a job like being a midwife, dealing with emotionally charged situations every day when there are personal things that you are still dealing with or underlying emotional health factors such as anxiety. It look me 18 months to realise that these feelings weren’t going away and to start to look at ways to help myself. My family and the women I cared for deserved better and I deserved better.
You see I have been on both sides of the same coin – the new mother trying to keep it all together and not show how much she is crumbling and the midwife trying to keep it all together and not show how much she is crumbling.
Pregnant and new mothers need support but so too do the midwives and birth workers. We care so deeply for others but who cares for us?
When things are constantly changing, our workload increasing in volume and complexity, trying our best but never feeling like it’s good enough, the mounting pressure over fear of missing something or making a mistake and even worse what people will think of us when it all comes crashing down and we burn out…. the guilt, the shame.
Never before has our passion, our calling put us under this amount of pressure. Midwives are leaving the profession at an unprecedented rate. We are in the middle of an epidemic, but the babies still keep coming. We keep showing up the best we can and giving so much of ourselves, even though we are struggling with our own emotions . Even though we feel we may be putting ourselves and our loved ones at risk by doing so.
If I was returning to work now after maternity leave in the hypervigilant and highly emotional state I was in back then, then I would have floundered. It’s taken me almost 3 years but I now have more clarity than ever before in how I want to help others to overcome similar challenges.
My support for pregnant and new mammas will always continue as I am a midwife by nature as well as by name…but I also want to help the extraordinary people who serve our communities to not lose sight of the reason they came into the job in the first place and to rediscover that they can be the midwife they want and deserve to be.
… jumping out of bed in a morning with a spring in your step and the sparkle back in your eyes
…having the confidence to stand up and pitch your amazing ideas, instigate and lead change
…being an inspiration and a role model for your peers, students and the women you serve
…replenising your motivation and resilience to overcome whatever your day brings EVRY DAY
… knowing that your effort and persistence is paying off and that self-assurance is guaranteed
…closing your eyes at night and feeling secure, grounded and peaceful
And finally…to know that if you do decide to leave your job or the profession altogether…it is a decision based on confidence rather than fear.
Think of the sense of relief and the lightness you would feel if you weren’t just showing up for those you cared for, but were showing up for yourself to be the very best that you can be.
You didn’t come this far to only come this far.
Just take a moment to imagine what the midwifery workforce would look like if every member of every maternity team had this mindset. Think of the way we could transform our services and the lives of those we care about – personally and professionally.
This is not a pipe dream. This can be a reality and it starts with you.
Are you ready to take the first step?